Top 10 GRI Sustainability Aspects for the Retailers Sector

Sustainability – What Matters in the Retailers Sector

27-retailersRecent research conducted by the Governance & Accountability Institute attempts to answer important questions for company managements in the Retailers Sector, by examining the disclosure practices of 40 global peer organizations publishing GRI reports in the sector.

The top 10 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) aspects that were determined to be material by the managements of reporting organizations in the Retailers Sector are:

  1. Transport
  2. Customer Health and Safety
  3. Assessment
  4. Product and Service Labeling
  5. Diversity and Equal Opportunity
  6. Prevention of Forced and Compulsory Labor
  7. Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining
  8. Products and Services
  9. Energy
  10. Child Labor

Results:  The complimentary report examining 35 sectors including top 10 GRI aspects, and top/bottom 10 GRI performance indicators can be downloaded here:
www.ga-institute.com/sustainability-what-matters

The full rankings for all 84 GRI performance indicators and all 37 GRI Aspects for each of the 35 sectors examined are available for purchase at:
www.ga-institute.com/getall84

Organizations included in the Retailers Sector study are:

Ahold, Areas, Best Buy, C&A Brazil, C&A Europe, Capital Shopping Centres Group, Carrefour Argentina, CARREFOUR Hellas, Consum, Coop, Delhaize Group, Falabella, Foschini, Grupo Auchan, Holdsport, Homeplus, ICA, Inditex, JD Group, John Lewis Partnership, Kathmandu, Kesko Corporation, Lotte Shopping, Marks & Spencer, Massmart, MEC, Metro, Migros, Staples, Stockmann, Target, The Kroger Company, Tiffany & Co, Truworths, United Rentals, Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart Brasil, Wal-Mart de México y Centroamérica, Woolworths Limited, Woolworths South Africa

About G&A Institute (www.ga-institute.com)
G&A Institute is a New York-based, private sector company providing sustainability-focused services and resources to corporate and investment community clients, including: Issue Counseling & Sustainability Strategies; Sustainability Reporting; Materiality Assessments; Stakeholder Engagement; Benchmarking; Investor Relations; Communications; Coaching, Team Building & Training;  Issues Monitoring & Customized Research; Third Party Recognitions.  G&A is the exclusive Data Partner for the GRI in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Editors
On the G&A Institute web site there is additional information available on the Fact Sheet: What Matters Project (www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/sustainability-what-matters/fact-sheet).  The resulting “most important” to “least important” ranking for the 35 sectors is available to media on a case-by-case basis please contact:  Peter Hamilton (phamilton@ga-institute.com).

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Top 10 GRI Sustainability Aspects for the Real Estate Sector

Sustainability – What Matters in the Real Estate Sector

26-real-estateRecent research conducted by the Governance & Accountability Institute attempts to answer important questions for company managements in the Real Estate Sector, by examining the disclosure practices of 71 global peer organizations publishing GRI reports in the sector.

The top 10 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) aspects that were determined to be material by the managements of reporting organizations in the Real Estate Sector are:

  1. Employment
  2. Non-Discrimination
  3. Diversity and Equal Opportunity
  4. Energy
  5. Remediation
  6. Training and Education
  7. Corruption
  8. Local Communities
  9. Compliance
  10. Products and Services

Results:  The complimentary report examining 35 sectors including top 10 GRI aspects, and top/bottom 10 GRI performance indicators can be downloaded here:
www.ga-institute.com/sustainability-what-matters

The full rankings for all 84 GRI performance indicators and all 37 GRI Aspects for each of the 35 sectors examined are available for purchase at:
www.ga-institute.com/getall84

Organizations included in the Real Estate Sector study are:

Akademiska Hus, Alstria office REIT-AG, American Industries, Aspen Group, Atrium Ljungberg, Avalon Bay Communities Inc., Ayala Land, Befimmo, Bentall Kennedy, Berkeley Group, BIG, Bilfinger Berger, BostadsGaranti, Brinova, British Land, CA Immo, Capitaland, CBRE Group, CEBU Holdings, Cebu Property Ventures and Development Corp., City Developments Limited, Citycon, Corio, Cosil Construções e Incorporações S.A., DEXUS Property Group, DiamondRock Hospitality Company, DIC Asset, Environment Park, Equity One, Fabege AB, First Capital Realty, Inc., Fonciere Des Regions, Gazit Globe, GESOBAU AG, GSW Immobilien, Hammerson, Hermes Real Estate Investment Management Limited, Hines, HOWOGE, Hyprop, Industrial Buildings Corp (IBC), IVG Immobilien, Jernhusen, Jones Lang LaSalle, Keppel Land Limited, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Mahindra Lifespace Developers Limited, Mirvac, Mobimo, Morguard, Oxford Properties Group, Prologis, Pruksa Real Estate, Realia, Redefine, REDEVCO B.V., Riksbyggen, Senate Properties, Shaftesbury PLC, Sonae Sierra, Specialfastigheter Sverige, Sponda, Stockland, Swire Properties, The Crown Estate, The Link REIT, UNIBAIL-RODAMCO SE, Vasallen, Wallenstam, Westfield Group, Wihlborgs Fastigheter AB


