RESEARCH RESULTS: Using The GRI Sustainability Reporting Framework Improves The Quality of ESG Disclosures – Joint Research From G&A Institute and Baruch College Shows

(July 18, 2017 – New York, NY) — Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. is the data partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in the United States, United Kingdom, and The Republic of Ireland. In this role the Institute monitors, collects and analyzes every sustainability report published in these three countries. The results of this pro-bono work help to feed the GRI’s “Sustainability Disclosure Database,” the largest sustainability database in the world, with 41,734 sustainability reports as of June 30th, 2017.

In addition to this important work, G&A Institute has analyzed the corporate sustainability (and related titles) reporting of the S&P 500® universe of companies for six years in a row, first releasing its benchmark studies on the 2010 reporting year.

In the first year of the study, for 2010 reporting, G&A Institute determined that 80 percent of the leading large-cap companies of the United States of America included in the index were laggards, and not publishing sustainability reports. Generally speaking, this result clearly demonstrated that U.S. companies were lagging many of their corporate peers in Europe where the rates of reporting on Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) issues were much higher and reporting is increasingly mandated.

Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in the S&P 500 universe companies, with 53% of the S&P 500 companies reporting in 2012; 72% reporting in 2013; 75% reporting in 2014; 81% in 2015, and in the most recent flash report issued by G&A Institute 82% of the S&P 500 were reporting in the 2016 calendar year. See more here: http://www.ga-institute.com/press-releases/article/flash-report-82-of-the-sp-500-companies-published-corporate-sustainability-reports-in-2016.html.

The dramatic rise in corporate reporting on sustainability is holding steady, with an increasing number of companies disclosing their strategy and performance on ESG metrics.

But Now That Most Companies Are Publishing Sustainability Reports the Question Arises: What is the Quality of the Content of These Reports?

To explore the answers, G&A teamed with The CSR-Sustainability Monitor® (CSR-S Monitor) research team at the Weissman Center for International Business, Baruch College/CUNY, to combine their partners’ “Big Data” sets to extract deeper intelligence on the subject.

Baruch’s CSR-S Monitor uses a content analysis approach to score CSR / Sustainability reports published by the world’s largest companies as identified in Fortune 500 and Global 500 rankings. The CSR-S Monitor scoring methodology categorizes the content of each report into 11 components called “Contextual Elements,” which cover the most commonly reported sustainability topics:  Chair’s / Executive Message, Environment, Philanthropy & Community Involvement, External Stakeholder Engagement, Supply Chain, Labor Relations, Governance, Anti-Corruption, Human Rights, Codes of Conduct, and Integrity Assurance.

More info on these 11 contextual elements can be seen online at: http://www.csrsmonitor.org/methodology/contextual_elements.pdf
(Note that only disclosure in the form of a standalone or web-based CSR report or Integrated Annual Report is considered for the purpose of scoring on the CSR-S Monitor.)

The Question Asked on The Combined “Big Data” Sets Is: 
Does Reporting Using The GRI Sustainability Reporting Framework Result in Higher Quality Reports?

The partners set out an ambitious study to answer this question through examining the quality of information and degree of verification provided in the reports that were identified as utilizing the GRI reporting frameworks, and the ones that did not.

Question Posed
Is there a difference between the world’s leading companies following the GRI guidelines and those not doing so? Short answer: Yes! CSR-S Monitor found that a supermajority of the large-cap companies do follow the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines, and following the GRI guidelines makes a big difference in most categories.

Highlights of the Analysis
The partners’ data sets matched up on 572 companies which were included as the Universe for this study. The data are taken strictly from reports published any time during the calendar year 2014. The CSR-S Monitor analysts scored companies on their disclosure on the 11 contextual elements, based on information quality and degree of verification. The G&A data were used to separate the scored reports into two buckets, those that utilized the GRI framework, and those that did not. There were a total of 481 (or 84%) companies publishing using the GRI framework, and 91 (16%) companies not using the GRI framework.

Results of Analysis 
Companies using the GRI framework consistently achieved average contextual element scores higher than the companies not using GRI for their reporting (scores are from 0-100 with 100 being the best).

  • Overall, the score was 45.7% for GRI reporter, vs. 29.6% for non-GRI;
  • For the Environment element, GRI reporters scored 64.9% vs. 51.0% for non-GRI;
  • For Labor Relations, GRI reporters scored 55.8% vs. 36.7% for non-GRI;
  • For Supply Chain, GRI reporters scored 46.6% vs. 28.2% for non-GRI;
  • For Anti-Corruption, GRI reporters scored 26.4% vs 10.4% for non-GRI;
  • For Integrity Assurance, GRI reporters scored 31.0% vs. 13.3% for non-GRI;
  • The largest differential was for Human Rights, with GRI reporters scoring 45.0% vs. 15.0% for non-GRI reporters.

Mert Demir, PhD, Director of Research at Weissman Center, commented on the CSR-S Monitor analysis:  “CSR-Sustainability Monitor scores reflect the breadth, depth, and degree of external/independent verification of the information in corporate sustainability reports, regardless of the firm’s underlying ESG performance. While sustainability reporting has become more mainstream over time, these reports still show limited standardization and considerable variation in content and quality, preventing effective comparisons of their information across time as well as among peers. Though stakeholders often find these reports core to their evaluation of a company, these issues make using them effectively challenging.

“The Monitor’s scores indicate these concerns have mostly been addressed with the adoption of a reporting framework such as GRI’s. GRI-compliant reports achieve significantly higher quality scores across all main domains of sustainability reporting. As companies pursue sustainability objectives, they increasingly face the necessity to address growing stakeholder concern and expectations regarding comprehensive, detailed, and material ESG information to complement financial information they believe to be insufficient to assess the big picture alone. And in this respect, following a reporting framework—GRI in particular—seems to make a big difference.”

Louis D. Coppola, MBA, Executive VP of G&A Institute and architect of the G&A Institute’s various research efforts including the S&P 500 studies, commented: “As we continue our in-depth analysis of corporate sustainability and responsibility disclosure and reporting, it is abundantly clear, year-after-year, that companies following the comprehensive GRI framework enjoy higher scores assigned by independent third party providers on a range of ESG factors important to stakeholders.

“The simple fact is that standardized sustainability reporting helps companies and its stakeholders, including investors to better utilize the information disclosed for decision making. Companies not following the GRI framework, by far the most commonly used sustainability reporting framework in the world, are consistently out-classed by their GRI reporting peers.

“By July 2018, companies reporting utilizing GRI will be required to utilize the new GRI Standards that were released in October 2016, to replace the fourth generation GRI G4. The GRI Standards are the first global standards for sustainability reporting and feature a modular, interrelated structure allowing for more flexibility in updating and in usage. The GRI Standards represent the global best practice for reporting on a range of economic, environmental and social impacts.”

