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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AGENDA!

For information and to register, click here.

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

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

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

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

Proof of Concept for Sustainable Investing: The Influential Barron’s Names the Inaugural “The Top 100 Sustainable Companies — Big Corporations With The Best ESG Policies Have Been Beating the Stock Market.”

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

Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies

Barron’s is one of the most influential of investor-focused publications (in print and digital format) and a few months ago (in October), the editors published the first of an ongoing series of articles that will focus on ESG performance and sustainable investing, initially making these points:

  • Barron’s plans to cover this burgeoning style of investing on a more regular basis. A lot of possible content that was developed was left on the cutting room floor, the editors note.
  • Says Barron’s: “We are only in Version 1.0 of sustainable investing. 2.0 is where ESG is not a separate category but a natural part of active management.”
  • And:  “Given the corporate scandals of recent days (Wells Fargo, Equifax, Chipotle, Volkswagen, Valeant Pharmaceuticals), it is clear that focus on companies with good ESG policies is the pathway to greater returns for investors!”

The current issue of Barron’s (Feb 5, 2018) has a feature article and comprehensive charting with this cover description:

The Top 100 Sustainable Companies – Big Corporations With the Best ESG Policies Have Been Beating the Market.”

Think of this as proof of concept: The S&P 500® Index Companies returned 22% for the year 2017 and the Barron’s Top 100 Sustainable Companies average return was 29%.

The 100 U.S. companies were ranked in five categories considering 300 performance indicators.  Barron’s asked Calvert Research and Management, a unit of Eaton Vance, to develop the list of the Top 100 from the universe of 1,000 largest publicly-held companies by market value, all headquartered in the United States.

Calvert looked at the 300 performance indicators that were provided by three key data and analytic providers that serve a broad base of institutional investors:

  • Sustainalytics,
  • Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS)
  • and Thomson Reuters ASSET4 unit.

Five umbrella categories were considered:

  • Shareholders
  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Planet
  • Community

There were items considered in the “shareholders” category, like accounting policies and board structure; employee workplace diversity and labor relations; customer, business ethics and product safety; planet; community; GHG emissions; human rights and supply chain.

We can say here that “good governance” (the “G” in ESG) is now much more broadly defined by shareholders and includes the “S” and “E” performance indicators (and management thereof), not the formerly-narrow definitions of governance. Senior managers and board, take notice.

Every company was ranked from 1-to-100, including even those firms manufacturing weapons (these firms are usually excluded from other indexes and best-of lists, and a number of third party recognitions).

Materiality is key: the analysts adjusted the weighting of each category for how material it was for each industry. (Example: “planet” is more material for chip makers using water in manufacturing, vs. water for banking institutions – each company is weighted this way.)

The Top 100 list has each company’s weighted score and other information and is organized by sector and categories; the complete list and information about the methodology is found at Barron’s.com.

The Top 5 Companies overall were:

  • Cisco Systems (CSCO)
  • salesforce.com (CRM)
  • Best Buy (BBY)
  • Intuit (INTU)
  • HP (HPQ)

The 100 roster is organized in categories:

  • The Most Sustainable Consumer Discretionary Companies (Best Buy is at #1)
  • The Most Sustainable Financials (Northern Trust is #1) – Barron’s notes that there are few banks in the Top 100. Exceptions: PNC Financial Services Group and State Street.
  • The Most Sustainable Industrials (Oshkosh is ranked #1)
  • The Most Sustainable Tech Outfits (Cisco is at the top)

Familiar companies names in the roster include Adobe Systems, Colgate-Palmolive, PepsiCo, Deer, UPS, Target, Kellogg, Apple, and Henry Schein.

Singled out for their perspectives to be shared in the Barron’s feature commenting on the ESG trends: John Wilson, Cornerstone Capital; John Streur, Calvert; Calvet Analyst Chris Madden; Paul Smith, CEO of CFA Institute; Jon Hale, Head of Sustainability Research at Morningstar.

Calvert CEO John Streur noted: “This list gives people insight into companies addressing future risks and into the quality of management.”

Top-ranked Cisco is an example of quality of management and management of risk: The company reduced Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 41% since 2007 and gets 80% of its electricity from renewable sources.

