Purpose – This Was the Buzzword of 2019 for The Corporate Sector & Investment Community. The “Purpose” Debate Will Continue in 2020

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

Another in the series about The Corporate Citizen and Society

As 2019 draws to a close — we look back at a year with a lively discussion about The Corporate Citizen and Society…and “Purpose” discussions…

The year 2019 began with an important challenge to corporate leaders from Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock (with more than US$6 trillion in AUM). 

The very influential investor writes each year to the CEOs of companies that his firm invests in on behalf of BlackRock clients. There are literally hundreds of publicly-traded companies in the BlackRock portfolio (managed and indexed funds).

At the start of 2018, CEO Fink wrote that every company needs a framework to navigate difficult landscapes and it must begin with a clear embodiment of the company’s purpose (in the business model and corporate strategy).

He explained to the many CEOs: “Purpose being not a mere tagline or marketing campaign; it is a reason for the company’s being – what is does every day to create value for its stakeholders.”

Then (in January 2019) Larry Fink explained in his start-of-the-year letter to CEOs as he expanded on the theme, Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.  And, profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose; in fact, profits and purpose are inextricably linked.

This 2019 communication to CEOs pointed out that the world needs their leadership (especially) in a polarized environment. Stakeholders are pushing companies to tackle social and political issues as governments fall short of doing that.

And (very important) Millennials, now outnumbering the Baby Boomers in the workforce, represent a new generation’s focus – on various expressions of, and clear demonstrations of corporate purpose.

The January 2019 letter of course created a buzz in the corporate sector and in the capital markets as people thought about the meaning and weighed in on all sides of the issue.  What many agreed with was that there were now clear signals that the half-century doctrine for the corporate sector of “shareholder primacy” was giving way to “stakeholder primacy.”

As the purpose discussion rolled on, in August 2019 the influential Business Roundtable issued a revision of its Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, signed by 181 of the CEOs of the largest of American companies (firms both publicly-traded and privately-owned). 

Important step forward: the CEOs publicly committed to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders: customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders.

The Roundtable’s Principles of Corporate Governance has been issued since 1978; from 1997 on this endorsed the principle of shareholder primacy (that corporations existing principally to serve shareholders).  The new statement, said the BRT in summer 2019, outlines a modern standard for corporate responsibility. 

The team at G&A Institute looked at the companies whose CEOs are members of the Business Roundtable (almost 200 in all), examining their public disclosures and structured reporting on “walking-the-talk” of “purpose” and “responsibility to stakeholders” 

What are the companies doing — and how are they telling the story of the doing — the walking the talk?

Our approach was to analyze the means of disclosure and reporting “on corporate purpose” and the focus on any related content of sustainability / responsibility / ESG / corporate citizenship reporting by the BRT member companies.  (The good news to share:  there’s plenty of relevant information on purpose in the leadership corporate reporting. You can read through the respective corporate reports to divine the meaning and expressions of purpose in the pages.)

The analysis is available on the G&A Institute web site – see this week’s Top Story for the headline and link to our Resource Paper. There are relevant links there as well.

What will the purpose of the corporation discussion be in the new year, 2020?  Stay tuned to the perspectives shared that we’ll have in our G&A Institute Sustainability Highlights newsletter and on this blog.

Best wishes to you for the holiday season from all of us at G&A!

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s 2019 letter: https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/investor-relations/larry-fink-ceo-letter

G&A Institute Releases Analysis of The Business Roundtable Companies’ ESG Reporting Practices
Source: Governance & Accountability Institute

Highlights:

 Governance & Accountability Institute’s research team examined the ESG / sustainability reporting practices of the BRT signatory corporations to examine trends and create a baseline for tracking progress and actions going  forward.  G&A released these initial benchmark results in a resource paper available on our website.

Tune In To This Important Report – Today And In Time to Come: The Fourth Official “Climate Science Special Report” Issued by the U.S. Government’s “Global Change Research Program” – Projected the Critical Impacts of Climate Change on the American Society in the 21st Century

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Another in the About the Climate Crisis series

November 7, 2019


In November 2018 the government of the United States of America published the fourth climate change assessment by key U.S. government agencies — this is the “Climate Science Special Report” as prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the Federal government.

The contents are of significance if you are an investor, a company executive or board member, an issue advocate, officer holder or civic leader, consumer — or other type of stakeholder.

There are volumes of data and descriptions for a range of “high probability” outcomes in this the 21st Century.

The foundation of the report: Literally hundreds of studies conducted by researchers around the world that clearly document increases in temperatures at Earth’s surface as well as in the atmosphere and oceans — and projections of what that means to the planet and its occupants.

What is clear: Human activities are the primary driver of climate changes observed in the three-plus centuries of the modern industrial era (i.e., GHG emissions, deforestation, land-use changes).

Think about the impacts of these events and developments on your business and personal life:

  • we can expect many more superstorms;
  • and more drought in more areas of the U.S., Africa, other parts of the globe;
  • greatly increased risk of forest fires;
  • more floods;
  • melting glaciers melting resulting in steadily rising sea levels;
  • the news of still more melting glaciers; ocean acidification; 
  • death of species;
  • increasing atmospheric water vapor (thus, more powerful rainstorms, especially accompanying superstorms)…and more.

And — what about a potential drop of 10% in the U.S.A. Gross Domestic Product by end of this century? What impact will that have on you? On your children and their children?

The impacts of climate change will be felt in such activities as human health, agriculture and food security, water supply, transportation, energy, trade, migration, and ecosystems…becoming increasingly disruptive in coming years.

These are some of the subjects explored in depth in the “Climate Science Special Report” released the day after Thanksgiving 2018 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

(The Trump Administration released that day to hide the report, critics immediately charged; the report directly and emphatically challenges the “climate change is a hoax” claim of the administration. Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday is usually a very slow news day.  However, the release of the report resulted in broad media coverage on “a slow day”.)

Influential Authors: The Global Change Program

The program is a mandated collaborative effort of more than a dozen Federal departments of the United States of America government — such as NOAA, NASA, US EPA, and executive branch cabinet offices of Commerce, Agriculture, Energy, State, Transportation, and Defense; plus the Office of Management & Budget (OMB – this is part of the Office of the President).

The many experts gathered from these departments of the U.S. government, plus a universe of university-based experts, reported (in more than 1600 pages of related content) on the “state of science relating to climate change and its physical impacts.”

The CSSR (“Climate Science Special Report”) serves as a foundation for efforts to assess climate-related risks and inform decision-makers…it does not include policy recommendations.

The results are not encouraging – at least not in November 2018 and here in October 2019 as we look out to the rest of the 21st Century, given the s-l-o-w pace of actions taken to date to address climate change challenges.

Highlights of The Report:

NOAA — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — is the lead agency working with NASA and other Federal governmental bodies to develop the report.

The collaborative effort analyzes a wide body of scientific research and observations of current trends in climate change — and projects a number of major trends out to the end of this 21st Century.

The focus of the work is on impacts to human welfare, societal, economic, and environmental elements of climate change.

Each of the 15 chapters of the report focuses on key findings; authors have assigned a “confidence statement” for scientific uncertainties. (There are numerous statements of “Confidence Levels” and “Likelihoods” for various trends and events.)

There are 10 regional analyses of climate change — such as the Northeastern region of the U.S., and sprawling Southern Great Plains. The report was 18 months in preparation and the final report is the sixth draft developed over that time.

Chapters include such themes as: Physical Drivers of Change; Climate Models, Scenarios and Projections; Droughts, Floods and Wildfires; Extreme Storms; Changes in Land Cover; Sea Level Rise.

Some takeaways to consider:

1. This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization. Since the publication of the last Assessment, 2014 became the warmest year on record globally; 2015 was even warmer and 2016 surpassed that; 16 of the warmest years on record occurred during the last 17 years.

2. Thousands of scientific and technical studies have documented changes in surface, atmospheric and oceanic temperatures.

3. Land and sea ice glaciers are continuing to melt; there is acceleration in ice sheet loss with up to 8.5 feet of global sea rise possible by 2100. (Think about that impact on major population areas on the edge of the seas, such as New York, Boston, Miami, Liverpool, Hamburg, Naples and Bari, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, and more.)

4. Ice melts and then Sea levels continues rising; global average sea level has risen 7-to-8 inches since 1900, half of that since 1993.

5. Related: the incidence of daily tidal flooding is accelerating in more than 25 Atlantic and Gulf coast cities – watch out New Orleans and Houston.

6. Heat waves are more frequent and cold waves are less frequent.

7. Forest fires have steadily increased since the early 1980s (look at the disaster in California in recent years – and in 2018 and 2019!).

8. Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has passed 400 PPM — a level that last existed some 3 million years ago, when both global average temperatures and sea level were higher than today.

9. Since 1980, extreme weather events for the U.S. has exceeded costs of US$1.1 trillion.

There are hundreds of references to scientific studies throughout the report.

The various findings, the authors point out, are based on a large body of scientific, peer-reviewed research, evaluated observations and modeling data sets.

In this report, we should note, experts and not politicians and speak to us in clear terms that we can all understand.

Important Key Findings:

  • Global climate is projected to change over this century (and beyond) – the report is complete with “likelihoods”) and with major effort, temps could be limited to 3.6°F / 2°C or less – or else.
  • Without action, average global temperatures could reach to 9°F / 5°C relative to pre-industrial times – disaster at the end of the 2100s.
  • Human activity continues to significantly affect the Earth’s climate and is the dominant cause of climate warming. Aerosols are a key activity with profound and complex roles.

There are 12 Reporting Findings with important results here: https://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights#section-5683

Related to this:  The TCFD Scenario Testing Recommendations

Formed after the 2008 financial crisis, The Financial Stability Board (organized by the central banks and treasury ministries of the G20 nations) appointed a Task Force on Climate-related Financial Risk Disclosure (the “TCFD”), which in Fall 2017 strongly recommended that the financial sector companies and (initially) identified four business sectors begin to examine the effects of climate change on their businesses, and as part of the analysis test scenarios against (to begin with) 2-degrees Centigrade (3.5°F) temp rise — and increase scenario testing from there over time.

This important assessment (the Federal government’s 2018 report described here) should be a valuable resource for investors, bankers, insurance carriers and public and private company boards and managements in their analysis and scenario planning (alternative scenarios are suggested in the TCFD report).

And these assessment can be especially useful for publicly-traded company managements who are being urged by investors and stakeholders to begin scenario testing and disclose the results.

This will be an important issue in the engagements of investors/companies and in the 2020 corporate proxy season – and beyond.

There are various scenarios in the Assessment that can be referenced by companies in their own scenario testing.

Report Authors:

A wide range of experts helped to prepare the report; these included: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the U.S. national laboratories; scientists at such universities as Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, Maryland, Texas Tech, Pennsylvania State, North Carolina State, Iowa State; Rutgers-NJ, California-Davis, and, Alaska. In all, more than 300 experts contributed to the report.