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About CSR-Sustainability Monitor Report
The organization reports on the quality of CSR / Sustainability reports from the world’s largest companies. Using a content analysis-based system to score corporate reports; there are 11 contextual elements scored, based on scope of coverage, specificity of detail, and degree of verification. Companies in the Fortune 500 and Fortune Global 500 Indices are included in the analysis.

About The Weissman Center
Founded in 1994, Baruch College’s Weissman Center for International Business is designated to enable Baruch College/CUNY to respond to the global economy with programs appropriate to a pre-eminent school of business. The Center created the CSR-S Monitor as a tool for analyzing the CSR reporting by the largest U.S. and global companies; in the screening process, analysts measure the degree to which the reporting company provides integrity assurance as to accuracy and completeness of information disclosed.

About Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.
Founded in 2006, G&A Institute is a sustainability consulting firm headquartered in New York City, advising corporations in executing winning strategies that maximize return on investment at every step of their sustainability journey. The G&A consulting team helps corporate and investment community clients recognize, understand and address sustainability issues to address stakeholder and shareholder concerns.

G&A Institute is the Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in the USA, UK and Republic of Ireland. A G&A team of six or more perform this pro bono work on behalf of GRI. Over the past six-plus years, G&A has analyzed more than 5,000 sustainability reports in this role and databased more than 100 important data points for each of the [thousands of] reports.

G&A’s sustainability-focused consulting and advisory services fall into three main buckets: Sustainability/ESG Consulting; Communications and Recognitions, and Investor Relations. The resources available within each bucket include strategy-setting; sustainability/CSR reporting assistance; materiality assessments; stakeholder engagement; ESG benchmarking; enhancing investor relations ESG programs; investor engagement; investor ESG data review; sustainability communications; manager coaching; team building; training; advice on third party awards, recognitions, and index inclusions; ESG issues monitoring and customized research.

About *S&P 500® Index
According to S&P Dow Jones Indices / McGraw Hill Financial: “The S&P 500® is widely regarded as the best single gauge of large-cap US equities. There is over US$7 trillion benchmarked to the index, with index assets comprising approximately US$1.9 trillion of this total. The index includes 500 leading companies and captures approximately 80% coverage of available market capitalization.” The S&P 500 is a trademarked® property of S&P Dow Jones Indices, McGraw Hill Financial. Ticker: SPX

About Fortune Indices
According to Fortune.com: “The Fortune Global 500 is our annual ranking of the largest 500 corporations worldwide as measured by total revenue, whereas the Fortune 500 is exclusively U.S. corporations… Companies are ranked by total revenues for their respective fiscal years.” Copyright 2017 Time Inc. FORTUNE® and the FORTUNE Database names are trademarks of Time Inc. All rights reserved.

For more information, contact Governance & Accountability Institute:
Louis D. Coppola
Executive Vice President & CoFounder
Tel: 646.430.8230 x14
Email: lcoppola@ga-institute.com

Conversation with Professor Baruch Lev at NYU: Is Accounting Outmoded?

The book: The End of Accounting.

July 17, 2017

by Hank Boerner – Chairman and Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

Questions:  Is Accounting as we know it now outmoded … beyond Its usefulness to investors? We share with you today the views of a global thought leader on Accounting and Corporate Reporting — Dr. Baruch Lev of Stern School of Business at New York University.

Professor Lev’s shares his views of the vital importance of intangibles to investors, with his call for far greater corporate transparency being needed … including his views on the importance of CSR and sustainability.

His latest work:  The End of Accounting – and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers — authored by Dr. Baruch Lev and Dr. Feng Gu of the University of Buffalo/ SUNY.  The professors’  important new work is the result of three years of research and collaboration, In the book they that suggests new approaches are needed to reform “old” accounting practices to provide more information of value to investors, who are mostly ignoring corporate accounting.

And as read the book, we were thinking:  what about ESG – CSR – Sustainability – and other new approaches that do focus on many intangible aspects of corporate operations?  We had a conversation with Dr. Lev and share his views on this and more with you today.

After reading the book, readers may ask:  Is this about the “The End of Accounting?” Or, “The Beginning of Really Useful Financial Information for Investors?”  My view:  It’s both!

And we discuss needed reforms in corporate reporting, for you to think about:  Are U.S. public companies prepared to publish the authors’ recommendations for a Resources and Consequences Report for investors’ benefit?  Read on to learn more…

And for sustainability / CSR professionals: This is an important new work for your consideration that focuses on the importance of intangible information for investors to help guide their decision-making.

First, some background:

Accounting as we know it has been around for 500+ years. Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli, the Italian mathematician (c 1447-1517) set out the principles of the double-entry bookkeeping system for the merchants of Old Venice in his 1494 work, Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita, a very important textbook of the day.

This “Father of Accounting” put forth the important concepts of ledgers, journals, credits and debits (and the balancing of same); A/R, A/P, Cost Accounting and much more. His is a rich legacy in the accounting and business worlds. **

But now, Professor Baruch Lev posits in his work with colleague Professor Feng Gu, we really need to reform this five-century-old approach to how we account for the financials and think and act way beyond the traditional.

Their Recommendations:

Let’s begin with the corporate “intangibles” – some investment professionals still speak of a company’s ESG / Sustainability / Responsibility strategies, programs and actions, achievements, and the burgeoning reportage of same (data & narrative) as addressing the intangibles (and not “the tangibles,” represented by the financial data).

But many analysts and asset managers look far beyond the financials to help determine the valuation of a public issuer. For example, veteran financial analyst Stephen McClellan, CFA, formerly VP and head of research for Merrill Lynch and author of the best seller, “Full of Bull,” has told conference audiences that as much as 80% of a corporate valuation may be based on the intangibles.

Writing for investors, Professors Lev and Gu put forth their suggestions for dramatic accounting and corporate reporting reform. They “establish empirically” in their work that traditional corporate accounting is failing investors and reforms are needed.

Their recommendation: have companies publish a “Resources and Consequences Report” with five main elements:

  • Development of [Corporate] Resources;
  • Resource Stocks;
  • Preservation of Resources;
  • Deployment of Resources;
  • Value Created.

Some of the information could be financial, as in today’s disclosures. But other information could quantify data, and there could be qualitative information as well. (Sounds like we are looking at some of the sustainability reports of corporate sustainability leaders?)

The elements of the report the good professors recommend:

Development of Resources: Detailed descriptions for investors of the company’s important internal research efforts, the R&D advances, the further development of present technologies to leverage to create value, etc. After “proof of concept,” how does the R&D contribute to the value of the company?

Resource Stocks: The company’s intellectual properties, the assets that are the foundation of investor value. (Patents, trademarks, processes, etc. — all “intangibles” that are in fact very tangible to investors.)

Preservation of Resources: The safety/security of such things as a company’s digital assets, IT, IP, and so on; are there cyber attacks? Was there damage – to what extent? What does the company do about these attacks? How does the company manage and secure its acquired knowledge?

Deployment of Resources: As the company creates “value,” how are the strategic resources deployed? How does the company use its intellectual assets?

