Sustainable Company Awards 2023

Rising Star - under 30: Emily Balcombe, YouGov

Emily Balcombe joined YouGov in a newly created role of ESG Coordinator in 2021 before progressing to ESG Manager in 2022.

As the only person fully dedicated to ESG within the company, Balcombe is responsible for developing and delivering YouGov's strategic plan for sustainable, ethical, and responsible business practices across its operations.

Emily BalcombeAs an international online research data and analytics technology group, the firm says ESG has long been a core part of the company, before it was formally defined as part of its business strategy.

In late 2021, YouGov published a two-year ESG Roadmap for the organisation as Balcombe joined the firm. By mid-2022, Balcombe had completed the objectives of the first roadmap and developed the second iteration a year ahead of schedule.

YouGov's second ESG Roadmap concluded in July 2023 and YouGov will soon publish its ESG Roadmap 3 – a three-year ESG strategy.

Balcombe's additional achievements in the past 12 months include completing YouGov's first ESG materiality assessment, managing the calculation of YouGov's first global carbon footprint, the development of a net-zero strategy and spearheading single-use plastic reduction at the firm.

She also developed and published several new policies, including a Group Human Rights Policy to formalise YouGov's commitment to protecting human rights and fair labour practices, and a Group Charitable Giving & Volunteering Policy to standardise YouGov's charitable donation practices and establish a formal approach to support employee volunteering activities.

One Sustainable Company Awards judge noted Balcombe's "very impressive list of achievements" and added that she appeared to be "critical in the development and continued execution of the company's ESG Roadmap".

Kate Humphreys, head of compliance at YouGov, commented: "The field of ESG is constantly evolving, and Emily approaches her work with curiosity and enthusiasm. She is energised by learning and enjoys the endless opportunities to grow in this role.

"When faced with a challenge, whether it is a complex regulation or a new way of presenting information, Emily is eager to dive into the topic and expand her knowledge. She is highly capable of digesting complex information and presenting it according to the relevant audience. Communication is essential to building trust and accountability in our ESG approach, and Emily excels at understanding the audience's needs and packaging content appropriately."

Thomas Zaqueu, YouGov's people initiatives and diversity & inclusion (D&I) manager, added: "She embodies the YouGov values and exhibits a collaborative spirit. While she is the sole ESG specialist at YouGov, she engages with teams across the business to action the ESG strategy.

"From the internal People, Finance, and Facilities teams to external consultants, Emily recognises the value in teamwork and embraces the expertise of others. She not only welcomes but encourages suggestions and feedback from colleagues in every corner of the business – she firmly believes that YouGov's ESG strategy will be more effective if it accurately reflects the needs and expectations of all our employees."

The progress made under Balcombe's oversight is reflected in the company's latest ESG ratings - in 2022, YouGov received its first MSCI rating, of AA.

Looking ahead, Balcombe says she is "looking forward to developing a robust net-zero strategy and continuing to support our clients with their own ESG goals. Transparency is key to building trust, and I will continue to prioritise honest and progressive disclosures".