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

by Hank Boerner, Chairman & Chief StrategistG&A Institute

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

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

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

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

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

The message points for signatories of all stripes are:

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

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

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

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

These players agree that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Brief Selection of Bold Names for Your Reference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Stories This Week…

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

82% of the S&P 500® Published a Sustainability Report in 2016 – Analysis Just Released on the Index Universe of Leading Companies

Everyone in the investing world and the corporate suite knows of the importance of the S&P 500 Index®; it’s the intellectual property of the S&P Dow Jones Indices unit of S&P Global and is the widely used benchmark by which asset managers track their performance (against the index performance).

Many investments are benchmarked to the index – almost a total of US$8 trillion, in fact.  The index is made up of 500 leading (large-cap) public companies and represents roughly 80% of the total market capitalization of these enterprises.   The index was launched 60 years ago (in March 1957).

Investopedia explains that the index covers the majority of the US economy and is considered by experts to be a highly reliable indicator of overall stock market performance. The index managers select corporate stocks to be in the index by a number of factors, according to liquidity, market size and industry category; and, the company included represents a proportion of the portfolio.  There are small changes year-to-year in the index as companies are selected in and dropped from inclusion.

The G&A Institute team in carefully tracking the increasing embrace of sustainability by US companies, and the reporting on the “sustainability journey” by these large-cap public companies began analyzing the S&P 500 companies’ disclosure and structured reporting on sustainability (and related terms, such as corporate responsibility, environmental update, corporate citizenship, and others).

Our first analysis was shared publicly in 2011, for the results of year 2010 company reporting.  We found that just about 20% or one-in-five of the S&P 500 universe was publishing a sustainability report in some form.  That became our baseline.  The 2012 reporting analysis revealed a dramatic increase — more than half of the companies were then reporting (the tally was 53%).

The number increased considerably in 2013 to 73% and then 75% the following year.  By 2015 the tally was 81% (eight of 10 companies in the index) and now we have year 2016 results — holding steady at 82%.  We share the news broadly in our Flash Report at the conclusion of the analysis — that’s our Top Story for you this week.

Our analysis includes identifying GICS sector reporting (financials, health care, energy, etc.), and the increase year-to-year where that occurs within a sector.

G&A’s EVP Louis Coppola has been the architect of the S&P 500 analysis, with the careful analytical work done by successive teams of outstanding intern-analysts over the years.  This year’s team includes Alvis Yuen, team leader who has worked on the annual analysis for several years now; and team members Amanda Hoster, Elizabeth Peterson, Juliet Russell, Alan Stautz, Yangshengjing “UB” Qiu, and Olivia (Sihui) Wang.  We thank these outstanding professionals for their dedication and hard work completing the analysis.

The investment community takes a close look at the G&A Institute research and each year reaches out to the non-reporters (a shrinking base, we’re happy to say) for engagement, and often, targets for filing shareholder resolutions to encourage the start of reporting on the corporate sustainability efforts. (In many cases for the holdouts, there are no such efforts underway — and so, no reports!)

You’ll find more details about the 2017 work (examining 2016 reporting results) in our Flash Report.  Do send us an email if you have questions about the exercise if you would like to have more information.

Read more at:

FLASH REPORT: 82% of the S&P 500 Companies Published Corporate Sustainability Reports in 2016
(Wednesday – May 31, 2017)
Source: Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.  – In the sixth annual monitoring and analysis of S&P 500 Index® company sustainability reporting, just completed by the Governance & Accountability Institute research team, the findings are that eighty-two percent (82%) of the companies included in this important investment benchmark published a sustainability or corporate responsibility report in the year 2016.

The S&P Index is one of the most widely-followed barometers of the US economy, and conditions for large-cap public companies in the capital markets.

To put this in context, in charting prior years reporting, G&A found that:

  • in the year 2011, just under 20% of S&P 500 companies had reported on their sustainability, corporate social responsibility, ESG performance and related topics & issues;
  • in 2012, 53% (for the first time a majority) of S&P 500 companies were reporting;
  • by 2013, 72% were reporting — that is 7-out-of-10 of all companies in the popular benchmark;
  • in 2014, 75% of the S&P 500 were publishing reports;
  • in 2015, 81% of the total companies were reporting;
  • in 2016, 82% signals a steady embrace by large-cap companies of sustainability reporting.