Value Created: Here the professors would like to see reported the dollar results of all of the above. Companies would describe the changes in Resource value(s), and describe the nature of value (for a company with a subscription model, what is the value of the individual subscription; what is the value of a brand, etc.)

Notes Dr. Lev: “We suggest and demonstrate a new measure: adjusted cash flows.”

Highlights of our conversation:

G&A Institute: Your new book offers very powerful arguments for fundamentally changing present-day corporate accounting and the way that investors do or do not pay attention to that accounting in their analysis and portfolio decision-making. There are a lot of vested interests in the present system; can the accounting and corporate disclosure and reporting systems be changed to reflect your recommendations?

Dr. Lev: Things change very slowly in accounting policies and practices. The systems is changing, in that public company managements are disclosing a considerable amount of information that is beyond that required for SEC filings, in the areas that we touch on in examples in our book. So there is progress. But not fast enough, I believe, to really serve investors.

G&A Institute: The SEC months ago published a Concept Release requesting public input on the present methods of corporate disclosure. We were encouraged to see more than a dozen pages in the document devoted the question of ESG metrics, sustainability information, and the like. Your thoughts on this?

Dr. Lev: We have not seen any further communication on this and there are no rules proposed. Will the new administration take any of this seriously?

Observes Dr. Lev: There are now many corporate financial statements that virtually no one understands. There is great complexity in today’s accounting. When we look at the US Environmental Protection Agency and environmental rules, we see that once rules are in place, they are constantly debated in the public arena. Unlike the EPA situation, there is presently no public interest in debating our accounting rules.

G&A Institute: Well, let me introduce here the subject of the SASB approach — the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB). Of course, the adoption of the SASB approach by a public company for adopting to their mandated reporting is voluntary at this time. What are your thoughts on this approach to this type of intangibles disclosure?

Dr. Lev: Well, the SASB recommendations are built on top of the present approach to accounting and reporting. In effect they leave the financial reporting system “as is,” with their rules built on top of a weak foundation as we outline in the book. I’ve said this at the SASB annual conference and my comments were very well received.

I did point out that the SASB approach is quite useful for investors. But the demand for voluntary disclosure by companies could create an invitation for lawsuits all over the world, if certain disclosures were made regarding a company’s environmental impacts.

G&A Institute: Well, aren’t investors seeking information such as environmental performance, as well as related risk, opportunity, more of the “E” of ESG strategies, performance, and metrics?

Dr. Lev: It depends on the setting. Our book was in process over a three-year period. My co-author and I devoted an entire year to analyzing hundreds of quarterly analyst (earnings) calls. Keep in mind that an analyst may have just one opportunity to ask the question. There were no — no — questions ever raised about ESG performance, corporate sustainability, and related topics. We reviewed, as I said, hundreds of earnings calls, with about 25-to-30 questions on each call.

G&A Institute: What kinds of questions may be directed to corporate managers on the calls about intangible items?

Dr. Lev: There were questions about the R&D efforts, the pipeline for example for pharma companies. Customer franchise was an important topic. Changes in U.S. patent law resulted in much more information being disclosed by the U.SPatent Office related to the filings. The entire argument made for patent filing, for example, and this is a subject the analysts are interested in.

G&A Institute: Are there any discussions, analyst and corporate, about ESG/sustainability?

Dr. Lev: Yes, these questions are mostly in the one-to-one conversations. A challenge is that in my opinion, the ESG metrics available are not yet at investment-grade. There is a good bit of investor interest and discussion with companies about sustainability. The factors are quite relevant to investors. But the “how-wonderful-we-are” communications by large public companies are not really relevant to investors.

G&A Institute: What kinds of information about the CSR or environmental sustainability intangibles, in your opinion, is of importance to investors?

Dr. Lev: Think about the special capabilities of the public corporation. The organization typically has special capacity to do good. Not just to donate money, which is something the shareholders could do without the company. But to share with the stakeholder, like a community organization, the special know how and other resources to make good things happen. The world really expects this now of companies. Call it Corporate Social Responsibility if you like.

The Cisco Example

Explains Dr. Lev:  Cisco is a fine example of this. The Company has a Networking Academy, and they invite people to enroll and take free educational courses to learn more about networking. There have been millions of people graduating from this academy and receiving certificates. Cisco management leverages its special capacity in doing this. And it is a good idea if you think about the impact of this far-sighted approach to generate more interest in and business with Cisco.

The Home Depot Example

Another example he offers is Home Depot. The company teams with an NGO – Kaboom — to build playgrounds for children. In terms of special capacity, HD does provide materials, but also provides company legal talent to help situate the playgrounds in the neighborhood. That is far more than throwing money at a community need.

Dr. Lev Observes:  I think one of the issues is that the terminology is not clear. CSR — what is it? Good or bad for investors? Having good ideas and special capabilities is key, I think.

We asked about Dr. Milton Friedman’s Views on CSR

G&A Institute: This brings us to one of your former colleagues, Dr. Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago, who famously wrote in a New York Times magazine article that CSR is, in effect, hokum, and not the business of the company. Shareholders well being should be the main focus, and through dividends and other means, if a shareholder wants to give the money away, they can do that…not the company.

Dr. Lev: I was a student of Dr. Friedman and later a colleague at the University of Chicago after I got a Ph.D. He was a brilliant man. In my opinion, he was the greatest economist of the 20th Century and I put him on a pedestal. He liked to introduce a subject and then generate great debate on his suggestions, which he felt people could accept or reject. That, I think, is the case with his famous commentary on CSR. See, we are still debating his views today. He was proved right so many times during his time.

G&A Institute: Let’s conclude this talk with a question: Do you see a value for investors in accepting, or better understanding, such terminology as CSR and sustainability and sustainable investing?

Dr. Lev: Yes, these are important approaches for companies and investors. Four years ago I devoted a chapter to CSR in my book, “Winning Investors Over.” My views are fully set forth in the recent article, “Evaluating Sustainable Competitive Advantage,” published in the Spring 2017 issue of Journal of Applied Corporate Finance.

Notes Dr. Lev:  About “CSR” — there are other terms used, of course. Varying titles are very confusing. It is not always clear what CSR or sustainability may mean. For example, the Toyota Prius is a good approach to auto use. Is manufacturing that car “good CSR,” or just good business? A measure of sustainability? CSR is hard to define, sometimes. Good corporate citizenship is good for business and good for society, I believe.

G&A Institute: Thank, you Dr. Lev, for sharing your thoughts on accounting and the reforms needed, in your book and in this conversation.

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Footnotes:

The book:: The End of Accounting – and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers … by Dr,Baruch Lev (Philip Bardes Professor of Accounting and Finance at the NYU Stern School of Business and Dr. Feng Gu (Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Accounting and Law at the University of Buffalo).

Published by Wiley & Sons, NY NY. You can find it on Amazon in print and Kindle formats.

