Remembering Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Her Rich Sustainability Legacy

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

As we watched the news of the tragic events at the high school in Broward County in South Florida, I wondered how many of us connected the oft-mentioned name of the high school with the woman – and her legacy – behind the institution’s name.

It’s a wonderful story to share with you: Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a valiant and heroic pioneer in so many ways on so many environmental and social issues.

She moved to Florida in 1915 from her early roots in Minnesota and New England (she was a Wellesley College grad) when the Sunshine State was in so many ways actually really a very new state. (Miami on her arrival had but several thousand residents and was a pioneer settlement).

Shortly after WW I ended there was a land boom in South Florida, with the Miami area coming alive with entrepreneurial and land and community development activity.

Some pieces of Miami land changed hands 10 times with the owner not even seeing the property “they owned.” The Miami Herald –her father was the founder and publisher — carried more classified advertising (buy my real estate!) than any other American newspaper at that time.

Marjory was born in 1890 and died in 1998 – her life spanned almost all of the 20th Century. She was an accomplished newspaper and magazine journalist, a tireless author and playwright and inspiration for female writers; an advocate for women, for civil rights, for human rights, for public health; a fighters for social justice; and a conservation leader who defended the previous Everglades eco-system for much of her life.

She moved to Miami – the new frontier of the American Atlantic coast in the early years of the 20th Century – and wrote for the city’s signature newspaper. She also wrote many short stories about this and that, for national magazines, and a run of good books. And then, in a defining moment in her life, she was invited by the Rinehart & Co. book publishing firm to contribute to the landmark series, “Rivers in America.”

(The 65 books in the series began appearing in 1937 and continued to 1974, with three publishers helming the efforts of local writers providing essays about their local rivers and the communities surrounding them.)

The editors asked her to write about the Miami River, which was not really a river at all, she cheerfully responded.

But then she began to research the ‘Glades” and there focused on the broad “wet” plains and the Biscayne Aquifer, giant Lake Okeechobee, and the role of the Kissimmee River in the fabled Everglades. The water was of the great stretch of wetlands was…well… moving…like a river.

The ‘Glades — not quite a river there, she explained to her readers, at least not like the Rio Grande or the Hudson or the Missouri and Mississippi – but it could be seen as a river of grass.

The result of her years of extensive exploration and research and working with naturalists and conservationists was her 1947 work, “The Everglades: River of Grass”.

She observed that the water did move, ever so slowly, shaping everything around it. That work awakened her interest in things conservation and environmental.

The Everglades was not just some, well, “swamp” – but a very important and vast and vital eco-system.

The Rivers series was very successful for the publishing house. I have copies of some of the book here on my bookshelf. Including River of Grass. Which has sold more than a half-million copies in the 70 years since first appearing in book stores. It is often compared to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in terms of impact and influence and awakening of the public conscience.

Marjory fought for many years to preserve and protect that eco-system and much of South Florida. Woe be to the “official” who stood in her way! She became known in the state as the “Grande Dame of the Everglades,” and a string of governors and other elected officials came into her crosshairs — and eventually under her sway.

I had the privilege to see Ms. Stoneman Douglas in action in Florida on several occasions. She appeared quite tiny and frail in her later days. But then she began to speak…and the sparks would fly! Her tiny voice was a megaphone for protection of the environment in Florida!

When I was an editor and publisher of Florida newsletters, magazines and management briefs, I constantly monitored the activities of the great lady, and came to appreciate the many achievements of her lifetime and way beyond (in the beneficial impacts on society today).

Today, thanks to her efforts, the Everglades National Park is a reality, saved from the relentless expansion and growth of developed areas for which Florida is nationally-known. Open space? Pave it over!

The area is also designated as a Wetland of International Significance and an International Biosphere Preserve.

We can all enjoy the Big Cypress area of the ‘Glades thanks to Marjory. Lake Okeechobee is still threatened by industrial activities but it is in much better shape than it would have been had she not joined the battle to push back on the flow of fertilizers, wastes into the lake, and other impacts that threatened this precious natural resource that helps to define Florida.