Preparing Professionals for Career Focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability and Sustainable & Responsible Investing

Important elements of the Governance & Accountability Institute mission is to share knowledge, perspectives and information about the opportunities in corporate responsibility, including career paths to success, and to do the same for men and women interested in sharpening their focus in the financial community, with the continuing embrace of ESG approaches by investment firms of all types (“sustainable investing”).

We partner with outstanding academic centers to present structured courses for the introduction to the relevant issues and processes by best-in-class faculty who bring their real-world experience to the courses.

Two current examples:  Our just-completed “CSR Certificate” two-day course in partnership with Rutgers Institute for Ethical Leadership (IEL) at the Rutgers University Business School in Newark, New Jersey.  We had a wonderful line up of presenters from the corporate world (Prudential, Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield, PepsiCo, Pirelli Tires, Johnson & Johnson), from ESG service providers (CSR Hub, Futerra, Ethisphere Institute, EcoVadis, Hansen Philanthropic Solutions), global ESG standard setters (CDP), investment management firms (Cornerstone Capital), academics (Rutgers IEL, Rutgers University), and UN multilateral organizations (UNGC, UN PRI).  A hearty “thank you” to our great faculty and our latest group of students.

We’ll present this popular course again in the Fall — stay tuned for “save-the-date” announcements as G&A and Rutgers IEL share information about the next upcoming course.

Coming Up
On Thursday, June 15th, we are presenting our “Intro to ESG, Sustainable & Impact Investing Training,” hosted at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College/CUNY in midtown Manhattan, presented by G&A Institute and Global Change Associates. This one-day training program is in response to the growing demand for sustainable impact investment education by asset owners, asset management, financial analysts and others in the finance community.  This is a full day of lectures by outstanding speakers who are practitioners in the field, sharing their knowledge to bring participants up to speed on ESG / sustainable investing best practices, research, data providers and methodologies. At the end of the program, participants will receive a certificate of completion.

We’ll be sharing news about this learning opportunity with you in the days ahead.

To register, and find out more information visit:  http://bit.ly/Intro2ESG

G&A Institute in partnership with IntegTree’s Dr. Nitish Singh provides convenient on-line education for professionals — “Certification in Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Strategies.”  The courseware provides a broad overview to equip professionals with cutting-edge sustainability skills that companies need to thrive in the rapidly expanding, global “green economy.”  There is information for you at: http://bit.ly/CRSScertf

Are you interested in participating in these learning and knowledge-sharing opportunities in some way?  Please contact Louis Coppola at lcoppola@ga-institute.com — let’s have a conversation.

The path to a rewarding sustainability career
(Tuesday – May 16, 2017)
Source: Eco-Business – Four young professionals from around the world share how their choice of a postgraduate sustainability programme paved the way to a rewarding and meaningful career in the sector.

Cuppa Joe? Many of us love our morning coffee (“the Joe”), but we should think more about growers at the source…

Ah, that morning coffee — so delicious for many of us.  The products of the “coffee belt,” encircling the globe just north and south of the Equator, are made from a valuable commodity — the coffee bean. Harvesting those is a US$100 billion annual commodity, writer Jodyn Cormier tells us on the Care2 web platform, second only to the value of the oil market.  And yet…she writes that the average coffee farmer gets $1,000 per season for his/her work.

That, Cormier concludes, makes coffee an industry that is inherently unbalanced and unfair.  And then the writer focuses on Vega Coffee (Nicaragua), a “subscription-based” coffee company that helps farmers pick, process, package, and ship quality beans direct to customers.  The customer gets the coffee within 5 days of roasting, “direct from farmers’ hands to theirs.”