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Dr. Baruch Lev is the Philip Bardes Professor of Accounting and Finance at New York University Leonard Stern School of Business; he teaches courses in accounting, financial analysis and investor relations. He’s been with NYU for almost 20 years.

Dr. Lev is author of six books; his research areas of interest are corporate governance, earnings management; financial accounting; financial statement analysis; intangible assets and intellectual capital; capital markets; and, mergers & acquisitions.

He has taught at University of Chicago; the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Tel Aviv University (dean of the business school); University of California-Berkeley (business and law schools). He received his Bachelor of Accounting at Hebrew University; his MBA and doctorate (Accounting/Finance) are from the University of Chicago, where he was also a professor and (student of) and then academic colleague of Nobel Laureate (Economic Sciences-1976) Dr. Milton Friedman (1912-2006).

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Dr. Milton Friedman’s article — “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”; published in The New York Times Magazine, issue of September 13, 1970. The commentary for your reading is here: http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html

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** Thanks to the “International Accounting Day” account of Luca Pacioli’s life, his work and his legacy. There is information available at: http://accountants-day.info/index.php/international-accounting-day-previous/77-luca-pacioli

Where Are We Now With Climate Change Solutions After the G20 Meeting and the Trump White House Abandonment of COP 21/Paris Agreement?

All eyes were on Hamburg, Germany last week as the leaders of the “G20″ nations** gathered. High on the agenda was climate change and sustainable development.  Mixed messages came out of the gathering, but as Jens-Peter Saul explains in our first Top story, even if governments can’t agree in such gatherings, private industry is moving forward in providing climate change solutions.

These include solar and wind power, which investors are finding attractive these days. Low-carbon organizations and networks are attracting new members and partners.  Where? — in the USA, North Africa, Europe, China and elsewhere.  So, says the author of the HuffPo piece, while having visionary political leaders is important, response companies with strong commitment to clients and the society can also boost the sustainability agenda and provide solutions to address climate change challenges.

Author JP Saul is CEO of the Ramboll Group, a leading engineering and design firm based in Denmark. The company’s global work is across Buildings, Transport, Urban Design, Water, Environmental, and Health.  Ramboll Group helps to create more resilient cities, it says, helping municipalities to adopt to climate change.

At the end of the G20 meeting, the media were reporting…”G20 Ends on Anxious Note as World Leaders Remark on Trump’s Climate Defiance…”
There’s more on this for you in Top Story #2 — G&A Institute Chair and Chief Strategist Hank Boerner is interviewed by Forbes columnist Chris Skroupa on the stance of the Federal government regarding the progress made at COP 21 in Paris and now the way forward for the United States as the Trump White House abandons the Paris Agreement.

There is great hope for the USA to continue making progress toward the 2-degree goals of COP 21 thanks to the efforts of the public sector (states, cities, municipalities); large and small corporations; trade associations; and especially investors.

Top Stories This Week…

Boosting global sustainability is not dependent on G20
(Wednesday – July 05, 2017)
Source: Huff Post – Germany’s plan to boost climate and sustainable development at the G20 summit in Hamburg next weekend is arguably crumbling. But that does not mean that the climate and sustainability agendas are crumbling.

Climate Change — What Now With The White House Abandoning The Paris Agreement?
(June 10, 2017)
Source: Christopher P. Skroupa, Forbes – 
Hank Boerner: In the Paris meetings, the United States voluntarily agreed to cut Greenhouse Gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels and to commit up to $3 billion in various aid to poor countries by 2020. A small amount of money overall, we could say, and thanks to many actions already taken, we are cutting our greenhouse gas (GhGs) emissions as a nation.

U.S. / Global Cities Showing the Way on Climate Change Solutions

Sustainability — Forward Momentum!

By Hank Boerner – Chairman & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

U.S. / Global Cities Are Showing the Way on Climate Change Solutions — consider:  more than half of the world’s population (now at 7 billion) now live in cities. Many cities are vulnerable to the effects of climate change — rising seas; drought; severe storms; heat waves; winter blizzards…vicious storms of all types…and more.

City Fathers and Mothers are awake to the threats — and doing something about climate change!

While at the Federal level the public sector of the United States of America has abandoned the field to other nations to now lead on addressing climate change challenges, at the city/municipality level, there is a lot going on that is positive and encouraging.

Here’s a brief collection of recent events that spell out o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y at the domestic and global urban level.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors
At the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Miami Beach (the 85th annual for the association), climate change issues were high on the agenda. Of course — many U.S. cities are at water level, on oceans-rivers-bays. New York; Miami; Baltimore; Philadelphia: Boston; San Francisco; Chicago; Cleveland; New Orleans; St Louis — need we go on?

At the annual conference there were plenaries, workshops, committee meetings, task force meetings, and more. The headlines coming out of the Conference of Mayors:

A survey of the members found many U.S. mayors are taking action on climate protection and planning even more steps in the future.

City governments are focusing on:

  • Purchase of renewable energy electricity (69% of respondents already generate or purchase and 22% are considering doing so);
  • utilization of low-carbon transport (63% buy green vehicles for municipal fleets; 30% are considering; this includes hybrids, electric, natural gas, biodiesel);
  • striving for greater energy efficiency, especially for new municipal buildings 71%; 65% for existing buildings — this includes new policies put in place;
  • the association has teamed with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)**, to promote renew these programmatic approaches; this creates a framework for mayor and business leaders to collaborate to develop approaches to reduce carbon emissions, speed deployment of new technology, implement sustainable development strategies, and respond to the growing impacts of climate change.

Survey respondents were from 66 cities with populations ranging from 8.5 million to 21,000 across 30 of the U.S. states. These cities invest more than US$1.2 billion annually in electricity — a significant buying power to help create the changes needed in the municipal electricity market.

Collaboration — the survey demonstrated that cities are working with each other (90%) and with the private sector (87%) to accelerate action on climate change issues. This is important when considering the recent White House abandonment of the Paris Agreement.

Opportunity Spelled Out:

  • Half of responding cities are incentivizing energy efficiency in both new and existing commercial and residential buildings. There is significant room for growth here. And lots of opportunity for public-private sector collaboration.
  • Less than half of the cities have policies / programs to help businesses and their citizens choose renewable energy — more room for growth and opportunities for partnering.
  • 66% of the cities responding have put in place public charging stations; 36% are in the process of doing so with private sector partners (for electric vehicle charging).

Says Conference of Mayors CEO Tom Cochran: “The nation’s mayors are poised to take an even greater leadership role in fighting climate change and protecting cities from its negative impacts. Working together with the business community, we can achieve deeper results more quickly and broadly.”

While much progress is being made, the mayors collectively are striving to do more.

Notes Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, Alliance Co-Chair : “We need to create a baseline so we can measure our ongoing progress. Sustainability is a smart strategy for the future, and cities and companies need to learn from one another.”