Well-Intended But In Turns Out, Boneheaded

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the late-1930s and into the 1940s made a number of bone-headed decisions for “improving” the Kissimmee River flow and the effects on the Everglades. A series of floods had caused damage to newly-developed and agricultural areas, and the rising complaints by the increasing population moved government officials to “action”.

The river was “straightened out” in the 1940s and 1950s for much of it meandering course – with disastrous results. The little river flows from Lake Kissimmee, from close by to the well-visited Orlando area resorts, 100 miles south to the expanses of the Lake Okeechobee area through a wide and very flat floodplain.

This is home to a rich and wide variety of natural fauna and flora. In 1948, the Corps began building the “Central and South Florida Project” to move the river to a ditch, the C-38 Canal and installed water control facilities that…destroyed the natural river.

In 1992, the “reversal” began, restoring parts of the old natural river. The US Army Corps of Engineers splits the cost with the South Florida Water Management District – which Marjory helped to organize. (Known locally to some as “swiff-mud”.)

Marjory had strenuously pushed back on such modernization and “progress” — and won support for the restoration of the river; the project is still underway.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School:  The high school being named after her was in honor, we could say, of her quest for learning throughout all of her life. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Building in the state capital (Tallahassee) is home to the offices of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

In her lifetime she was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – by President Bill Clinton (1993). England’s Queen Elizabeth paid her a visit. The National Wildlife Federation Hall of Fame inducted her, as did the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000.

When she passed in 1998 – 20 years ago at the age of 108! – President Clinton said: “Long before there was an Earth Day, Mrs. Douglas was a passionate steward or our nation’s natural resources and particularly her Florida Everglades.”

The Hall of Fame said of her book: “Her best-seller raised America’s consciousness and transformed the Florida Everglades from an area that was looked upon as a useless swamp – to be drained and developed commercially – to a national park that is seen as a valuable resource to be protected and preserved.”

And as we all know now, the scene of the February 2018 Parkland high school shooting tragedy took place at the high school named after her in 1990, during her lifetime.

Upon her passing her ashes were made part of the land – dust-returning-to-dust, to become part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness Area of the Everglades National Park.

And now you know more about the great lady of that name, who was a powerful voice that would very much at home in today’s sustainability movement!

She would be railing (I could picture her doing so) about global warming and the rising seas. She experienced the devastation hurricanes that ripped through South Florida in the 1920s and worried about her little house in Coconut Grove – that might be underwater at some point in the 21st Century (the restored house is a National Historic Landmark).

Her advice (according to a biographer, Mary Jo Breton in 1998): “Be a nuisance where it counts, but don’t be a bore at any time. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed (and she was at times in her life), discouraged and disappointed at failure but the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics – but never give up.”

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Graphic:  Wikipedia Commons

To learn more about this extraordinary woman and fighter for our environment, see the well done profile on Wikipedia:

About her work, “The Everglades: River of Grass”:

About The Kissimmee River restoration project:

How Tariffs Will Affect the State of Solar in the U.S.A. in 2018

Guest Column – By Kyle Pennell

The year 2018 did not start off well for the solar industry in the United States. In January, US President Donald Trump signed into law a 30% tariff on all imported solar panels, sending the entire renewable energy world into a controlled panic.

While the White House has repeatedly stated that this move is intended to help U.S. solar manufacturers who cannot compete with pricing coming out of China and India, there are many industry experts and environmentalists who have expressed a bleak outlook for the next several years of U.S. solar advancement.

What effect will Trump’s tariffs have on an industry that has been steadily growing since the 1970’s? What fortune, good or bad, will come from this ruling throughout 2018?

Trend: Foreign Producers Moving to the US

When signing the tariffs into law, President Trump stated that it was his hope to see foreign solar manufacturers move some of their production efforts to the United States. Jinko, a large Chinese solar company, seemed to take note of that, announcing plans to build a new plant in the US.(Jinko has an American subsidiary.)

