High Water Women’s 2017 Investing For Impact Symposium

By Laura Malo –  GRI reporting 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.

 

All Together Now — Industries, Sectors & Professional Groups See Collective Efforts As The Way Forward for Managing Sustainability Issues

There is encouraging news as corporate executives, managers and a range of professionals get together to address the risks and opportunities inherent in sustainability matters that could affect a particular industry, sector or profession.   And, how with collective industry effort these challenges might be addressed.

Example:  Landscape architects gathered in Los Angeles to discuss designing (the heart of their work) in the era of challenges posted by climate change and global warming.  Consider that perhaps 70% of the Year 2050 global population will be living in urban areas.  And so, urban landscapes will need to (1) accommodate and support the greatly expanded population and (2) addressing the changing climate conditions that will complicate their work.

There is a video (2:29 minutes) posted with the report.  The graphic depictions of possible solutions with to climate change with experts’ narratives about the challenges are interesting to view.  Thought provoking.

Other examples are in three stories below. The vinyl and apparel industries efforts are highlighted, and we also provide a link to the text of a speech by the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands on the global need for new business models and consumption cycle.

All together now…forward!

Top Stories This Week…

Architects shape future cities for sustainability at LA gathering
(Monday – October 23, 2017)
Source: aljazeera.com – In Los Angeles, landscape architects have gathered to focus on sustainability and designing for an era of global warming and climate change at the 2017 American landscape architects conference.   with 3 minute video  materials (concrete) landscapes…

Changes Ahead for Corporate Sustainability Reporting

This is a guest post by our colleague-in-sustainability, Jane DeLorenzo.  She recently completed the on-line Certificate in Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Strategies.  The platform is hosted by G&A Institute and developed in partnership with IntegTree LLC. This is a dual credentials course!  A certificate is issued by Swain Center for Executive & Professional Education at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and a separate certification is issued by G&A Institute.  This commentary is prepared as part of the completion of the coursework.  We are sharing it today to broaden understanding of the state-of-sustainability reporting – present and future.  Find out more about the dual certificate program here.

By Jane DeLorenzo  October 27, 2017

Now is the time for businesses and other organizations to take a closer look at their sustainability reporting; key considerations are what they report, why, how and which standards to use.

New standards released by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) will take effect July 1, 2018 — so the clock is ticking.

As more global companies produce sustainability reports, the process has become more complex. Competing standards and frameworks, increasing pressures from investors and other stakeholders, and the costs and resources involved to develop such reports can be challenging – and baffling to leaders.

While GRI is positioning and advocating to be the de facto global reporting standard, companies can select other frameworks, such as those of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) or the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC).

There are important factors to consider. Organizations can opt for an integrated report that includes both financial and sustainability information, or they can issue a sustainability report that is separate from the annual financial report.

Producing no sustainability report is also an option, since all three of these standards are voluntary in the United States and most other countries. Companies should be aware, though, that stakeholders may cry foul if no report is produced.

What’s a company to do?

The Continued Evolution of Reporting

Sustainability reports tell the story of an organization’s impacts on economic, environmental and social issues. Many corporations began to examine their non-financial impacts following the environmental and social movements of the 1970s in Europe and the United States.[i]

Public outcry due to rising awareness of pollution and social inequities pushed companies to try to be more transparent. Shareowners were making the case that non-financial issues can and do impact a firm’s financial performance.

In the U.S., for example, emissions data reporting was spurred by Right-to-Know legislation and rules in 1986 that required accountability from companies that were releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.[ii]

Demand for environmental and social disclosures led to the formation of GRI in 1997 by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (now known as CERES) and the nonprofit Tellus Institute, both based in Boston. GRI later partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which had been promoting voluntary environmental reporting by companies and industry groups.

At a ceremony in 2002 announcing the move of the GRI headquarters from Boston to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, UNEP Executive Director Dr. Klaus Töpfer acknowledged GRI’s mission to develop a framework for voluntary sustainability reporting.

He commented: “An increasing number of stakeholders, including the investment community, share the goal of the GRI to raise the practice of corporate sustainability reporting to the level of rigour, credibility, comparability and verifiability of financial reporting.”[iii]

GRI launched its first sustainability reporting framework in the year 2000 and subsequently developed four versions of its guidelines (G1 through G4). Keeping current was a long-term challenge for companies reporting their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. Over time it became clear that a simplified, easier-to-update standard was needed. The new GRI Standards are meant to streamline and simplify the process.

