Today’s commercial reality is much different than even a few short years ago.  In 2023, consumers and employees place a greater emphasis on the type of organization they buy from and work for.  The concept of Environmental, Social and Governance, otherwise known as ESG, should not be ignored by any business executive, no matter the sector.  This includes those in the BPO realm.

Terms including impact sourcing, green delivery and corporate social responsibility have each had their 15 minutes of fame in the business media and boardrooms over the past two decades.  Today, the desire to affect positive environmental and social change via the private sector has been encapsulated under the ESG moniker.

Customers of products and services across the industry spectrum are taking note of this in their shopping habits. One recent study indicates that products associated with ESG have grown significantly more in the USA than those that do not make the claim. The same applies to workforce trends.  Employee retention is much higher among firms that are more environmentally and socially driven. This is especially the case among younger workers.

Given these factors, BPO providers that ignore ESG do so at their peril.  This was borne out in the most recent Ryan Strategic Advisory 2023 Front Office CX Omnibus Survey, based on the input of 712 enterprise contact center decision-makers in North America, APAC and Western Europe.  Some of the most interesting ESG-related points identified include:

  • Compliance with environmental standards is the 3rd biggest pain point for CX decision-makers. This is especially notable in Canada and Japan.
  • There is significant worry about how best to incorporate diversity into CX operations, a concern that is omnipresent for enterprise contact center executives in the UK and France.

ESG also influences how enterprises search for an outsourcing partner.  For example, in Australia, corporate social responsibility commitments are very important when procuring CX services, while in Italy enterprises are more likely to pick a BPO partner with a strong impact sourcing footprint. In Germany, an outsourcer’s ability to provide testimonials around green customer management is a major selling point.

The bottom line for the CX services community is that ESG has become imperative.  Prospective and existing enterprise clients look to engage with third parties that take seriously the idea of high-standard, value-driven customer management delivery with a heart.  Likewise, talented employees want to work for organizations whose values reflect their own.  As indicated in a recent study by KPMG, to avoid taking ESG seriously means challenges in finding the best talent, raising capital and competitive advantage.

Fortunately, BPOs looking to establish their ESG credentials can undertake a series of steps. Existing frameworks that BPO providers can follow are in place, as laid out in the recent white paper authored recently by Alistair Niederer.  An immediate first step is to audit existing operations to determine where any ESG gaps currently lie. Then, plug them as quickly as possible. Emissions from fossil fuels should be cut by moving to electricity from renewable sources, limiting (or at least offsetting the environmental impact of) executives’ flights, and reducing agent commutes. If there is an opportunity to conduct CX in a greener way, then do it.

Second, seize opportunities to make a difference in the local community.  Whether planting trees, organizing an employee strike force to help a local charity, or finding ways to celebrate the inclusion of team members from all walks of life, simple yet meaningful measures will drive engagement. In tandem, prioritize local candidates for management.  Together, these measures will have a positive impact that lowers attrition and generates positive word of mouth with prospective hires.

Third, evangelizing the ESG track record cannot wait. With more enterprises looking for a provider portfolio that closely reflects their own values, making certain that success stories around environmental, social and governance focused CX delivery are front and center is good business.