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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Street CEO to Boards of Companies in Portfolio: Disclose More About the Impact of Climate Change on Your Business — Be More Transparent…and More

State Street Corp is one of the world’s leading asset managers, with US$2.47 trillion in AUM.  State Street Global Advisors CEO Ron O’Hanley in late-January sent a message to the boards of directors of public companies whose stock is in State Street portfolios:  SSGA is increasing focus on climate change, safety, workplace diversity and various other ESG issues.  Especially climate change.  Tell us more about what you are doing.

How?  The State Street Global Advisors CEO is asking, how is the board [of the company] preparing the enterprise for the impacts of climate change?  He is communicating to these directors that it is necessary for boards to disclose more about those plans.  The CEO’s letter was accompanied by a description of the framework that SSGA uses to evaluate public companies’ sustainability efforts.

In this week’s first Top Story, the highlights of the approach are described for you. Three criteria are used to evaluate and rank companies — as Tier One, Two and Three.  Tier One companies satisfy the three criteria.  The results are reflected in the proxy voting of SSGA, the #3 asset manager of ETF’s in the USA (Exchange Traded Funds).

There were 177 companies in the portfolio that SSGA evaluated in 2016; a mere 7% qualified as Tier One.  Tier Two totals 72%, which meant that companies had a sustainability program but had not integrated it into its overall business strategy, articulated how ESG factors affected long-term strategies, or established long-term goals aligned with ESG strategy. (Tier Three companies were described as not doing anything ESG-wise, 21% of companies in the portfolio, according to the Think Advisor story.)

Company boards and C-suite should consider that State Street is an active player in the coming proxy voting season.  SSGA supported 46% of climate-related proposals in 2016.  That’s important when you consider the competition:  the vote count was zero (voting) at Vanguard, American Funds, Black Rock and Fidelity — a source of concern and a growing level of activism on the issue among sustainable & responsible investing advocates.

In an interview with Bloomberg’s top environmental reporter, Emily Chasan in January (our second Top Story below), SSGA CEO O’Hanley said:  “We’re asking companies to make sure they are identifying and communicating both their risks and opportunities.  Climate change may be the poster child for risk out there.”

The Bloomberg Business Week story has a neat chart for you, with the voting records of “shares of proxy votes in favor of climate-related proposals.”  The Top 20 of the world’s asset managers’ voting records are presented.  State Street is the fifth-ranked (at the top).

Stay Tuned, as we often say, to the coming 2017 Proxy Voting Season at public companies.  ESG issues are front and center at some large corporate issuers and the action will be in the maneuvering around the shareholder-offered resolutions on climate change and other ESG issues by the entire voting body.

Story links below:

State Street Wants Companies to Focus on Sustainability
(Wednesday – February 01, 2017)
Source: Think Advisor - State Street Global Advisors, the third-largest provider of ETFs, wants more companies to incorporate sustainability practices into their long-term business strategies and will consider such corporate efforts in its upcoming

State Street Asks Boards to Disclose More on Climate Preparation
(January 26, 2017)
Source: BloombergBusinessweek - Climate change is no longer listed as a top issue on the White House website, but it’s very much at the forefront for $2.47 trillion asset manager State Street Corp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 100 Most Sustainable Global Companies According to Corporate Knight Analysis

Every year the Canadian-headquartered firm Corporate Knights (publishing, research) ranks “the world’s most sustainable companies,” from a universe of 4,000 global enterprises with market cap of at least US$2 billion each. The research team applies 14 metrics in its analysis of “corporate sustainability” to evaluate the management and governance of the sustainability journey.

This year’s list was unveiled at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.  Among the top 100 “most sustainable companies” are firms headquartered in the USA, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Finland, Brazil, and other nations.  The firm ranked #1 by Corporate Knights is Siemens (Germany’s giant industrial manufacturer); #2 is Storebrand ASA (Sweden-insurance); and #3, Cisco – IT leader — USA.  In the Top 10 rankings, there are two US firms (Cisco and Johnson & Johnson); in the next 10 rankings, there is one (McCormick & Co); and in the next 10 (#20 to #30) there is one – Allergan (healthcare).  Overall, the USA had the most companies in the rankings: 19.

Among the key metrics for this important Global 100 ranking by Corporate Knights:  the level of executive compensation.  The ratio of CEO pay to average worker is considered.  This is interesting to note going forward; in 2017 under Dodd-Frank rules (unless the rule is rescinded in some way) American companies will have to start publishing the ratio of CEO pay comparisons to the median worker. The Glassdoor web site in August 2015 stated that this ratio is 204 times (CEO to median pay).  That ratio will be reported by US public companies beginning this year.

The Global 100 Most Sustainable Companies list and background information is in our Top Story this week by Forbes staffer Jeff Kauflin, who writes on management and leadership.  He’s written for Fast Company and Business Insider in the past.

There is more information at Corporate Knights (“the Magazine for Clean Capitalism”).

