As a private organization, what drives you to have ESG disclosures? Why is it important to Cox to spend time and resources on ESG?
We’re not only private but also family-owned, so our heritage comes from family values around sustainability and community. We’ve had net zero goals around wastewater and carbon for 13 or 14 years.
Disclosing ESG data for public consumption is important to us, regardless of whether we are “required” to do so.
What have you learned from building out an ESG strategy?
We learned the value of a materiality assessment. We are a conglomerate with several business units, and ESG reporting materiality is industry specific. The assessment allowed us to be transparent with our stakeholders, while also showing us the opportunities that are out there.
When you really understand the materiality of various ESG issues and then dive into the puts and takes within the data, you find it’s not chasing data for the sake of data. It allows you to understand the true cost and benefit of the businesses that you operate and where to go after making improvements.
What have been some of the reactions from your different stakeholders?
They’ve been incredibly positive. For example, we recently launched a social impact goal. As we were growing and trying to measure what we hoped the world will become if we are successful in our initiatives, we realized there was an opportunity to stake out a higher aspiration. The goal is to empower 34 million people to lead more prosperous lives by 2034 which aligns with a business growth goal for us.
Have you seen Cox use ESG as a lens for strategic decision-making?
Yes, absolutely. One of our aspirations is to have a third division of our business dedicated to clean technology because we believe in environmental protection. Cox Automotive is also an example within our traditional business. As we’ve been watching the electric vehicle space grow, we realized one of the big challenges is related to the secondary life of batteries. We’re making a lot of investments on how to extend the life of a battery and recycling opportunities.
As a private company – is the finance function involved much in ESG at Cox?
The finance function has been involved particularly in the last 24 months or so. As a private company, we still pursue bonds to support our capital projects, so we’ve been able to partner with Treasury and our finance team to determine which capital projects can help us with our social investments and what data the banks would be interested in.
We’re just starting to scratch the surface in this partnership.