The full report is available at:

https://science2017.globalchange.gov/downloads/CSSR2017_FullReport.pdf

The Exec Summary at: https://science2017.globalchange.gov/downloads/CSSR2017_PRINT_Executive_Summary.pdf

Important Notes:

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, based in Washington, D.C., is a Federal program mandated by the U.S. Congress – the first branch of government identified in the U.S. Constitution, Article One — to coordinate Federal research and investments in understanding the forces shaping the global environment both human and natural, and their impacts on society.

The USGCRP was established in 1989 and mandated by the U.S. Congress in 1990…to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.

There are 13 Federal agencies involved that conduct or use research on global change. Among these there are Interagency Working Groups to implement and coordinate research activities (within and across the agencies).

The critical guidance: Thirteen Agencies, One Vision: Empower the Nation with Global Change Science.

The Governance Aspects:

The USGCRP is steered by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on the Environment, overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology.

Executive Cabinet offices involved: U.S. Departments of State; Health and Human Services; Defense; Commerce; Agriculture; Energy; Transportation; Interior.

Federal Agencies: NASA; US EPA; National Science Foundation; Smithsonian Institution; U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); the White House (OMB and NSTC).

Interesting:
Positioning statement (on the web site): Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. Global climate change has already resulted in a wide range of impacts across every region of the country and many sectors of the economy that are expected to grow in the coming decades.

This Fourth assessment (known as “NCA4” to insiders) developed by USGCP is a state-of-the-science synthesis of climate knowledge, impacts and trends across U.S. regions to inform decision-making and resilience-building.

It is the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment to date on the state of knowledge of current and future impacts of climate change on society in the U.S.

You can access the full report at: https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/

Reporting requirements for the Assessment comply with Section 106 of the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990 and other federal requirements.

There is regional information from Global Change at: https://www.globalchange.gov/explore

The current report takes into consideration the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – of which the United States is a participating country.

IPCC issued its Fifth Assessment Report (“AR5”) in 2014 and issued a Special Report (“SR15”) – Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5-degrees C – in October 2018.

The latest IPCC report and related information is at: http://www.ipcc.ch/

There are scholarly assessments of the Fourth Climate Change Assessment at: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=fourth+climate+change+assessment&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart

We will be sharing more thoughts on IPCC in separate commentaries.

Note:  This originally was drafted for G&A Institute’s “To the Point!” management briefs (now archived) in November 2018 and updated here in November 2019.

The Climate Change Crisis – “Covering Climate Now” Can Help to Shape The Public Dialogue

Introducing a new series of perspectives from G&A Institute…

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

We are bringing you a series of commentaries on the climate change crisis to share news, research results and perspectives to you in an organized way.

Fact:  We are facing dire outcomes for humanity and planet if we don’t move faster with strategies and actions to address the challenges of climate change.

We’re calling our shared perspectives “About the Climate Change Crisis”.

Global Warming.  Droughts. SuperStorms. Floods.  Rising Seas. Outbreaks of forest fires.  Loss of Species.  Degradation of farmlands.  Food Shortages. 

These should be defined as crisis situations, no?

Despite these dangers, the public dialogue on “climate change” issues in the United States reflects in some ways the divide in public opinion on critical issues facing the American public, government, business, the financial sector.

Climate changing? Yes and No. Human activities  causing the changes? Yes and No.
Should we be worried? Yes and No.

And so it goes.

The United States of America participated in the 2015 Paris (COP 21) meetings and signed on to the Paris Agreement along with almost 200 other nations, with President Barack Obama becoming a signatory in April 2016 and in September 2016 by presidential action presented the necessary documents to the U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon.

The People’s Republic of China also presented the documents, a collaboration negotiated by President Obama. (This step by Barack Obama avoided presenting what amounted to an international treaty agreement to the U.S. Senate for ratification, required by the U.S. Constitution – approval assuredly would not happen in today’s political environment.)

The U.S. also contributed US$3 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

And so also by executive order, his successor in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump in March 2017 with swipe of a pen signaled the start of the complex and lengthy process of removing the U.S. from the historic Paris Agreement to limit the damage of global warming.

By his side: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (since gone from the environmental agency).

The backdrop: scientific reports that 2016 was the warmest year on record to date!

And credible scientists telling us that we have a decade at most to get control of climate change issues!

Prior to becoming president Donald Trump declared among other things that climate change was a Chinese hoax. (One of his positioning comments on the subject: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” – November 6, 2012 tweet.)

But climate change is real – and we face a climate crisis in 2019!

What Did the Current U.S.A. Leader Do?

President Trump on November 4, 2019 officially notified the international community – and specifically the community of the United Nations – that the process of withdrawal was beginning and would be complete one year from now — the day before Election Day 2020.

Note that in November 2018 the government of the United States of America published the fourth climate change assessment by key U.S. government agencies: the “Climate Science Special Report” was prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the Federal government. (We’ve including an overview in this series.)

The contents are of significance if you are an investor, a company executive or board member, an issue advocate, public sector officer holder or civic leader, consumer — or other type of stakeholder.

There are volumes of data and descriptions in the report presenting a range of “high probability” climate change outcomes in this the 21st Century.

Adding credibility to the Federal government’s report to the nation and the world:  11, 258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines (biosciences, ecology, etc.) published a report in the Bioscience Journal (November 2018) – “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency” – setting out a range of policies and actions that could be (adopted, taken) to address the emergency.

Good News About News Media

Good news from the purveyors of news to millions of people: the publishers of Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation created the “Covering Climate Now” (the initiative was launched in April 2019) intended to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate emergency.  The lead media partner is The Guardian.

The founders are now joined by cooperating media that today reaches more than one billion people worldwide. Representatives of 350 newsrooms in 32 countries have joined to ramp up coverage of the climate crisis and possible solutions. The campaign is designed to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate emergency.