About G&A Institute (www.ga-institute.com)
G&A Institute is a New York-based, private sector company providing sustainability-focused services and resources to corporate and investment community clients, including: Issue Counseling & Sustainability Strategies; Sustainability Reporting; Materiality Assessments; Stakeholder Engagement; Benchmarking; Investor Relations; Communications; Coaching, Team Building & Training;  Issues Monitoring & Customized Research; Third Party Recognitions.  G&A is the exclusive Data Partner for the GRI in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Editors
On the G&A Institute web site there is additional information available on the Fact Sheet: What Matters Project (www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/sustainability-what-matters/fact-sheet).  The resulting “most important” to “least important” ranking for the 35 sectors is available to media on a case-by-case basis please contact:  Peter Hamilton (phamilton@ga-institute.com).

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Top 10 GRI Sustainability Aspects for the Media Sector

Sustainability – What Matters in the Media Sector

21-mediaRecent research conducted by the Governance & Accountability Institute attempts to answer important questions for company managements in the Media Sector, by examining the disclosure practices of 24 global peer organizations publishing GRI reports in the sector.

The top 10 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) aspects that were determined to be material by the managements of reporting organizations in the Media Sector are:

  1. Materials
  2. Equal Remuneration for Women and Men
  3. Local Communities
  4. Assessment
  5. Employment
  6. Indigenous Rights
  7. Marketing Communications
  8. Products and Services
  9. Energy
  10. Remediation

Results:  The complimentary report examining 35 sectors including top 10 GRI aspects, and top/bottom 10 GRI performance indicators can be downloaded here:
www.ga-institute.com/sustainability-what-matters

The full rankings for all 84 GRI performance indicators and all 37 GRI Aspects for each of the 35 sectors examined are available for purchase at:
www.ga-institute.com/getall84

Organizations included in the Media Sector study are:

Alma Media Group, Axel Springer, British Sky, Caracol Televisión, D+ Brasil, DirecTV Argentina, Edita, Goodwill PR and Communication Agency, Grupo Antena 3, Grupo EL COMERCIO, Lagardère, Liberty Global Inc., Media Prima, MediaResponsable, Modern Times Group, Mondadori, Naspers, Radio e Televisao de Portugal, S.A. (RTP), Rede Gazeta – Espirito Santo, Reed Elsevier, Roto Smeets Group, TC Transcontinental, The McGraw-Hill Companies, TMG

About G&A Institute (www.ga-institute.com)
G&A Institute is a New York-based, private sector company providing sustainability-focused services and resources to corporate and investment community clients, including: Issue Counseling & Sustainability Strategies; Sustainability Reporting; Materiality Assessments; Stakeholder Engagement; Benchmarking; Investor Relations; Communications; Coaching, Team Building & Training;  Issues Monitoring & Customized Research; Third Party Recognitions.  G&A is the exclusive Data Partner for the GRI in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Editors
On the G&A Institute web site there is additional information available on the Fact Sheet: What Matters Project (www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/sustainability-what-matters/fact-sheet).  The resulting “most important” to “least important” ranking for the 35 sectors is available to media on a case-by-case basis please contact:  Peter Hamilton (phamilton@ga-institute.com).

# # #

 

University Endowments – Fidicuiary Duties – Whose Money is it — What Are “Societal” Responsibilities?

by Hank Boerner – Chairman, G&A Institute

Many of our nation’s colleges and universities — which are “Social Institutions” — have long had established endowments. Some are truly wealthy — these are pools of assets designed to serve future generations.  Other types of  various types of social institutions” are similarly wealthy. Endowment assets are managed in-house or by outside professional money managers.   Over the years, the college and university endowments have been in focus for sustainable & responsible investors (SRI advocates) — as they are right now.

For example, Harvard University has an endowment fund reported to have  US$36 billion in Assets Under Management (AUM) — the largest of these “funds-for-the-future” of the higher education community in the USA.

The students and other stakeholders would like to see “more responsible” investing by the Harvard endowment, such taking the decision to divestment shares of traditional fossil fuel companies in the portfolio. (think: “ExxonMobil“). Among the arguments, gaining ground. including beyond the university endowments discussion, is that these public companies have “reserves” (such as coal, oil, natural gas) that are important parts of their capital markets valuation, and with climate change and the development of renewable fuel sources and other factors, the reserves on the balance sheet will over time become “stranded assets” – thus, devaluating the business enterprise. That is, the coal or crude oil in the gorund will not be harvested and sold…they will be stranded and of little or no value.  And therefore, as fiduciaries, responsible for the fund in the future, a collision course is set up:  the fund needs in 2050 will be diminished as the value of the corporate holdings moves downward.

