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With ESG performance being both a powerful marketing tool for iGaming companies and the key to the industry’s long-term sustainability, we sat down with Microgaming’s Kate Moughtin to discuss how environmental, social and governance efforts in a business can truly make a positive impact on the planet.

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In every industry, the sustainability of both our businesses and the planet is naturally of the utmost importance – and in recent years, this has become especially true in the sphere of iGaming.

Since the introduction of a recognised ESG (environment, social, governance) framework, iGaming companies have been advancing at a rate of knots in terms of the policies and protocols that they’ve put in place, and for the most part, this has been of tangible benefit to both their staff and the planet.

So what exactly is ESG and what are the key aspects the framework covers?

In a nutshell, ESG criteria are a set of standards for a company’s operations that ensure business is sustained in a profitable way while ensuring that all employees are safe and healthy, the planet is looked after and all activity is above board and legal.

It’s a means for socially-conscious investors to screen potential ventures, but in addition to that, it’s a guideline for companies on how they can have a positive impact on the world.

At the moment ESG is applicable to all listed entities, however once you dig a little deeper into the individual components that underpin ESG framework, it becomes fairly obvious that it’s a set of standards that all companies would benefit from taking on board.

It’s only by looking at their business through an ESG lens and evaluating where they currently sit and what areas they could improve in that a company is able to achieve long-term sustainability while also planting the seeds for a greener future.

Essentially, when assessing a company’s ESG performance, the three pillars we need to mark ourselves against are “How does the company perform as a steward of nature?”, “How does it manage its relationships with employees, suppliers, customers and the community in which it operates?” and lastly, “How does the company’s senior leadership behave and what internal controls, audits and shareholder rights have been put in place to ensure it continues to act in a socially responsible way?”.

In an ideal world, it’s the last of those points – governance – that should be the first one to get right, as once a company has this in place, the other two should follow naturally.

Responsibility should form the backbone of any business and having clear boundaries and guidelines on how to legally – and using best practices – move forward is absolutely key to safeguarding the future success of your organisation.

One important way that companies can improve their governance is promoting diversity in the workplace and ensuring that there are no barriers to success, regardless of an individual’s gender, race, sexual orientation or creed.

This, of course, has long been a major talking point within iGaming, with the latest All-In Diversity survey indicating that still only 43% of employees industry-wide are females.

Ideally, this figure should be closer to a 50/50 split – and at Microgaming we’re very proud to say that we’ve already achieved this at executive level and are very close to doing so within our entire workforce.

We’re also a founder member of All-In Diversity and work closely in supporting them to ensure that the under-represented in our industry are given a voice and a platform to be heard from.

Once policies like these have been put in place at the highest governance level, the positive impacts filter down from the top into every aspect of your business.

Nevertheless, from a social perspective it’s crucially important that companies then zoom in on their staff and the community in which they’re based.

It basically boils down to knowing your people – what country are they operating in, what made them join the company and why do they stay? A smart business finds out and nurtures all these things.

One of the gold standards a company can have in this respect is achieving high performance organisation (HPO) status.

In order to do this, it’s essential to regularly ask staff for their views on the many different aspects of working life such as morale and openness around the business.

High-scoring aspects can then be nurtured, while low-performance areas can be worked on by HR until they’re also up to scratch. This way, a company is always attuned to what’s going on and can improve accordingly.

Naturally, the social pillar of ESG also requires that all staff have a contract that’s in line with all applicable laws in the country they’re based.

Staff must be made aware of their rights in regards to things like privacy and data protection and they must also be suitably remunerated for their role.

On top of that, many of the companies that perform best against ESG criteria offer generous benefit packages and perks such as pensions and private healthcare, as well as other key wellbeing initiatives.

Beyond looking out for their staff, companies can also make a positive impact on the community around them by investing time and money in a good corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme.

This is perhaps the area where the social and environmental aspects of ESG intersect, as it enables companies to put their weight behind all kinds of responsible gaming, education and green initiatives.

At Microgaming, we have our Play It Forward programme – a staff-led CSR initiative where employees vote on worthy causes and volunteer their time to support them – but however companies approach it, the key is to give something back to the community while powering positive change for both people and the planet.

Over the years we’ve worked with the Manx Wildlife Trust to plant seagrass and aid with puffin conservation on the Isle of Man, but equally importantly, we’ve also set up an education bursary to help gifted students go to university and supported numerous responsible gaming charities.

These are only a handful of examples of the types of way iGaming companies can help support their communities and the environment – and if they also ensure that their physical premises are designed with energy efficiency, water and waste management and other green initiatives in mind, they’ll be well on their way to satisfying all major ESG criteria and safeguarding the sustainability of our industry.

With this in mind, I’d say it’s incumbent for all businesses – be they iGaming or otherwise – to embrace ESG standards and start thinking about what they can do.

If they don’t, they run the risk of being left behind in a world where having a positive social and environmental impact is now becoming an increasingly valuable foundation for companies to base their reputation on as they build for the future.

Kate Moughtin is the senior CSR Manager at Microgaming and has been a driving force behind the company’s Play It Forward programme.

She is currently a certified sustainability (ESG) practitioner having completed the programme at the Centre of Sustainability & Excellence and is passionate about promoting the positive impact that iGaming companies can have on people, places and the planet.