Dispatch From London and The Economist Sustainability Summit 2018

Guest Post By Juliet Russell – Sustainability Reporting Analyst, G&A Institute

The Economist’s third annual Sustainability Summit was convened in London on March 22nd, 2018. I attended as a representative of G&A Institute.

The discussions focused on how to shift from “responsibility to leadership”: how to lead and encourage co-operation on the path to progress.

I was impressed that significant players from a diverse range of sectors attended the conference, including representatives of Government, NGOs, Business and Academia. Panelists ranged from the CEO of Sainsbury’s, to Google’s Lead for Sustainability, to the Chair of the Board of Directors for Greenpeace and to a Deputy Mayor of London.

Each provided their own views and experiences of sustainability leadership and how to really see actions, instead of ‘just talk and promises’.

The key themes from the day centered around the need for collaboration, communication, shared responsibility, disruptive innovation, combatting short-termism and internalizing sustainability into core strategy and business models.

 

One of the most poignant messages for me was the need for understanding the urgency of the issues we are facing today, particularly in relation to climate change – “we are behaving as though the delta is zero and the delta is clearly not zero” (Jay Koh, The Lightsmith Group).

An attendee told a story of new LEED Platinum Certified buildings in Seattle that everyone is of course proud of — but in 30 years these super energy-efficient buildings will be underwater because we’re too busy focusing on small wins and continual growth, failing to act fast enough or understand the urgency when it comes to climate change and sea-level rise.

As quoted from Baroness Bryony Worthington of the Environmental Defense Fund – “…winning slowly with climate change is the same as losing!”

The conference was incredibly insightful, with such a breadth of timely and interesting topics, which highlighted different areas of debate and offered up potential solutions. Four of the panel discussions I feel are particularly worth highlighting:

1)    ‘A TALE OF THREE CITIES’
Discussion led by Mark Watts, Director of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
and featuring three city government representatives: Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor of London (Environment and Energy); Solly Tshepiso, Mayor of Tshwane, South Africa; and,  Karsten Biering Nielsen, Deputy Director of Technical and Environmental Administration for the City of Copenhagen.

The lack of adequate and strategic government action is failing so far in preventing climate change and also in reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs).

Mayor Solly discussed as example how slow progress on Paris Agreement targets were partly due to the lack of communication from top Government-level down to the city-level in South Africa. City-to-city communication and partnerships were touted as solutions to these kind of problems, as well as being vital in reaching the SDGs.

The C40 Cities Group facilitates this kind of partnership and network through the sharing of best-practice and successful innovation among their 92 affiliated cities around the world.

2)    ‘PIECES OF THE PUZZLE’
Discussion led by Christopher Davis, International Director of Corporate Responsibility and Campaigns from The Body Shop International.

This panel discussion focused around how to “do good and do well,”; Chris suggested that we need to be gearing business to be truly sustainable based on what the planet needs – not the economy or the shareholders – and creating benchmarks against planetary and societal needs.

Essential consideration for creating a sustainable business:  when sustainability is not an add-on function but embedded in the strategy and business model and thus integral to all activities. The Body Shop International management will know that they have been successful in their sustainability mission when sustainability is ingrained in everything the company is doing and they no longer have a need for a separate sustainability team.

3)    ‘CHANGING MINDS’
Discussion led Dr. Simone Schnall from the University of Cambridge and Prerana Issar from the UN World Food Programme.

This discussion revolved around the relevance of ‘nudging’ in changing behaviour (a behavioral economics approach) to push progress in sustainability. Dr. Simone discussed the concept of ‘nudging’ – creating a choice architecture, which is set up so that people are more inclined to go for the ‘beneficial’ option, gently pushing people to do the right thing.

An example of this might be in putting the recycled paper products at eye-level, with the products made from less sustainable materials at a more awkward height to see and reach.

Essentially, using nudging, we bypass the attempt at changing minds but still change the behaviour.

This can help to reduce problems such as ‘moral licensing’, where people feel licensed to do something ‘bad’ if they have just done something morally good (and vice versa). For example, when using energy efficient products, some people then feel they are able to use them more often because they are doing a ‘good’, which actually negates the positive efficiency benefit.

Nudging may be more and more necessary as actions towards sustainability become more urgent, as we can’t generally rely on society to make the best and informed decisions all the time. Though as nudging still relies on choice, is this enough to make us change? In reality, society may need more guidance and regulation and here, there’s a role for stricter governance and policy.

4)    ‘PIECES OF THE PUZZLE’
Discussion led by Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer for Kering.

Touching on the themes of innovation, partnerships and collaboration, Marie-Claire discussed a tool that Kering developed and are using: their Environmental Profit and Loss (“E P&L”).

Many people around the world and across sectors acknowledge that over-exploitation and degradation of the environment and our resources are partially due to the fact that these resources, our ‘natural capital’, have not been accounted for in economic decision-making and cost-benefit analyses.

Because of this, we are failing to internalize the negative externalities, which is crucial if we are to properly be accountable and responsible for our actions in society today, thus failing to understand the true environmental consequences of our actions.

Many businesses would fail to acknowledge the environment as a stakeholder unless it explicitly showed up on their profit and loss accounting.

Kering, a first-mover in their field, created and proposed an E P&L accounting tool as a way to do this and it can be applied throughout the entire value chain. This tool allows identification of impact areas and thus increases ability to reduce it.

Kering also provide their E P&L methodology open-source, to encourage other companies to follow and increase their accountability. This hones in on the knowledge-sharing and sharing of best-practice theme.