And so, students of the Harvard Law School have filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the endowment fiduciaries (the trustees) to divest holdings in fossil fuel enterprises.  Interesting:  their case is based on 17th Century transactions (back when whale oil and wood were the primary energy sources).  In 1640, Harvard College was established as a seminary and documents were filed with the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Under those documents, the 21st Century students argued that they had standing (to bring the action) under “special interest” provisions.

The endowment leadership responded:  “The endowment is a resource, not and instrument to compel social and political change…” (The New York Times). Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust has spoken on fossil fuel divestment.  In October 2013, a statement to the Harvard community said in part:  “[I] and members of the Corporate Committee on Shareholder Responsibility have benefitted from conversations [with students] who advocated divestment…while I share their belief in the importance of addressing climate change, I do not believe, nor do my colleagues on the Corporation, that university divestment from the fossil fuel industry is warranted or wise…”

The president also said that “…especially given our long-term investment horizon, we are naturally concerned about ESG factors that may affect the performance of our investments now and in the future…”  Harvard policy is engagement and collaboration, rather than “ostracizing” companies based on their product (such as fossil fuels). The Harvard Management Company brought on a VP for sustainable investing. (You should  read the full statement here: http://www.harvard.edu/president/fossil-fuels to understand the university’s official position on these issues).

Alice M. Chaney, who with six other Harvard students filed the lawsuit to compel Harvard Corporation (the governing body of the university) to divest fossil fuel companies, said the following: “We allege that Harvard’s investment in those companies violate its duties as a public charitable institution by harming students and future generations.” (Cheney is a law school student and member of the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition.)

The students — organized as “Divest Harvard” — have been campaigning on the issue.  The first step was a survey of students in 2012 — 72% at the college and 67% at the law school voted in favor of divestment.  Since then 200 faculty members, 1,000+ alumni, and 63,000 community members have signed divestment petitions, the group says.

The legal arguments:  the Harvard Corporation’s public charitable obligations include managing its endowment so as to protect the ability of Harvard students to learn and thrive. The Corporation also has a responsibility not to act in ways that threaten the health and welfare of future generations. (You can read her statement at: http://billmoyers.com/2014/11/22/suing-harvard/)

The pressure on universities to divest holdings in companies based on ESG issues is a long-time tradition.  American university interests were deciding factors, I believe, in the American and global campaigns to abolish Apartheid practices in South Africa in the 1980s and the aid to combatants in the civil war in Darfur more recently.  (The drive was to get investors out of the stock of US companies “supporting” the Sudan government which was making war on its own populations.)

Beth Dorsey, CEO of Wallace Global Fund and leader of the Divest-Invest Movement, commented on the Harvard University leadership’s opposition to divestment:  “In the last great divestment campaign, Harvard said ‘no’ before it said ‘yes’ and I think if just a matter of time.  Unlike the anti-apartheid movement, this is not just an ethical issue.  There is a powerful financial reason as well…”

As the lawsuit in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts / Suffolk County courts winds on, and the Divest Harvard protests continue, half a world away, the world’s largest Sovereign Wealth Fund – the US$800+ billion AUM Norway Government Pension Fund — just announced it will divest holdings in coal mining companies.  the list of companies will be made public on December 1.  The SWF will not divest oil and gas companies.  (Consider: the wealth of the wealth fund is primarily based on taxes on the country’s North Sea fossil fuels.)

While you think about that last tidbit, consider that the descendants of John D. Rockefeller — the 19th Century Titan of Industry who assembled the giant Standard Oil Company — have decided to divest their fossil fuel investments (in September 2013)! Great and great-great grandchildren Peter O’Neil, Neva Rockefeller Goodwin and Stephen B. Heintz are in the lead for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which has $860 million AUM.

Said Stephen Heintz:  “John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, moved American out of whale oil and into petroleum.  We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute business man looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy…”   (More about this in The Guardian coverage of the announcement at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/22/rockefeller-heirs-divest-fossil-fuels-climate-change)

The Rockefeller family announcement was an important part of a “momentum moment” for fossil fuel divestment proponents.  The influential World Council of Churches joined the divestment movement. American cities are adopting similar policies (as many did in the anti-Apartheid movement).  Advocates are working under the umbrella of the Divest-Invest Movement.  To date some 800 institutional investors have pledged to withdraw more than $50 billion in fossil fuel investment over the coming 5 years.