Combined, the cooperating media reach more than one billion people worldwide.

Participants in the campaign include Bloomberg, Agence France-Press, The Guardian, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The New Jersey Star Ledger, The Oklahoman, Corporate Knights, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, La Republica (Italy), The Hindustan Times (India), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), La Razon (Spain), Greenbiz.com, Huffpost, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, Scientific American, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, and many many other communications platforms.

Partner organizations in the campaign include wire services, news agencies, newspapers, magazines, digital news sites, journals, radio, podcasters, and institutions like Princeton University and Yale Climate Change & Health Initiative.

Could it be that the press, especially the U.S. press, can turn the tide of public opinion (with the naysayers and public doubters) with increasing and accurate coverage of the climate story?

Is the “media awake”?   That question was posed and answered in September 2019 by Mark Hertsgaard (The Nation) and Kyle Pope (CJR editor) addressing the  initiative.

Their comments are here for you: https://www.cjr.org/covering_climate_now/climate-crisis-new-beginning.php

Is this where you get your news a participant? Check the list here: https://www.coveringclimatenow.org/partners

Participating publisher Corporate Knights points out to us that “climate change” was suggested as a term to use by pollster Frank Luntz to President George W. Bush instead of the more frightening term, “global warming”. Let’s not scare the people. Gently move them forward.

We do need to return to the more accurate and realistic title of global warming. The threats posed by warming of land and sea are visible to us – every day now!

But, OK, if climate change is the popular branding, then let’s talk about the climate change crisis or emergency (so says the media collaboration).

We’re presenting this series of climate change crisis commentaries to help to tell the story of the climate change crisis or emergency.

The title is About the Climate Crisis, following the lead of the collaborating journalists.

The Good News

The good news as background to the above is that cities and states are “still in” and implementing strategies and actions to follow the Paris Accord in their jurisdictions. 

Corporations participated in the Conference of Parties (COP) meetings and especially the Paris COP 21 meetings.

Companies have been launching and reporting on their sustainability journey — actively addressing climate change issues — and investors are building more climate change considerations into their financial analysis and portfolio management. 

Combined these actions are keeping the United States in the game and helping to maintain the nation’s edge in climate change matters. Of course, we can ALL do more!

Let us know how we are doing. And please do suggest to us issues and topics and developments that might be of interest to you and other readers of the G&A Institute’s Sustainability Update blog.

Please do Stay Tuned to our ongoing blog commentaries.

It’s “Official” Now: The United States of America Is Withdrawing From the Historic Paris Accord on Climate Change With Notice to the UN

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Another in the About the Climate Change Crisis series

The big news of this week:  The USA is now “officially” withdrawing from the Paris Accord on Climate Change.  The one-year countdown to “USA out” is now underway.

In 2015 as the representatives of almost all of the nations of the world gathered in Paris, France for “COP 21” (or “the UN Climate Change Forum“, the 21st yearly meeting of the Conference of Parties), an important agreement was reached:  the 196 nations would work together to attempt to limit global warming to below 2-degrees Celsius (3.5-degrees Fahrenheit) – or at least to not above 1.5C (2.7F).

The goals are temperatures above pre-Industrial Age levels; scientists say we have already warmed 1-degreeC (or 1.8F). 

The Washington Post in reporting the administration’s now-official action on the Accord says that 1/10th of the globe is already at more than 2-degrees Celsius when you compare the last five years with pre-industrial levels.

That means all of the nations of the world have to work independently and collectively to limit carbon emissions to zero level between years 2030 and 2050. This would be done in part through “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs) enacted in each signatory country.

Comparing the year 2030 (intended results) with year emissions levels of a quarter-century ago would mean cutting emissions by at least 40 percent – a Herculean effort for many nations, and especially for the big “emitters” of the industrial world – the USA, China, India and European states. 

The United States of America had numerous representatives at the COP 21 meetings – including members of the corporate community; according to a letter to the White House from US Senators who had attended Paris, today, 900 businesses continue to support the Paris Agreement — including 20 of the Fortune 500s. 

President Barack Obama committed the USA to the Paris Agreement / or Accord by executive order and in November 2016 (with other almost 200 other nations) the climate agreement was confirmed by the various state representatives in Paris.

In June 2017, six months into the succeeding administration, President Trump announced plans to withdraw from the Accord because “…it disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”  (More recently he described the agreement as a “total disaster” for the U.S.)

And so by various means and executive order, President Obama’s successor (President Donald Trump) “officially” began the withdrawal of the USA this week with notice to the United Nations.

The ending of US participation in the global agreement will be in November 2020 – one day after Election Day next year.  Climate change issues including the status of the USA in the Paris Accord are today political issues in the context of elections at all levels of government including the presidency of the U.S.

Of course, numerous critics sounded alarm and anger at the president’s action (a campaign promise in 2016 and addressed by President Trump since taking office). 

Susan Biniaz, lecturer at Yale University, for example, told The Washington Post: “While the world will not be surprised, it’s a sad reminder of where the world’s former leader on climate change now stands…the decision of two years ago [two withdraw] is now even more grotesque…”

Andrew Steer, leader of the World Resources Institute, said the move “…fails people in the United States who will lose out on clean energy jobs as other nations grab the competitive and technological advances that the low-carbon future offers.”

A successor in the White House in 2021 could begin the process of rejoining the Paris Accord — depending on the election outcome next November. 

And the pledge to do so could be “immediate” while the formal rejoining is now a more complex process.  Stay tuned to this important conversation!
Our Top Stories this week bring you several important perspectives on this issue.