Jinko announced in January 2018 that its board of directors have green-lit this U.S.-based plant’s construction, while subtly suggesting that their decision was a result of the tariff. They said in a prepared statement that the company “continues to closely monitor treatment of imports of solar cells and modules under the U.S. trade laws.”

Manufacturing products in the United States would allow Jinko the flexibility to avoid paying the tariff while continuing to affordably supply US installers with their products.

President Trump has been very vocal about his belief that the tariffs he has imposed on both imported solar panels and washing machines will coax more foreign companies into moving production state-side.

Foreign Countries Will Seek Compensation

The Trump Administration’s tariffs seem to have earned the ire of the global solar industry, with countries throughout Europe and Asia making official complaints with the World Trade Organization and seeking compensation from the US for what they believe is a WTO violation.

The Chinese government has filed an official WTO complaint against the United States, citing WTO provisions that they allege the U.S. has violated. It wasn’t long before the European Union followed suit, sending the United States a demand for compensation talks.

While the EU has not officially accused the US government of breaking WTO rules, it is seeking financial compensation on behalf of member-state Germany, a major solar hardware exporter.

There are some who fear that these filings could be the first step in an all-out trade war against the Trump Administration and the United States economy and business sector as a whole.

Thousands of American Jobs Will Be Lost

While the White House has touted these tariffs as a positive move for the American solar manufacturing industry, there are many who believe that this could spell the beginning of the end for the renewable power efforts in the United States — at least for the immediate future.

“Solar” is one of the fastest growing employment industries in the United States. The industry creates jobs at a rate 17% higher than the national average. The solar industry’s growth has been tied for years with the solar learning curve, which tells us that when prices fall by 20%, installations rise by 20%.

The Solar Energies Industry Association spoke out against these tariffs, alleging that increasing the cost of solar installations will slow the industry’s acceleration and lose upwards of 23,000 American jobs.

The SEIA went on to say that large investors will cancel projects that would have injected billions of dollars into renewable energy as a result of price hikes. It stands to reason that huge solar companies would look elsewhere for their expansions, where costs are limited, and incentives abound.

The SEIA was proven correct in their assumption, when the U.S. energy company SunPower postponed a planned $20 million expansion of its factories soon after the tariffs were announced.

Sun Power was seeking to grow its business in the California and Texas markets, but as a company that relies primarily on affordable hardware from the Philippines, this job creating environmentally-friendly expansion became economically-unwise.

“We have to stop our $20 million investment because the tariffs start before we know if we’re excluded,” SunPower CEO Tom Werner said in an interview with Reuters. “It’s not hypothetical. These were positions that we were recruiting for that we are going to stop.”

Those positions that SunPower stopped recruiting for are the first casualties of the Trump tariffs, but if the SEIA is to be believed, they will not be the last.

Questionable Motives, Questionable Future

President Trump has been a huge supporter of the domestic coal mining industry. During his successful 2016 presidential election bid, candidate Trump touted his support of “beautiful clean coal”, going as far as to bring it up once more in his January 2018 State of the Union address.

Many observers are tying this tariff to Trump’s unwavering support for fossil fuel power and are alleging that the president is seeking to wound the renewable industry to protect coal mining and fossil fuel power production.

Time Magazine even went as far as to call it “…the largest blow he’s dealt to renewable energy yet.”

But no matter what the president’s reasoning was, solar is a $28 billion industry which relies on foreign components for 80% of its manufacturing needs. Problems are going to arise.

While the world has benefited greatly from fossil fuel energy, the environment has suffered. It’s important to remember that technological evolution is the forefather or progress.

Examples abound: The rotary wired phone gave way to the cell phone. Blockbuster Video fell victim to streaming services. And we believe that fossil fuel power is destined to fall to renewable energy.

By blocking the advancement of solar, the U.S. federal government and the President of the United States are holding back the real potential of American energy efforts.

Thanks to Kyle Pennell from PowerScout (a home solar marketplace that lets consumers compare multiple quotes for home solar) for contributing this article.