The company’s founder explains how this differs from many parts of the traditional value chain in reaching developed nation coffee consumers:  The family farmer typically sells beans to a cooperative, which sells to another or larger cooperative, and then it’s to an exporter, then to a roaster (the importer), then to a coffee distributor, and on to a roaster wanting Nicaraguan coffee…and then through middlemen to retail outlets…to customer.

The Vega firm has a roastery in Nicaragua, and local farmers are involved in the roasting process, packaging the goods for export to the USA (every two weeks).  Farmer-to-roastery-to shipment to US customer.  And women are encouraged to get involved in the usually male-dominated cultivation activities.

And what about climate change?  The views from the coffee belt in Nicaragua are shared in the top story (below) as well as many other fascinating views.  Conclusion:  Vega believes people (read: we coffee consumers) should not have to trade quality for sustainability.  And they are showing how it can be done.

Author Jordyn Cormier is a Boston-based freelance writer and “avid outdoors woman.” The Care2 web platform is known for its “member petitions” resources, such as saving the rainforest and protesting President Trump’s offshore oil drilling agenda.

Should You Have to Choose Between Good Coffee and Sustainability?
(Monday – April 17, 2017)
Source: Care 2 – Coffee as a commodity is worth $100 billion worldwide—second only to oil. And yet, the average coffee farmer makes a paltry $1000 per season (which is about $3/day), and that’s without taking into consideration drought or disease…

Cradle-to-Cradle Case History: Shaw Industries

Guest Commentary by Jennifer Moore – at the Conference Board

Content originally prepared for Certification in Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Strategies – on-line courseware by G&A Institute **

The early 21st century ushered in a new wave of heightened concern about resource scarcity and climate change. Consequently, consumers have been more concerned about the sustainability of the products they purchase and the effects they are having on the environment.

Businesses have also taken on the challenge of incorporating sustainability strategies into their business models. Many more companies are now integrating sustainability practices through product stewardship and their R&D activities.

These companies are focusing on life cycle assessments of their products and are aiming to achieve Cradle-to-Cradle status. As defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Cradle-to- Cradle school of thought is an important branch within the circular economy concept.

Cradle-to-Cradle focuses on products that have a positive impact and reduce the negative impacts on commerce through production efficiency (see footnote 1).

Cradle-to-Cradle and circular economy goes beyond the “reduce, reuse, recycle” campaign of the late Twentieth Century to focus more on the design and production of products, rather than on consumption by the consumer.

The authoritative work, “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things”,  authored by Michael Braungart and William McDonough called for a new era of production, wherein, companies should be focusing more on “doing more good,” rather than “doing less bad.”

The goal and focus should be on the end of the product’s lifecycle, and whether it will either be safely re-entered into the environment — or be recycled back into production.

Cradle-to-Cradle aims to achieve three things: (1) eliminate the concept of waste, (2) power with renewable energy, and (3) respect human and natural systems. (2)

This concept argues that resource consumption and economic growth should not be isolated from each other. In fact, they often go hand-in-hand. (3)

The private sector is not siloed; it has been highly influenced by the public sector and discussion forums. Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), driven by public demand, have advocated for the advancement of a circular economy. The World Economic Forum, Oxfam International and the United Nations in particular have been vocal about transitioning to a circular economy.

Also, the emphasis of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) released in 2016 by the United Nations is on developing a more circular economy and seeking to implement sustainable development across the UN member states. (4)

While the SDGs are driven by politics and protecting human rights, the goals cannot be achieved without businesses and were developed with input from the private sector. There is business value for companies to align their strategy with the SDGs. (5)

Many companies have recognized the benefits of aligning their goals with the SGDs and the relationship between resource consumption and economic growth.

Consumers are now expecting companies to provide products that are eco-friendly and reduce resource waste. According to a survey conducted by Nielsen in 2014, “55 percent of on-line consumers indicated they were willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact, an increase from 50% in 2010 and 45% in 2011.” (6)

The Business Community’s Embrace of Cradle-to-Cradle

Businesses across all industries are now developing their product stewardship products to meet these consumer demands. Companies cite “customer demand for solutions that address global sustainability challenges, such as climate change and resource scarcity” as primary drivers of sustainable product initiatives. (7)

For example, 3M is striving for 40 per cent of their new products to be sustainable and Kimberly-Clark is developing solutions for used diapers. One exemplary model of sustainable product stewardship is Shaw Industries’ dedication to Cradle-to-Cradle.

