Understanding ESG Risks and their Impact on Businesses (2024)

At the intersection of business, society and the environment, ESG risks are becoming increasingly relevant.

From mitigating environmental impact and promoting sustainable development to ensuring responsible management, today’s businesses face an inescapable need to incorporate ESG criteria into their day-to-day operations.

In this article, we will explore in depth what ESG risks are, how they can affect companies and why their efficient management is critical in the current economic and climate landscape.


What are ESG Risks?

ESG Risks are those arising from Environmental, Social and Governance factors that a company must address and manage. These risks are a combination of threats and opportunities that can have a significant impact on an organisation’s reputation and financial performance.

  • Environmental risks relate to how a company interacts with the environment.
  • Social risks relate to how a company relates to society.
  • Governance risks refer to how a company is run and operated.

In general, ESG risks represent a broad spectrum of potential threats that, if not properly managed, can have a negative impact on a company’s profitability, reputation and long-term sustainability.

How do ESG risks affect the company?

ESG risks, when poorly managed, can have a significant impact on a company’s reputation, finances and long-term viability. The effect of these risks can range from fines and legal penalties to loss of customer, employee and investor confidence.

For example, in the case of environmental risks, companies that do not comply with environmental regulations can face significant legal sanctions.

The Delaware International Petroleum Corporation (IPC) case is a clear example of this. The company was fined $1,300,000 and ordered to pay restitution of $2,200,000 for environmental crimes, including illegal waste discharge and conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act.

In terms of social risks, poor management can damage a company’s image and affect its relationship with customers and employees. For example, the 2021 study revealed that 83% of customers would base their continued support on how an organisation treated its workers during the pandemic.

Governance risks, if mismanaged, can lead to scandals that can seriously damage a company’s reputation and finances.

A notorious example of this is the Volkswagen scandal in 2015, when the company admitted to falsifying emissions tests. This scandal has cost the company billions in fines, penalties, buyback costs and financial settlements.

It is therefore essential that companies proactively manage these risks to protect their reputation, ensure their long-term sustainability and meet their obligations to stakeholders. Effective ESG risk management can contribute to creating a more resilient, sustainable and ethical business.

ESG Risk Types and Risk Management

To effectively manage ESG risks, companies need to identify and understand in depth the various types of risks that fall into each category: environmental, social and governance. Let’s take a closer look.

Environmental Risks

Environmental risks can be direct, such as greenhouse gas emissions, or indirect, such as risks associated with the supply chain and its respective environmental practices.

Effective management of these risks involves minimising environmental impact and promoting sustainability.

Businesses should make responsible and sustainable use of natural resources, minimising their carbon footprint, reducing water consumption and managing their waste properly.

Understanding ESG Risks and their Impact on Businesses (1)

Social Risks

Social risk management involves promoting a safe and healthy working environment, ensuring equal opportunities and fair treatment for all employees, and ensuring that supply chain practices are ethical and sustainable

Consideration should also be given to the impact on the community and society at large.

Governance Risks

Managing governance risks involves ensuring transparent and effective communication with stakeholders, fostering a diverse and balanced board structure, maintaining clear and strong anti-fraud and anti-corruption policies, and establishing fair and reasonable executive compensation.

What is the ESG Risk Score and why is it important?

The ESG risk score, also known as ESG risk rating, is a quantitative tool that measures a company’s exposure to environmental, social and governance risks.

The score assesses the organisation’s ability to balance its financial performance with sustainability risks.

Independent agencies such as Bloomberg, MSCI, Refinitiv and JUST Capital calculate ESG scores for different companies.

Each agency has specific ways of calculating and scoring, using algorithms and analysts to convert ESG metrics into separate scores for environmental, social and governance aspects.

They then combine these scores into a single primary rating. Most agencies assign scores on a 100-point scale, with a higher score indicating better ESG risk management.

So why is the ESG risk score important? This score is an integral part of sustainability-conscious investors’ decision-making. It allows investors to assess a company’s reputation, stakeholder relations and risks. In turn, this can influence investment decisions, as companies with higher ESG scores are often seen as safer and more responsible investments.

Furthermore, a good ESG risk score can be a competitive advantage for companies. It can attract more sustainability-conscious investors and customers, and can demonstrate that the company is committed to the responsible management of environmental, social and governance risks.