  • Information:


2017’s Top 10 Sustainable Business Stories – HBR Author Andrew Winston Weighs In – What Are Your Top 2017 Stories?

Once again, the authoritative Harvard Business Review weighs in on corporate sustainability with a commentary piece on the top trends of 2017 – with “big leaps both forward and backward” in the year just concluded. And there was some predictability, writes author Andrew Winston in his commentary, as he says he predicted:  “…the context for sustainable business in 2017 may center on the competition between two stories, the election of Donald Trump and significant action on climate change…”

Of course, as we all quickly learned after the January 20 inauguration, the U.S. signaled it would be pulling out of the historic Paris Climate Accord – to become at some point in 2018 probably the ONLY country standing by itself.  At least at the [Federal] governmental level.

And so, Trend #1, writes Andrew Winston, is the “Newtonian equal-and-opposite reaction from business, states, and cities – nothing short of amazing – their pushback on policy decisions is my #1 story of 2017.”

Other top stories & trends that he picked:

#2, the deadly costs of climate change became even more obvious.

#3, Trump Administration begins dismantling of environmental protections.

#4, (we can hear the cheers at your end as you read this – “investors woke up about climate risk and benefits of sustainability”).

#5, something to carefully watch from other leading economies (like the USA!) in 2018, China accelerated its cleantech advantage with a series of dramatic moves.

Completing the list:

#6, cleantech continues the relentless mark and coal continued to die (Morgan Stanley predicted an inflection point in 2020 when renewable become the cheapest energy source globally).

#7 is “famous CEOs” took moral stands (Tesla’s Elon Musk, Disney’s Robert Iger and others).

#8, companies took a stand, such as suing to fight the president’s first Executive Order (the poorly-executed and hateful immigration ban).

#9 is the early -2017 event that millions watched on TV, the Super Bowl, as companies touted in their very expensive ads their views on social sustainability and stands taken on the new administration’s policies.

Finally, at #10 author Winston has in focus the global Unilever, “the consensus corporate leader on managing sustainability for business and social value” — fighting off a takeover bid by Kraft Heinz and 3G Capital.

What is your list of top stories and trends for 2017?  Send us your nominations.  And if you have not already read G&A Institute Chair Hank Boerner’s book published at the end of 2016 and looking into 2017 and 2018, the book is available with our compliments. (“Trends Converging! – A 2016 Look Ahead of the Curve” – that is, what’s ahead in 2017 that affects Sustainability & CR managers…sustainable/ESG investing professionals?)

Reading Trends Converging! you can see what is working / what may not work if the policies of the Trump Administration and the Congress intervene on the wrong side of history.  The book is can be downloaded at:

About the HBR essay:  Author Andrew Winston wrote the popular books “Green to Gold” and “The Big Pivot.” His “So What’s Next” look at mega-trends is included with predictions for 2018.

This is a very powerful column and we urge your reading – it’s our Top Story for you this week.


Our Top Story For You…

The Top 10 Sustainable Business Stories of 2017
(Wednesday – December 27, 2017) Source: Harvard Business Review – The year 2017 has been a long, strange trip. The definition of sustainability in business evolved quickly — the topic in executive suites now covers a wide range of issues that address how a company navigates environmental and…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Important Trends From Textile Exchange Conference Summed Up: The Industry Gets It on Sustainability

“Sustainability is front and center in the apparel sector” — so writes Tara Donaldson in the November 5th feature story in the Sourcing Journal in covering the Textile Sustainability Conference in October. Seven major trends were discussed at the meeting of industry execs.

Considering such things as reducing microfibers polluting our oceans or using more materials with less environmental impact or other factors, the industry focus on sustainability is creating a new vision for the apparel industry, including for brands that had not yet been on board.  Because: the consumer and industry now demand this.

And there are seven trends that illustrate the paradigm shift in the industry, with details set out by the Journal for each:

Embrace of Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) – more companies are taking a close look at how their businesses align with these, and the October conference in Washington, DC focused on exploring what SDGs mean to the apparel sector. The SDGs provide a common vocabulary for the industry.  And the manufacturing centers are taking a closer look — like China, India, Bangladesh and El Salvador.