As GRI marks its 20th year, the organization is attempting to “tackle the confusion among companies about the proliferation of different reporting frameworks,” according to GRI Chief Executive Tim Mohin.[iv]

While some media reports claim GRI and SASB are competing frameworks, a 2017 article in GreenBiz, co-authored by Mohin and SASB Founder/CEO Jean Rogers, intended to dispel this perception.[v] The article states: “Rather than being in competition, GRI and SASB are designed to fulfill different purposes for different audiences. For companies, it’s about choosing the right tool for the job.”

Best Practices

Using the right tool, or standard, is the key to companies producing a successful report for their target audience.

While GRI is the widely-accepted framework for reporting sustainability initiatives to a broad audience, SASB focuses on reporting to the investor audience. This audience is interested in the link between sustainability and financial performance. Both GRI and SASB agree on a common goal: to improve corporate performance on sustainability issues.

Other organizations with similar goals include a list of initials and acronyms:  IIRC, CDP, ISO, OEDC, SDG and more. These are:

  1. IIRC (International Integrated Reporting Council) promotes integrated reporting to provide “investors with the information they need to make more effective capital allocation decisions,” according to its website.[vi]
  2. CDP (formerly known as Carbon Disclosure Project) partners with organizations to measure their carbon footprint. Many companies use CDP alongside other reporting frameworks.
  3. ISO, the International Organization for Standardization developed ISO 26000 to help organizations improve their social responsibility efforts.
  4. OECD is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Its industrial economy member countries negotiate guidelines surrounding social responsibility.
  5. SDG stands for the United Nations “Sustainable Development Goals.” UN member states adopted the 17 SDGs with 169 targets that seek to protect the planet, end poverty, fight inequality and address other social injustices.

While CSR reporting has been widely voluntary, mandatory reporting is taking effect in some countries. In the European Union, large companies (more than 500 employees and certain assets and revenues) now face mandatory disclosure of environmental and social impacts beginning with their 2018 annual reports.[vii]

The EU published its own guidelines in 2017, but it allows companies to choose among the various standards. Laws requiring CSR reporting are also in effect in South Africa, China and Malaysia. Meanwhile, a growing number of stock exchanges around the world are issuing sustainability reporting guidance and requirements.

Companies that are just beginning the process to report on their sustainability impacts should find the new GRI Standards relatively simple to use. The Standards are free to download from the GRI website (www.globalreporting.org) by registering a company name and email address. Organizations can use all or some of the Standards, but they must notify GRI of their intended use.

The new Standards are made up of three modules (or manuals): (1) the Foundation, which describes the basic reporting principles; (2) General Disclosures, which outline required contextual information about an organization and how it operates; and (3) Management Approach, which requires organizations to state how they approach their selected sustainability topics or issues.

While the content and requirements are basically unchanged from the currently-used GRI G4, the Management Approach now takes center stage. A reporting company must provide information on how it “identifies, analyzes and responds to its actual and potential impacts.”[viii]

Once a company determines its approach to a key topic, this management approach might stay the same from year to year. Also, one management approach may apply to several key topics, which should make reporting more concise. The Standards include three additional modules that are organized according to topic categories: economic, social and environment.

Focusing on material (or key) topics, rather than a long list of topics, should also make the reporting process more concise as well as more meaningful to stakeholders. In other words, less is more. The new Standards direct companies to identify their key topics and then report on at least one of the topic-specific GRI disclosures.

For example, Company XYZ determines from stakeholder feedback that the topic of waste will be included in its sustainability report. Both the new GRI standards and G4 guidelines include five disclosures on waste. The new Standards require reporting on one disclosure so Company XYZ can report more in depth on this key topic.

Previously, some companies felt compelled to report on a greater number of topics and disclosures in order to be ranked favorably by rating agencies like Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters. These ratings not only can affect a company’s stock price, but they also can influence a company’s CSR strategy.

According to a 2016 study on rating agencies, about 33 percent of companies said inquiries from sustainability analysts shaped their overall business strategy.[ix]

Implications and Conclusion

Regardless of which sustainability reporting guidelines an organization chooses, the number of companies producing voluntary or mandatory reports is growing.

The process itself can give companies a clearer picture of their impacts and progress meeting their CSR targets. These insights help companies develop strategies to identify risks and opportunities within their realm of sustainability.

Because the GRI framework has been widely accepted globally, its new Standards will likely have a strong impact on the future of reporting. But it’s also likely that the leadership of corporations will continue to take a closer look at the link between sustainability and financial performance. Consequently, other frameworks that focus on both financial and non-financial impacts could gain acceptance.