One of the positive actions taken at the conference was adoption of a resolution — “Supporting a Cities-Driven Plan to Reverse Climate Change” — which notes that cities comprise 91% of the U.S. GDP, placing mayors at the center of marrying environmental protection with economic growth; and, it calls on the Trump Administration and the U.S. Congress to support the fight against climate change by fully committing to the Paris Climate Accord; the Obama Clean Power Plan; the Clean Energy Incentive Program; and other efforts to provide U.S. cities with the tools needed to combat climate change. (You can read the full text at: http://legacy.usmayors.org/resolutions/85th_Conference/proposedcommittee.asp?committee=Environment

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There’s much more encouraging news from the municipal government level.

The Compact of Mayors (“C40”) is the world’s largest cooperative effort among mayors and city leadership working together to reduce GhG emissions and address climate risk in the world’s cities. The effort was launched by the United Nations General Secretary in June 2016. And in the year since:

652 cities have joined the effort;
— representing almost 500 million people residing in the urban centers;
— which is about 7% of the global population today.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (now returned to chair the eponymous Bloomberg LP organization after 12 years in office) is serving as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and spearheads the Compact of Mayors initiative.

Ambitious plans: commitments to the Compact of Mayors are set to deliver half of the global urban potential GhG emissions reductions by 2020. But, there is still much more to do, the Compact notes, on the part of the nations in which the cities are located. (Like the USA!).

# # #

And…CDP’s Cities Initiative reports that more than 500 cities are now disclosing their initiatives related to climate change. More than US$26 billion in climate-related projects are underway or targeted.

CDP is providing a global platform for cities to measure, manage and disclose their environmental data on an annual basis. This is intended to help local governments manage emissions, build greater resilience and protect against the growing impacts of climate change. So far, cities are disclosing almost 5,000 climate actions.

And be sure to note this: there has been a 70% increase in cities’ sustainability-related disclosure since the Paris Agreement was adopted; 1,000-plus economic opportunities have been identified by almost 400 cities; and, 56% of cities identified opportunities to develop new businesses or industries linked to climate change.

More information for you at: https://www.cdp.net/en/cities

# # #

Then there is “America’s Pledge” — an effort involving 227 cities and counties, 9 states and 1,650 businesses and investors that have pledged to uphold the U.S.A. commitment to the Paris Agreement! (Reducing our country’s GhG emissions by 26% to 38% by 2025, compared to 2005 levels.) The group is led by California Governor Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg.

As The New York Times reported on July 11, 2017 (“US Cities, States and Business Pledge to Measure Emissions”):

Former Mayor/Bloomberg LP Chair Michael Bloomberg:
“The American government may have pulled out of the Paris Agreement, but American Society remains committed. We will redouble our efforts to achieve its goals.

California Governor Jerry Brown:
“Were sending a clear message to the world that America’s states, cities and businesses are moving forward with our country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, with or without Washington DC.”

The new group will measure the effect (by 2025) of new climate actions by cities, states, business, universities, that sign on for the effort. The analysis will be performed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Rocky Mountain Institute.

# # #

Bloomberg Philanthropies
All of these efforts of course takes money!  Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic arm – Bloomberg Philanthropies – has a cities-focused initiative: What Works Cities Initiative.

This is one of the largest efforts to help cities use data for making local decisions, and get technical assistance from experts through the  Bloomberg organization.

Four more cities just joined up: Arlington, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Fort Collins, Colorado; Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That makes 85 U.S. cities in 37 states are now participating.

Cities commit to a “WWC” Standard, using data to improve performance and results that make their residents’ lives better. More info at: https://whatworkscities.bloomberg.org/cities/

# # #

Why Is City-Level Action on Climate Change So Critical?

The total population of urban areas (486 areas) in the United States of America was 80.7% of the country’s total population in 2010, according to  an analysis by Reuters News.

More Americans are moving to urban areas, according to the 2010 census. (As reported by Reuters in March 2012.) The nation’s total population growth was 9.7% from 2000 to 2010; urban growth was 12.1%. In some places the growth was 50% — like Charlotte, North Carolina (64.%).

The most urbanized state in America is California — where 95% of the total population live in urban areas (35.4 million people).

Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim is the nation’s second largest city (at 12,1 million residents); New York/Newark NJ is #1 (18.4 million); Chicago is #3, noted Reuters in the story.

So — we are keeping close watch on the significant efforts at the city/municipal level efforts in the United States of America with regard to developing climate change solutions.  Cities and states are showing the way for this nation, as the Federal government at least for now has abandoned climate change leadership.

Summing up:  With literally thousands of  local government units developing partnerships with the private sector, and with NGOs and other stakeholders, and looking to the U.S. capital markets to help fund infrastructure and other initiatives — a climate change economic boom is underway!  Are you part of it?  We see great o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y spelled out at the American municipal level.

# # #

Notes:

**Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, non-partisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change. Link: www.c2es.org.

 

 

UNCW and G&A Institute Announce The Certificate & Certification in “Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Strategies” Online E-Learning Course Offering Dual Credentials

New York, NY/Wilmington, NC – July 10, 2017 – To meet the needs of professionals seeking knowledge about the dramatically-expanding fields of Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability, Corporate Citizenship, Sustainable Investing and related subject matters, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. has partnered with the Swain Center for Executive Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington to offer an online, self-paced learning course for individuals.

Dual Credentials = Dual Advantage for Participants
To maximize the value for participants, those completing the course requirements successfully will receive not just one, but two credentials. In this one of a kind course, students will receive a certification from G&A Institute (a well-known research, consultant, and educator in this space) and a certificate from the Swain Center for Executive Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (ranked as one of the best universities in the country by US News & World Report).

The “Certification in Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Strategies” (or CCRSS) focuses on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) expectations that are evolving very quickly in the corporate sector, compelling companies to develop new capabilities to address the needs for sustainability and social accountability. Firms large and small are adopting policies, strategies, programs and best practices to lead the way for their enterprise to excel in a low-carbon global economy.

Specific Learning Outcomes 
1. Make a business case for incorporating sustainability in strategic decision making
2. Assess climate-change induced risks & opportunities for firms
3. Conduct Sustainability Risk Assessments
4. Perform Sustainability Audit Assessments
5. Describe the process of Sustainability Investment decision-making
6. Evaluate various Sustainability Reporting frameworks
7. Prepare basic Global Sustainability/Corporate Responsibility Reports
8. Develop sustainability strategies for enhancing environmental and economic performance
9. Describe approaches for valuation of ecosystem services
10. Develop strategies for leveraging Biodiversity for competitive advantage

The broad objective of the Certification program is to equip participants with cutting-edge sustainability skills that firms need to thrive in a global sustainable Economy. The dual-certification program will explore how firms can leverage sustainability strategies to not only enhance their environmental performance but also their economic performance.

The Certification consists of 12 sessions that are delivered asynchronously and will require around 30 hours to complete within 3 months from the date of enrollment.