Better raw materials in products – slowly but steadily, brands are building products with sustainable materials; the trend is up for the year, according to the 2017 Preferred Fiber & Materials Report.

Circularity/Circularity/Circularity – companies are gearing up for more circularity (circular value chains that is!), with about one-quarter of firms developing such a strategy and more than half with a strategy being implemented.  For example, making a silk-like fiber out of orange peels.

Actions on Climate – for many firms, climate change is a major issue and more than 200 companies have set carbon reduction targets. Luxury products marketer Kering Group plans to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2020, for example.

Leveraging Technology for Sustainability – DNA tech is one of the “big things” with the ability to provide greater transparency and traceability for fiber (the technique is using DNA-based tags embedded in raw materials such as organic cotton).

Water — Being Better Stewards – apparel companies are “water guzzlers,” with 14-plus liters to make one cotton suit (as example).  Companies are figuring out how to go “waterless” or really cut their water usage over time in the production of apparel.

Investors and Long-Term Viability – and yes, the industry leaders acknowledge that investors “are paying heed” to sustainability and long-term business viability. A Bloomberg LP analyst laid out the importance of sustainability to the conference attendees.

There’s more for you in the Top Story on the above seven major trends.  And we include in our wrap up this week another report — about investors now paying greater attention to sustainability efforts in the apparel industry.

Note:  for the Sourcing Journal – a subscription is required — a “Free” registration will allow you access to this story, with a limit of 5 articles per month.

Top Stories This Week…

The Top 7 Sustainability Trends Coming Out of Textile Exchange
(Monday – November 06, 2017) Source: Sourcing Journal – Whether it’s circularity, reducing microfibers polluting the world’s oceans or using more materials with less environmental impact, sustainability is front and center in the apparel sector, and brands that hadn’t been on board…

SEC Proposes Important Amendments to Corporate Disclosure & Reporting – Changes Are in the Wind — But Corporate ESG Disclosure Is Not Addressed in the SEC Proposals …

October 12 2017 – by Hank Boerner – Chair, G&A Institute

On October 11, 2017 important news was coming from the Securities Exchange Commission (in Washington DC) for corporate leaders and investment professionals: a comprehensive package of proposed changes (amendments) to existing rules for corporate disclosure and reporting was released for public examination and comment.

There are more than 250 pages of proposed changes and adjustments released for your reading (the document will be published now in the Federal Register for broad communication to stakeholders).

You’ll remember the April 2016 activities as SEC released a 200-plus page Concept Release that addressed a range of issues that could result in revamping the overarching parts of Regulation S-K and parts of Regulation Fair Disclosure (“Reg FD“) and other corporate disclosures required by Federal statutes.

We told you about this in our post of May 13, 2016.

We said then: Maybe…U.S. Companies will be required…or strongly advised…to disclose ESG Data and related business information…

There were great hopes raised when the Commission in circulating the Concept Release document devoted more than a dozen pages to discussion about ESG, sustainable investing, the possibility of “guidance” or perhaps amending rules to meet investors’ expectations that public companies would begin, expand, improve on, ESG disclosure.

Numerous investor interests provided comments to the SEC in support of the possibilities raised by SEC in the dozen pages of the Concept Release devoted to ESG et al.

The US SIF — the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing, a very influential trade association of asset owners and managers — provided important input, as did the CFA Institute (the U.S.-based, global certification organization for financial analysts and portfolio managers worldwide).

Disclosure of material ESG issues was a key concern of the numerous responders in the public comment period.

This week’s development: The SEC Commission proposed amendments to existing regulations that are part of the “Modernization and Simplification of Regulation S-K,” citing a different package of legislation. (The FAST Act Modernization, which in part will the sponsors said will attempt to “prune the regulatory orchard” — this is part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or “FAST”.)