During the final session of the day, editors from The Economist newspaper came up with their main takeaways, the “four Ps”:

  • Pragmatic – that is, moving from debating who is responsible and asking, ‘is it really happening?’ to understanding that the situation “is what it is” — and we need to just get on with it. For this, collaborations at all levels will be key.
  • Persistent – sustainability needs to be talked about and implemented persistently, in order to become deeply embedded – not something that has the ‘fickleness of fashion’ – being ‘in’ the one day and passé the next. Persistence can help to bring a necessary sense of depth to the issues and challenges we are facing, in order to trigger action.
  • Problem – understanding reality and assessing our achievements: if we add up all of our efforts today, is it anywhere near enough? I’m sure you’ll all agree that the answer is most definitely not. How do we scale up these efforts effectively? We need to be mindful of the scale of the threats the planet and society face – increasing measurement and transparency can help to uncover this.
  • Prioritization – at present, we can’t robustly value different externalities, which is necessary for internalizing them and dealing in the most efficient and effective way. We must remember to be aware that each trade-off has consequences and consider alternative actions.

Coming away from this wonderful conference, it was clear to me that the main takeaway was of the potential of collaboration – within companies, within industries, between industries, and across sectors. This was picked up on in nearly every talk.

We need a whole ‘ecosystem’ featuring collaboration (involving business, NGOs, government, academia and citizens) in order to win with the current challenges we’re facing; to really progress in sustainability and work towards meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The conference was undoubtedly a timely and powerful call for action.

“Does the RobecoSAM CSA Deliver Quantifiable Business Returns?” – Find out April 6th in NYC at DJSI How INSIGHTS Inspire Action

As the opening of RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) draws nearer we wanted to remind you about our upcoming workshop on April 6th at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City. The workshop will be a very intimate discussion with 30 or fewer people with an opportunity to engage with representatives from RobecoSAM, G&A Institute, and your peers.

Participants will also have access to RobecoSAM’s benchmarking & leading practices database for the day. (Access to these databases normally cost 4’990 EUR and 2’500 EUR respectively.)

Click Here to Register & Find Out More Details! 

We’d also like to share with you a collection of video interviews which outline the value of the RobecoSAM CSA for leading companies. These topics and more will be discussed at our workshop.

RobecoSAM interviewed a number of leading companies that are long time CSA participants. Please enjoy… and let us know if you have any questions about the CSA or the upcoming event.

Does the CSA deliver quantifiable business returns?
The CSA results are often used by companies to refine their sustainability strategy, add credibility to sustainability focused RfPs, attract investors, and to motivate employees and increase engagement. Learn first-hand about all the benefits these companies realize. Watch this 2min video with statements from Siemens, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

How do you use the results of RobecoSAM’s CSA?
Companies that lead in sustainability use the CSA results in their communication with investors and B2B clients and to motivate employees to name just a few examples. To learn more, watch this 2min video with statements from Deutsche Telekom, AstraZeneca, Samsung, Siemens, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

Please join us on April 6th at Baruch College in NYC!
Click Here to For More Details & To Register! 
We look forward to seeing you there!

Where does RobecoSAM’s CSA fit your overall reporting approach? 
The discussions and outcomes that develop internally at Sustainability leaders from the process of completing the CSA are used as key input for their sustainability reporting strategy. Hear about it from the leaders in this 2min video with statements from AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, Siemens, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

Advice for peers: what are the pitfalls first time participants should avoid? 
Watch this short video to learn about the benefits companies realize from their CSA participation and receive expert advice on how to best manage the CSA questionnaire process. Experts from ABN Amro, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, Siemens, and Shinhan Financial Group.

“It’s not rocket science” – Advice for 1st time CSA participants
RobecoSAM asked a number of long time participants in our Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) what kind of advice they have for first time participants. Watch this 4min video to learn first hand from Axa Group, Philips, Grupo Nutresa, Cementos Argos and UPM Kymene.

Please join us on April 6th at Baruch College in NYC!
Click Here to For More Details & To Register! 
We look forward to seeing you there!

FOR QUESTIONS, contact Louis D. Coppola, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. at Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14 or email lcoppola@ga-institute.com.

Access RobecoSAM’s Leading Practice & Benchmarking Database For The Day @ DJSI – How Insights Inspire Action

Each attendee will have free access to RobecoSAM’s Benchmarking & Leading Practices Database for the day.Access to these databases normally cost 4’990 EUR and 2’500 EUR respectively.

The aim of this workshop is to increase the participants’ knowledge about the importance of and methodology behind the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) and the RobecoSAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA).

Representatives from RobecoSAM will lead a workshop session on how to utilize these important resources which are summarized below.

RobecoSAM Benchmarking Database (BDB)
A searchable database to benchmark your company against your peers on the criteria level of questions in the RobecoSAM CSA. Includes the ability to filter region, competitors, and do trend analysis including graphical representation of your company score against your competitors. You’ll be able to see the rankings of other companies assessed in your industry as well. With this tool you’ll have the ability to conduct detailed benchmarking analysis to answer internal or external queries about your sustainability performance.More details on the RobecoSAM Benchmarking Database (BDB) can be found here. RobecoSAM

Leading Practice Database (LPD) 
A searchable database of leading companies’ practices in relation to the questions asked in RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment. The Leading Practice Database puts hundreds of real industry examples and quantitative analyses at your fingertips. Company examples are sourced from over 50 different industries and cover most of the questions included in RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA). The database also includes thousands of industry-specific statistical analysis of individual RobecoSAM CSA results for your particular industry. These examples will inform you about the conditions required in a certain CSA question to score 90 or above, and the percentage of companies in your industry meeting those conditions in a given assessment year. This analysis is provided on a global level.
More details on the Leading Practice Database (LDP) can be found here.

