ESG and Team Building: What You Need to Know About The Corporate World’s Favorite New Term 

Recently, you may have heard of the term “ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)”. It’s everywhere nowadays in the corporate world, and it refers to three criteria for evaluating companies and how sustainable they are. But did you know that there is a relation between ESG and team building?

Because ESG is looking at the long-term sustainability and viability of companies and organizations, rather than short-term profits and stock growth, it is highly connected to team building. One of the main goals of team building, after all, is ensuring the long-term health of teams and that problems can be solved quickly and productively. Teams that engage in team building regularly are more capable of addressing their issues and increasing their effectiveness and creativity well into the future.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about ESG and team building. We’ll begin with what ESG is, and then get into how team building affects ESG and the ways that teams can increase their sustainability through regular team building activities.

What is ESG? 

ESG is a relatively new way of evaluating companies’ and organizations’ long-term sustainability. While it started as a concept used mostly by investors and other stakeholders, it has spread and become widely used by consumers, the media and the broader public. Its rise corresponds to the growing sense of holding companies accountable for their practices, as well as their role in larger issues like the climate crisis, inequality and community sustainability.  

The three factors that make up ESG are:

  • Environmental–this looks at the environmental impact of companies and their use and consumption of resources. This includes things like carbon footprint, waste discharge and policies that they are implementing to become more environmentally sustainable.
  • Social–this examines the way companies treat human beings, both internally and externally. Inside the company, it relates to things like the respect of labor rights and diversity, inclusion and equity in the workforce. But this factor also looks at how companies are respecting human rights and labor standards in its interaction with other companies and countries, and whether companies are integrated into local communities.
  • Governance-this factor focuses on the internal structure and standards of companies and whether it takes into account the various interests of all its stakeholders (investors as well as employees, management, and consumers). It also looks at compliance with governmental regulations and levels of corruption.

As you can see, ESG is about getting corporations to think longer-term, and not just about how they structure themselves internally, but also about how they relate to outside communities and to the rest of the world.

ESG and team building : Focusing in on the Social

The most obvious way that team building is related to ESG is through the social factors. Internally, corporations should promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and create stronger connections among team members in order to maintain long-term sustainability. 

Team building can help team teams accomplish this in a number of ways. Tea building helps build and strengthen relationships, promotes greater understanding of shared goals and team unity, and leads to team members being able to work together more efficiently. All of this works to make teams more forward-looking and future-oriented.  

As we’ve written about before, team building also leads to greater diversity, equit, and inclusion as well. Team building requires that team members combine their skills and think outside the box, which means that it gets teams to incorporate new ideas and accept team members for who they are. 

Governance and Environmental: Empathy and accountability through team building

While not as obvious, team building can also help teams improve the Governance and Environmental aspects of ESG as well. The way it does this is through empathy and accountability. 

In order for teams and companies to think about their impact on the rest of the world, and about how they can improve their governance, they need to be able to empathize with different groups: communities that they interact with, people who are affected by their actions, other companies and teams, etc.  

They also need to be able to see their weaknesses and limitations in order to hold themselves accountable and change accordingly. Proper governance essentially means taking responsibility and holding yourself accountable for the actions of your company or team. So learning how to be aware of these limitations and to take responsibility for your actions is vital.

Team building helps teams both to empathize and take accountability. Team building focuses on team relationships and the connections between individuals, which reinforces empathy. But it also holds teams accountable. Teams are in charge of their actions and make the decisions–and face the consequences of their actions. Furthermore, through the challenges, teams are made aware of their weaknesses, which they must face in order to move forward. 

Zooming out: How team building can help improve ESG overall

Overall though, ESG and team building are connected because companies need teamwork in order to accomplish or improve their ESG. It’s not something that can be decided and implemented by a simple decision from above.  Ultimately, the entire company or organization has to be on board with implementing the changes that ESG requires, which requires working together.

Team building’s main goal is to bring individual team members together so that they can accomplish great things, so that their sum is greater than the individual parts. Team building also gets teams to think outside the box–the central component of change. Real change involves coming together, collaborating, thinking together, and pushing the boundaries of what can be done because you have the strength of a team.

Implementing ESG is wide-ranging and seemingly quite difficult, requiring the restructuring of old business patterns, the retooling of supply chains, and refocusing awareness to matters beyond pure profit. This is a lot of work, but it is not impossible when you have a healthy, strong team that works together effectively. And team building can show how this can be achieved in practice.   

Recommended Activity: Outdoor Scavenger Hunt (HSJ + SDGs)

Luckily, Invite Japan has an activity that combines all of these ideas, and teaches teams about sustainability. Our outdoor scavenger hunt program (Hidden Secrets Journey) is a fun, enjoyable outdoor activity that teams can do to learn more about working together and bond. But it also has an additional layer of learning about SDGs (the UN’s 17 Sustainable Goals). 

Through a series of puzzles, teams are taken around a part of a city on a journey of discovery and exploration. Team members hunt for clues and combine them to try to solve the puzzles that are given to them, while having time to just chat and get to know each other as they stroll from challenge to challenge. The answers though, are all related to sustainability, which makes the game an easy way for team members to learn together.   


As we head into increasingly uncertain and changing times, it is becoming ever more important for teams and companies to look forward into the future and to try to think long-term. That is essentially what ESG is trying to motivate companies to do. But the way to get there can’t be done alone, and it can’t be done by just issuing memos. It has to be felt and achieved through working together as a team. And there is no better way to improve this type of teamwork than team building.       

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

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