ExxonMobil’s position?  In October The Wall Street Journal headline read:  “Exxon Blasts Movement to Divest From Fossil Fuels…the oil giant seeks to counter the campaign…”  The article by Ben Geman said that the company published a “lengthy attack about the divestment movement, positioning the argument that [the movement] is at odds with the need for poor nations to gain better access to energy, as well as the need for fossil fuels to meet global energy demand for decades to come…” The author is Ken Cohen, VP for Public and Government Affairs (writing in the company’s blog.)

“Almost every place on the planet where there is grinding poverty,” he wrote, “there is energy poverty.  Wherever there is subsistence living, it is usually because there is little or no access to modern, reliable forms of energy.”

And so, the battle lines are formed — advocates vs. university, asset owners (and managers) vs big fossil fuel companies, institutions and fiduciaries (in Exxon’s view) vs. the people of poor nations.

The positions (and actions) of two important institutional investors could create a tipping point:  Harvard University (with considerable wealth, influence, prestige, powerful alumni, world-class faculty, a powerful publishing arm and on and on) and the Norwegian Sovereign Fund, which invests in literally thousands of public companies…and soon will have $1 trillion in AUM to leverage in pursuit of its social / societal issues policies and investment actions.

Stay Tuned to the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement…and the push back by giants of the fossil fuel industry and their allies in the US Congress and other power centers.

 

 

 

 

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Benefit Corporations and the Public Markets — Will We Ever See a Public Benefit Corporation?

Lois Yurow-Nov 14-016eQuestion:  Benefit Corporations and the Public Markets — Will We Ever See a Public Benefit Corporation?

by Guest Commentator Lois Yurow

The United States is home to over 1,100 privately-held benefit corporations—for-profit entities organized under state statutes that require them to pursue a general public benefit in the ordinary course of business.  Many commentators have discussed whether directors of socially-oriented companies need legislation to protect them from liability for breach of fiduciary duty when they strive for goals other than financial return.  Others have argued that benefit corporation legislation is counterproductive because it wrongly implies that traditional corporations are required to make shareholder value their exclusive priority. 

This essay will not revisit those issues.  Instead, I want to consider whether it would be viable for a public company to become a benefit corporation, or for a benefit corporation to go public.  I will describe benefit corporations and some distinct obligations of public companies, and then explain why benefit corporations are not suited to the public markets.

Benefit corporations, B corporations, and public companies

Corporate law in 26 states and the District of Columbia permits for-profit entities to become benefit corporations.[1]  The various state statutes differ, but all benefit corporations have three distinct features: charter documents must state that the corporation’s purpose is to create a material, positive impact on society and the environment; benefit corporation directors must consider the interests of stakeholders other than shareholders, such as employees and the surrounding community; and benefit corporations must report periodically on their social and environmental performance. 

The first benefit corporation statute was enacted (by Maryland) roughly five years ago, placing benefit corporations among the rare subjects that garner bipartisan support and inspire legislative speed.  Currently, there are 1,140 known benefit corporations in the United States.  The most familiar are Method Products (which makes cleaning supplies) and Patagonia (which specializes in outdoor apparel).

Benefit corporations are easily confused with B corps, but they are different.  A B corp is an entity—not necessarily a corporation—that is certified by B Lab, a nonprofit organization committed to “using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.”  Unlike programs to certify a particular product (say, Fair Trade coffee) or facility (an LEED building), the B Lab certification is comprehensive.  The idea is to identify good companies instead of just good products or good marketing.  As of this writing, there are 1161 B corps in 37 countries.  Some are benefit corporations, but most are not.  The most recognizable B corp is Ben & Jerry’s.

Public companies offer their shares to the general public, typically on a stock exchange.  To become public, a company must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) a registration statement that contains audited financial statements and describes the business and the risks of the investment.  Once public, the company is subject to ongoing reporting and auditing requirements.  According to B Lab (a driving force behind benefit corporation legislation), no existing benefit corporation is publicly traded.[2]

Existing corporations cannot convert into benefit corporations without the approval of a supermajority of their shareholders.  It would be difficult for a public company to muster that support.  But could a benefit corporation go public?  That would be a bad idea, for two reasons: becoming and remaining a public company is too expensive, and broad ownership might jeopardize the company’s mission. 

Going public is too expensive

According to a 2011 study prepared by the IPO Task Force for the U.S. Treasury Department, it costs approximately US$2.5 million for a company to achieve regulatory compliance for an initial public offering, and another $1.5 million per year for ongoing compliance. These costs include underwriting commissions; filing fees; and fees for lawyers, accountants, and transfer agents.  Even typical for-profit companies need to be large and successful to absorb those costs.  For a benefit corporation that already may need to sacrifice potential earnings, steep compliance costs would further diminish the company’s resources for engaging in business and pursuing a public benefit.