Broad Topics Covered 
1. Corporate Responsibility Overview
2. Making a Business Case for Investing in Corporate Responsibility/Sustainability
3. Corporate Responsibility & Global Climate Change Issues
4. Corporate Responsibility Strategies for Mitigating Climate Change
5. Corporate Responsibility for Biodiversity & Water Management
6. Corporate Responsibility for Valuation of Ecosystem Services
7. Sustainability Risk Assessment Strategy
8. Sustainability Investment Decision Making Strategies
9. Green Firm-Specific Advantages for Driving Sustainable Competitive Advantage
10. Assessing Organizational Sustainability/Audit
11. Environmental Compliance Strategies
12. Global Sustainability Reporting Frameworks (GRI, OECD, UNGC, CDP, etc.)

Limited Introductory Discount 
The course’s normal price of $895 has been discounted by $100 to $795 for a limited special introductory price. There is also a free sample session video available at the top right of the page also.

Register For The Certification in Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Strategies:
http://learning.ga-institute.com/courses/course-v1:GovernanceandAccountabilityInstitute+CCRSS+2016/about

ABOUT GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY INSTITUTE, INC.
Founded in 2006, G&A Institute is a sustainability consulting firm headquartered in New York City, advising corporations in executing winning strategies that maximize return on investment at every step of their sustainability journey. The G&A consulting team helps corporate and investment community clients recognize, understand and address material sustainability issues to address stakeholder and shareholder concerns. G&A Institute is the exclusive Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in the USA, UK and Republic of Ireland.

G&A’s sustainability-focused consulting and advisory services fall into three main buckets: Sustainability/ESG Consulting; Communications and Recognitions, and Investor Relations. The resources available within each bucket include strategy-setting; sustainability/CSR reporting assistance; materiality assessments; stakeholder engagement; ESG benchmarking; enhancing investor relations ESG programs; investor engagement; investor ESG data review; sustainability communications; manager coaching; team building; training; advice on third party awards, recognitions, and index inclusions; ESG issues monitoring and customized research.

ABOUT THE SWAIN CENTER FOR EXECUTIVE & PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA WILMINGTON (UNCW)
The Swain Center at UNCW enhances the effectiveness of organizations through economic services, and executive and professional education. The Center’s activities benefit the Cameron School of Business through industry-university connections for faculty members and the institution.

UNCW’s values of excellence, integrity, diversity, innovation, and community engagement provide the foundation and philosophy out of which flow the aspirations for the Swain Center. The Swain Center provides the industry-university linkage to connect experts with business needs. Our programs reflect the strength of our faculty members in five areas: accounting, finance & economics, marketing, managing & leading, and operations & logistics. Most of our programs are facilitated by UNCW faculty members but we also draw on talented adjunct faculty members and local experts who have advanced degrees and industry experience.

ABOUT THE G&A ELEARNING PLATFORM
G&A Institute’s eLearning Platform is built on open source software tools – primarily Open edX, which was created by founding partners Harvard Business School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The G&A Institute team have customized the platform, with many user-friendly tools and resources to enhance the learning experience.

G&A created the platform to help those seeking career opportunities in both corporate and investor focus areas of ESG, sustainability, responsibility and citizenship. The courseware is designed to help individuals obtain the knowledge needed to begin a career in the fields, and for existing practitioners and organizations to expand their knowledge base.

Additional courseware is in development by G&A Institute and other partnering organizations.

For more information, contact:
Louis D. Coppola
Executive Vice President & Co-Founder
Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.
Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14
Email lcoppola@ga-institute.com
Web www.ga-institute.com

Global Reporting Initiative — The World’s Standard for Sustainability Reporting – CEO Tim Mohin Is Six Months Into the Job

The GRI framework for corporate, institutional and organizational sustainability reporting has been in place since 1999-2000.  Since those early days (when a handful of organizations published sustainability reports), the framework has been through four iterations (“G1” to “G4”) and in October 2016 GRI launched the world’s first global standards for sustainability reporting.  More than 40,000 reports are now in the GRI Sustainability Disclosure Database (database.globalreporting.org).  GRI is headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Six months ago an experienced sustainability professional assumed the CEO post — Tim Mohin, who during his career was at US EPA, where he led the effort that led to the Clean Air Act); Apple (overseeing the company’s global supply chain, “Supplier Responsibility”); Chair of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition; and Senior Director of Sustainability at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

What’s happening with GRI (now more than a quarter-century in existence)?  What’s the future for GRI and the many organizations interacting with and utilizing the resources of…GRI?  That’s the Top Story this week — an interview with Tim Mohin by Robin Hicks of Eco-Business.

There is a rich trove of information about GRI in this feature for you.
For the record, Governance & Accountability Institute is the exclusive Data Partner for the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland for GRI.  We’re also members of the GRI Gold Community…we are proud of our long-term relationship with this great organization.

Is sustainability reporting working?
(Thursday – June 29, 2017)
Source: Eco-Business – More companies are now reporting the impact they have on the environment and society. But where is the value in doing this, and what affect does it have in the real world? Eco-Business asked the new chief executive of Global…

SUSTAINABILITY REPORTS DATA ANALYST INTERNSHIP AVAILABLE AT GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY INSTITUTE

Opportunity:  Learn to Analyze Data and Interpret Content from Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting

Position:  Sustainability Report Data Analyst Internship Available (supporting  G&A’s GRI Data Partner Relationship)

Location: Virtual 
Work is done remotely with a flexible work schedule – at your own location.  Initial training via Web. G&A offices are located in NYC.

Time Requirements: Position requires approximately 10 hours a week and begins ASAP.  The timing of the work is flexible and can be done remotely for a majority of the time required.  The internship will take place starting in July 31, 2017 and ending February 28, 2017.

Description
Founded in 2006, Governance & Accountability Institute is a New York City-based company that specializes in research, communications, strategies and other services focused on corporate sustainability and corporate ESG performance (“Environmental, Social, Governance”) issues.

G&A is offering the opportunity for an internship for a qualified student interested in learning more about these topics. G&A Institute interns learn important elements about the GRI Standards for Sustainability reporting as well as other common frameworks such as CDP, RobecoSAM CSA (DJSI), SASB, IIRC, SDGs, and many others that can be used in their future work situations.

This is a very fast growing area of interest to corporations and Wall Street.  The GRI reporting framework is the most widely used in the world for these types of reports.

G&A is the exclusive data partner for the United States, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).  The Global Reporting Initiative is a non-profit organization that promotes the use of sustainability reporting as a way for organizations to become more sustainable and contribute to sustainable development.

GRI provides all companies and organizations with a comprehensive set of sustainability reporting standards that are the most widely used and respected around the world.  Currently thousands of global organizations use the GRI to report on their Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) strategies, impacts, opportunities and engagements (www.globalreporting.org).

As the exclusive US, UK and Ireland data partner of the GRI, Governance & Accountability Institute’s role is to collect, organize, and analyze sustainability reports that are issued by corporations, public entities, not-for-profits and other entities in the United States, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland for the benefit of all stakeholders.