Join us on April 6, 2018 from 8:30AM – 2:00 PM EST  @ Baruch College/CUNY NYC:
DJSI – HOW INSIGHTS INSPIRE ACTION
Leveraging the Value of the Corporate Sustainability Assessment 
Presented by Governance & Accountability Institute in collaboration with RobecoSAM

EARLY BIRD RATE: $599 (Available until February 23rd. Full Price: $749)
Registrations will be open until April 5, 2018.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AGENDA!

For information and to register, click here.

FOR QUESTIONS, contact Louis D. Coppola, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. at Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14 or email lcoppola@ga-institute.com.

About Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. (www.ga-institute.com
Governance & Accountability Institute is a New York City-based sustainability research, consulting and educational services company working with corporate sector and investment community clients. Typical engagements include preparation of sustainability, CSR and citizenship reports; peer benchmarking on ESG issues and reporting; customized ESG research (environmental, social and governance performance); strategic materiality analysis; sustainable investor relations; corporate communications around sustainability; and assistance with stakeholder engagements. The company is the Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for the USA, UK and the Republic of Ireland.

About RobecoSAM (www.robecosam.com
Founded in 1995, RobecoSAM is an investment specialist focused exclusively on Sustainability Investing. It offers asset management, indices, impact analysis and investment, sustainability assessments, and benchmarking services. Together with S&P Dow Jones Indices, RobecoSAM publishes the globally recognized Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) as well as the S&P ESG Factor Weighted Index Series, the first index family to treat ESG as a standalone performance factor using the RobecoSAM Smart ESG methodology. As of June 30, 2017, RobecoSAM had client assets under management, advice and/or license of approximately USD 20 billion.

Important legal information: The details given on these pages do not constitute an offer. They are given for information purposes only. No liability is assumed for the correctness and accuracy of the details given. The securities identified and described may or may not be purchased, sold or recommended for advisory clients. It should not be assumed that an investment in these securities was or will be profitable. Copyright© 2018 RobecoSAM – all rights reserved.

INTERNSHIP: SUSTAINABILITY REPORTS DATA ANALYST

G&A is offering unpaid internship opportunities for qualified students interested in learning more about corporate sustainability and corporate ESG performance (“Environmental, Social, Governance”) issues. G&A Institute interns learn important elements about the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards for sustainability reporting as well as other common frameworks such as CDP, RobecoSAM CSA (DJSI), SASB, IIRC, SDGs, and concepts in sustainability such as materiality, stakeholder engagement, assurance, balance, comparability, and many others that can be used in their future work situations.

The work will support G&A’s pro-bono unpaid relationship as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) data partner for the US, UK, and Ireland, along with contributing to associated research on sustainability reporting trends.

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

Opportunity:  Learn to analyze data and interpret content from GRI sustainability reporting

Intern Position:  Sustainability Report Data Analyst (supporting G&A’s GRI Data Partner relationship)

Location: Virtual — Work is done remotely – at your own location with a flexible work schedule.  Initial training via virtual meeting tools. There will be opportunities to attend industry networking and training events with G&A’s network of event and training partners.

Time Requirements: Position requires approximately 10 hours per week and begins ASAP.  The timing of the work is flexible for a majority of the time required and can be done remotely.  The internship will take place starting in February 2018 and ending July/August 2018.

Compensation: This is an unpaid experience only internship position.

MORE ABOUT THE INTERN POSITION
In this role, you 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 a 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.

We are proud of our intern alumni and are happy to share their success with the world, as they accomplish great things through their careers navigating the way to sustainability.  To see what other interns have been doing (and their backgrounds) check out G&A’s Intern Honor Roll at http://www.ga-institute.com/about-the-institute/the-honor-roll.html

REQUIREMENTS

  • Must be in senior year of Bachelors program or in a Masters program with major/studies focused on business, capital markets, ESG, environmental and/or sustainability issues and topics.
  • Demonstrate strong background / keen interest or past work experience in ESG and sustainability-related issues / topics.
  • Having a basic understanding of business and the capital markets is mandatory.
  • Must have strong skillsets and experience in independent online research and analysis.
  • Must be excellent at using Excel / Google Sheets and researching on Google.
  • Have strong technical, communication and organizational skills.
  • Must be self-driven and able to work independently to meet expectations and deadlines.
  • Must be fluent in English, additional languages are a plus.
  • Applicants with good writing and editing abilities will have a preference.

APPLICATION PROCESS
Interested students must send:

  • A cover letter outlining why you would be a good fit for this role.
  • Resume including your education, skill sets, and work experience.
  • 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.
  • 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

ABOUT GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY INSTITUTE
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 the data partner for the United States, United Kingdom and the 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 US, UK and Ireland data partner of the GRI, G&A’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 the Republic of Ireland for the benefit of all stakeholders.

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

ANNOUNCING: DJSI – HOW INSIGHTS INSPIRE ACTION

 

ANNOUNCING: DJSI – HOW INSIGHTS INSPIRE ACTION
Leveraging the Value of the Corporate Sustainability Assessment
April 6, 2018

Presented by Governance & Accountability Institute
in collaboration with RobecoSAM
Hosted at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City

The aim of this workshop is to increase the participants’ knowledge about the importance of and methodology behind the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) and the RobecoSAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA).

A workshop session will also be included on how to utilize important resources offered by RobecoSAM such as the benchmarking and leading practices databases. G&A will also present best practices for organizing a gap analysis, project management, and internal subject matter expert identification for first time responders, or those working to improve their CSA responses.

RobecoSAM and Governance & Accountability Institute expert representatives will contribute to the Meeting overall and in particular present content (including analysis and slide decks). Participants can expect to take away a deeper understanding of:

Participants can expect to take away a deeper understanding of:

The DJSI 2018 – methodology and important takeaways.