Read the Januray 17, 2017 Forbes article: The World’s Most Sustainable Companies 2017

Terra Incognita For Climate Change Policy – “Dead Ahead” As #44 Leaves / #45 Assumes Responsibility for Public Policy

We are about to enter “uncertain terrain” or as the ancient Romans called it, terra incognita - when it comes to what [national] public policies the United States of America will / or will not pursue in the days ahead regarding the complex issues surrounding “climate change” (or dare we say…”global warming”).

Elected officials may /or may not / pay attention to, or adopt the recommendations emanating from, the Federal government’s official research and analysis bodies and those closely affiliated with the U.S. government. Politics. Worldviews. Business/vested interests. Pandering to the base. Ignorance – deliberate and otherwise. All of these can get in the way and cloud the political lens of the U.S. senator, member of the House, appointed cabinet officer (the secretary)…and higher up.

In this last week of the eight-year reign of the 44th Chief Executive, Barack Obama, the influential National Academy of Sciences (NAS) put out a report and made recommendations that contained a specific metric that we will no doubt be hearing about no matter the side of the climate change issues we are on.

The question posed is:  what is the “social cost of carbon???” The answer from NAS is $36 per ton for carbon dioxide. Remember that “monetary cost” number: $36 per ton when we do a proper cost-benefit analysis (positive, negative) on the various impacts on human societies (flood, drought; impacts on agriculture, human health, etc.). ALL have economic consequences. (The new report is an updating estimation of the social cost of carbon in 2017.)

NAS is a private, not-for-profit society established by an Act of Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The society provides independent, objective advice to public sector leaders in the fields of science and technology. Consider this: Over the years some 500+ members have won the Nobel Prize.

Under the NAS banner, there are two important subgroups: The National Academy of Engineering (1964) and the National Academy of Medicine (1970).  All together, there are 6,000 experts involved from the various field. NAS says in the matters of engineering, science and medicine, Congress and the White House issue legislation (laws, which become rules) or Presidential Executive Orders based on the society’s recommendations.

The hometown newspaper of the nation’s capital published the results with an appropriate headline: “Scientists have a new way to calculate what global warming costs. Trump’s team isn’t going to like it.” (The Washington Post story by Chelsea Harvey is our featured story this week.)

And you can purchase the report from NAS / The National Academies Press in paperback (“Valuing Climate Change” – $80.00) or download a FREE PDF copy as a guest at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24651/valuing-climate-damages-updating-estimation-of-the-social-cost-of

Featured Story

Scientists have a new way to calculate what global warming costs. Trump’s team isn’t going to like it.
(Friday - January 13, 2017)
Source: Washington Post - How we view the costs of future climate change, and more importantly how we quantify them, may soon be changing. A much-anticipated new report, just released by the National Academy of Sciences, recommends major updates to a…

So Many Positives in 2016 for Sustainability – Corporate Citizenship – CR – Sustainable Investing — The Core of “Trends Converging!” Commentaries. It’s 2017 — Now What?

by Hank BoernerG&A Institute

Welcome to 2017! We are off to the start of a challenging year for sustainability / responsibility / corporate citizenship / sustainable investing professionals.

We are being forewarned: A self-described (by his constant tweeting) “new sheriff is coming to town,” along with the newly-elected members of the 115th Congress who begin their meetings this week. Given the makeup of the new Administration (at least in the identification of cabinet and agency leaders to date) and the members of the leadership of the majority party on Capitol Hill, sustainability professionals will have their work set out for them, probably coming into a more clear focus in the fabled “first 100 days” after January 20th and the presidential inauguration ceremonies.

The year 2016 began on such a hopeful note! One year ago as the year got started I began writing a series of commentaries on the many positive trends that I saw — and by summer I was assembling these into “Trends Converging! — A 2016 Look Ahead of the Curve at ESG / Sustainability / CR / SRI.” Subtitle, important trends converging that are looking very positive…

As I got beyond charting some 50 of these trends, and I stopped my thinking and writing to share the commentaries and perspectives that formed chapters in an assembled e-book that is available for your reading. I’ve been sharing my views because the stakes are high for our society, business community, public sector, social sector…all of us!

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The specifics: Throughout the early months of 2016 I was encouraged by:

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor giving American fiduciaries the green light for considering corporate ESG factors in their investment decision-making. Page 7 – right up front in the commentaries!

The Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB) team completing its comprehensive recommendations for 12 sectors and 80 industry components of these for “materiality mapping” and expansion of corporate reporting to include material ESG factors in the annual 10-k filing. These are important tools for investors and managements of public companies. See Page 17.

His Holiness Pope Francis mobilizing the global resources of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church with his 74-page Laudato Si [encyclical] that includes sharp and sweeping focus on climate change, global warming, water availability, biodiversity, and other social issues. Imagine, I wrote, the power that such an institution can bring to bear on challenges, in the world, in the USA, and other large nations…

This is the Pope’s great work: “On Care of Our Common Home.” I explored the breadth of depth of this in my commentaries. That’s on Page 163 – Chapter 44.