This is a feature article by Leslie P. Norton, along with a chart of the Top 100 Companies.

She writes: “…Barron’s offers our first ranking of the most sustainable companies in the U.S. We have always aimed to provide information about what keenly interests investors – and what affects investment risk and performance…” And…”what began as an expression of values (“SRI”) is finding wider currency as good corporate practices…”

The complete list of the top companies is at Barron’s com. (The issue is dated February 5th, 2018)  You will need a password (for subscribers) to access the text and accompanying chart.

For in-depth information: We prepared a comprehensive management brief in October 2017 on Barron’s sustainable coverage for our “G&A Institute’s To the Point!” web platform: https://ga-institute.com/to-the-point/proof-of-concept-for-sustainable-investing-barrons-weighs-in-with-inaugural-list-of-top-100-sustainable-companies/

The Words From Davos In 2018: Sustainability, Responsibility…And More In This, The Fourth Industrial Revolution

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

The World Economic Forum (WEF) annually convenes business leaders, government officials, celebrities and other luminaries in the Swiss village of Davos-Klosters to explore societal issues and develop or work to advance solutions to same.

This year’s convocation was staged over four days n late-January. Some of the highlights for you:

UN Sustainable Development Goals in Focus
The Government of Denmark and the WEF signed a memorandum of understanding to move ahead with a partnership to improve the state of the world through a public-private cooperation. The agreement provides a model framework that could lead to improvement over the long-term.

And, adoption of the approach by other nations. Consider what this European nation and the WEF have in mind:

  • They will pursue public-private partnership to promote green growth.
  • Develop a technology and innovation partnership.
  • Work together to encourage greater adoption of the SDGs.
  • Support the mobilization of private capital for infrastructure through the WEF-led initiative, the Sustainable Development Investment Partnership.
  • Support trade and investment through the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (a multi-stakeholder initiative).
  • Work to implement the WEF’s System Initiative on Education, Gender and Work.
  • Denmark will assign a Ministry of Foreign Affairs senior advisor to the WEF New York City office (a second such WEF appointment for Denmark).

Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said: “Denmark has an ambitious agenda to promote public-private partnerships…in terms of sustainable growth, social cohesion and technological skills. We are delighted to team with WEF to create concrete progress on these agendas…to create better lives for more people and sole the urgent climate crisis. We must build bridges across sectors, borders and old divisions…”

Addressing Modern Slavery
Influentials addressed the need for coordinated global action to end modern slavery – that was championed by US Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee); Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation; and, Gary Haugen, CEO of the International Justice Mission.

Senator Corker drew attention to the new Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (“GFEMS”), a public-private partnership to fund programs in countries where such practices are prevalent.

The initial funding is from the United States and United Kingdom; the goal is to raise US$1.5 billion-plus and develop a global strategy to address modern slavery. (It’s estimated that as many as 40 million people now live in modern slavery conditions. This is said to be a $150 billion global business.)

There are three pillars adopted by GFEMS: (1) leverage the rule of law; (2) “energized” engagement with business sector (3) work to sustain freedom.

Jean Baderschneider is CEO of the new Global Fund. The fund’s work will be modeled on the global effort to fight AIDS, TB and malarial infections, bringing together governments, the private sector and NGOs.

Tech-Reskilling Drive Announced
The Information Technology industry is going to work to target 1 million people to offer resources (such as on-line tools) and training opportunities to “re-skill” adults to help them meet the requirements of the tech industry for employment, as well as continue their education and learn more about today’s technology.

Big names in tech are signed on: Accenture, CA Technologies, Cisco, Cognizant, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Infosys, Pegasystems, PwC, Salesforce, SAP, and Tata Consultancy Services. The coalition is seeking more members to help develop tools and processes to address the “barriers preventing adults from re-skilling or successfully completing training, initially in the United States. There are plans to scale to other geographies.

The coalition’s “SkillSET” is hosted on the EdCas AI-powered Knowledge Cloud Platform, accessible to all.

ISO 20121:2012 Certification for Davos
The conference was awarded the ISO certification for “sustainable event planning and operation” by DNVGL (a certifying body). ISO 20121 is a framework for identifying and managing key social, economic and environmental impacts of an event.