Moreover, the SEC’s disclosure regime focuses on financial and economic analysis; it does not elicit the type of social benefit assessment that benefit corporations must provide under state law.  Indeed, many investors have complained to the SEC about inadequate reporting of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information.  Thus, a public benefit corporation that produced the periodic reports required by federal law would still need to prepare an annual benefit report to satisfy state law. 

Under the Model Benefit Corporation Legislation, which is the starting point for most state laws, the benefit report must describe “[t]he ways in which the benefit corporation pursued general public benefit during the year and the extent to which general public benefit was created,” and assess “the overall social and environmental performance of the benefit corporation against a third-party standard.”  This is not an inconsequential or inexpensive undertaking. 

Benefit corporations are more likely to succeed with a small number of investors

Benefit corporations commit to pursue (in some states, to “create”) a public benefit, which serves as a signal to socially responsible investors.  As corporate law professor Lynn Stout says, “‘it’s like hanging a sign around your neck: Nice people invest here.’”[3]  One commentator likens benefit corporations to multiparty contracts because they “average the collective desires” of unrelated investors with a variety of social concerns.[4]  Those who invest in a benefit corporation—or opt in to the contract—are  “a self-selected, ideologically similar group” that is likely to remain committed to the company’s mission, even in circumstances that might prompt profit-oriented investors to insist that management defer social endeavors to pursue better returns.

This contractual dynamic could shift if a benefit corporation were to go public.  Activist investors often buy stock with complete understanding of a company and then agitate for change anyway.  Witness the public battles waged by investors urging EBay, EMC, and JDS Uniphase (among others) to spin off assets. 

If a benefit corporation’s business model has substantial earnings potential absent the “public benefit” mission, there is nothing to stop frustrated investors from campaigning to amend the company’s charter.  Even if activists cannot attain the supermajority vote that benefit corporation statutes require, defending the company’s mission would be a significant distraction and expense for management.

Conclusion: 

Benefit corporations appeal to the subset of investors that are willing to sacrifice some earnings to support more responsible business practices.  These companies are unlikely to generate enough new capital in the public market to justify the expense of being there.  In addition, offering stock to the general public, without any opportunity to assess the purchasers’ commitment, can jeopardize a benefit corporation’s mission.  This class of companies should stay in the private market.

Footnotes:


[1] This tally includes Arizona, where the statute is not effective until December 31, 2014, and Minnesota and New Hampshire, where the statutes are not effective until January 1, 2015.  Legislation is pending in twelve other states and Puerto Rico.

[2] Plum Organics, a benefit corporation, is wholly-owned by Campbell Soup Company, a public company.

[3] Quoted in Gunther, M. (2013, August 12). B corps: Sustainability will be shaped by the market, not corporate law. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/b-corps-markets-corporate-law.

[4] Hasler, J. E. (2014, October). Contracting for good: How benefit corporations empower investors and redefine shareholder value. Virginia Law Review, 100(6), 1279-1322, 1305.

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Guest Commentator Lois Yurow is founder and president of Investor Communications Services, LLC, where she specializes in converting complex legal, business, and financial documents into plain English.  Lois was Managing Editor of Wall Street Lawyer, a monthly newsletter focused on securities law, for seven years, and Managing Editor of RealCorporateLawyer.com, a website serving corporate and securities lawyers, for five.  Mutual Fund Regulation and Compliance Handbook, a book Lois co-authored and updates annually, is published by Thomson West.  Lois writes and speaks frequently about plain English, disclosure, and other securities law matters.  Before forming Investor Communications Services, Lois practiced corporate and securities law, first in Chicago and then in New Jersey.  Email: lois@securitieseditor.com

 

 

Top 10 GRI Sustainability Aspects for the Railroad Sector

Sustainability – What Matters in the Railroad Sector

25-railroadRecent research conducted by the Governance & Accountability Institute attempts to answer important questions for company managements in the Railroad Sector, by examining the disclosure practices of 15 global peer organizations publishing GRI reports in the sector.

The top 10 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) aspects that were determined to be material by the managements of reporting organizations in the Railroad Sector are:

  1. Local Communities
  2. Remediation
  3. Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining
  4. Diversity and Equal Opportunity
  5. Equal Remuneration for Women and Men
  6. Non-Discrimination
  7. Indirect Economic Impacts
  8. Labor/Management Relations
  9. Corruption
  10. Product and Service Labeling

Results:  The complimentary report examining 35 sectors including top 10 GRI aspects, and top/bottom 10 GRI performance indicators can be downloaded here:
www.ga-institute.com/sustainability-what-matters

The full rankings for all 84 GRI performance indicators and all 37 GRI Aspects for each of the 35 sectors examined are available for purchase at:
www.ga-institute.com/getall84

Organizations included in the Railroad Sector study are:

