An Interview with a leading communication Professor Ganga Dhanesh, who will be giving a keynote lecture in September at the EUPRERA congress in Prague.
In this exclusive interview appeared on the Czechoslovakian magazine Markething, Denisa Hejlova interviews professor Ganga Dhanesh to discuss the growing significance of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) in today’s global business landscape.
We delve into the ethical challenges and opportunities associated with ESG, as well as its potential impact on a global scale. Don’t miss this insightful conversation that explores the role of businesses in society and the driving force behind ESG’s increasing prominence.
Can you tell us about ESG – what it means for you and how would you introduce it to a global audience?
ESG stands for environment, social, and governance, but it is just the latest in a very long line of research and practice relating to the social responsibility of businesses that dates back to the 19th century. The more common term is CSR, or corporate social responsibility. Over time, it has taken on different dimensions. In the CSR literature, we ask companies: Are you being ethically responsible, economically responsible, and legally responsible? Then only comes your engagement with philanthropic contributions, charity, etc.
In its latest version, ESG encompasses social, economic, and environmental dimensions. I’m really excited about talking at the EUPRERA conference in Prague about this, and I’m very excited about the whole topic because it’s important globally. Businesses not only have to be responsible because it’s the right thing to do, but because it also generates strong returns. Whether it is stakeholders across the spectrum, such as employees who look to join socially responsible companies, consumers who want to buy from socially responsible organizations, or investors who want to invest in responsible companies, this has real value for companies. If companies ignore or do not pay enough attention to this topic, they are doing themselves a disservice.
When we talk about ethics, it’s something abstract. What are the key topics or buzzwords right now that corporations focus on?
This is a great question. I’m an associate editor at the Journal of Communication Management, and we just brought out a virtual special issue on ethics. Everybody is talking about ethical issues now, particularly in the context of generative AI, communication, and public relations. There are a lot of ethical issues, but these issues are not new. They have been with us for a long time.
That’s why we looked at some foundational research and curated some of the existing research into a virtual issue, along the lines of looking backwards to address the future. There are plenty of ethical issues to address, starting with internal issues, because in the CSR literature, we always talk about the inside out approach. So internally, how can you be fair and transparent to employees? How can you share data? Externally, what about transparency and ethics in sharing information with your consumers?
In the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), which companies are addressing these days, there are many applications. Internally, in terms of employees, as well as externally in terms of addressing consumer publics, how can you meet them where they are? One interesting idea in the literature is how what we discuss today as an ethical issue can tomorrow become a legal responsibility, because matters of ethics often move into law after they are debated extensively. So, it’s a moving wheel between ethical responsibility and legal responsibility.
This has actually happened with ESG as well. Before, it was a „nice to have,“ but now it’s the law in the European Union, although not in the rest of the world. How do you see it from a global perspective? How do you see other countries hopping on the trend? Do you think they will follow?
In some parts of the world, it’s becoming mandatory, but in others, it’s still voluntary. There has been a lot of debate about whether being socially responsible should be mandated or whether companies should do it voluntarily. Probably one of the best ways would be to leave it as voluntary so that companies can decide how they want to enact their social responsibilities. But it is also good to have some rules and regulations around it so that you can say, for example, that companies earning more than a certain amount in revenue will contribute x percentage to ESG or CSR efforts. However, you have to leave it to them to figure out what is most relevant for them as an organization or business. That way, they can choose initiatives that align with their core competencies.
Final question, do you see any threats in the near future which can affect the ESG and its development globally?
Not really. Because I think these topics have been debated for a very long time. Its form and size and shape keep shifting. But fundamentally, we are discussing the social responsibilities of businesses. So whatever names we call it, we have called CSR, we have called it conscious capitalism, we have called it triple bottom line or triple P for profit, people, planet, and now it’s ESG, but it might be something else tomorrow. But fundamentally it is about negotiating the voice of business in society.
More about Dr. Ganga S. Dhanesh
Dr. Ganga S. Dhanesh is an accomplished Associate Professor in Integrated Strategic Communication and Associate Dean at the College of Communication and Media Sciences, Zayed University, UAE. With prior experience in both corporate and non-profit sectors, she has transitioned into a distinguished academic career, previously serving as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore. Dr. Dhanesh’s research focuses on corporate social responsibility, employee relations, and strategic communication, and she has received numerous accolades for her work, including the Zayed University Outstanding Faculty Award for Research in 2020.