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The meaning of ESG: What are Environmental, Social and Governance factors?

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria have become a crucial framework for evaluating the sustainability and ethical impact of companies and investments. Among these three pillars, the environmental aspect has gained significant attention due to the growing awareness of climate change and its impacts. One of the key components of the environmental criteria is carbon accounting, which involves measuring and managing a company’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Let’s explore in more detail.

What is ESG?

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) refers to a set of criteria used to evaluate a company's operations and performance in three key areas: environmental impact, social responsibility, and governance practices. These criteria are increasingly used by investors, regulators, and other stakeholders to assess the sustainability and ethical impact of an organization. Understanding ESG involves delving into each of its components and recognizing how they collectively contribute to a company’s overall sustainability and ethical standing.


The environmental component of ESG focuses on a company’s impact on the planet. This includes how the company uses natural resources, its waste management practices, energy efficiency, pollution control, and efforts to combat climate change. Key areas under environmental criteria might include but are not limited to:

  • Carbon footprint - Measurement of greenhouse gas emissions, including direct and indirect emissions.
  • Resource management - Efficient use of water, energy, and raw materials.
  • Waste and pollution - Strategies to reduce waste, manage hazardous materials, and minimize pollution.
  • Biodiversity - Impact on ecosystems and efforts to protect natural habitats.


The social element of ESG examines how a company manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities in which it operates. This component assesses the company’s social responsibility and its impact on society. Key areas under social criteria include:

  • Labor practices - Fair labor practices, employee rights, and workplace safety.
  • Community engagement - Contributions to community development, philanthropy, and volunteerism.
  • Diversity and inclusion - Promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the workforce and leadership.
  • Human rights - Adherence to human rights standards in operations and supply chains.
  • Customer relations - Product safety, customer satisfaction, and data privacy.


Governance evaluates the quality of a company’s management, oversight, and ethical standards. This includes the structure and functioning of the board of directors, executive compensation, shareholder rights, and transparency in reporting. Key areas under governance criteria include:

  • Board composition - Diversity, independence, and expertise of the board of directors.
  • Executive compensation -Alignment of executive pay with company performance and shareholder interests.
  • Shareholder rights - Protection of shareholder interests and equitable treatment.
  • Transparency - Quality and accuracy of financial and non-financial disclosures.
  • Ethical conduct - Corporate ethics, anti-corruption measures, and compliance with laws and regulations.

The importance of carbon accounting in ESG

Carbon accounting is essential for mitigating climate change, as it provides a systematic approach to quantifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By accurately measuring emissions, companies can identify the sources of their carbon footprint and implement strategies to reduce it. This proactive approach is critical in the global effort to limit the rise in average temperatures to below 2°C, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement

Companies that engage in thorough carbon accounting are better equipped to set and achieve emission reduction targets, contributing to global climate goals and demonstrating their commitment to environmental stewardship. They may also benefit from other positive impacts, such as:

Corporate transparency

 Investors, regulators, and other stakeholders increasingly demand clear and comprehensive disclosures on a company’s environmental impact. Carbon accounting provides the data necessary for these disclosures, enabling companies to report their emissions accurately and consistently. This transparency not only builds trust with stakeholders but also allows for more informed decision-making. 

Sustainable business practices

Incorporating carbon accounting into ESG frameworks drives sustainable business practices. By understanding their carbon footprint, companies can identify inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement across their operations. This often leads to innovations in energy efficiency, waste management, and supply chain management

For example, companies might invest in renewable energy sources, adopt circular economy principles, or develop low-carbon products and services. These practices not only reduce emissions but also enhance a company's competitiveness and resilience in a rapidly changing market.

Regulatory compliance

Carbon accounting is increasingly becoming a regulatory requirement in many jurisdictions. Governments worldwide are implementing policies and regulations to curb GHG emissions (like the GHG protocol), such as carbon pricing, emissions trading schemes, and mandatory disclosure requirements. Companies that proactively engage in carbon accounting are better prepared to comply with these regulations, avoiding potential fines and reputational damage. 

Carbon accounting is a critical component of ESG frameworks, providing a foundation for mitigating climate change, enhancing corporate transparency, driving sustainable business practices, ensuring regulatory compliance, and improving stakeholder engagement. As the world faces increasing environmental challenges, the importance of carbon accounting will continue to grow. 

How Minimum can help

Minimum can help organizations to understand their existing carbon output, and create plans to mitigate climate related risks in the future.  Our Emissions Data Platform seamlessly collects and processes emissions data from every corner of your organization and supply chain - no matter the format. Making it the ideal platform for emissions audits and all-round business intelligence. 

Learn more about how Minimum's Emission Data Platform can help to power you all the way to Net Zero today.

FAQs about Evironmental, Social and Governance factors (ESG)

What does ESG stand for?

ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. These criteria are used to evaluate a company's operations and performance in terms of sustainability and ethical impact. The Environmental aspect assesses a company's impact on the planet, including its carbon footprint and waste management. The Social aspect examines how the company manages relationships with employees, customers, and communities, focusing on labor practices and human rights. The Governance aspect evaluates the quality of a company's management and adherence to ethical standards, including board composition and transparency.

What is ESG investing?

ESG investing, also known as sustainable investing, socially responsible investing (SRI), or impact investing, involves considering environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors alongside financial factors in the investment decision-making process. The goal is to generate long-term competitive financial returns while also achieving a positive societal impact. 

What is the difference between ESG and CSR

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) are both concepts that relate to the ethical and sustainable practices of a business, but they differ in scope, focus, and application.ESG is primarily concerned with providing a framework for investors to assess a company’s sustainability and ethical impact in financial terms, whereas CSR is about a company’s broader commitment to ethical practices and contributing positively to society.