GRI, SASB, IIRC and other frameworks are all driving improvements in sustainability reporting. As GRI’s Mohin explained: “In order to be more impactful, reporting needs to be concise, consistent, comparable and current. Brevity and consistency are key to successfully managing and understanding the insights delivered by the reported data.”[x]

Reporting must consider the financial bottom line if a company is to be both profitable and sustainable. What matters is that organizations need to be mindful of their reasons for reporting and how sustainability reporting can make an impact internally and externally. Honest, balanced and transparent reporting will ultimately benefit companies, their stakeholders and society-at-large.

Author:  Jane DeLorenzo is Principal of Sustainable Options, specializing in sustainability report writing and editing, and compliance with GRI reporting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The on-line Certificate in Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Strategies provides a broad overview of key corporate responsibility challenges and strategies that will enable organizations to succeed in the 21st Century Green Economy.  The Program Developer is Nitish Singh, Ph.D., Associate Professor of International Business at the Boeing Institute of International Business at Saint Louis University with Instructor Brendan M. Keating.

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

# # #

References:

[i] Brockett, A. and Rezaee, Z. (2015). Corporate Sustainability: Integrating Performance and Reporting. Retrieved from https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/corporate-sustainability-integrating/9781118238066/chapter02.html

[ii] Environmental Protection Agency, United States. (n.d.) Timeline of Toxics Release Inventory Milestones. Retrieved from  https://www.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program/timeline-toxics-release-inventory-milestones

[iii] CSRwire (2002, April 22). Global Reporting Initiative Announces Move to Amsterdam. Retrieved from http://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/15359-Global-Reporting-Initiative-Announces-Move-to-Amsterdam

[iv] GRI (2017, October 4). Q&A with GRI Chief Executive Tim Mohin. Retrieved from https://www.globalreporting.org/information/news-and-press-center/Pages/QA-with-GRI-Chief-Executive-Tim-Mohin.aspx

[v] Mohin, T. and Rogers, J. (2017, March 16). How to approach corporate sustainability reporting in 2017. Retrieved from https://www.greenbiz.com/article/how-approach-corporate-sustainability-reporting-2017

[vi] International Integrated Reporting Council. (n.d.) Why? The need for change. Retrieved from https://integratedreporting.org/why-the-need-for-change/

[vii] European Commission, Belgium. (n.d.) Non-financial reporting. Retrieved from    https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/company-reporting-and-auditing/company-reporting/non-financial-reporting_en

[viii] GRI (n.d.) GRI 103: Management Approach. Retrieved from https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/gri-103-management-approach/

[ix] Sustainable Insight Capital Management (2016 February) Who are the ESG rating agencies? Retrieved from https://www.sicm.com/docs/who-rates.pdf

[x] GRI (2017, October 4). Q&A with GRI Chief Executive Tim Mohin. Retrieved from https://www.globalreporting.org/information/news-and-press-center/Pages/QA-with-GRI-Chief-Executive-Tim-Mohin.aspx

 

The National Geographic Can Have A Major Influence On Its Global Audience With Coverage Like This: Climate Change’s Hidden Costs

The National Geographic Society made its debut as a publishing force in 1888, introducing the natural world and faraway places to generation-after-generation, at first through the familiar yellow cover magazine (the “journal”), then on through broadcast and cable television programming, a web site, and movies.  (Remember “March of the Penguins”?)

And always, through the decades, the NG staff and contributors have kept up-to-date with world and domestic “happenings,” including wonderful places to visit and introductions to far-off cultures, explanations of geography and natural science, archeology and history — as well as reportage on serious storms, wars, civil unrest, droughts, famines, and other important touchstones of shared content to expand our personal knowledge.

NG through its communication channels reaches tens of millions of people worldwide.  And today the NG is focused on another hot topic:  climate change, and the costs (which run into the hundreds of billions of US dollars, according a report by the Universal Ecological Fund — “The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States.”

Key assertion of the study:  Extreme weather has cost the U.S. economy at least US$240 billion a year over the past 10 years!

The study authors point out that big storms lower the long-run growth rate of the U.S. economy and that economic and human impacts ripple through the country for us for decades. (New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is an example they shared.)  Crop yields are down US$56 billion since 2012 due to climate-related losses (drought).