The Commission referred to the proposals as an important step “…to modernize and simplify disclosure requirements for public companies, investment advisors and mutual fund (investment) companies under the FAST Act…”

This, said recently-appointed SEC Chair Jay Clayton, “…is the most effective way to update SEC rules, simplify forms and utilize technology to make disclosure more accessible…”

The proposed amendments were characterized as part of the overall, long-term review of the SEC’s disclosure system. Thus, the SEC said the proposed amendments reflect “perspectives developed during the staff’s broader review…including public input on the prior Concept Release.

The details are available for you in a new 253-page document, at:

You have 60 days of open comment period ahead during which to express your views on the proposals.

The proposed amendments mostly address corporate governance (G”) issues that if adopted would:

• Change such items as Description of Property**; the MD&A; Directors, Executive Officers, Promoters and Control Persons; Compliance with Section 16(a) of the Exchange Act; Outside Cover Page of the Prospectus.

• Revise rules and forms to update, streamline and improve the SEC disclosure framework by eliminating risk factor examples listed in the disclosure requirement and revising the description of “the property requirement” to emphasize the materiality threshold**”.

Note that while “property” is usually a facility, this does not always apply to the service sectors.

• Update rules as needed to reflect changes since the rules were first adopted or last amended. (Including, “corporate governance” items, such as for Board Auditing, Compensation Committee operations.)

• Simplify the overall disclosure process, including treatment of confidential information; also, changes would be made to the MD&A to allow for “flexibility in discussing historical periods”. (The discussion on confidential info runs for pages – important to read for corporate managers involved in disclosure.)

• Treatment of subsidiaries.

• Incorporate technology to improve access to information requiring data tagging (XBRL) for items on the cover page and use of hyperlinks (HTML) by reference and in the EDGAR system.

Again – the public now has 60 days to submit comments on the proposed amendments (to such statutory authority as the Securities Act of 1933; Securities Exchange Act of 1934; Investment Company Act of 1940; and, regulations under these landmark securities protection laws of the land).

There are numerous sections within the proposed amendment document where the Commission is inviting public comment. To submit your comments, see: — file#S7-08-17

Disappointing News: There is no mention that we could find in the proposal document that addressed the many comments that were directed to the SEC staff in response to the earlier Concept Release by sustainable & responsible investor interests. And, in many investor conversations with SEC staff that acknowledged the growing importance of disclosure regarding corporate sustainability and ESG performance.

No mention of: Climate Change. ESG. Responsible Investment.

This is very troubling — no doubt members of the investment community and corporate leaders well along on their sustainability journey will be providing their perspectives to SEC — and the media, and elected officials — on this important oversight.

SEC guidance for corporate reporters regarding their ESG, sustainability, responsibility, citizenship, etc disclosures and reporting activities would be very helpful – right?  Of course, we are in a new political environment now, and perhaps that is helping to shape the agenda at the Commission as “reforms” are drafted and distributed for public consumption.

There is much more news to come when the response to the announcement begins. Stay Tuned!

P.S. – if you/your organization responds to the draft proposals, please do let G&A know so we can publicize your perspectives.

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.

Sustainability Pays, Says Wal-Mart & Some Of Its Suppliers in PBS NewsHour Interviews

As part of the PBS series, “Peril and Promise: The Challenge of Climate Change,” the network’s NewsHour reported on how a few large U.S. companies are doing their part to meet climate change challenges…and prospering…even as the Trump White House continues to move toward withdrawal from the historic Paris Agreement (COP 21).

The efforts of the giant retailer Wal-Mart Stores are highlighted in the broadcast.  Wal-Mart stresses that it is striving to be recognized as a corporate leader in the “fight against climate change.”  Kathleen McLaughlin, the company’s chief sustainability officer, is interviewed in the program by PBS correspondent Stephanie Sy.

Says the Wal-Mart CSO:  “…sustainability is core to our mission.  It’s critical for business.  It’s important for customers and communities…”
The company’s sustainability journey was launched in 2005 by then-CEO Lee Scott.  He pledged to curb the company’s GhG emissions by the use of clean power sources, aiming for 100% renewables over time. As part of the effort, Wal-Mart saves energy — and money! — in store operations by demanding more efficient equipment from vendors (for HVAC, lighting, refrigeration).  There are solar installations on 364 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores now — this makes the company the second largest commercial solar power generator.