Top Stories

Trump Makes It Official:  U.S. Will Withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord
Source: The Washington Post

Withdrawing from Paris Agreement will hurt U.S. economy and communities around the world
Source: Ceres

What U.S. Exit Means for Paris Climate Change Accord: QuickTake
Source: Bloomberg

On the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement
Source:  U.S. Department of State Press Statement

Leaving the Paris Agreement Is a Bad Deal for the United States
Source: Foreign Policy

Capitalism – Needing Reinventing? Is Corporate Sustainability / Responsibility / Citizenship’s Focus on ESG Part of the Mix of Reinvention?

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

There are many voices raised now, joining in the public dialogues on corporate sustainability, corporate citizenship, corporate responsibility, ethics, good governance…and more.

The perspectives offered fit into the commentary stream on the future of capitalism — and how to make it work for everyone.

There are rigorous companion dialogues going on – and rapidly growing in number — related to the role of sustainable investing as more asset owners and their internal and external managers adopt new approaches, many focused on the analysis of corporate ESG performance and related outcomes.  We see this as further reinventing of capitalism. Do you?

On Corporate Purpose – How, What, Why and more – another public dialogue dramatically expanding since the release of The Business Roundtable’s revised statement on purpose in summer.

There are more voices being added to the expanding public dialogues on all of the above and more, which is what our newsletter’s Top Story focuses on.

A fascinating range of voices will be raised by Fast Company as the publishers spotlight “15 voices” working at the forefront of trying to reinvent our economic system…and together, the pursuit of important structural reforms and ideas to bring about “fairness” (much needed, we can argue, in 2019!).

The first voice “raised” by Fast Company is that of Darren Walker, Ford Foundation president who says in his essay “capitalism is in crisis” and explains why in his essay — “How to Save Capitalism From Itself”. 

As the editors of Fast Company explain, the voices to be raised in the future (that you will want to follow via Fast Company essays) include:

Zeynep Ton, MIT b-school prof who founded the Good Jobs Institute;

Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy (the artisanal marketplace) whose company’s social-impact initiatives are held to the same standard as financial reporting;

Fashion icon Eileen Fisher (champion of the B Corp movement);

Barry Lynn, founder of Open Markets Institute (who favors more regulation to address today’s monopolies);

Rachel Lauter, ED of Fair Work Center..and others!

Keep in mind Fast Company is a must-read for many GenXers and Millennialls – and so you will want to keep up with the publication’s voices no matter what generation you belong to.

The Ford Foundation’s CEO essay is at: https://www.fastcompany.com/90411391/ford-foundations-darren-walker-how-to-save-capitalism-from-itself

Top Stories

Capitalism is dead. Long live capitalism
Source: Fast Company – For capitalism to thrive, the system needs to evolve to be fair, inclusive, and sustainable. Fast Company highlights companies and innovators leading the change.

And of importance, the public dialogue – and action! – on the SDGs:

Protecting Our Future: Moving from Talk to Action on The Sustainable Development Goals
Source: Forbes 

How an Italian Energy Company Revolutionized Sustainable and Impact Investing in Structured Credit
Source: Forbes 

First SDG-linked bond in the European market raises 2.5 billion euros
Source: UN Global Compact 

Feeding the 9 Billion in Year 2050 Is A Great Challenge for Society

by Hank Boerner – Chair and Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

The United Nations Population Prospects 2019 tells us that there will be nine billion souls to feed on this Good Earth by year 2050 (up from seven billion-plus of us today).

The greatest growth will be in Asian nations (such as India, China) and on the African continent. 

Consider: in just 900 months or 1,560 weeks there will be 4.7 billion people to feed in Asia and 4.3 billion in the nations of Africa.

Latin America, North America and Europe combined will total but 1.8 billion.

The 47 least-developed nations of the world are the fastest-growing (population) and the need to feed the world’s population bumps into the challenges as we work to reduce and eradicate poverty, promote more diversity, address the climate change crisis, improve healthcare and education, and find the money and political will to do all of this.

The numerous challenges implied in these projections include finding the available farmland & ranchland to grow the food that will be needed by the 9 billion; to do this even as cities expand and farmland shrinks as a result of urbanization; to assure that the farmers, especially in less developed countries, are able to survive economically; to replace today’s farmers as the population of such workers ages; to increase protein sources as the middle classes continue to rise in many countries in Asia and Africa in rising the economies of local nations…and more!

Oh, and we must consider that agriculture is a major factor in climate change with its array of carbon emissions, as well of use of (and often) because of bad practices the degradation of ever-more land for growing crops. 

Today’s example is burning the old growth Amazon forests (the “lungs of the Earth”) to make room for more cattle ranches (more protein!) and palm oil plantations. More cattle — all those people moving into middle class want meat!

There have been encouraging developments related to farming — some welcomed and some controversial. 

Hydro-farming and rooftop farming in urban areas are considered a plus; advances in genetically-modified crops are both welcomed and condemned, depending on your geography or business interests or public policy point-of-view. 

Fake meat is cheered in some quarters, condemned in others — even as leading meat producing companies and related purveyors explore the breakthroughs to consider both risks and opportunities. 

The National Geographic Society has offered up a five-step plan to feed the world. Step One is to freeze agriculture’s footprint (ag is one of the major contributors to GhGs); Step Two, grow more on today’s farms; Step Three, use our resources more efficiently; Step Four, shift diets (meat in focus); And Five, reduce waste. 

NatGeo experts say these five steps could help to double the world’s food supplies while cutting the environmental impact of agriculture.  Click here to read more.