  • Effective approaches in assessing established and emerging sustainability topics in the CSA.
  • Rationale, the business case, performance, and results from last year’s assessment, and learn more about major challenges for companies.
  • Best practices, valuable tools and resources available for first time responders as well as those looking to improve their response in 2018.
  • Each attendee will have free access to RobecoSAM’s benchmarking & leading practices database for the day. (Access to these databases normally cost 4’990 EUR and 2’500 EUR respectively.)

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN

EARLY BIRD RATE: $599
(Available until February 23rd. Full Price: $749)

Registrations will be open until April 5, 2018.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AGENDA!

For information and to register, click here.

FOR QUESTIONS, contact Louis D. Coppola, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. at Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14 or email lcoppola@ga-institute.com.

About Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. (www.ga-institute.com)
Governance & Accountability Institute is a New York City-based sustainability research, consulting and educational services company working with corporate sector and investment community clients. Typical engagements include preparation of sustainability, CSR and citizenship reports; peer benchmarking on ESG issues and reporting; customized ESG research (environmental, social and governance performance); strategic materiality analysis; sustainable investor relations; corporate communications around sustainability; and assistance with stakeholder engagements. The company is the exclusive Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for the USA, UK and the Republic of Ireland.

About RobecoSAM (www.robecosam.com)
Founded in 1995, RobecoSAM is an investment specialist focused exclusively on Sustainability Investing. It offers asset management, indices, impact analysis and investing, sustainability assessments, and benchmarking services. The company’s asset management capabilities cater to institutional asset owners and financial intermediaries and cover a range of ESG-integrated investments, featuring a strong track record in resource efficiency-themed strategies. Together with S&P Dow Jones Indices, RobecoSAM publishes the globally recognized Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) as well as the S&P ESG Index series, the first index family to treat ESG as a standalone performance factor using the RobecoSAM Smart ESG methodology. Based on its Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), an annual ESG analysis of over 3,900 listed companies, RobecoSAM has compiled one of the world’s most comprehensive databases of financially material sustainability information. The CSA data is also included in USD 86.5 billion of assets under management by the subsidiaries of the Robeco Group.

RobecoSAM is a sister company of Robeco, the Dutch investment management firm founded in 1929. Both entities are subsidiaries of the Robeco Group, whose shareholder is ORIX Corporation. As a reflection of its own commitment to advancing sustainable investment practices, RobecoSAM is a signatory of the PRI and UN Global Compact, a member of Eurosif, Swiss Sustainable Finance, Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Ceres and Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition (PDC). As of December 31, 2016, RobecoSAM had client assets under management, advice and/or license of approximately USD 16.1 billion.

The 21st Century Company: How It Creates Values – And for Whom

Highlights from the strategic “21st Century Company” conference presented annually by Skytop Strategies in November 2017 at the Time Warner Center in New York City.

By  Elizabeth Peterson and Cher Xue, Sustainability Reporting Analysts, G&A Institute

In November, executives in governance, risk, innovation, corporate responsibility, and information technology, and representatives of other functions & disciplines gathered to discuss future trends and share thoughts on the theme of “how to prepare for the risks and opportunities that companies will face in the 21st Century”.

Two prevalent topics of discussion among the executives present were (1) data security and (2) approaching CSR as an opportunity for ROI rather than as an expense.

Hank Boerner, Chairman & CEO at G&A, started the morning off with opening remarks to set the stage for the day’s discussion. He suggested that regardless of the top-notch strategic planning, the 21st Century Company is likely to put forward, disruptions” will always arise.

Using retro props and the evolution of the cell-phone from the early “brick” phone and the revolutionary concept of making a call from anywhere to today’s smartphone (now holding a great deal of our personal information), Hank reminded the audience of the disruptions from the past few decades.

Integration, Innovation, and Progress are what the thriving 21st Century Company will practice to be successful and to thrive, he said. (See his comments here: http://ga-institute.com/Sustainability-Update/2017/12/21/you-and-the-21st-century-company-all-about-iteration-innovation-and-disruption/)

The event was held during the first anniversary of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, which sparked rigorous conversations about what sustainability will look like for the United States over the next three years.

The past year has involved the start of dismantling of some of the country’s most monumental environmental plans and agreements. While this has led to a dim outlook for sustainable’s future for some, others noted that the corporate world is remaining firm in their sustainability strategic plans and targets, due to stakeholders and investors’ increasingly persistent calls for climate change disclosures, even for the non-renewables industry.

This reassurance has allowed many corporate sustainability advocates “to rest easy”. However, as Bennett Freeman, Senior Advisor, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), mentioned during his panel, governance without government doesn’t work. Corporate social responsibility without government responsibility is insufficient — and sustainable development should not be left to solely corporations.

Another trend creeping into CSR/ESG performance indicators is data security, presenting both opportunities and risks for companies.

Louis Coppola, Co-Founder and Executive VP at G&A, moderated the panel The Internet of Things: One Example of How Technology Shapes—and Threatens—Value Delivery with panelists Gene Fredriksen, Chief Information Security Officer, PSCU & Appointee, Global Forum to Advance Cyber Resilience and Jonathan Hill, Dean of the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University.

Key takeaway:  Data is being hailed as the “oil of the 21st century”. The amount of data being collected during your day-to-day activities can be a little unsettling for some.

The information obtained by third parties can support significant business decisions and product/service development. Data can hold unmeasurable value for a company’s future to make informed decisions.

However, the question for debate is how responsible do we expect companies to be with our data?

Elizabeth Peterson, GRI Reports Analyst at G&A Institute, Masters Candidate in Sustainability at Hofstra University focusing on ESG Reporting

A spike in recent data breaches has left consumers feeling a little less secure, but it’s also left corporations feelingn uneasy about their brand reputation and the future of their data security plans.