Wal-Mart plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 2025 by 18% from its 2015 levels, even as it ambitiously expands its retail footprint.  With 99% of the company’s GHG impact coming from its supply chain, Wal-Mart points out that at its encouragement, dozens of its major suppliers have signed on to Project Gigaton (the effort to cut emissions).

One of the company’s key suppliers — candy maker Mars, makers of M&Ms — itself set an aggressive target of “zero carbon” in its operations by 2040, working to achieve zero GHG emissions by that date.  The company’s “vast solar farm” in rural New Jersey is featured in the PBS broadcast.  Barry Parkin, chief sustainability officer of Mars, Inc. is interviewed about the company’s efforts.

Key to the sustainability efforts:  Wal-Mart’s model, the way stores are managed, the work done with the massive supply chain partners…all of this “optimizes and lowers the footprint to deliver the same amount of product to people,” explains company CSO Kathleen McLaughlin.  And, she adds, “if you look at the scale and ambition of the efforts and what we’ve actually achieved, I’m actually quite excited about it.”

The company has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund (“EDF”) for guidance in achieving its climate change goals.  Responding to the question about is “Wal-Mart doing enough?,” Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund in the interview said:  “The scale of Wal-Mart is hard to wrap your head around.  They can always do more.  What they have shown so far is a serious commitment, and the journey is an ongoing one of improvement.”

Making this story come alive for you:  There is a videotape of the program and the various interviews posted in the print version of the program script in our Top Story that you can view.  You’ll also want to read the various viewer/reader responses to see the perspectives shared by viewers…many opinions were shared, both positive and negative.

“Peril and Promise” is an ongoing PBS series on the human impact of, and solutions for, Climate Change.”  FYI, PBS is the largest non-commercial television network in the U.S.A., with more than 350 local stations broadcasting PBS and their own programming; combined, these reach more than 100 million households. Major stations are located in New York City, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, Denver, Detroit, and many more cities in the 50 states.

Top Stories This Week…

Large companies see payoffs in sustainability
(Monday – September 18, 2017)
Source: PBS NewsHour – This summer, when President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Paris climate accord — a voluntary pact to cut emissions of gases that cause global warming — some opposition came from what is perhaps a surprising place: big…

This Is Hurricane Season in the Americas — And Climate Change Discussions Will Accompany News Reports About the Super-Storms Coming Ashore

All news/all the time — that was the American television viewer’s diet of content during the week long siege, with Hurricane Harvey sweeping ashore along the Gulf of Mexico areas of the State of Texas.  And the plight of the people of the Houston region, in particular, was on everyone’s mind as we watched the struggles of the residents there to stay safe and help their neighbors.

As we watched, many of us from afar, this was the American Spirit at its very best, in such terrible times for Texans to remind us all of the traditions of neighbor-helping-neighbor.

The public debate about the issues surrounding climate change (is it happening/what is the cause/what can be done) goes on, folks on both sides of the issue were cautious and sensitive about bringing the subject up in the midst of the suffering in Texas.  But gradually, the debate centered on Harvey’s effects came around to the point.

And Florida, another U.S. state, was brought into focus by writers at The Guardian as writer Richard Luscombe (a free lancer based in Miami) reminded readers of perhaps one of the early canaries-in-the-coal-mine — Hurricane Andrew almost 25 years ago to the day that the giant storm tore through Miami-Dade County — and causing US$15 billion in insured losses.

Professor Hugh Gladwin in the piece wondered:  Will people base their real estate decisions on climate change futures? He sees higher-standing areas of booming Miami becoming gentrified as a result of sea level rise…and coastal areas threatened by flooding and storm surge will decrease in value.

Writer Luscombe tells us that residents of South Florida are already buying houses in North Carolina and Tennessee — to have a safe place to go as the seas rise in the Sunshine State!

