ESG issues look set to dominate the boardrooms of Irish companies in the coming years and relevant skills will be keenly desired.

Nearly a third of Irish business leaders believe that ESG (environmental, social, governance) will be the most desired board skill in the coming years.

The crucial and growing importance of ESG issues have been highlighted by the findings of a new Institute of Directors (IoD) in Ireland survey, which has found that 29pc of respondents say ESG will be the most desired experience/expertise over the next two years.

“Sustainability does not require us to sacrifice profit but asks us to broaden our assessment of capital and its value, while exploring how to optimise our people and other assets for a global future benefit”

This contrasts with the finding in the same research, that only 10pc referenced ESG experience/expertise when they were asked what they believe is the main experience/expertise that they bring to their primary board in the present time. 

What directors need to know about leading for sustainability

Blonde-haired business woman.

Maura Quinn, chief executive, Institute of Directors in Ireland

These findings in the IoD’s latest quarterly Director Sentiment Monitor research report highlight the rising importance that business leaders are placing on ESG expertise.

In anticipation of this IoD has launched a new online course titled, ‘Leading Sustainability: What Directors Need to Know and Do’. The course will be conducted over four in-depth sessions during October and November.

This IoD course will be led by Professor Simon Haslam, Chartered Director, and John Henry Looney, Sustainability Management Consultant. It is designed to equip directors with the knowledge and skills to strengthen their organisations’ orientation towards sustainability.

“Against the background of the recent alarming report on climate change from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the course will also offer insights into the circular economy, the key issues and solutions regarding environmental challenges,” said Maura Quinn, CEO of the Institute of Directors in Ireland.

“Sustainability does not require us to sacrifice profit but asks us to broaden our assessment of capital and its value, while exploring how to optimise our people and other assets for a global future benefit.

“This course will provide a practical approach for directors to a critically important issue, with a focus on immediate takeaways. It will include an opportunity to apply learnings to the participant’s own organisation. It will also provide a means of assessing the unique opportunities that the ESG agenda presents for participants’ organisations and sectors.

“With the eagerly anticipated COP26 – UN Climate Change Conference being hosted in Glasgow in November, Sustainability issues are set to dominate the headlines in the autumn and the timing of this course could not be more appropriate,” Quinn said.

The course will include four sessions, which will cover the following key areas and will take place on four different dates between 09:00-12:30.

  • Tuesday, 5th October 2021: Session One – Why Sustainability is Increasingly Important for Boards
  • Monday, 18th October 2021: Session Two – The Environment Agenda: The Board’s Role
  • Monday, 8th November 2021: Session Three – The Social Agenda: The Board’s Role
  • Thursday, 25th November 2021: Session Four – The Bottom-Line Agenda: Director/Board Actions.

The IoD course will also offer an understanding of social responsibilities and how organisations can motivate their people and engage stakeholders, a key duty of directors.

The importance of this aspect of the course is also highlighted by the further findings of the recent IoD Director Sentiment Monitor survey of its members which found that, of the elements of ESG that their boards were focused on, 50pcof respondents selected ‘Governance’, 41pc selected ‘Environment’, and just 10pc chose ‘Social’.

Bookings for the course are available via the IoD Ireland website page: Leading Sustainability: What Directors Need to Know and Do.

By John Kennedy (

Published: 26 August 2021