The Intern Opportunity
In this role, the analyst will work as part of a team to analyze Sustainability reports for inclusion in the largest global database of Sustainability reports, the GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database (database.globalreporting.org).

Learning to read, analyze, use, and structure data from reports using the GRI Standards, GRI G4, GRI-Reference as well as NON-GRI corporate and institutional reports will comprise the majority of this assignment.  The research will also contribute to several published research reports on various trends in sustainability reporting which are widely referenced by media, academics, business, capital markets players and other important sustainability stakeholders.

The student(s) selected will have the opportunity to experience a fast-paced, highly-adaptive (and nurturing) culture in a small but growing company with a unique niche. This is a hands-on position with considerable learning opportunity for those headed for a career in corporate responsibility, sustainability, citizenship, or impact investment.

G&A interns get public recognition for their work in our published reports, on our web platform and in other ways. To see what other interns have been doing (and their backgrounds) check out the intern Honor Roll at http://www.ga-institute.com/about-the-institute/the-honor-roll.html

Requirements
Applicants should demonstrate:

  • Strong background and keen interest in ESG and Sustainability issues and topics.
  • Basic understanding of business and the capital markets.
  • Strong technical, communication, and organizational skills.
  • Research and Analysis experience, a preference if focused on sustainability topics.
  • Basic skills in Excel / Google Sheets and researching on Google are required.
  • Self-driven and Independent ability to meet expectations and deadlines.
  • Must be fluent in English, additional languages are a plus.
  • Applicants with writing and editing abilities will have preference.

Application Process
Interested students should send a resume outlining education and skill sets. As an option, a one to two page introduction essay on what you would like to learn more about (in terms of your career goals), what your interests are, and anything else you feel may be relevant to the job/our organization will also be welcomed.    Samples of writing or research on sustainability or other topics are also a plus.

Send application materials to Governance & Accountability Institute at:
lcoppola@ga-institute.com & agallagher@ga-institute.com

Are You Still In? Are You Signed on Yet? C’Mon – the Country Needs You!

by Hank Boerner, Chairman & Chief StrategistG&A Institute

Question of the Day:  Are YOU Still In?  Have you signed on?  “In” — that is, for the long haul on addressing the many challenges of climate change and related global warming issues.  And “signed on” — to the We Are Still In Movement (please see wearestillin.com for information).

Right now, there are more than 2,000 signatories to the statement that was released on June 5 (2017), right after President Donald Trump figuratively “tore up” the important, historic commitment of the United States of America to the COP 21 Paris Accord.

The new movement is a voluntary grassroots approach that includes a wide array of bold names in different sectors of the American economy (bold name highlights further down in this commentary for you).

The signatories include investors (asset owners and asset managers); mayors of cities and leaders of local municipalities; universities and colleges; state governors and state governments; and (very encouraging!) lots of American corporations.

Folks at Ceres and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and various sustainable, responsible and impact investment thought leaders are helping to get the word around. (Thank you to Anne Kelly and Jessie Arnell at Ceres and Marty Spitzer at WWF.)

The message points for signatories of all stripes are:

Despite the Trump Administration reneging on an important commitment (governmental and moral!), major players in the U.S. economy are still in — and stepping up, moving ahead on climate action.

Signatories are committing to drive down carbon pollution and address head on the challenges related to climate change (and especially the part that human activity plays in the changes taking place).  The goals put in place and the ambitious goals to come will help to ensure that the United States remains in the game and a global leader in reducing carbon emissions.

The broad-based coalition driving the We Are Still In movement
Just in the month of June, those signing on included:

  • 199 cities and counties;
  • 9 U.S. states;
  • 1,531 business leaders and investors;
  • 308 universities and colleges.

These players agree that:

  1. government alone is not driving the process;
  2. the Paris Accord represents an important blueprint for creating new jobs (think solar, wind, geothermal, energy conservation, etc);
  3. create prosperity on a broad, domestic and global basis;
  4. create stability in the world community, with developed economies assisting less-developed nations as ALL embrace the promises made in Paris (almost 200 nations are signed; notably absent now sad to say are just the USA, Nicaragua and Syria).

The We Are Still In Movement is sending clear signals to the global community in Plain English — not always present in White House’s erratic and often contradictory communications — that leaders throughout the American economic scene, in all geographies, in all sectors, are moving forward to help this nation meet the goals promised in Paris.

We will keep America Great in the global efforts to address climate change issues and provide innovative, job-creating, environmentally-friendly solutions!

ECONOMIC POWER
The signatories to date represent 124 million people in this nation (1/3 of the population!) and contributing US$6.2 trillion to the national economy.  This includes 38 Fortune 500 companies(bravo!) representing US$2.1 trillion in annual revenues and employing 4.7 million team members.

Here is the “Open Letter to the International Community” from the Movement for important background: http://wearestillin.com/

So — back to the question…are you signed on yet?  You can find more information at: www.wearestillin.com  — where you can sign up!

A Brief Selection of Bold Names for Your Reference

CORPORATE SECTOR
Bloomberg, LP; Mars Incorporated; Amazon; eBay; Google; Levi Strauss; Seagate Technology; Sealed Air Corporation; Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge; The Estee Lauder Companies; Microsoft; Apple; Nike; Campbell Soup Company; IBM: The Hartford; Starbucks; Intel; International Flavors & Fragrances; Wal-Mart Stores; Toshiba American Business Solutions; Johnson Controls.

THE INVESTMENT COMMUNITY
CalPERS; CalSTRS; New York City Office of the Comptroller; Office of the New York State Comptroller; Oregon State Treasury; Green Century Capital Management; Washington State Investment Board; Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment; Cornerstone Capital Group; Nathan Cummings Foundation; Ambata Capital; Boston Trust/Walden Asset Management; Amalgamated Bank; Moore Capital Management; Azzad Capital Management; Sustainability and Impact Investing Group of Rockefeller & Company; California Clean Energy Fund; California State Controller; Calvert Research and Management; Trillium Asset Management; Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; Clean Yield Asset Management; Rhode Island State Treasurer; Zevin Asset Management; Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds.

STATES / GOVERNORS
California; Connecticut; Hawaii; New York; North Carolina; Oregon; Rhode Island; Virginia; Washington.

MAYORS  OF CITIES
The Honorables: Bill DeBlasio (New York City), Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles); Kasim Reed (Atlanta), Rahm Emanuel (Chicago),  Hillary Schieve (Reno, NV); Bridget Donnell Newton (Rockville MD).

ACADEMIC CENTERS
University of Iowa; University of Maryland, University College; University of Massachusetts; Arizona State University; Bates College; Oregon State University; Occidental College; Northwestern University; Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; State University of New York (the colleges at Albany, New Paltz, Stony Brook, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Cortland, Oswego, Orange).

FAMILY FOUNDATIONS
Linton Family Foundation; Lora & Martin Kelley Foundation; Merck Family Fund.