The Shaw Industry Model

Shaw Industries is the largest producer of carpet tile in North America. While carpet tiles can have a lifespan of 10-to-25 years, commercial owners and tenants often update their facilities more frequently than that to reflect contemporary trends, resulting in a high-waste industry.

Historically, when the time came for flooring to be removed from businesses, schools, retailers, hospitals and other properties – whether for wear-and-tear or aesthetics, it was sent to landfills.

Recognizing the opportunity to create a better solution for customers and to create a product that would help advance toward a more circular economy, Shaw developed EcoWorx-backed carpet tile, which it introduced in 2008 and continues to optimize for sustainability performance.

The world’s first Cradle-to-Cradle Certified carpet tile — EcoWorx — was designed for reuse. To create a carpet tile that could be infinitely recycled with no loss of quality meant removing PVC, phthalates and other chemicals. As a result of its meticulous design process, Shaw understands what’s in its EcoWorx products and, therefore, what’s going into the next generation of its products.

Today, with 16 years and more than 3 billion square feet of EcoWorx installed, Shaw continues to optimize the product’s performance in alignment with Cradle-to-Cradle criteria – material health, material reutilization, energy, water and social responsibility.

Most recently, Shaw worked with one of its suppliers to remove an ingredient from its latex that was added to the list of banned chemicals within version 3 of the Cradle-to-Cradle Certified Products Program Standard.

Further, the company employs sustainable manufacturing practices – making efficient use of materials and natural resources, using alternative and renewable energy sources when possible, and designing and operating its facilities and manufacturing processes in accordance with widely recognized sustainability and safety standards.

It completes the sustainable manufacturing process by delivering its products using the most efficient mode of transportation feasible while meeting customer deadlines.

Shaw has committed itself to embracing Cradle-to-Cradle practices and has lead the way in carpet reclamation in the flooring industry. Today, 65 percent of its products – commercial and residential – are Cradle-to-Cradle Certified, with a goal of designing 100% to Cradle-to-Cradle principles by 2030.

Not only is Shaw committed to upcycling within its own operations, it also looks for opportunities in other industries.

For example, the company converts plastic drink bottles into residential carpet through a joint venture with DAK Americas: The Clear Path Recycling Center in Fayetteville, NC produces 100 million pounds of clear flake each year, recycling approximately three billion plastic drink bottles annually.

Furthermore, in 2016 alone, Shaw supplied more than 200 million pounds of post-industrial waste to other businesses for a variety of recycled content needs. For instance, the wood flour – waste fiber from hardwood flooring operations – is used by a major producer of composite decking and the minimal waste from its resilient manufacturing facility is used to make garden hoses.

The Future for Cradle-to-Cradle in Industry

Today, sustainable leadership companies, like Shaw, can strive to achieve cradle-to-cradle production through the certified program by the Cradle-to-Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

The Institute examines certifiable products in five (5) quality categories – (1) material health, (2) material reutilization, (3) renewable energy and carbon management, (4) water stewardship, and (5) social fairness. (Footnote 8)

Sustainability managers must partner with their design and strategy teams to develop sustainable solutions to the products and services their company offers. Not only are these products essential ecologically and socially, they are also drivers of revenue growth.

If managers are concerned about getting [internal] corporate buy-in to fund ESG R&D, they are able to present the business case of how other companies — especially like Shaw Industries with the illustrations here in this case study — have seen Cradle-to-Cradle’s positive impact on their revenue. (9)

According to The Conference Board, “revenues from sustainable products and services grew at six times the rate of overall company revenues.”

In order to address Earth’s ecological crisis, companies must lead the way by ensuring they are designing eco-friendly products and services that respects the finite resources available on the planet. Sustainability managers can look to Shaw as one company that is leading by example.

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Jennifer Moore is Manager, Executive Programs, Sustainability & EHS at the Conference Board. She engages with senior executives from Fortune 250 companies to understand their needs and help solve their business issues. She oversees and executes all aspects of 15 roundtables per year.