In 2017 alone, we have learned of significant data breaches at Yahoo, Equifax, Uber, Gmail, and many more companies.

Currently, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides a voluntary reporting indicator (G4-PR8) asking companies to disclose the number of breaches of customer privacy had occurred during that reporting year.

However, with the risk of significant cybersecurity breaches increasing, it’ll become more prevalent for the 21st Century Company to become much more proactive in protecting customer privacy; and, simultaneously, provide more detailed disclosure on a company’s data security efforts – this will be expected by shareholders.

For more information on whether you’ve been affected by the recent Equifax breach, click here.

As consumers, we expect the companies we interact with to take our personal information and data security seriously. However, we cannot place all the responsibility on businesses. With holiday shopping well underway there are plenty of individual tactics to put in place to make sure data is safe while online shopping.. (Link for bullet point source).  These include:

  • Before surfing the Internet, secure your personal computers by updating your security software. Everyone’s computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall installed.
  • Keep your personal information private and your password secure. Do not respond to requests to “verify” your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner.
  • Choose a password by combining different numbers, letters, and symbols. The longer the password, the better.
  • Beware of “bargains” from companies with whom you are unfamiliar — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.
  • Shop with companies you know and trust. Check for background information if you plan to buy from a new or unfamiliar company.
  • Act immediately if you suspect identity theft. Contact your credit card company, your bank, all three credit reporting agencies.

About Corporate Responsibility in the 21st Century

Cher Xue, GRI Reports Analyst at G&A Institute, Master in Environmental Management from Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment.

One very interesting presentation was entitled: The Arrow Electronics Story: How Innovation Can Drive Profits While Addressing Social ChallengesThe presenter was Joe Verrengia, Global Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Arrow Electronics, Inc.

Arrow Electronics is a global provider of products, services, and solutions to industrial and commercial users of electronic components and enterprise computing solutions. And humanitarian technology projects serve as a metaphor for what Arrow does every day in business.

The presentation addressed some bias that has been expressed —  such as there is no real ROI on CSR.

As examples, some critics have said these things:  Personal values don’t always translate to work values. People within the organization have no idea what it is and where to start to work. The CSR budget is the first one to cut because, for some business, CSR is not an investment, but an expense.

Joe Verrengia addressed these negative projections and explained how Arrow Electronics sees ROI on CSR – starting with the Company’s brand itself — and to think about who we are as a foundation.

His company’s lessons were a valuable sharing for the conference participants:

  • Besides have ROI clearly demonstrated by direct numbers of additional revenue, for Arrow, ROI is generated through employee recruitment and retention, in that CSR can lead to greater employee pride.
  • Today, for example, 80% of millennial choose work for a purpose-driven company. And 99% of Arrow’s interns decide to come back to work. ROI also comes from customers’ loyalty — 223 of Arrow’s customers now expect Arrow to be a good corporate citizen and demand annual proof of CSR through questionnaires.
  • Because of Arrow’s work on humanitarian technology solutions, the firm also has attracted new customers who have seen the Company’s work on these projects and recognized that Arrow not only has the solutions expertise they need, but also shares the same values as well.
  • Then there is ROI from “Brand”, which is reputational ROI. Arrow’s CSR technology projects have generated nearly two billion media impressions and more than 600 news stories in just a few years. The earned media value and the calculated brand value of these projects far exceeded what they cost.
  • Arrow’s CSR program has a focus on guiding innovation that improves lives and provides opportunity. The CSR program is demonstrated through humanitarian projects, community investment, employee engagement and corporate reporting.

For the purpose of measuring CSR program and score progress, Arrow has developed an engagement rating system by which the Company evaluates CSR partners and projects. The 10 categories of engagement include Innovation; CSR category alignment; Brand elevation; Social impact; Business development potential; Executive support; Arrow locations; Stature; Arrow V alignment; and, Employee Engagement.

Arrow believes “Five Years Out” is the tangible future, and the Company’s innovations can make the world a better place for us all – now and five years out, which is exactly a 21st Century Corporation approach.

Note:  this commentary featured just two of the event’s panels.  An agenda for the day can be found here.  Follow Skytop Strategies meetings calendar for the 2018 conference with the 21st Company thematic: https://skytopstrategies.com/

Themes of A New Era of Global Business Leadership: What Was Discussed at the Commit! Forum & the Sustainable Brands Conferences

By Matthew Novak, Sustainability Reports Data Analyst, G&A Institute

I recently attended two incredibly inspiring conferences: the CR Magazine Commit!Forum in Washington, D.C. and the Sustainable Brands New Metrics conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  This is my report on the two meetings.

The backdrop of these two popular, well-attended conferences was about moving passed the idea that businesses can only maximize shareholder profits, and moving into the new era that looks at companies as leaders in our global society, with the ability to move mountains.

With issues on the agenda ranging from climate change impacts to anti-discrimination policies, business leaders are using the tools available to them to make a positive change in the world. And this is more than a desire to do good (though, that is a noble goal, in itself); it’s also a better way to do business.

Combating climate change and taking into account the business risk climate change poses, for example, offers an opportunity for enhanced long-term viability and growth potential.  Here’s my update for you on the themes and conversations at the conferences.

The theme of Commit!Forum was “Brands Taking Stands.”

Being held in Washington, DC in 2017, politics was of course an inevitable part of the discussion. A lumber company with a workforce in large part made up of immigrant populations, discussed the decision to make a pointed pro-immigration Super Bowl 2017 commercial — in stark contrast to the current Presidential Administration’s immigration policies.