Sustainability measures implement by the Forum included carbon compensation for all air travel by the staff, media and participants; promotion of “sustainable transport” in Davos (walk don’t ride); energy efficiency; water management; sourcing of renewable energy; reduction of waste and recycling.

Ending With A Call to Action
The 2018 Forum closed with a call to action to “globalize compassion” and “leave no one behind.” This, the 48th WEF Annual Meeting, closed on a creative note with four artists sharing visions of how painting, photography, film and dance can inspire empathy with other people’s stories.

Across all of the 400 sessions, the Davos organizers said, “…one key theme kept emerging, the need to embrace our common humanity in the face of rapid technological changes ushered in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

And so the call for a spirit of inclusion, diversity and respect for human rights…this characterized the 2018 gathering, said Sharon Burrow, one of the seven female co-chairs of the meeting (she is General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation).

Important outcomes of the meeting included these developments, on the theme of “mending our fractured world”:

  • Preparing workers for the future.
  • Safeguarding our oceans.
  • Closing the gender gap.
  • Tackling waste and pollution.
  • Unlocking nature’s value.
  • Making meat sustainable.
  • Bridging the digital divide.
  • Fighting financial crime and modern slavery.
  • Taking on fake news.
  • Securing air travel.

And…advancing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes Forum centers at work with social, public and private sector partners in numerous countries.

As Oliver Baitch writing in Ethical Corp observed, having spent four days at the conference:

“First, and foremost, sustainability is here to stay. Long gone are the denials or debates as to whether “non-financial” or “soft” issues are the preserve of global business. Themes such as citizenship-centred science, a post-oil energy matrix and tax transparency have shifted from side-room workshops to the main stage.

“Second, companies are beginning to put their money where their mouths are. Davos 2018 saw a litany of firm, measureable corporate commitments – professional services firm PwC promising to cut its carbon emissions by 40% by 2022 (having cut them by 29% since 2007) through to Coca-Cola pledging to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030.”

You can read his summary of the 2018 confab at: http://www.ethicalcorp.com/will-sustainability-be-ceos-trays-after-davos

And, of course, there is a significant amount of related information at the WEF web site:  https://www.weforum.org/

The Most Trustworthy Business and Professional Leaders – the Rosters Are Out Today From Trust Across America / Trust Around the World

January 30, 2018
by Hank Boerner – Chair& Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Trust!  For many of us, when a critical incident or crisis occurs, one of the first words that come to mind is “trust,” as in “they really broke the trust with us” or “the organization can’t be trusted” (as in the statements made) or “the leaders can’t be trusted.”

Apply this to now-familiar settings:  Wells Fargo bankers and the security of your personal bank accounts.  BP and deepwater ocean drilling or Alaska drilling.  Equifax and your personal financial information.  Valeant pharma and drug pricing – and alleged gouging.

In a world of those little swirling computer screen circles, and IT dominating our business & persona lives…threats can now be everywhere — internet hacking and phishing abounds – and we think:  who can we trust with your information?  That becomes a conscious and subconscious thought process on both a business and personal basis for many of us.

In business and professional life, trust is a valuable and precious commodity.  Warren Buffett has observed, “…it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it…if you think about that, you will do things differently…”

“Trustworthy” is a very valuable characteristic, we would say!

And so does an organization that has been identifying the “Top Thought Leaders in Trust” think that way:  the Trust Across America / Trust Around the World (TAA/TAW, owned by Next Decade, Inc.)

The founder and guiding spirit is CEO Barbara Brooks Kimmel, who 10 years ago created the program and its proprietary FACTS® Framework (used to measure the trustworthiness of more than 1,500 U.S. public companies). FACTS incorporates five indicators of trust and integrity – Financial stability, Accounting conservativeness, Corporate governance, Transparency and Sustainability.

Barbara is also the editor of the Trust INC. book series and runs the global Trust Alliance.