This issue of our Sustainability Highlights newsletter we’ve aggregated food & agriculture-related content for your reading.  The three Top Stories are of interest, we think you’ll agree. 

Top Stories

The future of food is mobile, plant-based, and sustainable, experts say
Source: Geek Wire 

Farming Ain’t For Sissies, & Sustainable Farming Is Especially Tough
Source: Clean Technica 

How sustainable is tuna? New global catch database exposes dangerous fishing trends
Source: Science Daily 

Fashion, Style, Brand and Sustainability Are Today’s Coupling Terms Now for a Growing Number of Consumers…

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

We’re all consumers of one type or another.

We buy a variety of food and beverages, the latest electronic products, and an assortment of apparel and footwear products as needed — or desired!. 

So the questions come to mind…

What are you wearing?  Is it fashionable?  Stylish? And sustainable (as a product you want or need)?  Sustainably and responsibly produced?  In a global (mostly invisible) supply chain that you could say with certainty is “well supervised and responsibly managed”?

Do you identify yourself with the brand’s culture, ethos and sustainability and the praiseworthy efforts of the maker or the retailer in their declarations to the marketplace? 

Do you make sustainability a conscious buying decision?

A growing number of apparel & footwear brand producers/marketers are counting on “yes” answers to these questions.

In our monitoring of news and feature content from around the world and many prominent and not-so-prominent sources, we have been seeing a significant amount of content related to “fashion” and “sustainability” being coupled (as it, taken together as a given, like human nature (human + nature – a natural coupling).

The big bold industry and brand marketing names are part of the conversation: Victoria Beckham, Stella McCartney, Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, and H&M are focused on sustainability and delivering the fashion + sustainability sales message in the coupling efforts (details in our story selections).

We’re presenting our “capture” of fashion and consumer-buying content this week in our Top Stories in the newsletter. 

In our constant monitoring we are seeing the trend in other consumer-facing areas of industry – in autos, toys, and a variety of food products and ingredients (palm oil, coffee beans, seafood/harvests of the seas).

The good news for society is that many more corporate leaders recognize the timely opportunity for their company to demonstrate that their company’s strategies and processes, and products & services offered in both consumer and B-to-B markets are “sustainable & responsible” … as now more frequently explained in the company’s sustainability report, in the 10-k, proxy statement, on its web pages…and on their products’ labeling. 

In this week’s Highlights newsletter we bring you a selection of the many news and feature stories focused on consumer marketing with a sustainability theme.

The range of coupled content (our product + sustainability) is growing by leaps and bounds and we try to select the most topical and informative content for you.

On coupling:  the best-selling author Malcolm Gladwells’s newest book is “Talking to Strangers”, a great read, we recommend. 

He explains why we are so overwhelmingly trusting of others (the strangers) as a basic human default and the concept of “coupling” — certain circumstances that can make certain assumptions, assertions and claims ring true for us.  

This comes to mind the acceptance of apparel, footwear and other brand marketers’ claims about “sustainability” in product and/or production. 

We are eager to invest belief in the claims. But do the facts support the claim?

Gladwell’s insights are terrific to contemplate as we receive the messages about sustainability from some brand marketers.

Top Stories

Fashion Brands Take Sustainability Further for Spring 2020
Source: Forbes 

Exclusive Q&A: Why Retailers Should Embrace Sustainable Supply Chains
Source: Retail Touch Points 

Why Sustainability Should Be Top of Mind for Retailers This Holiday Season
Source: Yahoo

Consumers want to buy sustainably—they just don’t know how
Source: Fast Company 

How Sustainability Became the Future of Retail
Source: Footwear News

Consumers Want to Buy Sustainably, but They Often Don’t
Source: Architectural Digest 

The Best 11 Brands for Sustainable Vegan Sneakers
Source: Love Kindly 

How can shoppers make sense of sustainable fish labels?
Source: The Guardian 

The Young People Move to the Streets to Protest Slow or Lack of Action on Climate Change Challenges…

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

When our young people take to the streets in significant number, there is usually a revolution of some type in store, history tells us.  Revolutions belong to the young, we can say with some certainty if history is our guide. 

Think: Young “Minutemen” in the American Revolution, youngsters on the barricades in the French Revolution, counter-sitters and marchers in the Civil Rights protests in the American South. 

Dramatic change followed these protests. And now, we watch the young men and women in the streets of Hong Kong.

So what to make now of at least four million young men and women flooding into the streets and plazas of large cities and local communities around the world to “protest” their views of “inaction on climate change challenges” by those adults in charge (government and business, especially).

In New York City, Rome, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Madrid & Barcelona, Montreal, Berlin, Vienna, and many other of the world’s cities, on September 20th hundreds of thousands of young people rallied in protest and called on leaders to protect our planet. 

There were marches, music, signs of all sorts, speeches, and other public expressions intended to draw attention to the dangers posed by climate change.

A real crisis in our time and a dangerous threat to the young men and women and their younger peers in the decades ahead!

As symbol of the moment, climate activist Greta Thunberg (at age 16) boldly sailed over the seas from her home in Sweden (rather than take a jet airplane) to get to New York City for the celebration of Climate Week and the gathering of leaders at the United Nations General Assembly).

In interviews she commented that she does not understand why world leaders — including the President of the United States — would mock children and teenagers for acting on science that advances evidence that climate change is real – and dangerous for humanity and our planet.

But business is responding – and investors and the public sector, too. 

In one of the focus features we bring you this week, in the Harvard Business Review author Andrew Winston tells us what 1,000 CEOs really think about climate change and inequality. (We know Winston from his best-seller, “Green to Gold”.) 

He reminds us that nearly 200 CEOs working through the Business Roundtable (BRT) declared that business is no longer just about maximizing shareholder profit.