Climate Corporation (San Francisco) says that it will only take a few climatic events in a row for a collapse in regional/local real property values to fall.  That could make the housing crisis of 2008 “look small.”

Luscombe writes that properties in Norfolk, Virginia; Annapolis, Maryland; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Savannah and Charleston, Georgia; and Miami Beach, Florida — all have areas now where fish swim in driveways and people drive through salt water streets.

As we’ve reported for you recently, the nation’s urban leaders (the mayors of cities large and small) are already addressing the challenges of climate change and making their cities more resilient.  As the TV coverage of Hurricane Harvey slows and we move on to the next news cycle, no doubt climate change discussions will increase in tempo.  This is hurricane season, after all, and there is already a Category Five storm approaching the American coastlines.

We can debate “when” it is appropriate to raise the issues surrounding climate change, and what to do about it.  But we think it is a conversation that is necessary — so in the end we should do our best to protect all of the U.S.A.’s coastal areas, where 2/3 of the American population reside.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends and colleagues in Houston and the Texas and Louisiana coastal region.  We should all pitch in to help — neighbor-to-neighbor — in any way that we can.

What are your thoughts on all of this?

Top Stories This Week…

How climate change could turn US real estate prices upside down
(Wednesday – August 30, 2017)
Source: The Guardian – Floridians have long recognized climate’s threat to their homes. Amid the disaster wrought by Harvey, home buyers may look to higher ground

Of Prime Concern to Many Companies: Water! Will Corporate Advertising Claims “Around” The Water Issue Click With Customers?

California….Water:  The place name and the liquid substance are interconnected in the minds of sustaianbility professionals thinking about climate change and the effects that we are already seeing in the American landscape.

The chronic drought in the Golden State has brought the water shortage issue in sharp relief, especially since California is for many crops the “breadbasket” of America, and sufficient water for irrigation and food processing is a critical need.

Water crises in the American West in general are now being seen as possible marketing opportunities by companies in the beverage, clothing and water-dependent products, at least in the claims being made about “sustainable products” to offer to consumers.  Matt Weiser, Contributing Editor, Water Deeply — brings us news about this in a commentary that is our Top Story.

The growing scarcity of water in the west and especially in California is prompting companies to broadcast water use reduction (such as in beverage manufacturing), or using recycled waste water in their apparel manufacturing.

Matt interviewed Kellen Klein, a senior manager at Fortune 500, a Portland, Oregon-based non-profit that “works to find common ground between corporations and environmental groups to help solve global problems.”

A number of companies see water as critical to their brand, says Kellen Klein; this is in many ways the social license to operate, at least in certain geographies.  Coca Cola Company is an example that he advances (he has worked on KO projects); the company has adopted a goal of replenishing water that goes into their products (which are sold in every country but a handful of nations around the world).

Levi’s (California-based for more than a century) sells cotton jeans, which requires water to grow (the crop) and more water for washing.  The company started an education program — “Water-Less” to encourage consumers to use cold water settings and wash their Levi products less often (to conserve energy for hot water production and to conserve water).

Have you heard of Bonnesville Environmental Foundation?  Coca Cola and other companies partner with this NGO in the “Change the Course” program, which has the aim of encouraging consumers to use less water. Consumers sign a pledge; money is then invested in projects to restore 1,000 gallons to critical watersheds.

‘ In the Top Story there is also news along these lines about Cerveza Imperial, the Costa Rican beer company; Fiji Water; Stone Brewing and an Arizona project.

Water, water, water – it’s like location, location, location to Realtors for many companies. The challenge for many companies that depend on water as the basic resource for their products and services.There’s interesting details for you in the Top Story about water and the corporate sector meeting the challenges.

Top Stories This Week…

How Water Became the New Focus of Corporate Sustainability
(Friday – August 04, 2017)
Source: News Deeply – Water crises in the West have pushed some companies to apply sustainability labels to their beverages, clothes and other water-dependent products. Kellen Klein, a senior manager at Future 500, helps sort through the claims.