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**  Information about the G&A Institute on-line course:

http://learning.ga-institute.com/courses/course-v1:GovernanceandAccountabilityInstitute+CCRSS+2016/about

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Footnotes:

(1) Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Cradle to Cradle in a Circular Economy – Products and Systems. Retrieved March 5, 2017. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/schools-of-thought/cradle2cradle

(2)  Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Cradle to Cradle in a Circular Economy – Products and Systems. Retrieved March 5, 2017. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/schools-of-thought/cradle2cradle

(3) Strahel, W. (2015). The Performance Economy. Palgrave MacMillan: 2006

(4) United Nations. United Nations Economic and Social Council. Millennium Development Goals and post-2015. Development Agenda. Retrieved March 5, 2017. http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/about/mdg.shtml.

(5)  Yosie, T. Is There Business Value in the UN Sustainable Development Goals? Retrieved March 5, 2017. http://tcbblogs.org/givingthoughts/2017/02/07/is-there-business-value-in-the-un-sustainable-development-goals/#sthash.L0MLUAN7.xHIHNvHZ.dpbs

(6) Singer, T. Driving Revenue Growth Through Sustainable Products and Services. New York: The Conference Board, 2015. p. 17.

(7) Singer, T. Driving Revenue Growth Through Sustainable Products and Services. New York: The Conference Board, 2015. p. 8.

(8)  C2C Product Certification Overview – Get Certified – Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Retrieved March 5, 2017. http://www.c2ccertified.org/get-certified/product-certification

(9)  Singer, T. Driving Revenue Growth Through Sustainable Products and Services. New York: The Conference Board, 2015. p. 6.

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In 2017 the G&A Institute Team Celebrates the Company’s 10th Anniversary — and Editor-in-Chief Ken Cynar’s Continuing Efforts to Keep You Well Informed

In 2017, the G&A Institute team is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of our corporate sustainability consulting, counseling, advice and research firm.  Many of us at G&A worked together in a prominent issues and crisis management consulting practice serving the Fortune 100 companies and many prominent multi-national businesses.  Our former firm was acquired and the business was being wound down.  And so, literally, in a garage with office space, G&A was launched.

Our mission includes sharing information and working to inform and educate managers in the corporate sector, and in the investment community, about the rising importance of corporate sustainability, corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, and the increasing focus by investors on all of this.

Over time the preferred approach of combining corporate environmental management factors, the addressing of social or societal concerns, and adopting more effective and investor-responsive corporate governance by public companies — the critical “ESG” factors — included many issues and trend that were familiar to us.  As a team, we had worked on these issue sets for many years as we counseled large company managements.

Our first activity as we got underway was the launch of our Accountability Central web platform.  Our colleague Ken Cynar organized the task, setting up his systems for scouring traditional and other media for “sustainability,” “responsibility,” “ESG” and related news, commentary and research results.  Very early in the morning, Ken would scour to find (literally back then) a handful of content to share with our growing audience.

Ten years on, Ken (our Editor-in-Chief) is at the top of his game. This is our 341st weekly issue of the newsletter.  This week he shared with our readers more than 100 articles, all selected by hand, scanning some 1,000 (!) items every week.  A typical week, says Ken, modestly.

Ken joined our team after a distinguished career in government service almost 20 years ago.  He brings you news and more from “everywhere,” in that he has done his scanning, selection and “posting” from such locales as the Czech Republic (his most recent trip), Germany, Italy, France, and various places around North America.

Ken’s selections continue to populate our Accountability Central website; our SustainabilityHQ news selections, and of course, this newsletter.  To Ken, our team member 10 years in — thank you, and well done!

Ken’s selection for you as Top Story this week is a very interesting read.  The panel convened in Singapore was supposed to talk about “Will Businesses Drive the SDGs?” — but quickly veered into a discussion about the financial markets, not rewarding companies for improving their ESG performance…and so the SDG goals cannot be met.  This turned out to be a very controversial dialogue — one you’ll want to tune in to. Many companies are mentioned as the conversation continued and points were made pro and con about sustainability issues and topics.