President Barack Obama ably led the dramatic advances made in the Federal government’s sustainability efforts thanks in large measure to several of the President’s Executive Orders (such as EO 13693 on March 19, 2015: Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade).

Keep in mind the Federal government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the U.S.A. — over time this action will result in positive changes across the government’s prime supply chain networks. Page 50 / Chapter 13.

The European Union’s new rules for disclosure of non-financial information beginning in 2017; As I began my commentary, the various EU states were busily finalizing adoption of the Accounting Directive to meet the deadline for companies within each of the 28 states. The estimate is that as many as 5,000 companies will begin reporting on their CR and ESG performance. Page 27 / Chapter 7.

Here in the USA, Federal regulators were inching toward final rules for the remaining portions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation. Roughly 20% of rules were yet to be completed for corporate compliance with D-F as we entered 2016, according to estimates by the Davis Polk law firm. Page 30 / Chapter 8.

In 2017, one very contentious rule will be in effect — the required disclosure by public companies of the CEO-to-median worker-pay ratio; the final rule was adopted in August 2015 and so in corporate documents we will be seeing this ratio publicized (technically, in the first FY beginning in January 1, 2017). Page 34 / Chapter 9 – What Does My CEO Make? Why It Matters to Me.

Good news on the stock exchange front: member exchanges of the World Federation of Exchanges have been collaborating to develop “sustainability policies” for companies with shares listed on the respective exchanges. At the end of 2015 the WFE’s Sustainability Working Group announced its recommendations [for adoption by exchanges]. Guidance was offered on 34 KPIs for enhanced disclosure. Page 103 / Chapter 27.

The WFE has been cooperating with a broad effort convened by stakeholders to address listing requirements related to corporate disclosure

This is the “SSE” — the Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative, spearheaded by the Ceres-managed Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), and leadership of key UN initiatives as well as WFE member exchanges.

NASDAQ OMX is an important part of this overall effort in the United States and is committed to discussing global standards for corporate ESG performance disclosure.  Notd Evan Harvey, Director of CR for NASDAQ: “Investors should have a complete picture of the long-term viability, health and strategy of their intended targets. ESG data is a part of the total picture. Informed investment decisions tend to produce longer-term investments.”

The United Nations member countries agreed in Fall 2015 on adoption of sweeping Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years (17 goals/169 specific targets). This is a dramatic expansion of the 2000 Millennium Goals for companies, NGOs, governments, other stakeholders. Now the many nation-signatories are developing strategies, plans, programs, other actions in adoption of SDGs. And large companies are embracing the goals to help “transfer our world” with adoption of mission-aligned strategies and programs out to 2030.

G&A Institute’s EVP Lou Coppola has been working with Chairwoman of the Board Dr. Wanda Lopuch and leaders of the Global Sourcing Council to help companies adopt goals (the GSC developed a sweeping 17-week sourcing and supply chain campaign based on the 17 goals). Page 56 / Chapter 15.

Very important coming forth as the year 2016 moved to a close: The Report on US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends, 2016 – the every-other-year survey of asset managers in the USA to chart “who” considers ESG factors across their activities. Money managers and institutional investors, we subsequently learned later in 2016, use ESG factors in determining $8.72 trillion in AUM – a whopping 33% increase since 2014. Great work by the team research effort helmed by US SIF’s Meg Voorhes and Croatan Institute’s Joshua Humphreys (project leaders). Background before the report release Page 78.

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The above is a very brief overview of the many positive trends that I saw, explored further, and wrote commentaries on through many months of 2016. I worked to weave in the shared perspectives of outstanding thought leaders and experts on various topics. We are all more enlightened and informed by the work of outstanding thought leaders, many presented in the public arena to benefit us.

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Sharing Thought Leadership

In developing our commentaries we shared the wisdom of many people who are influential thought leaders and who enthusiastically share their own perspectives with us. These include:

  • Chris Skroupa, Founder of Skytop Strategies and prominent Forbes blogger. His views on Page i.
  • Pam Styles, Founder/Principal of Next Level Investor Relations and NIRI Senior Roundtable member. See Page iv.
  • Secretary Thomas Perez, U.S. Department of Labor on ERISA for fiduciaries. Page 7.
  • Dr. James Hawley of St. Mary’s College of California on the concept of the Universal Owner, based on the earlier work of corporate governance thought leader Robert Monks. Page 9.
  • the team at Sustainable Accounting Standards Board led by Chair Michael Bloomberg, Vice Chair Mary Schapiro, Founder and CEO Jean Rogers, Ph.D., P.E. . Page 17.
  • the team at TruCost.
  • the team at CDP.
  • the team at CFA Institute (the global organization for Chartered Financial Analysts) developing guidelines for inclusion of ESG factors in analysis and portfolio management — the new Guide for Investment Professionals – ESG Issues in Investing. Coordinated by Matt Orsagh, CFA, CIPM; Usman Hayat, CFA; Kurt Schacht, JD, CFA; Rebecca A. Fender, CFA. Page 20.
  • the leadership team at New York Society of Securities Analysts’ (NYSSA) Sustainable Investing Committee (where I was privileged to serve as chair until December 31st). Page 21. We have great perspective sharing among the core leadership team (Kate Starr, Peter Roselle, Ken Lassner, Andrew King, Agnes Terestchenko, Steve Loren).
  • experts respected law firms sharing important perspectives related to corporate governance, corporate citizenship / CSR / disclosure / compliance and related topics: Gibson Dunn on compliance matters. Page 25.
  • the law firm of Davis Polk on Dodd-Frank rulemaking progress and related matters.
  • experts at the respected law firm of Morrison & Foerster on executive compensation and related regulatory matters (in the excellent Cheat Sheet publication). Page 30.
  • the experts at the law firm of Goodwin Procter addressing SEC regulations. Page 146.
  • the skilled researchers, analysts and strategists at MSCI who shared “2016 ESG Trends to Watch” with their colleagues. The team of Linda Eling, Matt Moscardi, Laura Nishikawa and Ric Marshall identified 550 companies in the MSCI ACWI Index that are “ahead of the curve” in accounting for their carbon emissions targets relative to country targets. Baer Pettit, Managing Director and Global Head of Products, is leading the effort to integrate ESG factors into the various MSCI benchmarks for investor clients.Page 100.

AND……..