NG shares a compelling chart showing numerous “billion dollar” weather disasters that have been increasing in recent years (due to drought, heat wave, wildfire, flood, hurricane, tornado, blizzard, etc).  There’s an accompanying video featuring Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”.  NG provides links to other articles, photos of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction, and a video, “Climate 101 – Renewable Energy.”

A number of experts contributed to the NG presentation, including report co-authors Sir Robert Watson, director of the UK’s Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, and Ryan Wiser, senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Amir Jina, University of Chicago; John Tomanio and Riley D. Champine, NG staff members; Adam Smith, National Climatic Data Center and colleague Jeff Masters, Weather Underground, at the Center.  The article author is Stephen Leahy.

Our Top Story makes a compelling case for action now! on climate change challenges and will be an oft-quoted source (we believe) for pushing back on climate change deniers.

Top Stories This Week…

Hidden Costs of Climate Change Running Hundreds of Billions a Year
(Friday – September 29, 2017)
Source: National Geographic – A new report warns of a high price tag on the impacts of global warming, from storm damage to health costs. But solutions can provide better value, the authors say.

COMMIT!Forum is Fast Approaching — New Venue, New Conference Managers, Innovative Approaches, Great Conversations…

The October 2017 Event Will Convene in Washington DC’s Maryland suburbs — New Venue is the fabulous MGM National Harbor.

 

Posted August 1, 2017
By Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

The annual COMMIT!Forum has set the pace for Corporate Responsibility / Sustainability / Public Affairs / Corporate Communications professionals and their peers as “the place to gather” for a decade and more.

This is the longest running CSR / CR event and is part of the range of activities that were put in place and managed by the SharedXpertise Media LLC organization.

In April 2017, 3BL Media Group acquired the COMMIT!Forum — along with management of membership group, the Corporate Responsibility Association (CRA); the CRA webinar series; and publication of the influential CR Magazine.

You probably know the widely-recognized “100 Best Corporate Citizens” rankings — senior corporate management actively pursues this important CR Magazine recognition.

The professional membership CRA will now be managed by a unit of 3BL, the Corporate Responsibility Board.

The good news is that COMMIT!Forum conference is now under the innovative, very savvy management. The theme of the upcoming October 2017 event:

Brands Taking Stands – the Role of the Corporate Responsibility Practitioner as Companies Make Their Voices Heard.

The annual conference brings together CR practitioners, corporate communications officers, heads of foundations, not-for-profit leaders, sustainability pros, and media representatives.

The 2017 conference will feature 10 “issue tables,” to emphasize the value of networking and peer-to-peer sharing — these will be moderated by professional subject matter experts (SMEs):

  • Topic 1: Data Driven Content Strategies; Storytelling that Works
  • Topic 2: NextGen Reporting in a Changing Cultural Landscape
  • Topic 3: Emerging Social Influence on Supply Chains
  • Topic 4: CR Impact on Talent Acquisition and Retention
  • Topic 5: Lead or Follow: Relevance in the E-World
  • Topic 6: Where Are You? Your Company’s North Star on SDGs
  • Topic 7: Risk and Rewards of Taking a Stand
  • Topic 8: Engaging Your Stakeholders in Digital Advocacy
  • Topic 9: Partner Matching: Activating CR Initiatives and the Imperative of Collaboration
  • Topic 10: Materiality Assessments to Supply Chain Management: Digital Platforms that Drive Success

Finalists for the coveted Responsible CEO Award will participate in panel discussions and one-to-one interviews; these provide valuable insight into successful programs at companies where “purpose is integral to culture and mission,” conference organizers note.

The COMMIT! meetings have traditionally been held in New York City; this year the event moves to the MGM National Harbor, just outside of Washington DC and convenient for Amtrak travelers all along the Washington-NYC-Philadelphia-Boston business corridor.

Prestigious brands: CRA member flagship companies include: Marriott; Visa; IBM; Adobe; AT&T; Hess; Sprint; PwC; Gap; Intel; Johnson Controls; Aramark; Smithfield; and many more — representatives of these companies will be at the COMMIT!Forum.

G&A Institute team has enjoyed a long-time partnership with 3BL Media The going back to the days of both companies’ founding and has long been a sponsor of the COMMIT!Forum meetings.

G&A Institute team members — including EVP and Co-Founder Lou Coppola – will be active participants at COMMIT!Forum.

We are offering today to our connections a special offer for Early Bird registration:  10% off early bird pricing for COMMIT!Forum (extends through August 15th for you).

Save an additional 10% using G&A’s discount code “G&A2017CF” when you register at commitforum.com

The G&A Institute team looks forward to seeing you at the conference – -the latch key is out!