Speaking of SDGs, G&A has developed an “SDG Alignment Analysis and Strategic Advice” service offering to help companies leverage and align with the SDGs to maximize the impact and value of their corporate sustainability journey and sustainability reporting.  Find out more here.

Top Story

Do financial markets care about sustainability?
(Tuesday – March 07, 2017)
Source: Eco-Business – Razzouk threw this grenade at an audience of sustainability professionals last month, suggesting that as the market does not reward companies for improving their environmental and social performance, the UN’s Sustainable…

How Valuable is Your Brand — and What Are You Doing to Enhance the Brand Through Your Company’s Sustainability Journey?

And how much value might your enterprise be “losing” in untapped brand value? Hmmm…

Some of the most popular — and valuable — brands in the world are housed under the big umbrella of Unilever (and consider that the Anglo-Dutch parent company name itself is a valuable brand).  Think Unilever brands: Dove (soap); Hellmanns (mayo); Lipton(tea); Breyer’s (ice cream); and Ben & Jerry’s (one of the great pioneers in CSR and purveyors of iconic ice creams).

In results announced in January, Unilever said its sponsored international survey results revealed these top lines:  (1) today a third of consumers are buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact; and (2) there’s a billion Euros opportunity now for brands that make their sustainability credentials more clear to the marketplace.

The company said in announcing results:  “As well as confirming the public’s high expectations of brands when it comes to having a positive social and environmental impact, the study’s findings uncover an unprecedented opportunity for companies to get it right.  More than one-in-five people surveyed said they would actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials clearer packaging and in marketing.”

This represents a potential untapped opportunity of almost one trillion Euros out of a 2.5 trillion euro total market for sustainable goods.  Wow!

Looking at this, Jake Dubbins, savvy CEO of the London-based media/ad firm, Media Bounty, was moved by the results to offer his own views on “brands, and the multinational companies that own most of them.”   He looks at the actions of Unilever, Tesla, The Body Shop, Energizer, and other brand marketers.

Says Dubbins: “…there’s a huge shift taking place…effectively positioning your brand as sustainable…you’ll be well placed to tap into the emerging  markets across the globe who are now leading the way in sustainability…”

Jake offers us more of his expert perspectives on why the most “sustainable” brands enjoy clear competitive advantage (and “top tips for success”) in his post on The Drum.

That’s our Top Story for you this week:

Research for Unilever shows that brands are missing out on £820 billion by not pushing sustainability
(Tuesday – February 21, 2017)
Source: The Drum – What defines sustainable? How sustainable is your brand? In short, does your brand actually have permission to ‘push’ sustainability?

Doing the Right Things in Business — Making the Business Case – Making the Financial Case — Also Incorporating the Moral Case?

It’s an age-old topic of discussion:  Where in American business do the issues of morality, ethical behaviors, and “fair and equitable” fit in?  Andrew Winston, author of the best-selling “Green to Gold,” explores the topic (“morality”) in an essay on Sustainable Brands’ “New Metrics” web platform.

Morality:  moralizing; degree of conforming to moral principles.  So — in exploring the subject of morality in business, Andrew Winston thinks managers should crank the “moral” arguments into making-the-business case-for-corporate-sustainability discussions.  Making-the-financial-case (“investors want to know…”) is occurring more frequently now with many more mainstream investors focused on the firm’s ESG performance and the sustainability journey of especially large-cap enterprises.

“This is the right thing to do…” may be the persuasive argument in making the business case to decision-makers.  The moral positions of companies and their leaders are facing greater scrutiny now, says Winston.  Will companies defend LGBT rights — or protect immigrant employees?  Will they publicly argue for greater attention and action on climate change issues?  (It’s the right thing to do, many of you, dear readers, will agree.)

In our Top Story, author Andrew Winston sets out four “buckets” of arguments as to how the initiatives companies pursue create value — and three “mainstream” arguments (have some element of making-the-business-case, such as “short-term financial wins”).  The fourth argument — improve the shared commons —  and is it time to broaden how we talk about sustainability and bring in a moral dimension.