Many more hundreds of CEOs are in agreement and many are focused on climate change.  Are we moving fast enough? 

A report from UN Global Compact and Accenture (“The Decade to Deliver: A Call to Business Action”) presents the views of more than 1,000 global executives on their views of sustainability.

All of the large-cap company CEOs interviewed believe that sustainability issues are important to the future success of their enterprises.  The biggest challenge is climate change. 

This week our Top Stories (plural) are presented as snapshots of where we are as consumers, investors, government leaders and yes, business leaders, focus on sustainability and especially climate change matters.

An appropriate footnote:  in rural Southwest Montana, a participant in the local rally by mostly young people had this to say in a letter to the editor of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in response to criticism of the young peoples’ rallies:  

“Climate change is not a political issue. It is a life or death issue. Our children are asking in what way school matters when our future is disintegrating before our eyes. 

“Children have as much right and reason to march anyone.  They march because they can still see possibility, opportunity and reasons to fight four just futures. 

“Next time, maybe you should join us to understand what our kids are marching for.”

Our offerings for you this week:

After strikes, youth climate activists keep pressure on leaders
Source: Reuters 

What 1,000 CEOs Really Think About Climate Change and Inequality
Source: Harvard Business Review

Business leaders join the UN Global Compact Leaders Week to address climate crisis and advance the SDGs
Source: UN Global Contract

Banks worth $47 trillion adopt new UN-backed climate, sustainability principles
Source: UN News 

Markets face major risks over lax climate forecasts, top investors warn
Source: Reuters 

The second-largest gift to a US university was pledged to Caltech. It’s being used for climate research
Source: CNN 

Climate Activism Requires More Than Just Sustainability Statements From Brands
Source: Ad Week 

Most of world’s biggest firms ‘unlikely’ to meet Paris climate targets
Source: The Guardian 

Lead on global climate change and sustainability
Source: St. Peter Herald 

Editorial: Climate Week 2019
Source: Advanced Science News 

Climate crisis seen as ‘most important issue’ by public, poll shows
Source: The Guardian 

Do Consumer Favor Sustainable Brands for Their Products and Services Needs? NYU Stern School Research Dives Deep into the Data For Answers

by Hank Boerner – Chair and Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Many people in consumer marketing are wondering about consumer preferences for “sustainable” products! In our weekly newsletter the G&A Institute team offers media and experts’ shared perspectives on various issues and matters related to corporate sustainability, responsibility; and, sustainable, responsible and impact investing.

In recent months the content shared frequently has focused on trends in the consumer market — to help answer the question of whether or not consumers reacting to brand-facing companies positioning themselves as sustainability leaders.

Is this type of brand marketing a successful strategy?  Worth the effort? 

So the important question in all of this “wondering” is: Are consumers now favoring sustainable or green (or pick your term of definition) for their products & services at retail? 

In our ongoing monitoring of news, feature and research results — such as for the fashion and footwear industries, the auto industry, food & beverages, and certain other categories — the results tell us brand leaders are now often introducing sustainable products alongside their usual cash cows. We included several items for you in this week’s newsletter along these lines. This was our top story:

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Tensie Whelan, professor at New York University Stern School of Business, and leader of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, and Randi Kronthal-Sacco, director of Corporate Outreach for the Center (and formerly with Johnson & Johnson) describe the results of their recent in-depth research project. 

This research centered on trying to answer the question — do U.S. consumers actually purchase sustainably marketed products?  (Spoiler alert: yes – you must read the HBR article to find out more.) 

Whelan and Kronthal-Sacco used volumes of data sets from bar scan codes at retail for food, drug, dollar, and mass merchandisers, looking at 36 categories and 71,000+ SKUs, accounting for 40% of consumer products goods (CPG) sales over a 5-year period.

So, what did they find to be the largest share of sustainability-marketed products? 

Almost $1-in-$5 purchases at retail are for toilet tissue, facial tissue (think: forest products); milk, yogurt (the yield of countless dairy farmers); coffee (lots of attention on the global coffee-growing belt circling the Earth, and worker conditions therein); salty snacks (really?); and bottled juices (you’ll notice that Coke and Pepsi and other beverage marketers are advertising their shift away from sugary drinks). 

At the bottom of market share:  laundry care, floor cleaners and chocolate candy (accounting for a 5% share).

Say Tensie and Randi:  Pay attention, marketers and those all along the retail value chain, from grower field and factory floor to shelf space.  Consumers are voting with their dollars, for sustainable and against un-sustainable brands. 

Winners in the corporate sector include PepsiCo and Unilever; laggards include Kraft Heinz. (For the leader, Unilever:  think of the company’s sustainable labels like Seventh Generation, Sundial Brands and Pukka Herbs.)

And we are seeing in the many stories we bring you each week about consumers and sustainability, the future for sustainable CPG at retail is looking bright – look at the apparel industry.for examples  The agora is alive and well with many more sustainably-branded products on the shelves.  That’s the good news for sustainability professionals.

The NYU researchers used data from IRi (the research house for CGP, retail and health and beauty – information at: https://www.iriworldwide.com/en-US/Insights)

Congratulations to our colleagues Tensie Whelan and Randi Kronthal-Sacco at NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business for sharing their insights and perspectives.

