ESG: Building impact and the measurement dilemma

At Equifax, we’ve been helping people live their financial best for over 100 years. Our purpose extends beyond commercial operations though - it’s about delivering the best impact for all of our stakeholders, be they clients, investors or colleagues.


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has traditionally and historically sat in a support service function. But today things have pivoted and more positively Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is a thread that now runs central to many businesses operations. It certainly does for ours - and that’s not just with our people, but also through our products and customer experience too.


ESG is becoming increasingly important to the whole ecosystem of stakeholders, and we want to help set the pace for the credit industry. How can we use data to identify and tackle barriers to financial inclusion? Make a more sustainable business for the future? And help people achieve their life goals?


Prioritising people and the planet


On the one hand, we’re not part of a carbon-intensive industry – we don’t have big factories or run large fleets. But we’ve still been able to make significant strides in minimising energy usage. We’ve got smarter around everyday improvements that can be made within the business and we’ve got better at educating our teams.


In the UK, we’ve particularly focused on our premises and we’ve seen greatest improvement in Nottingham where we moved to a new, more sustainable office last summer. We also decommissioned five data centres and we’re in the process of moving to Google Cloud which will unlock a heap of environmental impact benefits.


Then there’s the people part. Our focus is anchored in helping customers live their financial best and empowering future generations with essential skills to make the most of their money. Every day, we use the power of data to help people and companies navigate cost of living pressures, protect financially vulnerable customers and build a clearer picture of affordability.


The measurement dilemma 


Building impact isn’t without its challenges, and effective measurement is the biggest difficulty facing the industry. This isn’t unique to environmental impact, which is relatively well-serviced with a lot of regulation in place across the UK and Europe.


Certainly on the social aspect, there is no universal framework and the reporting landscape can still be a bit of a wild west. As more regulation embeds, the industry needs to reflect on what the most meaningful metrics are and how to actually report on them.


For example, Equifax did an education workshop in Nottingham to help 170 kids create a personal budget. You can look at headline numbers around such educational interventions, but the full story so often doesn't come across at face value. And this brings its own challenges around ethics and robustness of data.


Learning to Thrive


At Equifax, we partner with Thrive to help us better understand our social value. Thrive evaluates the impact of a given intervention and uses algorithms to come up with a pound and pence value across many different metrics, whilst also capturing context and nuance along the way. The impact of painting a fence is unlikely to be as valuable as long-term financial education, for example.


There are still challenges to overcome, and these are the complexities facing the industry in the next generation of measurement, and AI to a degree should help with refining underlying measurement assumptions. We recognise though that within the industry these are difficult things to get right first time.


Looking ahead


During 2023, we made excellent progress setting out our stall on ESG, but looking at the year ahead our focus will really be on education and our network - working with strategic partners and suppliers and elevating what we’re doing around financial education. How can we work better and smarter with our suppliers? And how can we help our clients to achieve their own ESG goals? Trying to filter this through our supply chain is the critical difference.


It’s vital that we also stay grounded. As an industry, we can sit and look at numbers on a spreadsheet or a graph about the poverty pension gap. But behind every number there is a person, and we must not forget that as we continue our ESG journey.


To find out more about how we’re measuring impact at Equifax UK, download our ESG report or DM me on Linked In.