Lucie Martincová might have become a journalist. She was dreaming about writing stories since she was ten, nearly until she finished high school. But sometimes you just change plans. Today she deals with the ESG issues. This topic helps companies and institutions evaluate the economic benefit of their activities as well as non-financial variable factors. And this topic becomes more and more important.

Changing your direction just before finishing high school can seem a little risky. However, as for Lucie Martincová from the PwC Public Sector, this change has paid off. Instead of studying journalism, she decided to study business in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, and her choice brought her to a topic which she has been dealing with ever since.

“I must say that, at the beginning, I had no clue of what exactly I wanted to study and I chose business because it’s a sufficiently vast topic. Already in the first semester, we were lectured on economics and its history, and we came across the Porter and Kramer’s book titled Creating Shared Value. A concept dealing with the fact that you can do some good for the society and gain something by that, too, by integrating social responsibility directly in your business model. I liked the idea very much; until then I wasn’t too sure about my internal motivation to work in business. Now I understand that I can do the economics and business at the same time and also do something good for the world,” explains with a smile on her face Lucie Martincová who has adapted even her study schedule and leisure activities to the topic. Besides studying, she started gradually helping non-profit organisations obtain consulting services and she also started her own practice in a consulting company.

ESG, CSR – what’s the difference in how the companies approach the “good”?

A term which is so far more associated with philanthropy in business is probably the CSR – corporate social responsibility. What is the purpose of another perception of the company good?

“CSR can be perceived as giving back to society regardless of it being beneficial for you and of how much it is associated with your business model. It is often about charity contributions. By doing that, companies become popular, however, without gaining much other profit, so there’s often not enough motivation for vaster social responsibility activities. Creating shared value is an approach thanks to which you can contribute to the community while gaining a benefit for your own company, because you integrate social responsibility directly in your business model. Nevertheless, CSV is only a concept and there’s no specification about what can be considered as a positive impact.  On the other hand, the concept of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) was created mainly as a measurement system for social responsibility, as it measures the impact which a company has on its employees, consumers, on the environment and community by means of clear assessments and specific metrics. In recent years, it has become evident that companies with strong ESG are significantly more successful, whether due to being more attractive for investors, due to risk and cost reduction, or due to higher motivation of employees. We can thus see that companies keep integrating ESG principles in their business models more and more frequently, thanks to which the ESG can be considered as a kind of ideal combination of CSR and CSV,” explains Lucie Martincová.

Sustainability, as it is perceived by the ESG concept, is not only about giving back, but it also serves as a tool for generating the companies’ own long-term profits; sustainability is expected to constitute an integral part of their business.

Responsibility for the environment, society as well as your own business

And the popularity of the concept is on the rise. However, the type of companies dealing with this concept most frequently might come as a surprise. The thing is, according to surveys, small companies are still more interested in CSR. As opposed to that, large corporations keep looking into which sources to use and how to handle them, and PwC teams often help with this topic even to the public sector. How to pursue sustainable construction of motorways, operation of roads or management of other projects, that’s becoming a concern even because of the European Union. The EU has made a commitment to become climate-neutral by 2050 and it supports even the individual member states in achieving this goal by the greatest grants ever of up to trillion-amounts.

"For instance, I work in the PwC Public Sector team, but it doesn't mean we are only dedicated to the public administration. At the moment, we help banks with their Sustainable Finance. It means we help them set their purchases in such a way that will support green products. We offer a strategy to companies and assist the public sector as well as private companies in finding out which grants they can get and use and in which way,” describes Lucie Martincová. At the same time, she adds that there is still a lot to do in order to improve things. “For examples, in Denmark, the emphasis on sustainability is much higher. There is a demand for sustainability activities there, but in our CEE region, unfortunately, this topic is still associated with European grants only. Since 2021, we have been obtaining great sums of money which we never had before and which are designated precisely for developing sustainability. Unfortunately, it’s not about Czech companies wanting to be green on their own, but we can help even with that. I hope this situation will keep getting better in the future.”

How can you start your career in ESG?

If you go for the ESG issues out of all the business fields, you will not regret it. The topic, which resonates with the exchange markets as well as the media, can be studied even at Czech universities. However, Lucie Martincová would not exchange her experience from abroad for anything and she recommends it to everyone, although this approach may not be the simplest one. “I chose Denmark because it offers high-quality university education for free and because students in the country have a great chance to get a part-time job that’s directly associated with the studies.”

In order to succeed, all you need is a good time management and discipline – and discipline is probably something this former oarswoman, who had been doing twice-a-day workouts while studying, is really good at.  “I’m glad that, at PwC, we work on this topic not only with our clients, but that it’s also important to PwC itself, and we introduce this topic to the public and students who have only just started their university studies or who are even just considering which field to focus on in the future. The last time we introduced this topic was through a competition for students of secondary schools participating in the Economic Olympiad.”