‘Scope 3’ push and ESG backlash: Lessons from Fortune’s First Impact Initiative

December 2, 2022, 11:06 AM UTC
Updated December 2, 2022, 11:12 AM UTC
Petco's health and wellness chief strategy officer, Soumik Chatterjee, during a roundtable discussion at Fortune's Impact Initiative.
Erik Meadows/Fortune

Good morning, Peter Vanham here, mid-air between Washington and Geneva, filling in for Alan, who got rerouted on his way home. We had almost forgotten about the joys of business travel! 

With Fortune’s Impact Initiative now in the rearview mirror, here are some of the take-aways from our first-ever gathering of ESG practitioners.

  • “Scope 3” is the new “Net Zero” among chief sustainability officers.
    In the past 18-36 months, many Fortune 500 companies have made “net zero” commitments. But as the list of “net zero” pledges grows, so does the scrutiny of their scope. With the U.S. and Europe both closing in on mandatory climate disclosures, the most followed matter is so-called “Scope 3” emissions—emissions from suppliers and customers.  
  • The external backlash against the terms ESG and DEI is real and palpable…
    We met one company, Deloitte, that formally dissolved its ESG practice. In the U.S., it is now called “SCE”, for Sustainability, Climate and Equity. (Elsewhere in the world, it is simply SC.) More often, the backlash against ESG meant companies put a brake on speaking out externally on social issues.
  • …But internally, many companies are doubling down on their ESG and DEI commitments.
    The head of DEI at Paramount, for example, shared that the company continues to accelerate its diversity push, including behind the cameras. Her explanation? Employees demand it. For many other companies, stakeholder pressure was similarly mentioned as the main reason to double down on ESG.
  • Chief Sustainability Officer roles at Fortune 500 companies are new and all over the org chart.
    Most CSOs offices were created within the past five years. We met CSOs who were also chief communications officer (Coca-Cola), CSOs who reported to chief supply chain officer (J&J), and CSOs who cracked the executive committee (Walmart). That org chart eclecticism often has structural or personal reasons, but is also a sign of the newness of the role.
  • CSO offices are among the most silo-breaking corporate departments.
    The CSOs we met combine a broad remit with low formal authority. It means they are natural coalition builders and systems thinkers, collaborating with every other department, from finance to manufacturing to R&D. They work by design holistically instead of in silos, in some cases pioneering the way their companies operate.
  • Finally: bringing together CSOs and heads of ESG and DEI feels a bit like “group therapy”.
    No one has a clearly defined template or roadmap yet of best practices in ESG and DEI, so the willingness to share with and learn from colleagues at other companies is high. That sense of camaraderie is especially high for a group of professionals who have as much detractors as supporters, especially from the outside. 

If you’d like to sign up for our Impact Initiative, which continues as a member-based initiative, you can do so here, or join the LinkedIn group here.

More news below.

Peter Vanham


Oil production

Looming EU sanctions on Russian crude, and a possible G7 price cap on the stuff—plus fears of global recession and weak Chinese demands—are leading the OPEC+ cartel to consider deeper output cuts. They already cut production in early October, deeply annoying the U.S. A key OPEC+ meeting on the subject will take place Sunday. CNBC

Twitter and Ye

Kanye West has once again been suspended from Twitter, with Elon Musk booting him off the platform for inciting violence. Ye, who had just done an Infowars interview in which he praised Hitler, posted an image mashing up a swastika with the Star of David. Musk had only just let him back onto Twitter little more than a week ago. The rapping antisemite’s purchase of right-wing social media service Parler has now also fallen through, as he rapidly becomes even more of a pariah. Guardian

Ramaphosa crisis

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is in deep trouble following a parliamentary report that recommended he face impeachment proceedings. This is all to do with a mysterious theft of cash from a couch on his game farm in 2020—former spy chief Arthur Fraser, who is associated with a rival faction of Ramaphosa’s ANC party, revealed the unreported crime to the nation earlier this year, leaving Ramaphosa scrambling to explain. The president said the $580,000 was payment for some buffalo, but the alleged buyer reportedly never collected the beasts. ANC grandees are meeting today to decide what to do. Financial Times


Fauci says China’s vaccines are ‘not at the level’ of Western ones, hindering Beijing’s ability to control COVID without ‘draconian’ lockdowns, by Nicholas Gordon

Amazon plans to lay off more than 10,000 workers. Its CEO just defended the hiring spree that caused the cuts, by Tristan Bove

Tyson Foods executive found sleeping in a stranger’s home while allegedly intoxicated has the board’s ‘continued confidence in his ability to lead’, by Bloomberg

Tesla has gone from 79% to 65% of the EV market in the pandemic. Here’s why S&P sees a fall to below 20% by 2025, by Steve Mollman

Americans think wages should rise to match inflation–and they’re right. It’s time to dispel the wage-price spiral myth, by Matthew Nestler

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

This is the web version of CEO Daily, a newsletter of must-read insights from Fortune CEO Alan Murray. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet