Western Union's First ESG Report: CEO Hikmet Ersek rides the 'purpose' train, supported by the board.

Author:Tahmincioglu, Eve
 
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At Western Union, we believe we can be more successful as a company when we operate according to the highest ethical standards, address unmet social needs and promote the well-being of our consumers, their communities and the environment.

Those are the opening words of Western Union's inaugural environmental, social and governance (ESG) report released this past summer, a report that was spearheaded by the CEO and supported by the board of directors.

Hikmet Ersek, CEO and a director at Western Union explains: "Investors have been asking 'what is your purpose and how are you implementing that?' I was thinking about ESG and I went to the board. They were supportive," of creating the report that details what the company has been doing, and plans to do, globally, he says.

The board, he continues, "sees that ESG is more than a report. It's about positioning the company on what we're standing for." Western Union is a "purpose driven company," he says, adding that the board really wanted to promote that mission and the report "so we can be used as an example for other companies."

Also creating an example was Ersek's decision to be one of the CEO signatories on the Business Roundtable's recent "purpose" statement.

"Since the beginning, driving shareholder value has undoubtedly been table stakes for any publicly traded company," Ersek maintains. "The difference is that today, shareholder value must be met with a wider societal purpose. Western Union is a purpose-driven company, committed to moving money for better. We listen to our customers across the world, who reside in more than 200 countries and territories where we operate. Listening and understanding their needs fuels our innovation and the issues that I stand up for."

"Listening to our customers," adds Elizabeth Roscoe, executive director of the Western Union Foundation and head of corporate brand & purpose for Western Union, "we know many of them, like Mr. Ersek, are migrants and that sending money for education is important to them. The work of the Western Union Foundation focuses on these things--one of the ways we serve a wider societal purpose. Another example would be in the area of compliance."

Ersek acknowledges the process has had its challenges, especially in the compliance arena. The company has faced fines related to money laundering and human trafficking, and despite doing better than many corporations on the diversity in leadership front, gender parity has yet to be achieved.

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