  • Thanks to Peter Roselle for his continuous sharing of Morgan Stanley  research results with the analyst community. 
  • the perceptive analysts at Veritas, the executive compensation experts who closely monitor and share thoughts on CEO pay issues. Page 36.
  • the outstanding corporate governance thought leader and counsel to corporations Holly Gregory of the law firm Sidley Austin LLP who every year puts issues in focus for clients and shares these with the rest of us; this includes her views on proxy voting issues. (She is co-leader of the law firm’s CG and Exec Compensation Practice in New York City.) Page 39.
  • the Hon. Scott M. Stringer, Comptroller of the City of New York, with his powerful “Board Accountability Project,” demanding increased “viable” proxy access in corporate bylaws to enable qualified shareholders to advance candidates for board service. Pages 40, 45 on.
  • the experts at Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), a unit of MSCI, which counts numerous public employee pension funds and labor pension systems among its clients; ISS staff share their views on governance issues with the rest of us to keep us informed on their policies and related matters. Page 40.
  • SRI pioneer and thought leader Robert Zevin (chair of Zevin Asset Management) who shares his views on the company’s work to improve corporate behaviors. Page 41.
  • Mark W. Sickles, NACD thought leader, and my co-author of “Strategic Governance: Enabling Financial, Environmental and Social Sustainability” (p.2010) for helping me to better understand and refine my views on the “Swarming Effect” (investor engagement) by institutional investors that influences corporate behavior. Page 44.
  • the experts led by thought leader (and ED) Jon Lukomnik at Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) that, working with Ernst & Young LLP, one year ago in January produced the Corporate Risk Factor Disclosure Landscape to help us better understand corporate risk management and related disclosure. Page 47.
  • CNN commentator and author Fareed Zakaria who shared his brilliant perspectives with us in publishing “The Post American World,” focusing on a tectonic, great power shift. Page 61.
  • The former food, agriculture and related topics commentator of The New York Times, Mark Bittman, who shared many news reports and commentaries with editors over five years before moving on to the private sector. Page 65.
  • our many colleagues at the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in the Netherlands, the USA, and in other countries, who shared their views on corporate sustainability reporting and related topics; the GRI framework is now becoming a global standard. (G&A Institute is the Data Partner for GRI in the USA, UK and Republic of Ireland; we are also a Gold Community member of supporters for the GRI.) Page 71.
  • our colleagues at Bloomberg LP, especially the key specialist of ESG research, Hideki Suzuki; (and) other colleagues at Bloomberg LP in various capacities including publishing the very credible Bloomberg data and commentary on line and in print. Page 76 and others.
  • Barbara Kimmel, principal of the Trust Across America organization, who collaborated with G&A Institute research efforts in 2016.
  • we have been continually inspired over many years by the efforts of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), and past and present leaders and colleagues there, who helped to inform our views in 2016 on shareholder activism and corporate engagement. Chair the Rev. Seamus Finn is on point with his “Holy Land Principles” in recent years. The long-time executive director, Tim Smith (now at Walden Asset Management) has been very generous in sharing news and perspectives long after his ICCR career. Details on Page 77.
  • our colleagues at the U.S. Forum for Sustainable & Responsible Investment (US SIF), and its Foundation, led by CEO Lisa Woll; and our colleagues at the SIF units SIRAN and IWG. The every-other-year summary of Assets Under Management utilizing ESG approaches showed [AUM] nearing $9 trillion before the run up in market valuations following the November elections. Page 78.
  • Goldman Sachs Asset Management acquired Imprint Capital in 2015 (the company was a leader in developing investment solutions that generate measureable ESG impact — impact investing). Hugh Lawson, head of GSAM client strategy, is leading the global ESG activities. GSAM has updated its Environmental Policy Framework to guide the $150 billion in clean energy financing out to 2025. Page 83.
  • the experts at Responsible Investor, publishing “ESG & Corporate Financial Performance: Mapping the Global Landscape,” the research conducted by Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management and Hamburg University. This is an empirical “study of studies” that looked at the “durable, overall impact of ESG integration to boost the financial performance of companies.” A powerful review of more than 2,000 studies dating back to 1970. Page 90.
  • Boston Consulting Group’s Gregory Pope and David Gee writing for CNBC saw the advantage held by the USA going into the Paris COP 21 talks: advances in technology are making the USA a global leader in low-cost/low-pollution energy production. They worked with Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School (the “shared value” proponent) on research. Page 95.
  • researchers, analysts and experts at Morgan Stanley Research charted “what was accomplished in Paris in 2015″ for us; their report identified five key areas of progress that cheered conference participants; I share these in the “Trends Converging!” work. MS Research in the post-Paris days shared perspectives on the carbon tax concept and the status of various nations on the issue — and the actions of the State of California in implementing “AB 32″ addressing GhGs. Page 119.
  • G&A Institute Fellow Daniel Doyle, an experienced CFO and financial executive, sharing thoughts on corporate “inversion” and the bringing back of profits earned abroad by U.S. companies. Page 122.
  • the Council of State Governments (serving the three branches of state governments) is actively working with public officials in understanding the Clean Power Plan of the Obama Administration (the shared information is part of the CSG Knowledge Center). Page 101.
  • Evan Harvey, Director of CR at NASDAQ, has continuously shared his knowledge with colleagues as the world’s stock exchanges move toward guidance or rule making regarding disclosure of corporate sustainability and related topics. Page 104.
  • our former Rowan & Blewitt [consulting practice] colleague Allen Schaeffer, now the leader of the Diesel Technology Forum, explaining the role of “clean diesel” in addressing climate change issues. Page 128.
  • Harvard Business School prof Clayton Christensen, who conceived and thoroughly explained “the Innovator Dilemma” in the book of the same name in 2007, updated recently, characterized new technology as “disruptive” and “sustaining,” now happening at an accelerated pace. We explain on Page 147.
  • the researchers and experts at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has shared important perspectives and research results dealing with the massive shift taking place in the corporate and business sectors as Baby Boomers retire(!) and the Millennials rise to positions of influence and power. And Millennials are bringing very positive views regarding corporate sustainability and sustainable investing to their workplace! The folks at Sustainable Brands also weighed in on this in recent research and conference proceedings. Page 154.
  • Author Thom Hartman in 2002 explored for us the subject of “corporate citizenship” in his book, “Unequal Protection, the Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights.” This work continues to help inform views regarding “corporate rights” in the context of corporate citizenship and beyond. The issue of corporate contributions to political parties and candidates continues to be a hot proxy season debate. Page 160.
  • Author and consultant Freya Williams in her monumental, decade-long research into “Green Giants” shared results with us in the book of that name and her various lectures. Seven green giant [companies] are making billions with focus on sustainability, she tells us, and they outperform the S&P 500 benchmark. Page 170.
  • Speaking of the S&P 500, I shared the results of the ongoing research conducted by our G&A Institute colleagues on the reporting activities of the 500 large companies — now at 81% of the benchmark components. Page 195.
  • And of course top-of-mind as I moved on through in writing the commentaries, I had the Securities & Exchange Commission’s important work in conducting the “Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative,” and a look at Regulation S-K in the “Concept Release” that was circulated widely in the earlier months of 2016. Consideration of corporate sustainability / ESG material information was an important inclusion in the 200-page document. Page 174.

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All of the above and more were important contributors in my collected “Trends Converging!” (in 2016) work. I am grateful to many colleagues in the corporate community and in the capital markets community who shared knowledge, wisdom, expertise and more with Lou Coppola and I over the recent years. They have helped to inform our work.

We thank the knowledge and valuable information willingly shared with us by our valued colleagues at RepRisk, especially Alexandra Milhailescu; Measurabl (Matt Ellis); The Conference Board’s Matteo Tonello; Nancy Mancilla and Alex Georgescu at our partnering organization for training, ISOS Group; Bill Baue at Convetit; Herb Blank at S-Networks Global Indexes; Robert Dornau at RobecoSAM Group, managers of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index family; Barbara Kimmel at Trust Across America.

Also, Professor Nitish Singh of St. Louis University, with his colleague VP Brendan Keating of IntegTree, our on-line professor and tech guru for the new G&A on-line, sustainability and CSR e-learning platform.