Every year since 2008, TAA/TAW assembles judges and conducts a survey and analysis to select a small universe of the Top Thought Leaders in Trust.  After five continuous years on the annual list, a small number of awardees receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.  This year’s lifetime roster additions include:

  • John Baldoni – President, the Baldoni Consulting organization.
  • Donna Boehme – Principal of Compliance Strategists LLC.
  • Doug Conant – former CEO of Campbell Soup and founder, Conant Leadership.
  • Robert Easton – Chairman and Senior Manager of Accenture Australia and New Zealand.
  • Mark S. Fernandes – CEO of Capitalism 2.0, Inc.
  • Barbara Brooks Kimmel – CEO of Trust Across America.
  • Holly Latty-Mann – Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Cofounder, and President of The Leadership Trust.
  • David Reiling – CEO of Sunrise Banks and social entrepreneur.

TAA / TAW is the leading global program devoted to researching and building tools to elevate organizational trust. A Google search will return over 1300 entries.

In 2015, the organization added the “Lifetime Honorees” designation to 12 professionals.  I was honored to be one of the original twelve, after five years of being the awardee for the annual award.  In 2016 and in 2017, seven more professionals were added to the roster (each year), and now in 2018, there are eight professionals added.

Ninety-one individuals were named to the 2017 individual award, including for the second year in a row, G&A Institute Co-founder and Executive Vice President Louis D. Coppola.

You can see the full list in the latest TRUST! Magazine here:  http://trustacrossamerica.com/magazine.shtml

 

Of course, Lou and I are humbled and proud to receive such honors.

TAA / TAW points to the organization’s core values and principles, which are excellent “north stars” for professionals’ and their organizations’ guidance:

Integrity – Quality – Community – Objectivity – Credibility – Success. 

You can learn more about these and the organization at: http://www.trustacrossamerica.com/about-words.shtml

Do you have a nominee for the Top Thought Leaders 2019 award?  The nominations are now open – there’s information at: http://www.trustacrossamerica.com/cgi-bin/nominations.cgi

# # #

Adding my thoughts….

Trust – this apparently comes down to us for common understanding and use from ancient languages.  There are derivations from the Old Norse – the language of the wandering Vikings (“traust” and “trow”).  From the Old Dutch (“troosten”).  And the German or Teutonic tongue (“trosten”).  And more from the Gothic English-the Anglo Saxon roots of spoken English today (“trausti”).

These ancient and current tongues convey to us:  

Truth.  Comfort. Trustworthy.
An agreement or covenant – to be true to one’s words and deeds.
To be believed.

And therefore – to be trusted and trustworthy.  Worth striving for, we would say in these often chaotic days of the 21st Century!

# # #

There’s information on the 2017 awards in the news from TAA:  https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/announcing-2018-top-thought-leaders-in-trust-300589490.html

ANNOUNCING: DJSI – HOW INSIGHTS INSPIRE ACTION

 

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

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

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

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

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

Participants can expect to take away a deeper understanding of:

The DJSI 2018 – methodology and important takeaways.

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

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN

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

Registrations will be open until April 5, 2018.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AGENDA!

For information and to register, click here.

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

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

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

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

We Love “Top 10” Lists, Right? So – Who Were The Top 10 Movers & Shakers in Sustainability 2017? Huff Po Has Their List… Who Are Your Nominees?

Huffington Post writer Lauren DeMates has her “Top 10” list up for the 2017 forces that shaped (in her opinion) sustainability.  Guiding her choice: “…many of 2017’s activities were prompted by the unprecedented attack on science and environmental protection by the Trump administration.  However, efforts to counteract the anti-environmental agenda and work towards a more sustainable society have been unprecedented as well…”

And in that context, she identifies the following:

#1 Rogue Federal Employees (standing up for science – the “dark state” Trump criticizes).

#2 Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Earth Guardians (the “global tribe” of inspiring young activists, artists, musicians).

#3 One Million Women (building a lifestyle revolution to fight the climate crisis).

#4 Anthony Bourdain (the CNN featured commentator focused on food and travel who created the movie “Wasted” about food waste).

#5 Sub-national Actors Committed to the Paris Agreement (the growing number of cities, states, universities, business leaders pledging to uphold the 2-degrees commitment that the Federal government is working to abandon).

#6 Volvo Cars (after 2019, these will be electric and hybrids, to phase out fossil fuels).

#7 Lonely Whale (the initiative focused on the plastic waste polluting the oceans).

#8 Bears Ears Tribes (5 Native American tribes in Utah coalescing to stand up to the Federal government to preserve and protect their heritage and land).