The traditional business case is still critical – but broadening the arguments in making the sustainability business case has Winston wondering if a combined logic or “good for business” and “good for the soul” will work.  He welcomes your thoughts after reading the essay.

Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. is now in the 10th year of operations.  When we founded G&A back in 2007, we adopted the tagline:  Helping our clients do the right things for the right reasons.  That’s guided us to 2017 and benefited many of our corporate clients and our partners-in-progress.

Is it Time to Add Morality to the Business Case for Sustainability?
(Monday – February 06, 2017)
Source: Sustainable Brands – Every manager (or consultant) who has pitched an initiative under the banner of “sustainability” has faced the same question nearly every time: What’s the business case?

The Best Intentions of C-Suite On Corporate Sustainability — Results in Are In With Sharing of Bain & Co Survey

This is not encouraging: the respected management consulting company Bain & Company surveyed the leaders of 300 companies engaged in “sustainability transformation” and conducted interviews with heads of sustainability recognized for outstanding results.

The question: What are the results of instituting sustainability as a top priority? The answer: Alas, not really encouraging for stakeholders, says Bain & Company. There’s an important “but” here with tips for CEOs and C-suite on how to overcome the odds of losing forward momentum in corporate sustainability efforts.

The management consulting firm published the results of its research in: “Achieving Breakthrough Results in Sustainability.” This effort found that for the 300 companies, only two percent (2%) of their corporate sustainability programs achieved or exceeded their aims when compared to the companies’ other transformation programs (which had a 12% success rate). There are “change traps” that keep companies from reaching their goals.

Key quote: “Too often, sustainability gets stuck in first gear, while the need for change is accelerating,” said Jenny Davis-Peccoud, who leads Bain’s Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility practice. “Once companies learn to navigate common roadblocks, they open the door to a transformational journey and the potential to leave a legacy,prompting companies to redefine what it means to be a leader in their industry.”

We see this in our analysis of corporate sustainability reporting as the Global Reporting Initiative data partners for the United States, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. The corporate leaders in sustainability have made “the journey” an integral part of strategy-setting, operations, marketing, employee motivation, stakeholder (including investor) engagement, and incentivizing internal behaviors. The “leaders” and “laggards” in sectors and industry categories self-identify through their reporting on achieved progress (and stalled progress is also apparent).

For 2016 our analysts reviewed more than 1,500 corporate sustainability / responsibility / environmental progress / citizenship reports published by companies and databased key characteristics, data sets, achievements, and more. This intelligence is leveraged in our client services, shared research and teaching programs.

One of the issues Bain found in its survey effort and conversations with managers is that the rank and file employees do not see sustainability as a business imperative — even though those at the top of the organization understand that enhancing the firm’s “public reputation” is a key driver for sustainability change. Two important factors emerged from the Bain effort: Less than 1/4 of the firms surveyed said employees were held accountable for sustainability through incentives; and, there was a lack of resources as well as competing priorities to deal with.

G&A Institute analysts look for the winning characteristics that overcome these obstacles in their report analysis. G&A has designed a series of tools and services to help companies engage more effectively with their employees on sustainability goals and initiatives that is proving to be very successful among our clients. Please let us know if you’d like to set up a call to discuss how we can help your company.

Among the four tips for CEOs and corporate leadership from Bain: “Highlight the Business Case.” (Helping to make the case: for brand marketers, those with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability grew four times faster than their peers in 2015, according to the Nielsen Global Corporate Responsibility Report.)

There’s more in the Top Story this week, along with information on requesting a copy of the report from Bain & Company. Inc.

Corner Office Sustainability Passions Get Trapped at the Top: Why 98 Percent of Companies Do Not Achieve Their Sustainability Goals
(Wednesday – January 25, 2017)
Source: CSRWire – A new report from investment leader and management consultants Bain & Company — “Achieving Breakthrough Results in Sustainability” — finds that only 2 percent of corporate sustainability programs achieve or exceed their aims, compared to 12 percent of other corporate…