This Week’s Top Story

Research: Actually, Consumers Do Buy Sustainable Products
(Thursday – June 20, 2019) Source: Harvard Business Review – NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business just completed extensive research into U.S. consumers’ actual purchasing of consumer packaged goods (CPG), using data contributed by IRI, and found that 50% of CPG growth from 2013 to… 

In the Skies Overhead – Global Airline Passenger Volume Set to Double Over Next Two Decades. What Could the Environmental Impact of More Air Travel Be?

by Hank Boerner – Chair and Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Once upon a time in the early days of jet travel, business travelers accounted for three-quarters or more of the total passenger business of the major U.S. airlines (known as “trunk” carriers back in the day).  Fares were long set by Federal regulation and family-friendly, tourista-friendly fare packages were scarce or non-existent.  Airlines relied on the “have-to-travel-for-business” crowd. At full fare (regulated until the late-1970s).

As the U.S. transport regulations were significantly relaxed (scheduled carriers through Federal “de-regulation” in 1979), the number of U.S. airlines soared from 75 or so to 400 companies…and then began to steadily shrink as carriers merged or went out of business. But passenger travel continued to grow.

Consider:  The Federal Aviation Administration reports 2.7 million passengers move across 29 million miles of controlled airspace on 44,000 flights within the U.S. each day! (See Air Traffic by the Numbers for full details): https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/by_the_numbers/media/Air_Traffic_by_the_Numbers_2019.pdf

IATA reports four billion annual passengers traveled on a global basis between 20,000 “city pairs”, doubling the global 1995 city pairs available to fliers (the airport centers) in 2017. Passenger traffic was heaviest in Asia-Pacific (more than one-third of the total); Europe and North America each had a quarter of the total number of passengers.  More information for you at: https://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/Pages/2018-09-06-01.aspx

In response to this steady growth in passenger demand, as set fares were de-regulated airlines and seat price points steadily fell, airlines developed a bewildering array of fare offerings (“stay overnight on Saturday” etc).  And those reduced fares helped to bring many more non-business fliers to the American skies.  

Outside of the U.S., what were once “national flag carriers” (like British Airways, Air France, KLM, Al Italia (up for sale to private sector) and many others owned by governments) are now private sector companies — and these long-established carriers and their newer competitors are similarly filling their planes through offer of attractive fares and generous “packages” for retail customers, and connecting business and tourism fliers with many more cities.

And so – as author Stephan Rice points out in his Forbes commentary – IATA, the industry’s International Air Transport Association — sees the global commercial airline passenger business doubling over the next 20 years. 

More flying customers means more passenger airliners will be needed (with much more fuel consumed), more airports needed to accommodate the “to and from” of air travelers (or airports will have to be expanded and upgraded) …and all this means more pollution

Passengers are now becoming more aware of the impact of air transport on the environment and demanding more sustainable practices.  And they are willing to pay for it, some surveys show.

As air travel volume builds, what can be done to reduce the impact of air travel on the global environment? 

Dr. Rice suggests airports can be re-designed to be more sustainable (he cites enhancements at SFO International and Boston Logan as U.S. examples). Indira Ghandi International in Delhi has the first Leadership LEED Gold certificate.

Airlines could use biofuels; KLM had a biofuels test flight from Amsterdam to Paris; Honeywell arranged a flight over the Atlantic using petro-based fuel and camelina (a derivative of a flowering Mediterranean plant!); Singapore is using biofuels over the Pacific.

A 2017 survey of 700+ consumers showed that passengers were willing to pay an additional fee (up to 13% more) for a flight using biofuels — “…a portion of consumers value green initiatives and appear willing to contribute financially to support it…”

The U.S. carriers’ trade organization is “Airlines for America”; it promotes the “A4A’s Climate Change Commitment” for member airlines and is part of a worldwide aviation coalition committed to a global framework on aviation and climate change with emissions target goals. (The “Aspirational goal” is 50% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050 relative to 2005 levels.)
Information at: http://airlines.org/a4as-climate-change-commitment/

IATA – the airline industry’s global trade association – has set three targets and four pillars to mitigate CO2 emissions from air transport. Information and fact sheets are available at: https://www.iata.org/policy/environment/Pages/climate-change.aspx

Author Rice describes the results of additional consumer surveys on the topic in his Forbes commentary.  He concludes:  “It is clear that the public wants sustainable aviation…and are willing to pay at least some costs for this. Some airlines and manufacturers are taking the lead, but the rest of aviation need to follow very quickly or get left behind.”  Read the details in his commentary, which is this week’s Top Story for you.

Stephen Rice is a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

Hank Boerner personal note: I spent most of the first two decades of my career in the air transport industry. After my time as an aviation business journalist I was the first “corporate citizenship” manager of American Airlines and later, senior advisor to Royal Jordanian Airlines, then the fastest-growing airline in the world (for two years). In the 1970s, I served as organizer and executive director of the two “MECACON” conferences (Middle East Civil Aviation). On September 11, 2001 I was on duty again, with our team, serving my client, American Airlines in the New York City region in crisis management; and again, for the Flight 587 tragedy in November 2001. It’s a great industry creating opportunities for so many individuals and nations!

This Week’s Top Stories

The Public Supports Sustainable Aviation and They’re Willing Pay for It
(Friday – June 07, 2019) Source: Forbes – The International Air Transport Association has predicted that the number of commercial airline travelers will double in the next 20 years. This means that there will be more airplanes, more airports, and more pollution. The…

And – adding to the discussion – the Simple Flying web platform has an interesting story by Joanna Bailey on “sustainable jet fuel” – can it save the planet?  This is an ideal companion piece to the Top Story this week: 

What On Earth Is Sustainable Jet Fuel? Can It Save Our Planet?
(Friday – June 18, 2019) Source: Simple Flying – The use of sustainable aviation fuel is on the increase around the world. But what is this newfangled propulsion juice exactly, and is it the magic bullet to make aviation kinder to the environment?