About 3BL Media Group
The 3BL team provides a multi-channel news and content distribution platform for corporate clients, including Report Alert, Triple Pundit, CSR Wire, SocialEarth, Just Means, and, of course, 3BL Sustainability Communications platform.

A new business unit is the Corporate Responsibility Board LLC, housing COMMIT!Forum, the CR Association, and CR Magazine. 3BL’s Dave Armon is CEO (before joining 3BL he was COO of PR Newswire).

The Cities & States of the USA Move Ahead on Climate Change — Mayors & Governors, Leaders in Addressing Challenges & Providing Solutions

We’ve been sharing news and perspectives on recent developments in l’affaires climate change, with the US government [at the Federal level] abandoning the landmark Paris Agreement (the COP 21 accomplishments, with almost 200 nations participating).

The mayors and governors and other leaders at the city/municipal and state governments around the United States are individually and collectively committing to continuing to meet what the US government agreed to do…and what the Trump administration has now “dis-agreed” with moving forward.  There’s good news elsewhere in the public sector, though.

The US Conference of Mayors met in Miami Beach recently to address a number of issues that leaders of municipalities are concerned with — and to develop solutions to address.  Often, it is worth noting, the solutions are reached in partnership with the business community.  That collaboration — and innovation — spells o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y for both public and private sectors.

The respective mayors at the conference put climate change high on the agenda and passed a powerful resolution demonstrating their commitment to the nation’s commitment in Paris to rigorous address climate change challenges.  (A link to the resolution is in the post below.)

Good news out of the conference:  Cities are purchasing renewable electric energy.  69% of respondents to the Conference survey — 22% are considering doing so.  Green vehicles?  63% of mayoral respondents are doing that for their municipal fleets; 30% more are considering hybrids, electrics, natural gas, biodiesel.

In a commentary in G&A Institute’s Sustainability-Update blog, Chair Hank Boerner shares more information about the good news from the Conference and goings-on at the city and state level — in “US Cities Showing the Way on Climate Change Solutions.”

This is not just about US cities — the movement is global as noted in the column.  It is incredible to think that more than half of the world’s population now live in cities, and many of the world’s urban centers are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change (rising seas, drought, severe storms, heat waves, and more).

And so — City Fathers and Mothers are awake to the threats and doing something about climate change.  There’s the Compact of Mayors, with 652 cities in the effort, led by former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  There’s the CDP Cities Initiative, with more than 500 cities now disclosing their climate change initiatives.  There’s America’s Pledge, an effort by 227 US cities and counties, 9 US states and 1,650 businesses and investors…a pledge to uphold the US government’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.  Read the full text of Hank Boerner’s commentary here: http://ga-institute.com/Sustainability-Update/2017/07/15/u-s-global-cities-showing-the-way-on-climate-change-solutions/

And for additional information about climate change action at the municipal level, read about the good work going on in Hollywood, Florida; Bozeman, Montana; Loveland, Colorado; Redmond, Washington.  These stories and more in the informative American City & County news story — it’s about how cities are enticing their citizens to pitch in and help to create a more sustainable city.  There’s info here on the National League of Cities’ “Sustainable Cities Institute.”

Incentivizing sustainability
(Thursday – July 13, 2017)
Source: American City & County – Cities are financially enticing citizens to take more environmentally friendly actions — and they’re seeing results

And in our Top Story, we bring you news about how a US and Swedish private sector leader in sustainability and corporate responsibility is embracing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to reduce risk and balance economic values and social values.  It’s an interview by Chris Skroupa, Forbes columnist and CEO of Skytop Strategies (the global conference organizers) with Elaine Weidman-Grunewald of Ericsson (she’s a member of the Global Leadership Team and Group Crisis Management Council).  She makes the business case for sustainability in this conversation.

Sustainable Development Goals–Room For Companies To Lead
(Wednesday – July 12, 2017)
Source: Forbes – The sustainability area is about balancing the need for social, economic development with the impact on the environment and the nexus between different areas such as energy, water and agriculture or access to electricity and…

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

The book: The End of Accounting.

July 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, some background:

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

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

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

Their Recommendations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The elements of the report the good professors recommend:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights of our conversation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cisco Example

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

The Home Depot Example

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

Footnotes:

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

# # #

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

# # #

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

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

Sustainability — Forward Momentum!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City governments are focusing on:

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

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

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

Opportunity Spelled Out:

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

Notes:

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