Following along with the example of football, the NFL protests, being only a week old at the time of the conference, were also talked about by a number of business leader speakers.

There was also an incredibly inspiring story from the CEO of Leidos, who discussed an email he received from an employee, discussing the employee’s son, who recently died from opioid overdose. That story moved the CEO to work with members of various levels of Maryland’s public sector to address the opioid epidemic.

Growing up, I always saw government, along with the non-profit sector, championing public service and making life better for all people. On the other hand, business “was just a place looking to sell products or services and maximize profits”. That concept has radically changed!

Regardless of the difference in political landscapes, business leaders are now looking at the world around them and thinking that business can be a driver of social and environmental change. Even through a strict business lens, this shift in attitude can help push societal change forward. For example, anti-discrimination policies are not just an ethical accomplishment; they can make employees feel welcome, which means the employees will want to come to work, increasing productivity.

The Sustainable Brands New Metrics conference conversations were equally invigorating. Being a confessed data nerd, the idea that businesses are using environmental and social data to make business decisions is quite inspiring to me.

With growing income inequality, increasing frequency of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and political movements that threaten the future of entire countries, using data and evidence-based thinking to drive change is incredibly important and a smart business move.

A major theme of the New Metrics conversations was not just about accessing data, but about utilizing good, reliable data that adequately both tells a narrative of a company — and paints a realistic portrait of the company’s environmental and social impact on the world.

Throughout New Metrics discussions, certain themes became readily apparent: the contextualization of sustainability goals, the importance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the movement of the financial markets toward incorporating environmental, social, and governance factors into investments.

These themes have a common thread: looking beyond single causes, and into contextualizing the systematic impacts and interconnectedness of the deeper issues.

Addressing these deeper issues, as well as mitigating future impacts, we must have and rely on the accessibility of adequate and relevant data.

But as discussed earlier, it’s not just about addressing these issues for the sake of society; it’s about increasing the long-term viability of the business.

And with that, having tangible end goals is necessary in creating benchmarks to be reached. For example, during New Metrics, there was talk of the 1.5 and 2 degree Celsius scenarios that have been discussed in literature, as well as in the Paris Climate Agreement.

While not ideal, it provides a realistic goal that businesses can utilize in their greenhouse gas reduction goals and renewable energy targets.

The way the business community is taking on these large-scale megatrends —  like climate change, environmental degradation, poverty levels, and social equality — is inspiring. While not combating these issues for purely altruistic desires, that does not mean that the result of moving literally trillions of dollars of capital toward a more sustainable future is any less of a worthwhile goal.

But, to repeat my own belief and that of the speakers at the conference:  behind the lofty aspirations, reliable, accessible, and contextualized data is required to achieve the future we seek to create.

High Water Women’s 2017 Investing For Impact Symposium

By Laura Malo –  Sustainability Reports Data Analyst, G&A Institute

On November 30th the High Water Women organization’s 5th Annual Investing for Impact Symposium in New York City drew a record crowd; I was pleased to attend as a G&A Institute representative (G&A was a sponsor of the event).

Background:  In 2005, High Water Women organization was founded by a group of senior women involved in the funding world and working for investing communities.

The concept was to advance ideas and principles that encouraged women employed in or planning to be part of the financial services sector.

Over the years since, HWW members have working at the mission and have achieving very encouraging results throughout different components of the capital markets.

Today, there are more than 3,500 members working in the financial services sector as well as in allied firms and organizations (such as non-profits and in public sector agencies).  This provides the organization with a large volunteer network collaborating to achieve justice and equity for women across both the investing and business communities.

The 2017 Symposium

At the symposium, a really complete and quite interesting agenda assembled by HWW brought together outstanding experts participating in panels and workshop sessions; I thought the speakers were highly qualified and outstanding thought leaders in their fields.

The day began with Valerie Rockefeller, board member of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund being interviewed by Debra Schwartz, Managing Director of Impact Investments, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Ms. Rockefeller presented powerful arguments about the role of females in investing activities.

This was followed by two plenary sessions, focused on “Taking Action: Removing Obstacles to Change,” and, “Fighting for a Better World: Women in Impact Investing.” These sessions brought into focus the crucial question:  Why should it be necessary to democratize the access to the impact investment field.

Investor/board member  Valerie Rockefeller and interviewer Debra Schwartz at HWW NYC Symposium 2017

Another session was focused on “Taking action — the key challenges that companies need to focus on:

  • Transparency
  • Risk reward
  • Insufficient diversity
  • Investing washing

…and how companies need to evolve to face the new challenges, such as adopting and using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in strategy and tactics.

Taking Action session: “Removing Obstacles to Change” with Susan Hammel, President, Cogent Consulting as session moderator.

For a breakout session I chose “Environmental and Climate,” where the discussion was focused on the environmental opportunity and climate risk into investment portfolios. The conversation  among participants was about the role of the corporation; the need for more specific standards and metrics for women;  the importance of creating non-biased investment portfolios; the specific of ESG approaches for analysis; and, the consequences of having the portfolio companies which don’t advocate for the environment protection.

Also discussed: the challenge of developing business models which contemplate climate change risk as one of the important considerations for company managements.

There were four afternoon breakout sessions and plenary sessions.

One featured Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, who was interviewed by Imogen Rose Smith, Investment Fellow, University of California. We also had two very informative panel sessions:: “Impact Investing in the New Age of Social Activism”; and, “Go Big or Go Home”, which was about the bold ideas driving impact investing today.

Fireside Chat with Governor Deval Patrick being interviewed by Imogen Rose-Smith

High Water Women is an organization for activists and thought leaders; they advocate for greater impact philanthropy.  The symposium attracts individuals, organizations and companies already involved in, or, seeking to explore the field of values-based investing.  This creates an ideal atmosphere for the networking all through the day. (Be sure to attend next year!)