#9 Mexico (leading in marine protection with the largest ocean reserve in North America, the infamous gyres).

#10 Climate Optimists (this initiative intends to remind us that hope beats fear – attitude inspires progress). The details shared are “a snapshot” of the many movers and shakers in 2017.  Lauren is a writer-researcher and co-founder of The Sustainability Co-Op, a shared space for guidance on integrating E and S considerations in daily life and understanding the global context in which issues are shaped.

AND, AN IMPORTANT UPDATE ON ISS’ EXPANSION INTO ESG
Last week’s Highlights newsletter focused attention on the expansion of the important ISS “QualityScores” for public companies (to include “E” and “S”) by Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS).

There are more details for you, including an interview with Marija Kramer, Head of Responsible Investment Business at ISS. This and more on ISS’ expansion of ESG in a complimentary management brief prepared by the G&A Institute team on our new platform – “G&A Institute’s To The Point!”.

Click here to check out the brief with our compliments!

 

Our Top Story For You…

Top 10 Movers And Shakers In Sustainability – 2017
(Tuesday – January 09, 2018) Source: Huff Post – A whole lot of moving and shaking was going on in 2017! Previous years’ movers and shakers stepped it up and new people and organizations emerged with innovative strategies to take on environmental issues. Many of 2017’s…

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: https://www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/trends-converging-a-2016-look-ahead-of-the-curve.html

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…

We Are Far Now From Milton Friedman’s Prevailing View on CSR in 1970 – Companies Are Showing The Way – Here Are 5 Examples

The stage was set in 1970 by Professor Milton Friedman, who wrote in a New York Times Magazine essay: The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. He famously said in conclusion: “here is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

Over the ensuing decades, advocates for greater corporate accountability, responsibility and sustainability pushed back – with great vigor.  Over time, more companies adopted well thought out strategies and tactics to become more socially / societally responsible… leading to today’s fulsome embrace by the corporate sector of CR or CSR.

Forbes magazine commentator Marissa Peretz (writing from California) brings us examples of “environmentally-friendly business endeavors” that demonstrate profit can exist alongside sustainability and the successful corporate business model. Her examples are Fair Harbor (apparel); Nest Bedding; Paladino and Company (consulting); Under the Canopy; and B Corp Natura Brasil.

Highlights: 

(1) Fair Harbor makes sustainable boardshorts and men’s swimwear from 11 recycled plastic bottles (including recycled ocean plastic harvested in Haiti).

(2) Nest Bedding, a family-owned business, creates “sustainable bedding and mattresses for more healthy living.

(3) Paladino and Company’s buildings have a positive environmental impact by helping other companies reduce their carbon footprint (the firm works with architects and developers to design buildings “that make a difference).

(4) Natura Basil is a Brazilian company now operating in the United States; it works with its supplier communities back in the Amazon (not the shopping giant!) to promote preservation of endangered forests.

(5) Under the Canopy uses six (6) types of third party certifications whose metrics include use of harmful substances and other critical practices in its apparel and bedding.

All of these firms, the author tells us, have lessons learned and share that environmentally-friendly business endeavors can still be profitable.  So take that, you remaining Friedman advocates – the corporate world is moving on without you.

Here at G&A Institute, we monitor more than 1,500 corporate responsibility, sustainability, citizenship and similarly-titled reports.  A sizable number are identified as “CR” reports and tell the stories of a wide (and encouraging) range of strategies and tactics of USA, UK and Republic of Ireland corporate entities. The data sets and narratives make clear that senior executives understand well the importance of corporate responsibility in their disclosures.  They make the business case, the supply chain case, the investor case…and more!

The five firms profiled in the Forbes piece below are to be congratulated for their contributions to society – and the dual quest for greater CR and profitability.

Author Peretz is founder of Silicon Beach Talent in LA; she was “recruiting leader” at Tesla Motors.

Our Top Story For You…

5 Companies Who Succeed By Prioritizing Sustainability Over Profits
(Wednesday – December 13, 2017) Source: Forbes – A lot of companies still believe that they should prioritize short term profits above sustainability. However, some of the most successful current executives and employees think differently

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Corporate Responsibility in the 21st Century

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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