And, Executive Director Judith Young and Institute Founder James Abruzzo, our colleagues at the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers University Business School; Matt LePere and the leaders at Baruch College / City University of New York; and, Peter Fusaro, our colleague in teaching and coaching, at Global Change Associates.

And thank you, Washington DC Power Players!

Very important: We must keep uppermost in mind the landmark work of our President Barack H. Obama (consider his Action Plan on Climate Change, issued in December 2015) with the Clean Power Plan for the USA included. His Executive Orders have shaped the Federal government’s response to climate change challenges.

And there is U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, again and again hitting the hot button sensitive areas for the middle class — like income and wealth inequalities and Wall Street reform — that raised the consciousness of the American public about these issues.
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Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her views (published in The New York Times) in her “How to Rein in Wall Street” op-ed.

And I thank my G&A Institute colleagues for their support and continued input all through the writing process: EVP Louis Coppola; Ken Cynar, our able editor and news director; Amy Gallagher, client services VP; Peter Hamilton, PR leader; Mary Ann Boerner, head of administration.

So many valuable perspectives shared by so many experts and thought leaders! All available to you…

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And Now to 2017!

And so what will happen in these many, many areas of forward-momentum in addressing society’s most challenging issues (like global warming) with “deniers and destroyers” lining up for key Federal government positions in the new administration and in the 115th Congress?

I and my colleagues at G&A Institute will be bringing you news, commentary and opinion, and our shared perspectives on developments.

If you would like to explore the many (more than 50) positive trends that I saw as 2016 began and proceeded on into the election season, you will find a complimentary copy of “Converging Trends!” (2016) at:http://www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/trends-converging-a-2016-look-ahead-of-the-curve.html

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Please do share with us your own thoughts where you think we might be headed in 2017, and your thoughts on the 2016 trends and their future directions — for 2017 and beyond. Do tune in to the many experts that I included in the various commentaries as they adjust to the New Normal of Washington DC.

I plan to share the individual commentaries with updates in 2017. Do Stay Tuned to G&A Institute’s Sustainability Update blog (you can register here to receive notice of new postings). You can sign on to receive the latest post at: http://www.ga-institute.com/sustainability-update-blog.html (Sharing insights and perspectives for your sustainability journey.)

Best wishes from the G&A Institute team for the New Year 2017!

 

 

The NYT Brings Us Encouraging News in the Swelter of Negative Reports as Sustainability Advocates Consider Possible Changes of Course in the New Year for U.S. Federal Government Policies

Leading Business readership publication focuses attention on the dramatic rise of ESG factors in investing over the past five years in wrap up story…

If you have not yet seen the story by Randall J. Smith that appeared in The New York Times Business Section on December 14th, we urge you to read it now, and to share it with your colleagues. Especially those occupants of the C-suite, board room, investor relations office — this will help to make the important case for ESG / sustainable investing. It’s our Top Story this week and the headline puts things in focus: investors are sharpening their focus on “S” and “E” risks to stocks.

This is a front page, Business Section [Deal Book] wrap-up feature that shares news, commentary and important developments at such organizations as MSCI, Vanguard, TIAA-CREF, Goldman Sachs, Perella Weinberg Partners, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, US SIF, Heron Foundation, Parnassus and other leaders in sustainable investing.

“Investing based on ESG factors has mushroomed in recent years,” author Randall Smith explains, “driven in part by big pension funds and European money managers, trying new ways to evaluate potential investments.”  The article helps those not yet familiar with sustainable investing to understand the increasing momentum in “sustainable” or “ESG” or “sustainable, responsible & impact” investing.

The organization MSCI is in sharp focus in the piece, with Linda-Eling Lee (the firm’s able head of global research) interviewed on the company’s approach to ESG research, ratings, equities indexes, and related work.  At MSCI, the assets managed using ESG approaches is now at $8 billion-plus — that’s triple the 2010 level.  ESG-related risks and opportunities are being closely evaluated as MSCI looks at publicly-traded companies, and as explained by the MSCI head of global research, 6,500 companies are followed by 150 analysts working in 14 global offices.

The recent US SIF survey results are heralded — $8.1 trillion in professionally-managed AUM assets in the U.S.A. are determined using ESG factors in analysis and portfolio management (the big driver is client demand).  The TIAA-CREF Social Choice Equity Fund is at $2.3 billion in assets under management — doubling in the past five years.  MSCI’s ESG indexes are at $3 billion — tripling over the past three years.  Vanguard’s social index fund is at $2.4 billion — quadrupling since 2011.  There’s a new CalSTRS low-carbon portfolio (using an MSCI index) set at $2.5 billion.

This article in the Business Section of a leading American daily newspaper provides an encouraging — and very timely! — look at the momentum that’s been building the capital markets signaling mainstream capital markets uptake and dramatic growth in adoption of ESG strategies and approaches for asset owners and asset managers.