The HWW grand ambitions made even more sense to me after attending the panel presented by Sara Brand, General Partner, True Wealth Ventures.

She shared critical data which makes for more understanding of the necessity in encouraging more women’s participation in financial issues in a more productive way — from the household unit to the board rooms in companies.

The data demonstrated that:

  • Women make 85% of the consumer purchasing decisions;
  • and 85% of healthcare decisions
  • We learned that companies with a female founder work 63% better than companies with an all-male founding board.

However, the current environment in the workplaces leaves women in second place in the business world.

  • Today, only a 1% of partners at firms making investment decisions are women;
  • and less than a 3% of the CEOs in USA are women.

These quantitative data sets are enough proof from the fact that markets should be assessed from a different perspective in which women play a more significant role.

Ms. Brand also talked about the problem and exposed solutions to fix it based on the endorsement of:

  • Women Entrepreneurs
  • Women General Partners
  • Women Limited Partners

Spotlight: Women Investors are the solution to the World’s problem, Sara Brand

The line up of brand name sponsors for the HWW event included: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, BlackRock, Deutsche Asset Management, KKR, Treehouse Investments, Trillium Asset Management, Calvert Investments, Columbia Threadneedle, Community Investment Management, Dalberg Global Development Advisors, Impax Asset Management, Microvest, oekom research, Tara Health Foundation, and Tideline.

For me as a first-time attendee, it was really inspiring to listen to achievers who are working at important foundations, investment firms and other organizations to develop more interest in impact investment programs – and to push companies forward for greater, faster change.

I heard about creating new business models leveraging the ESG approach to address challenges and opportunities and to support of diversity and gender empowerment that were breaking new ground..

Thanks to the current rise in the CSR strategies performance and the well-established networking of connectors, sustainers and factors, HWW provides women with the education needed and support required to overcome the societal obstacles — and to be able to strengthen the leadership of women in driving the emerging field of Impact Investment.

This brought to mind for me the words of the Mexican folk painter, Frida Kahio:  “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

AT THE NET IMPACT CONFERENCE 2017 – PATH TO PURPOSE

Guest Post by Laura Maio Yague, Sustainability Report Analyst, Governance & Accountability Institute

The Annual Net Impact Conference in the City of Atlanta, Georgia was held on October 26th, 27th and 28th of October and I was one of the fortunate ones to attend. This year was an exceptional event as the organization was celebrating its 25th anniversary under the banner of “Path to Purpose”.

Atlanta live tour

Atlanta welcomed us with an amazing tour “Atlanta Alive: Street Art & Social Justice Tour” during which we discovered the city art scene through its different neighborhoods.

At the same time, we learned and deepen more about its history, social movements and remarkable local figures of the Human Rights like The Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The city history of self-improvement of the city, dealing with racism and diverse social injustices made the tour the perfect starting point to get us ready for the immersion into the incredible experience that Net Impact 2017 had to offer.

“PATH TO PURPOSE” That was the main topic of this year’s annual gathering of Net Impact professionals and guest attendees.  The organizers wanted to make the audience think about what their purpose in life is, where to address the efforts and how to define our career.

The powerful idea of this year’s event was to bring together a large group of passionate students and young professionals from around the world to seek an innovative thinking to find solutions for the most pressing challenges of our time.

An intense and variety of sessions, panels, round-table discussions and activities were programmed for these three days to talk and address different issues about sustainability, environment, governance, social responsibility and social impact.

The sessions embraced topics from different fields and perspectives, ranging from technical to social aspects.   An example: Global Development, Corporate Impact, Food or Startups & Tech. The various panels targeted topics of interest for students and professionals alike. Students could participate in panels such as ‘Building Equity and Inclusion on Campus’ or sessions for One-on-One Coaching, with mentors and experimented professionals.

For those whose careers are taking off and were looking for encouragement, information on specific fields and advise, there were interesting panels which provided personal and professional guidance, such as Careers with Purpose: Building skills-based Volunteering into Any Organization, or ‘How to align Who You Are with What You Do.

The offer was very extensive, and I was really excited for attending many of the sessions.  Facing difficult choices, I finally decided to participate in the following panels:

  • Leading with the Triple Bottom line: Creating Shared Value Through Business’; this panel presented interesting stories and personal experiences of people driving CSR and sustainability forward in their companies.
  • The next wave of strategic Philanthropy and Impact investment’ analyzed the current solutions for companies to get the right financial support.

A few sessions related to food:

  • Farm to trash: Disrupting the Food Waste Epidemic
  • A Dialogue with Monsanto: Our Perspective on Food System For the Future.

Both of these sessions included activities bringing to our table a real case for which the audience was encouraged to find a sustainable solution.

  • NI17 Pitch Competition. I think this session reflected the real meaning and spirit of the conference. Young students presented ideas of either models or real businesses with a social impact. They upheld their work to convince the audience for a vote in order to get some economic resources to turn their dream into a real startup. It was a hopeful and vibrant moment.

In addition, each of the Keynote sessions united the whole audience in the big Auditorium with exceptional speakers sharing their personal experiences and stories.

Speakers shared with us how they built their impact projects related to fair trade, climate change solutions, human rights advocacy, all of them under the idea of following a purpose. They were very driven and motivating.

Derreck Kayongo presenting ‘The Global Soap Project’

I would like to make a special mention for Paul Hawken, Executive Director, Project Drawdown and Derreck Kayongo, CEO, National Center for Civil and Human Rights, for their encouraging and inspiring speeches. It is also remarkable a common point of all the speakers: their positive and resilience attitude to undertake challenges and problems in life.

