What brand could this be?

You could say it started with tree huggers. As environmental watchdogs of business, they are embedded in its DNA. So are social activists fighting for human rights. The same goes for anyone who cares about good decisions.

It’s a brand that has grown almost 360-fold since 1995.

A short time ago I attended a summit at NASDAQ in NYC about this brand. It was an interesting mix of perspectives by thoughtleaders, debates among panel members, and pitches from entrepreneurs looking to drive innovation. Only, the brand was nowhere in sight.

It was stripped down to its bones. Data, process, technology, analysis and whatever else you can find when you get in the weeds about this brand. Sexy, right?

The brand I’m talking about is ESG: Environmental, Social and Governance criteria. Investors, analysts and consultants are increasingly using ESG to decide how to invest their money.

Wait a minute, that’s not a brand. At all.

Well, is ABS a brand? Every new car these days has anti-lock brakes, a U.S. standard since 2011. Before that, we all asked “does this car have ABS?” What about S.O.S.? Some say these three letters stand for “save our souls”, when in reality they are a Morse code solve for easily sending a distress signal. Then there is the URL, the Uniform Resource Locator and address of a web page.

Ok, so ABS, S.O.S. and URL may not be brands in a traditional sense. But, they are much more than mere acronyms. Ingredient brands is a better way to think of them. Remember Intel Inside? Nutrasweet?

As ingredient brands, ABS, S.O.S. and URL have transcended the traditional boundaries of products, services and companies. They are universally recognized, accepted, understood and implemented concepts that, if you think about it, have meaning, emotion and associations attached to them.

ESG is on its way. It may become the most important ingredient brand. Ever. These three letters are what connect the financial markets to the big problems we need to conquer globally.

The cool thing about the ESG Summit at NASDAQ was that a lot of extremely smart, successful, and committed people got together to move ESG forward. Real evidence of progress. I just wish a few more creative types had been invited to participate to give them a taste of the potential of this brand.

ESG is the brand on the bleeding edge of change that will be sweeping through the markets as companies big and small are recalibrating their objectives, strategies and operations to deliver on business and social outcomes which massive investors are beginning to demand.

That’s code for “a few of us should get together to build this brand.”

Sources:  USSIF, Skytop Strategies, Landor, NHTSA, Family Education Network, Urban Dictionary, Straight Dope, top1000funds.com

© 2015