ENTREPRENEURS/SMALL BUSINESS
Keller Estate Winery; The Junkluggers; Crystal Mountain Resort; Rune’s Furniture; Sara Danielle Designs; Eco Promotional Products; Say It Forward Productions; Mom’s Organic Market; Sons and Daughters Farm; Fetzer Vineyards; RC Flying Cameras LLC; Dallas Maids LLC; Rocca Family Vineyards; York Machine Works; Joe’s Tree Service.

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES
Steve Harvey Law LLC; BCK Law PC; Christopher Intellectual Property Law PLLC; the Hvizda Team LLC/Keller Williams Realty Metro; Jim Henry, Architect; CTA Architects and Engineers; Cycle Architecture + Planning.

ASSOCIATIONS
National Ski Areas Foundation; National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association; Outdoor Industry Association; U.S. Green Building Council.

And Of Course the Usual Suspects – Pioneering Leaders in Sustainability:
Bloomberg LP; Ben & Jerry’s; Patagonia; Unilever…and more.

We have provided a brief overview here – please do check out the full roster at the WeAreStillIin.com.

And of course, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. was an early signatory!

And the latch handle is out:  we invite you to sign on for your organization!

 

 

 

 

 

Corporate Sustainability Disclosure – On the Rise But Does the Disclosure Address What Investors Seeking?

The good news is that more public company managements are involved in, and approving, broader disclosure on sustainability information.  There are widely-accepted frameworks in place to help boards and managements better understand the needs and desires of stakeholders — especially providers of capital (asset owners, managers, analysts) seeking meaningful data and accompanying narrative to explain the progress being made (or lack thereof) in ESG performance.

The most widely-embraced among these frameworks include the Global Reporting Initiative’s GRI Standards (previous version known as the GRI G4 — fourth generation); the CDP responses by companies (climate change, water, forestry, supply chain, and more); the RobecoSAM “Corporate Sustainability Assessment” (CSA) survey for consideration for inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index(es); and the more recent Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB) materiality-focused guidelines for CFOs and CEOs to consider for inclusion in the 10-k and other regulated disclosures (and structured reporting).

So how are companies doing?  Michael Cohn, Editor-in-Chief, Accounting Today (.com) presented his views on corporate sustainability reporting in a commentary that is our Top Story for you today.  He observes:  “Sustainability information is increasingly a part of corporate reporting, but many companies are still relying on boilerplate language in their disclosures.”

His source is the review by SASB staff of the latest 10-k and 20-F corporate filings by the top companies in 79 industries (SASB has released its suggestions for sustainability-related disclosure that is sought by investors for each of the industries).  In the survey, SASB found 69 percent of companies are reporting on at least three-fourths of SASB’s suggested industry standard, with almost 40% disclosing on every SASB topic.(Note that companies in their 10-K filings may or may not directly reference the appropriate SASB standard.)

The most common form of disclosure?  SASB says…boilerplate language, used more than half the time that a SASB topic was addressed.

So the good news is that public companies are disclosing more about their sustainability efforts, their ESG performance, and the downsides are lack of specificity; lack of meaningful and comparable metrics; boilerplate language.

The most often reported element of “ESG” is the S (social/societal). In the continuing evolvement of more integrated reporting (financial and ESG, with SASB encouraging disclosure via the 10-k), “capital” beyond the financial (capital) was addressed by companies in some way.  These included social capital (data security, privacy), human capital (labor relations, health and safety), and environmental (natural).

A key element of SASB suggested reporting on the material aspects is innovation and more details of the business model for investors; this was addressed less frequently, said the SASB staff, in the reporting they analyzed.

Note that we are still anxiously awaiting the Securities & Exchange Commission moves on the Concept Release (for modernizing Reg S-K disclosure); two-thirds of respondents to the SEC invitation addressed sustainability-related concerns with 80% calling for improved sustainability disclosure in corporate filings with SEC.

There’s more details in the Accounting Today commentary (Top Story).

Here at G&A Institute we have a comprehensive research and analysis effort underway that will help corporate managements and boards better understand “what matters” to their peers, and to investors, in terms of sustainability disclosure.  We’ll be analyzing over 2000 global GRI sustainability reports looking at the materiality decisions of companies in various sectors around the world on many ESG issues, including an examination of issues tied to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  We’ll have more news on that effort in the weeks ahead.

Top Stories This Week…

Companies struggle to go beyond boilerplate in sustainability disclosures
(Friday – June 16, 2017)
Source: Accounting Today – Sustainability information is increasingly a part of corporate reporting, but many companies are still relying on boilerplate language in their disclosures, according to a recent report.

Resolved! The USA Will Move Forward Despite the Administration’s Cancellation of the Cop 21 -the Paris Accord

“Resolute!” – The root of the word comes down to us from the ancient Latin, meaning (over many centuries) to decide on and stay with a course of action.  We’re seeing that these days in the “resolve” of the US corporate community, in the resolute actions of many cities and municipalities, in the actions of a growing number of US states, and among institutional investors of all types, shapes and forms.

Their resolution?  To stay the course on addressing climate change issues as the Trump Administration swerves off the road and into the ditch with the abandonment of the COP 21 Paris Accord by the national government of the United States of America.

In our brief Top Story, we see comment highlights from an Environmental Leader conference, with experts Phil Pinson and Tim Porter.  The pair looked at White House actions and changes within US EPA and Department of Energy and observed that what actions and issues had in common now was “uncertainty” as to the future course of action.

What’s driving sustainability now without the official “push” of our national governmental infrastructure?  For companies: compliance; corporate mission; business performance; employee satisfaction; industry (peer) recognition…and this means (they said at the conference) companies are holding firm with 50% of those surveyed are showing no change in budgeting for sustainability.

At G&A Institute, we’re seeing many positive trends from 2016 and earlier holding fast even with speed bumps thrown up — like exiting the Paris Accord and being in the same category now as Syria and Nicaragua as national holdouts!

During 2016, G&A Institute Chair Hank Boerner assembled the trends that were driving Corporate Sustainability and Sustainable Investment forward — most are still powerful, positive drivers for change.  Trends Emerging! Looking Ahead of the Curve at ESG, Sustainability, CR, SRI Progressis available for you with our compliments — you can download your copy of Hank’s collected commentaries at:  http://bit.ly/TrendsConverging

Readers will continue to receive updates on the book’s content as conditions warrant — Hank shared his perspectives on the post-Paris environment with readers.

Send us your views on the post-Paris environment as the corporate, public, social and investment sectors continue to move forward.

Top Stories This Week…

Sustainability Will Endure Despite Trump’s Approach, Experts Say
(Monday – June 12, 2017)
Source: Environmental Leader – In the era of Trump, will the practice of sustainability remain a business priority? The answer is that 73% of companies expect their commitment to be the same while 21% plan to increase their involvement. Only 7.7% plan to…