Paul Hawken, presenting Project Drawdown

World of Coca-Cola Art Gallery

There was also free time to enjoy the city and its tourist attractions, such as the welcome party at the World of Coca-Cola and the Aquarium Sips Under the Sea Party.  Those were enjoyable and  really fun places which provided a cordial and relaxed climate for networking and continue meeting interesting people with common concerns and similar objectives.

Georgia Aquarium

There was a special atmosphere around the whole conference. Net Impact is the right place to elevate and bolster your career. This opportunity to share experiences with a multidisciplinary group of people with similar goals is really motivating.

Through the sessions you are able to do networking, acquire knowledge and discover new fields. It is a very enriching and fulfilling experience. I would highly recommend to anyone whose purpose is to build a society that is sustainable, equitable and fair for all. This is a good place to start to take action.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the Net Impact Conference:  Governance & Accountability Research Analysts Laura at Left Mola Yague (left) and Cher Xue (right).

Laura Malo Yague was graduated from Escuela de Ingenieria y Arquitectura de la Universad de Zaragoza in Industrial Technical Engineering, Industrial Electronics with Diploma in Business Management from IE (Spain).  She recently finished an Advanced Diploma at New York University, in Monitoring and Evaluation (project management for the United Nations, governments and not-for-profits).  Laura is a Corporate Reporting Analyst with G&A Institute.

The 2017 Net Impact Conference – Finding Your Path to Purpose

Guest Post by Cher Xue, Sustainability Report Analyst, Governance & Accountability Institute

The 2017 Net Impact Conference was held in Atlanta, GA, from October 26-28, 2017. The conference gathered about 2,000 students and young professionals who are committed to making a positive and lasting social and environmental impact throughout their careers.

Net Impact, headquartered in Oakland, California, is a leading global nonprofit, a global community with over 100,000 strong leaders and 300 chapters. Members are well equipped with the vital skills, experience and connections to people that will allow them to have the greatest impact — and turn their passions into a lifetime of world-changing action.

This year’s conference theme was “Path to Purpose” — and this resonated well in every session of the conference. To meet attendees’ different needs and interests, the conference offered more than 60 breakout sessions for professionals, students and faculties; these sessions are in the form of boot camps, panels and workshops.

The conference content covered a variety of different topics, including civic engagement, corporate impact, environment, equity, food, global development, social entrepreneurship, and startups & Tech. The conference also featured career advancement opportunities by organizing the on-site Expo, group mentoring and one-on-one career coaching.

One panel entitled, Leading with the Triple Bottom Line: Creating Shared Value Through Business, brought together people driving CSR and sustainability forward in their companies.

The panelists were:

  • Michael Oxman, the Managing Director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainability Business at Scheller College of Business, Georgia Tech;
  • Suzanne Fallender, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Intel;
  • Jami Buck-Vance, Director of Corporate Responsibility & Community Partnerships at Cox Enterprises; and,
  • Bruce Karas, V.P. of Environment & Sustainability at Coca-Cola North America Group.

This panel discussed details of both the challenges and solutions for corporate in social and environmental impact. The panelists shared their experience in what it takes to integrate impact metrics and values across the company. Young professionals, students, and people who would like to contribute to sustainability in their own companies found great advice for them to carry their work in the future.

Another panel –  Navigating the Clean Energy Transition  — featured:

  • Marilyn Brown, Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology;
  • Lee Ballin, Head of Sustainable Business Programs at Bloomberg;
  • John Federovitch, Senior Director of Renewable Energy & Efficiency at Walmart; and
  • Jim Hanna, Director of Datacenter Sustainability at Microsoft.

The panelists talked about how we could change the energy landscape from dependency on fossil fuels to cleaner options in an economically feasible and environmentally conscious way.

As the private sector plays a leading role in energy consumption, John Federovitch and Jim Hanna (from Walmart and Microsoft) shared their views on navigating the clean energy transition, the challenges, and future trends in Clean Energy.

Opening party at the World of Coca-Cola

In addition to panels and workshops, this year, in honor of the Net Impact’s 25th anniversary, the conference added more local networking events and excursions throughout the weekend for attendees to explore Atlanta. These included an opening party at the World of Coca-Cola, a visit to the Civil & Human Rights Museum, the panda enclosure at Atlanta Zoo, and a tour of the city’s “living walls project”.

The Atlanta city tour of street art and social justice allowed attendees to be immersed in its vibrant culture, socially conscious communities and southern charm.

Reception at the Georgia Aquarium

Atlanta is a thriving city with a history of social movements, and is the birthplace for one of the greatest Civil Rights icons, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The history of this southern city and national events influenced artists who create art in public space throughout the city with over 100 outdoor murals. The 4-hour long bus tour experience not only added welcome fun to the conference, but also allowed attendees to explore sections of town that use art as an identifier of their community, and examine how art was used to present powerful and thought-provoking messages.

Atlanta Alive: Street Art & Social Justice Tour

I found the three-day Net Impact conference in Atlanta to be a really wonderful gathering of the brightest, most enthusiastic and innovative change agents from all over the world. My participation allowed me to gain rich experience in all aspects, as well as tangible skills and actionable insights.  I am sure that participants came away feeling that the conference helped them to map out their Path to Purpose — to turn their passion into a purposeful career!

Qier “Cher” Xue is a recent graduate of Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment.  She majored in Environmental Management with concentration in Energy.  She also earned a Certificate in Sustainable System Analysis, and worked as student consultant at Lenovo.  Her interests are in renewable energy, supply chain management and sustainability.  She’s a grad of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with Distinction Cum Laude Honors in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management (B.S.).  G&A Institute is proud to have her working as Sustainable Reporting Analyst.