As we suggest, it is a wonderful wrap-up of top-line developments in sustainable investing that also underscores the importance of corporate sustainability to individual institutional investors — and should help to make the investing and business cases for top management.

This news article is of course timely as corporate sustainability and sustainable investing professionals consider the potential changes on the horizon with a new administration and the new congress coming to town with a very different agenda – at least what has been publicly proclaimed to date.  There is clearly momentum in the capital markets for consideration of corporate ESG factors as investment dollars are being allocated.  This is good news heading into 2017 and the probable headwinds sustainability professionals will encounter.

Investors Sharpen Focus on Social and Environmental Risks to Stocks
(December 14, 2016)
Source: New York Times - Investing based on so-called E.S.G. factors has mushroomed in recent years, driven in part by big pension funds and European money managers that are trying new ways to evaluate potential investments. The idea has changed over the last three decades from managers’ simple exclusion from their portfolios of “sin stocks” such as tobacco, alcohol and firearms makers to incorporation of E.S.G. analysis into their stock and bond picks.

Barclays Researchers on “Green Bonds”: Small-but-steady Performance Benefits Possible, With Little Evidence of Negative Impact

The investment community — especially fiduciaries — continues to have a flow of more “green” products being made available from a growing number of issuers and their intermediaries; these include “green bonds.”  Charting this trend, a team of Barclays managers and researchers issued a report as part of the “Barclays Impact Series.”  Their findings: ESG investing can have a positive effect on portfolios for institutional and individual investors.  There are small-but-steady performance benefits and no evidence of a negative impact for such investing.

Noted the report authors:  “In a world where concerns over climate change, pollution and issues of sustainability are ever more pressing, socially responsible investing has become an important consideration for a growing number of individuals and institutions.”

The researchers concluded that with this growth of “socially responsible” investing the idea that enjoying a financial return on investment while having a positive impact on society is attractive to a growing number of investors.  And investment in “green bonds” is one approach to attempt to accomplish that.  Different investors, of course, have different appetites for the embrace of ESG factors for their portfolio management.

Introducing ESG factors into the investment process can result in some measure of benefit for portfolios as investors consider the impacts of climate change, limits or constraints on natural resources, shifts in societal norms (such as expecting responsible supply chain management) — and the positive and negative effects on their portfolios.

One of the challenges for investors in assessing ESG investable products is that the typical accounting statements of the issuer (as an example) is not always sufficient for navigating in the new frontier of green bond investing.  The bonds being issued (say, for infrastructure) might typically might address E and S issues that are “non-financial” in the traditional management-speak or investor-speak.  Think of the impacts of climate change / global warming, pollution, energy conservation (the “E’s”) and numerous workplace issues (the “S”).

The Barclays’ Quantitative Portfolio Strategy team researchers determined that an Issuer’s “G” scoring may be more definable and measurable for potential investment outcomes; corporate governance has been an issue for issuer-investor discussion for decades longer than the typical societal (S) issue of more recent times.

In the study effort, taking the individual elements of ESG, the report authors found that “G” (corporate governance) issues can have the greatest impact on portfolio performance.  Green bonds with a higher “G” score apparently have the lowest credit downgrades than those with low G scoring.

The researchers examined bonds in the Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Investment Grade Index and organized these in Low, Medium and High ESG scoring for their analysis.

The Barclays researchers were Albert Desclee, Lev Dynkin, Jay Hyman, and Simon Polbennikov — they are key players in the firm’s management corps.
There are more details available in the highlights presented in our Top Story. Click here for the presentation of the research results by Barclays.

Sustainable Investing Boosts Bond Portfolio Performance: Barclays Study
(Tuesday - November 29, 2016)
Source: Just Means - The study found that introducing ESG factors into the investment process resulted in a small but steady performance benefit.

At the CR Commit! Forum: Next Generation Sustainability Reporting Issue Table

Juliet RussellBy Juliet Russell, G&A Institute GRI Data Reports Analyst

At the final session on the first day of the recent Commit! Forum’s conference in New York City, attendees broke out into “Issue Tables,” each focusing on different topics — ranging from Human Trafficking to 3rd Party [report] Assurance to STEM Education.

I joined the Next Generation Sustainability Reporting Issue table, where I sat among twelve experts, including the Vice President of Corporate Sustainability at MGM Resorts, the CEO of AdaptReady and the Global Head of Strategy at Thomson Reuters.  We shared knowledge and discussed ideas about the future of Sustainability reporting.

Highlights of our discussion:  First, the growing importance of sustainability reports was discussed, including (but not limited to) their importance as an information base for investors, helping to shape investment decisions.  Many investors are beginning to make decisions based on information disclosed publicly in corporate sustainability reports and are increasingly looking out for ESG (Environmental / Social / Governance) data.

We were encouraged to discuss recent advancements in Sustainability Reporting and the direction in which we expect it to head in.

Regarding frameworks, we expected more companies to be aligning with the GRI G4 report framework and also discussed the possible influence of the new modular GRI reporting standards, beginning this November, 2016.

SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board) was a popular discussion within the group, as many felt this would become increasingly important in Sustainability reporting.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also received a great deal of attention – being new goals (devised in 2014) for companies to align with and being more challenging than the UN Global Compact.  Many of us felt that Sustainability Reporting will be increasingly referring to, and based around, the UN SDGs.

Considering the content of the report, the group expected to see more companies committing to Science Based Targets.  These include ambitious greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) reduction targets tailored individually for each company committed to help keep global warming below the COP21-agreed 2 degrees Celsius.  This includes communication about ‘best practices’ and scoring each of their main suppliers.

Many of us believed that stating that the materiality of the report content is foundational for these reports and so expected to see more of these types of references.  We also discussed that streamlining Sustainability information provided by a company, e.g. integrating Sustainability Reports into the Annual Reports; that should help to decrease audit fatigue and increases investment in the company and employees’ investment into their work.

Our table participants concluded that the future of sustainability reporting is likely to reflect the combination of influence of GRI, SASB and the SDGs. The final task was to come up with a “tweet” to convey the outcome of our discussion, we decided: “Future of sustainability reporting is a GRI+SASB+SDG sandwich. Yummy. #ReportingSandwich.”

Overall, I found this CR Commit! conference session to be very interesting and insightful. It was a really fun and interactive session, encouraging people from across industries with different experiences to share their opinions and ideas. I think every person around the table gained some knowledge and possibly also ideas for their own company with how to tackle their next, or first published, Sustainability Report.

G&A INTERNSHIP AVAILABLE – GRI Data Partner Reports Analyst

Opportunity:  Learn to Analyze Data and Interpret Content from Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Reporting

Position:  GRI Data Partner – Sustainability Report Analyst Internship Available

Location: Virtual (our offices are in NYC).  Work is done remotely with a flexible work schedule – at your own location.  Initial training via Web.

Time Requirements: Position requires approximately 10 hours a week and begins ASAP.  The timing of the work is flexible and can be done remotely for a majority of the time required.  The internship will take place starting in January 2017 and ending June 30th, 2017.

Description

Governance & Accountability Institute is a New York City-based company that specializes in research, communication, strategies and other services focused on corporate sustainability and corporate ESG performance (“Environmental, Social, Governance”) issues.  G&A is offering the opportunity for an internship for a qualified student interested in learning more about these topics.

This is a very fast growing area of interest to corporations and Wall Street interests.  The GRI reporting framework is the most widely used in the world for these types of reports.

G&A is the exclusive data partner for the United States, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).  The Global Reporting Initiative is a non-profit organization that promotes the use of sustainability reporting as a way for organizations to become more sustainable and contribute to sustainable development.

GRI provides all companies and organizations with a comprehensive sustainability reporting framework that is the most widely used and respected around the world.  Currently thousands of global organizations use the GRI to report on their Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance strategies, impacts, opportunities and engagements.  (www.globalreporting.org).  G&A Institute interns learn important elements about GRI reporting that can be used in their future work situations.

As the exclusive US, UK and Ireland data partner of the GRI, Governance & Accountability Institute’s role is to collect, organize, and analyze sustainability reports that are issued by corporations, public entities, not-for-profits and other entities in the United States, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland for the benefit of all stakeholders.  In this role the analyst will work as part of a team to analyze these reports for inclusion in the largest global database of Sustainability reports, the GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database (database.globalreporting.org).

The Intern Opportunity

Learning to read, analyze, use, and structure data from reports using the GRI G3, GRI G3.1, GRI G4, GRI-Reference as well as NON-GRI corporate and institutional reports will comprise the majority of this assignment.  The research will also contribute to several published research reports on various trends in sustainability reporting which are widely referenced by media, academics, business, capital markets players and other important sustainability stakeholders.

The student(s) selected will have the opportunity to experience a fast-paced, highly-adaptive (and nurturing) culture in a small but growing company with a unique niche. This is a hands-on position with considerable learning opportunity for those headed for a career in corporate responsibility.

Applicants should demonstrate a strong background and keen interest in ESG and Sustainability issues and topics.   A plus: strong technical, communication, and organizational skills.  Basic skills in Excel and researching on Google are required. Applicants with writing and editing abilities will have preference.

Interested students should send a resume outlining education and skill sets. As an option, a one to two page introduction essay on what you would like to learn more about (in terms of your career goals), what your interests are, and anything else you feel may be relevant to the job/our organization will also be welcomed.    Samples of writing or research on sustainability or other topics are also a plus.

G&A interns get public recognition for their work in our published reports, on our web platform and in other ways. To see what other interns have been doing (and their backgrounds) check out the intern Honor Roll at http://www.ga-institute.com/about-the-institute/the-honor-roll.html

Contact Information
Louis D Coppola
Governance & Accountability Institute
New York, New York
Email lcoppola@ga-institute.com
Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14