Why use VR training to meet ESG goals?
Working to create a more equitable and sustainable world isn’t an easy task. However, rightly so, it’s no longer seen as an optional extra or ‘nice to have’. Increasingly, stakeholders from C-suite executives to front-line employees, investors and customers, expect companies to create Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) strategies that govern their organisational goals moving forward.
However, creating coherent and impactful ESG strategies is challenging. Why? Because they require people to make cognitive leaps and imagine something that doesn’t necessarily exist. It’s much harder for humans to connect and emotionally engage in something that isn’t right in front of them.
Today, we dig the latest research to spotlight why VR may be the key piece of the puzzle...
What is an ESG strategy?
An ESG strategy is a measurable signal addressing the growing appetite for better information and transparency by investors, regulators and leaders who want more comprehensive disclosure than ever before.
ESG strategies may involve implementing ways to reduce the organisation’s carbon footprint or meet net zero by a certain time. It could involve creating new goals around diversity, equity and inclusion. It could also involve ensuring that the company conducts audits and operates in an ethical way.
In short, it’s about doing what’s best for profits, people, and the planet.
The challenges of getting buy-in for ESG policies
We live in an age of ‘now’ where we prioritise what’s right in front of us. The difficulty of ESG strategies is in getting humans to engage with an idea or situation that isn’t as tangible as the here and now.
Interestingly, as the report by Ernst Young explains, “the biggest barrier to addressing climate change is not technological — it’s behavioral.” Although ESG policies will have huge social and ecological ramifications for decades to come, connecting people to the impact that a policy decision taken today might have in, say, fifty years' time is a real obstacle for policymakers.
The ‘boiling frog’ effect
Human imagination has its limits and trying to picture the world in the year 2100 is a tall order.
A recent study by researchers at the University of California Davis found that people quickly normalise extreme weather conditions, basing their expectations of what constitutes ‘normal’ weather on the past few years – years with increased periods of extreme weather. This creates a ‘true boiling-frog effect,’ the study’s authors say, meaning that it becomes harder to create effective ESG policies.
This difficulty is compounded when trying to communicate ESG policies and ensure that they are being implemented across an organisation. Department heads and frontline staff face the same cognitive hurdles that C-level executives and policymakers face in grasping the long-term impacts of ESG policies. It's therefore a lot more difficult to make ESG training stick. So what is the solution?
Why VR is so effective for ESG goals
ESG goals can only be met when buy-in is ensured from stakeholders at all levels.
This is where VR really adds value. The immersive technology that powers VR experiences can help both policymakers and those tasked with implementing these goals. Instead of asking individuals to connect the dots and imagine the impact of ESG policies, virtual reality overcomes those barriers and amplifies “emotional engagement.”
As Ernst & Young report, there are three key dimensions of experience inherent to VR and immersive technology that make it such an effective tool for ESG policymaking and training:
- Presence: VR experiences allow users to forget that they’re in a synthetic environment
- Immersion: Multi-sensory experiences transport users and result in deeper engagement
- Embodiment: VR users can engage with their virtual environment from perspectives other than their own.
VR’s combination of presence, immersion and embodiment can make abstract decision-making more concrete by immersing policymakers and stakeholders in environments that are impacted by their decisions.
VR builds understanding and empathy
For example, a VR experience might show participants the impact that their current environmental policy decisions have on sea levels in fifty years' time by taking them to a future, flooded Venice or Sydney. Similar experiences can be used to communicate the necessity of ESG policies to department heads and frontline staff. VR experiences such as these help build understanding and empathy.
The immersive experiences that VR technology enables can be leveraged to create more impactful ESG strategies and cascade policy down to all levels of an organisation, while ensuring maximum buy-in from those who implement these strategies on a daily basis.
Using VR to maximise ESG impact
As well as this, organisations that train their staff using VR have access to a wealth of learner metrics and insights on how this training is being implemented – what training material is effective and what needs to be repositioned or rethought.
In a nutshell, VR can drive better, more impactful ESG policymaking. It can ensure that ESG strategy is communicated as effectively as possible, and that stakeholders at all levels have buy-in and understand the impact of the policies they are being asked to implement.