Abellio, Arlandabanan, Brisa, CP Comboios de Portugal, CSX Corporation, Ferrovie dello Stato – Corporate Environment, Infranord, KORAIL, Korea Rail Network Authority, MTR Corporation, ProRail BV, Russian Railways, SBB, SJ, VR-Group

About G&A Institute (www.ga-institute.com)
G&A Institute is a New York-based, private sector company providing sustainability-focused services and resources to corporate and investment community clients, including: Issue Counseling & Sustainability Strategies; Sustainability Reporting; Materiality Assessments; Stakeholder Engagement; Benchmarking; Investor Relations; Communications; Coaching, Team Building & Training;  Issues Monitoring & Customized Research; Third Party Recognitions.  G&A is the exclusive Data Partner for the GRI in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Editors
On the G&A Institute web site there is additional information available on the Fact Sheet: What Matters Project (www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/sustainability-what-matters/fact-sheet).  The resulting “most important” to “least important” ranking for the 35 sectors is available to media on a case-by-case basis please contact:  Peter Hamilton (phamilton@ga-institute.com).

# # #

Flash — $1 in $6 in Capital Markets Now Invested Using ESG Criteria – US$6+ Trillion AUM Total

by Hank Boerner – Chairman, G&A Institute

Flash Report from the Front Lines of Sustainable & Responsible Investing — here’s a number that we will be seeing repeated many times over the coming days and months:  US$6.57 trillion of assets under management are now invested using sustainable, responsible and impact investing strategies.  That is more than $1 in every $6 under professional management in the United States of America.

These assets comprise almost 18% of the total $36.8 trillion U.S. AUM tracked by Cerulli Associates.

From 1995 – the first US SIF survey at year end — to December 2013, the universe has grown 929% —  a compound annual growth rate of 13.1%.

Money managers report using ESG integration strategies across asset classes for AUM of $4.80 trillion — that is triple the amount reported by US SIF at the beginning of 2012 (the last survey).

Asset Owners — public employee pension funds, foundations, educational institutions (endowments), religious institutions — applying ESG criteria grew to $4.04 trillion (up 77% since start of 2012). Note that a subset of asset managers surveyed and answering “why” they offer ESG products, (119 in all) said that 80% of their clients demanded the use of ESG criteria..

The report is from US SIF – The US Forum for Sustainable & Responsible Investment (US SIF), the trade organization for professionals, firms, institutions and organizations, engaged in sustainable, responsible and impact investing.  (Variously you may refer to these activities as SRI, ESG, Triple Bottom Line, ethical, socially & responsibly investing, and other terms.)  Every other year US SIF conducts a comprehensive survey of investment trends / activities by individuals, institutions, investment companies, asset managers, financial institutions, mutual fund advisors, and others, to determine the overall SRI assets.

The 10th biennial report published this week covers sustainable investment and impact investment AUM at the beginning of 2014 by 480 institutional investors, 308 money managers and 880 community investment institutions that apply various environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in their investment activities.

Special recognitions to the key players in the announcement launch effort this week:  Lisa Woll, CEO of US SIF and her team involved in the survey effort; report authors Meg Vorhees of US SIF and Josh Humpreys of Croatan Institute.  The announcement made was at Bloomberg LP — hosted by Bloomber’s Curtis Ravenel.  Presentations were by US SIF members Paul Hilton (Trillium); Hilary Irby (Morgan Stanley); Amy O’Brien (TIAA-CREF).  also, Michael Garland (New York City Comptroller’s Office).and Ellen Dorsey (Wallace Global Fund).

Top 10 GRI Sustainability Aspects for the Public Agency Sector

Sustainability – What Matters in the Public Agency Sector

24-public-agencyRecent research conducted by the Governance & Accountability Institute attempts to answer important questions for company managements in the Public Agency Sector, by examining the disclosure practices of 40 global peer organizations publishing GRI reports in the sector.

The top 10 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) aspects that were determined to be material by the managements of reporting organizations in the Public Agency Sector are:

  1. Overall (Environmental)
  2. Market Presence
  3. Equal Remuneration for Women and Men
  4. Employment
  5. Training and Education
  6. Diversity and Equal Opportunity
  7. Occupational Health and Safety
  8. Indirect Economic Impacts
  9. Energy
  10. Security Practices

Results:  The complimentary report examining 35 sectors including top 10 GRI aspects, and top/bottom 10 GRI performance indicators can be downloaded here:
www.ga-institute.com/sustainability-what-matters

The full rankings for all 84 GRI performance indicators and all 37 GRI Aspects for each of the 35 sectors examined are available for purchase at:
www.ga-institute.com/getall84

Organizations included in the Public Agency sector study are:

A Coruña Port Authority, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group (ADSG), Architectural Services Department (HKSARG), Auditor General of South Africa, Belgische Technische Cooperatie (BTC), Canada Post, Canton de Vaud, Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travai, Companhia de Desenvovimento Habitacional e Urbano do Estado de São Paulo (CDHU), DGR, DoT Abu Dhabi, Dresden Verkehrsbetriebe, Dubai Customs, Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, Fundació Garrotxa Líder, Infonavit, Judicial Commission of New South Wales (NSW) – Australia, Korea Environment Corporation, Korea Tourism Organization, Leader Cat Central, London Fire Brigade, Madrid Movilidad, Main Roads Western Australia, National Environment Agency, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Polismyndigheten iStockholms län, Postnord, Saskatchewan Research Council, SEMADES, Small & Medium Business Corporation, Société de transport de Montréal (STM), SPRI. SOCIEDAD PARA LA TRANSFORMACIÓN COMPETITIVA, S.A., Stockholms Läns Landsting, TEP, The World Bank, US Army, Korea Postal Logistics, HWTR Program – Washington State Department of Ecology, Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, Korea Rural Community Corporation (KRC)

About G&A Institute (www.ga-institute.com)
G&A Institute is a New York-based, private sector company providing sustainability-focused services and resources to corporate and investment community clients, including: Issue Counseling & Sustainability Strategies; Sustainability Reporting; Materiality Assessments; Stakeholder Engagement; Benchmarking; Investor Relations; Communications; Coaching, Team Building & Training;  Issues Monitoring & Customized Research; Third Party Recognitions.  G&A is the exclusive Data Partner for the GRI in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Editors
On the G&A Institute web site there is additional information available on the Fact Sheet: What Matters Project (www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/sustainability-what-matters/fact-sheet).  The resulting “most important” to “least important” ranking for the 35 sectors is available to media on a case-by-case basis please contact:  Peter Hamilton (phamilton@ga-institute.com).

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Top 10 GRI Sustainability Aspects for the Mining Sector

Sustainability – What Matters in the Mining Sector

23-miningRecent research conducted by the Governance & Accountability Institute attempts to answer important questions for company managements in the Mining Sector, by examining the disclosure practices of 38 global peer organizations publishing GRI reports in the sector.

The top 10 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) aspects that were determined to be material by the managements of reporting organizations in the Mining Sector are:

  1. Biodiversity
  2. Water
  3. Market Presence
  4. Overall (Environmental)
  5. Indigenous Rights
  6. Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining
  7. Equal Remuneration for Women and Men
  8. Emissions, Effluents and Waste
  9. Materials
  10. Non-Discrimination

Results:  The complimentary report examining 35 sectors including top 10 GRI aspects, and top/bottom 10 GRI performance indicators can be downloaded here:
www.ga-institute.com/sustainability-what-matters

The full rankings for all 84 GRI performance indicators and all 37 GRI Aspects for each of the 35 sectors examined are available for purchase at:
www.ga-institute.com/getall84

Organizations included in the Mining Sector study are:
Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM), Anglo American PLC, Antofagasta PLC, AuRico Gold, Aurizon Mines, Barrick Gold, Cameco, Cliffs Natural Resources, Codelco, Compañía Minera Doña Inés De Collahuasi, El Brocal, Fairmount Minerals, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Goldcorp, Iamgold, Infrasors, Kinross Gold Corporation, LA CIMA, LKAB, Lundin Mining, New World Resources (NWR), Newmont Mining Corporation, NovaGold Resources Inc., Osisko, OZ Minerals, Penoles, PT Antam, RHI, Rio Tinto, Royal Bafokeng Platinum, S&B Industrial Minerals, Sama, Samarco Mineração, Teck Resources, Xstrata, Xstrata Coal, Yamana Gold, Yanacocha

About G&A Institute (www.ga-institute.com)
G&A Institute is a New York-based, private sector company providing sustainability-focused services and resources to corporate and investment community clients, including: Issue Counseling & Sustainability Strategies; Sustainability Reporting; Materiality Assessments; Stakeholder Engagement; Benchmarking; Investor Relations; Communications; Coaching, Team Building & Training;  Issues Monitoring & Customized Research; Third Party Recognitions.  G&A is the exclusive Data Partner for the GRI in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Editors
On the G&A Institute web site there is additional information available on the Fact Sheet: What Matters Project (www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/sustainability-what-matters/fact-sheet).  The resulting “most important” to “least important” ranking for the 35 sectors is available to media on a case-by-case basis please contact:  Peter Hamilton (phamilton@ga-institute.com). 

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We’re a Long Way from NYC’s Stonewall Inn, But Still a Ways to Go for Corporate LGBT Policies, Says Investor Coalition

by Hank Boerner – Chairman, G&A Institute

We’ve come a long way since the gay & lesbian communities mobilized and began in earnest their civil rights campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s and into the1990s. It was the New York City Police Department’s wrongheaded “raid” on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village neighborhood in June 1969 that provided the important spark for the long-term, winning campaign by LGBT community for equal rights and equal protection under the laws of the land. “Stonewall” became a rallying cry for the next installment of the continuing “journey” of the civil rights movement in the United States.