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How to manage ESG risks in the company

Effective ESG risk management is a multifaceted process that requires a solid understanding of the potential threats and opportunities these risks represent. Here are some key steps to follow:

ESG Risk Identification

The first step in ESG risk management is to identify the potential risks that the company may face. This will require an in-depth analysis of the environmental, social and governance factors that are relevant to your industry and operations.

These can be issues such as carbon footprint, water use, waste management, equal pay, workplace safety, supplier practices, among others.

ESG Risk Assessment

Once risks have been identified, the next step is to assess their significance and the likelihood of their occurrence.

Tools such as the ESG risk score can be used to measure your company’s exposure to these risks.

Development of ESG Risk Mitigation Strategies

After assessing the risks, the next step is to develop strategies to mitigate them.

It is common to create policies and procedures that specifically address these risks, to implement more sustainable technologies or processes, or to collaborate with other organisations to address broader issues.

Implementation and Monitoring

Once risk mitigation strategies have been developed, the next step is to implement them and then monitor their effectiveness.

Key performance metrics, internal and external audits, and regular review and updating of risk mitigation strategies should be regularly monitored to ensure their continued effectiveness.


Communication is a crucial component of ESG risk management.

Companies should transparently and proactively communicate their ESG risks and how they are managing them.

This not only enhances trust and relationships with stakeholders, but can also help the company demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility.


Understanding and managing ESG risks has become a priority for companies in all sectors.

The implications of these risks go beyond mere regulatory compliance; they go to the very heart of corporate reputation, financial stability and long-term sustainability.

Effectively managing ESG risks can be challenging, but there are tools that can help.

With APLANET, you can gain a clear view of your ESG performance, identify and manage risks, and uncover opportunities for improvement. In addition, our reporting tools allow you to communicate your progress transparently to stakeholders, strengthening your company’s trust and reputation.

Don’t let ESG risk management be an obstacle to your success. Find out how APLANET can help you turn challenges into opportunities.

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As an expert in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) matters, I bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to shed light on the crucial intersection of business, society, and the environment. My expertise extends to the intricacies of ESG risks, their impact on companies, and the imperative for efficient management in today's economic and climate landscape.

The article you've provided delves into various aspects of ESG risks, and I'll break down the concepts discussed:

1. What are ESG Risks?

ESG Risks encompass factors related to Environmental, Social, and Governance that companies must address. These risks pose a combination of threats and opportunities affecting an organization's reputation and financial performance.

2. How do ESG risks affect the company?

Poorly managed ESG risks can lead to significant consequences, including legal penalties, loss of customer confidence, and financial instability. Examples, such as the Delaware International Petroleum Corporation case and the Volkswagen scandal, highlight the real-world impact of mismanaging environmental, social, and governance risks.

3. ESG Risk Types and Risk Management

  • Environmental Risks: Involves minimizing environmental impact, promoting sustainability, and responsible use of natural resources.
  • Social Risks: Focuses on ensuring a safe and healthy working environment, equal opportunities, and ethical supply chain practices.
  • Governance Risks: Encompasses transparent communication with stakeholders, diverse board structures, anti-fraud policies, and fair executive compensation.

4. What is the ESG Risk Score and why is it important?

The ESG Risk Score is a quantitative tool measuring a company's exposure to environmental, social, and governance risks. Investors use this score to assess reputation, stakeholder relations, and overall risk management. A higher ESG score often indicates a safer and more responsible investment.

5. How to manage ESG risks in the company

Effective ESG risk management involves several key steps:

  • ESG Risk Identification: Analyzing relevant factors in the industry and operations.
  • ESG Risk Assessment: Measuring the significance and likelihood of identified risks, often using tools like the ESG risk score.
  • Development of ESG Risk Mitigation Strategies: Creating policies, implementing sustainable technologies, and collaborating with other organizations.
  • Implementation and Monitoring: Executing mitigation strategies and continuously monitoring their effectiveness.
  • Communication: Transparently communicating ESG risks and management strategies to stakeholders.

6. Conclusion

Understanding and managing ESG risks are paramount for companies across sectors. APLANET, mentioned in the conclusion, provides tools to assess ESG performance, identify and manage risks, and communicate progress transparently to stakeholders.

In summary, the article emphasizes that effective ESG risk management is essential for corporate reputation, financial stability, and long-term sustainability in today's business landscape.

Understanding ESG Risks and their Impact on Businesses (2024)
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