The 1960s/1970s were the era of civil rights protests — we were involved in or witnessed and were affected by the civil rights / voting rights movement; the counter-culture “revolution” (remember the hippies?); the drive for adoption of the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution); and the anti-war movement protests against the conflict in Vietnam.  These were catalysts as well for the LGBT equal rights warriors of the decades that followed the 1969 Stonewall protests.

Finally, in recent years, after years of campaigning by LGBT advocates, most states have been adopting protective measures to protect the LGBT community.  Same gender marriage is a reality in many U.S. jurisdictions.

On November 7, 2014 The New York Times carried an update — it was a “milestone year” for LGBT rights advocates, the publication explained.  Voters in the 3Ms — Maine, Maryland and Minnesota – favored same-sex marriage; the first openly-gay US Senator (Tammy Baldwin) was elected by Wisconsin voters.

Still, there was vocal and often fierce opposition to same-sex marriage and equal protection under the law for LGBT citizens.

About LGBT Policies and the US Corporate Community

Many large companies (estimate:70 companies in the S&P 500 Index to date) have adopted non-discrimination policies to protect LGBT employees in the United States, says the 2014 Corporate Equality Index (a national benchmarking tool of the Human Rights Campaign).

We see these policies and programs for inclusion described in the many sustainability and responsibility reports we examine as exclusive data partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for the United States of America.

Still, legal protections for LGBT citizens are not sufficient in numerous US jurisdictions. “Homophobic” policies and attitudes still reign in too many US cities and states and local communities.

And policies, attitudes, practices in other countries?  Well, that’s really a problem, say sustainable & responsible investment advocates — and steps are being taken to address the situation.

The S&R investment advocacy campaign is focused on the LGBT employees of US firms working overseas.  In countries like Russia, one of the world’s largest industrial economies, which has harsh anti-LGBT policies. The US investor group points out that 79 countries consider same sex relationships illegal; 66 countries provide “some” protection at least in the workplace; and in some countries, homosexuality is punishable by death.

In a business environment that continues to globalize in every aspect, with American large-cap companies operating everywhere, the investor coalition is calling on US companies to extend their LGBT policies on anti-discrimination and equal benefits policies to employees outside the United States. A letter was sent by the coalition to about 70 large-cap companies (the signatories manage US$210 billion in assets.

Shelley Alpern, Director Social Research & Shareholder Advocacy at Clean Yield Asset Management explains: “Today, most leading U.S. corporations now have equitable policies on their books for their [American-based] LGBT employees. Ther’s a dearth of information on how many extend policies outside of the U.S. In starting this dialogue, we hope to identify best practices and start to encourage all companies to adopt them.”

The objective of the shareowner advocacy campaign is to stimulate interest in the issue and create a broad dialogue that leads to greater protection of LGBT employees of US companies operating outside of the United States.

Mari Schwartzer, coordinator of shareholder advocacy at NorthStar Asset Management compliments US firms with effective non-discrimination policies and states:  “While we are pleased that so many companies have adopted non-discrimination policies in the USA which incorporate equal protections for LGBT employees, the next phase of implementation is upon us — we must ensure that international employees are receiving equal benefits and are adequately protected.  Particularly those stationed in regions hostile to LGBT individuals…”

Signatories of the letters sent to companies include these sustainable & responsible investing advocates:  Calvert Investments; Jantz Management; Miller/Howard Investments; Office of the Comptroller of New York City; Pax World Management; Sustainability Group/Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge; Trillium Asset Management; Unitarian Universalist Association; Walden Asset Management; Zevin Asset management.

Companies contacted include:  Aetna, AIG, Allstate, Altria, Amazon, American Express, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Baxter, Best Buy, Boeing, Cardinal health, Caterpillar, Chevron, Cisco, Citigroup, Coca Cola, Colgate Palmolive, Costco, CVS Health, Delta, Dow Chemical, DuPoint, EMC, FedEx, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Dynamics, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, Home Depot, Honeywell, Human, IBM Ingram Micro, Intel, J&J, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, McDonalds, McKesson, Merck, MetLife, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, P&G, Prudential, Sears, Sprint, Starbucks, Target, Texas Instruments, United Continental, United HealthGroup, United Technologies, UPS, Verizon, Visa, Walgreen, Walt Disney, Walmart, Wellpoint, Wells Fargo.

Summing up the heart of the issue for investors (and corporate employees):  “Corporations must take the extra step to ensure consistent application of LGBT-inclusive workplace policies throughout their operations, regardless of location,” said Wendy Holding, Partner, the Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge.