Hiring? Most Likely The Newbies Will Be Millennials — Is Your Workplace Ready — Is Your Company a Sustainability Standout?

The Millennial Generation — that’s men and women born in the years 1982 to 2004 (according to researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss).  This generation’s members are ages 17 to 35, and now said to be outnumbering the previously dominant cohort of the Baby Boomers in the workplace (BBers were born 1946-1964, some 77 million in all).

Consumer product marketers of course want to know what the Millennials value, what they are interested in, what information they need, what motivates to shop and buy.  And just as important and maybe more:  employers want to know more about the Millennials as they recruit them and bring them into their corporate culture. And keep them there!
One of the more long-lasting, familiar brands in Corporate America is Rubbermaid Commercial Products (RCP).  The company commissioned a report by Lightspeed to determine the attitude of Millennials and the relationship of corporate and brand values and corporate sustainability to them, in terms of recruitment — and workforce retention.

The resulting report:  Recycling in the Workplace: A Millennial View.  One important conclusion of the study:  To attract and maintain new employees, companies will be required to surpass the status quo and get serious about putting sustainability strategies into action. 90% of the generation, the authors concluded, identified sustainability as a crucial consideration when making career moves.

Sustainable Brands published highlights of the study — see our Top Story for more details.

And — if you have recruited members of the Millennial Generation, point them towards the Governance & Accountability Institute education courses to help them get up to speed quickly on sustainability, corporate responsibility, sustainable investing and related topics.  There’s more information on these offerings here:  http://www.ga-institute.com/training.html

Top Stories This Week…

New Study Cites Sustainability as Top Priority for Millennial Workforce
(Tuesday – April 11, 2017)
Source: Sustainable Brands – According to a new study by research body Lightspeed on behalf of Rubbermaid Commercial Products (RCP), a brand’s commitment to sustainability — or lack thereof — is an important concern for millennials and one which will…

And there is much more information of value in the Wikipedia definitions of Millennials and other generations (Gen X, Gen Y, BBers, and more):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennials

The SDGS – Are You Tuned In, Aligning Your Company’s Strategies, Operations, Performance, Actions? 2030 Is Just Around the Corner!

Gaining momentum in the global corporate sector, among sovereign governments and institutional investors — the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”).  After reaching agreement in September 2015, the countries of the world adopted goals to end poverty, protect our planet and ensure prosperity for a greater number of the world’s population through a universal agenda for action (with 169 specific targets under the wonderfully-aspirational broad goals).

The nation-states of the United Nations are now busily adopting the SDGs to address their issues, some broad and experienced by many nations, others more specific in impact on the country.  The goals include climate change-related issues; the growing scarcity of natural resources; adoption of absence of, new technologies;  continuing growth of cities at the expense of rural areas; water, water, water; reducing poverty; empowering women…and more.  The SDGs are in force out to year 2030 with many milestones between then and now.

There are 17 major categories of goals and 169 specific targets within these, for attention by all sectors of society out to year 2030.  Are you on board?  Your company or organization?

Matthew Yeomans (founder of Sustainly, and author of the annual Social Media Sustainability Index), writes for Sustainable Brands on the opportunity for organization leaders to align their efforts with the SDGs to work with governments, NGOs, and other companies to address the challenges through a commonly-understood framework for engagement and action on the issues (inherent in the 17 goals).

Aligning the company with the SDGs could help companies in key areas:  for marketers, or corporate communicators, the actions taken could be embedded in a campaign for customers (consumer, business, public sector).  The corporate storytelling could bring data and metrics to life and help guide customers to the company’s core sustainability reporting that might otherwise be overlooked or disregarded (perhaps thinking, is this reporting just PR?).  The SDG focus could help to underscore a company’s serious commitment, authenticity and transparency regarding actions on the SDGs.

Author Yeomans provides brief examples with Wal-Mart Stores (addressing poverty, women empowerment), Pearson’s (quality education for all) and Stella Artois (clean water).  Highlights are in the Sustainable Brands post and there’s a link to more information at Sustainly.

The G&A Institute team has been focused on the SDGs and helping our corporate clients to better understand and “adopt” material goals and the targets and key performance indicators under the broad goal, those that can be more “naturally” aligned with the adopted corporate mission and overall strategy and implementation of the corporate sustainability journey.

For example, Goal 6 is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”  How to do that?  We help corporate managers understand the “natural” alignments available to them within the goals/targets, and explore ways to “adopt” the goal and make it an integral part of the company’s sustainability journey.  What are the KPI’s that will matter? What are the “water issues” of importance to the company and its stakeholders?  What can the company do to address water availability, water use in products, waste water, protection of public water supplies, making water supply more secure in the communities in which it operates?  And more….

What are the data sets and metrics that will help the company to adopt operations to the goal(s) and later make the storytelling about all of its progress a more compelling tale? What are the important stakeholder relations to begin, or to enhance if a relationship exists?  What are the natural alignments within the industry or sector that can form a collective approach (perhaps through trade association) to address critical issues?  What is the ROI for the company?  How to determine these and then measure progress (or lack of)?  And finally, how to build the progress into the various reporting schemes, including the company’s GRI report?

If you need more information on these aspects of the SDGs for adoption by your company, please let the G&A team know.  We’d love to set up a call to discuss SDGs with you!

Click here to read more about G&A service related to SDG Alignment.

An important resource for you:  The Post-2015 Development Agenda:  Goals, Targets and Indicators

Top Story

Why You Should Align Your Brand’s Sustainability Efforts with the SDGs
(Thursday – March 30, 2017)
Source: Sustainable Brands – The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (aka Global Goals) are viewed by most in the sustainability community as the biggest opportunity yet for the world to shape a new and better way of doing business while shaping a…

Cradle-to-Cradle Case History: Shaw Industries

Guest Commentary by Jennifer Moore – at the Conference Board

Content originally prepared for Certification in Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Strategies – on-line courseware by G&A Institute **

The early 21st century ushered in a new wave of heightened concern about resource scarcity and climate change. Consequently, consumers have been more concerned about the sustainability of the products they purchase and the effects they are having on the environment.

Businesses have also taken on the challenge of incorporating sustainability strategies into their business models. Many more companies are now integrating sustainability practices through product stewardship and their R&D activities.

These companies are focusing on life cycle assessments of their products and are aiming to achieve Cradle-to-Cradle status. As defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Cradle-to- Cradle school of thought is an important branch within the circular economy concept.

Cradle-to-Cradle focuses on products that have a positive impact and reduce the negative impacts on commerce through production efficiency (see footnote 1).

Cradle-to-Cradle and circular economy goes beyond the “reduce, reuse, recycle” campaign of the late Twentieth Century to focus more on the design and production of products, rather than on consumption by the consumer.

The authoritative work, “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things”,  authored by Michael Braungart and William McDonough called for a new era of production, wherein, companies should be focusing more on “doing more good,” rather than “doing less bad.”

The goal and focus should be on the end of the product’s lifecycle, and whether it will either be safely re-entered into the environment — or be recycled back into production.

Cradle-to-Cradle aims to achieve three things: (1) eliminate the concept of waste, (2) power with renewable energy, and (3) respect human and natural systems. (2)

This concept argues that resource consumption and economic growth should not be isolated from each other. In fact, they often go hand-in-hand. (3)

The private sector is not siloed; it has been highly influenced by the public sector and discussion forums. Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), driven by public demand, have advocated for the advancement of a circular economy. The World Economic Forum, Oxfam International and the United Nations in particular have been vocal about transitioning to a circular economy.

Also, the emphasis of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) released in 2016 by the United Nations is on developing a more circular economy and seeking to implement sustainable development across the UN member states. (4)

While the SDGs are driven by politics and protecting human rights, the goals cannot be achieved without businesses and were developed with input from the private sector. There is business value for companies to align their strategy with the SDGs. (5)

Many companies have recognized the benefits of aligning their goals with the SGDs and the relationship between resource consumption and economic growth.

Consumers are now expecting companies to provide products that are eco-friendly and reduce resource waste. According to a survey conducted by Nielsen in 2014, “55 percent of on-line consumers indicated they were willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact, an increase from 50% in 2010 and 45% in 2011.” (6)

The Business Community’s Embrace of Cradle-to-Cradle

Businesses across all industries are now developing their product stewardship products to meet these consumer demands. Companies cite “customer demand for solutions that address global sustainability challenges, such as climate change and resource scarcity” as primary drivers of sustainable product initiatives. (7)

For example, 3M is striving for 40 per cent of their new products to be sustainable and Kimberly-Clark is developing solutions for used diapers. One exemplary model of sustainable product stewardship is Shaw Industries’ dedication to Cradle-to-Cradle.

The Shaw Industry Model

Shaw Industries is the largest producer of carpet tile in North America. While carpet tiles can have a lifespan of 10-to-25 years, commercial owners and tenants often update their facilities more frequently than that to reflect contemporary trends, resulting in a high-waste industry.

Historically, when the time came for flooring to be removed from businesses, schools, retailers, hospitals and other properties – whether for wear-and-tear or aesthetics, it was sent to landfills.

Recognizing the opportunity to create a better solution for customers and to create a product that would help advance toward a more circular economy, Shaw developed EcoWorx-backed carpet tile, which it introduced in 2008 and continues to optimize for sustainability performance.

The world’s first Cradle-to-Cradle Certified carpet tile — EcoWorx — was designed for reuse. To create a carpet tile that could be infinitely recycled with no loss of quality meant removing PVC, phthalates and other chemicals. As a result of its meticulous design process, Shaw understands what’s in its EcoWorx products and, therefore, what’s going into the next generation of its products.

Today, with 16 years and more than 3 billion square feet of EcoWorx installed, Shaw continues to optimize the product’s performance in alignment with Cradle-to-Cradle criteria – material health, material reutilization, energy, water and social responsibility.

Most recently, Shaw worked with one of its suppliers to remove an ingredient from its latex that was added to the list of banned chemicals within version 3 of the Cradle-to-Cradle Certified Products Program Standard.

Further, the company employs sustainable manufacturing practices – making efficient use of materials and natural resources, using alternative and renewable energy sources when possible, and designing and operating its facilities and manufacturing processes in accordance with widely recognized sustainability and safety standards.

It completes the sustainable manufacturing process by delivering its products using the most efficient mode of transportation feasible while meeting customer deadlines.

Shaw has committed itself to embracing Cradle-to-Cradle practices and has lead the way in carpet reclamation in the flooring industry. Today, 65 percent of its products – commercial and residential – are Cradle-to-Cradle Certified, with a goal of designing 100% to Cradle-to-Cradle principles by 2030.

Not only is Shaw committed to upcycling within its own operations, it also looks for opportunities in other industries.

For example, the company converts plastic drink bottles into residential carpet through a joint venture with DAK Americas: The Clear Path Recycling Center in Fayetteville, NC produces 100 million pounds of clear flake each year, recycling approximately three billion plastic drink bottles annually.

Furthermore, in 2016 alone, Shaw supplied more than 200 million pounds of post-industrial waste to other businesses for a variety of recycled content needs. For instance, the wood flour – waste fiber from hardwood flooring operations – is used by a major producer of composite decking and the minimal waste from its resilient manufacturing facility is used to make garden hoses.

The Future for Cradle-to-Cradle in Industry

Today, sustainable leadership companies, like Shaw, can strive to achieve cradle-to-cradle production through the certified program by the Cradle-to-Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

The Institute examines certifiable products in five (5) quality categories – (1) material health, (2) material reutilization, (3) renewable energy and carbon management, (4) water stewardship, and (5) social fairness. (Footnote 8)

Sustainability managers must partner with their design and strategy teams to develop sustainable solutions to the products and services their company offers. Not only are these products essential ecologically and socially, they are also drivers of revenue growth.

If managers are concerned about getting [internal] corporate buy-in to fund ESG R&D, they are able to present the business case of how other companies — especially like Shaw Industries with the illustrations here in this case study — have seen Cradle-to-Cradle’s positive impact on their revenue. (9)

According to The Conference Board, “revenues from sustainable products and services grew at six times the rate of overall company revenues.”

In order to address Earth’s ecological crisis, companies must lead the way by ensuring they are designing eco-friendly products and services that respects the finite resources available on the planet. Sustainability managers can look to Shaw as one company that is leading by example.

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Jennifer Moore is Manager, Executive Programs, Sustainability & EHS at the Conference Board. She engages with senior executives from Fortune 250 companies to understand their needs and help solve their business issues. She oversees and executes all aspects of 15 roundtables per year.

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**  Information about the G&A Institute on-line course:

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

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Footnotes:

(1) Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Cradle to Cradle in a Circular Economy – Products and Systems. Retrieved March 5, 2017. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/schools-of-thought/cradle2cradle

(2)  Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Cradle to Cradle in a Circular Economy – Products and Systems. Retrieved March 5, 2017. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/schools-of-thought/cradle2cradle

(3) Strahel, W. (2015). The Performance Economy. Palgrave MacMillan: 2006

(4) United Nations. United Nations Economic and Social Council. Millennium Development Goals and post-2015. Development Agenda. Retrieved March 5, 2017. http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/about/mdg.shtml.

(5)  Yosie, T. Is There Business Value in the UN Sustainable Development Goals? Retrieved March 5, 2017. http://tcbblogs.org/givingthoughts/2017/02/07/is-there-business-value-in-the-un-sustainable-development-goals/#sthash.L0MLUAN7.xHIHNvHZ.dpbs

(6) Singer, T. Driving Revenue Growth Through Sustainable Products and Services. New York: The Conference Board, 2015. p. 17.

(7) Singer, T. Driving Revenue Growth Through Sustainable Products and Services. New York: The Conference Board, 2015. p. 8.

(8)  C2C Product Certification Overview – Get Certified – Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Retrieved March 5, 2017. http://www.c2ccertified.org/get-certified/product-certification

(9)  Singer, T. Driving Revenue Growth Through Sustainable Products and Services. New York: The Conference Board, 2015. p. 6.

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In 2017 the G&A Institute Team Celebrates the Company’s 10th Anniversary — and Editor-in-Chief Ken Cynar’s Continuing Efforts to Keep You Well Informed

In 2017, the G&A Institute team is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of our corporate sustainability consulting, counseling, advice and research firm.  Many of us at G&A worked together in a prominent issues and crisis management consulting practice serving the Fortune 100 companies and many prominent multi-national businesses.  Our former firm was acquired and the business was being wound down.  And so, literally, in a garage with office space, G&A was launched.

Our mission includes sharing information and working to inform and educate managers in the corporate sector, and in the investment community, about the rising importance of corporate sustainability, corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, and the increasing focus by investors on all of this.

Over time the preferred approach of combining corporate environmental management factors, the addressing of social or societal concerns, and adopting more effective and investor-responsive corporate governance by public companies — the critical “ESG” factors — included many issues and trend that were familiar to us.  As a team, we had worked on these issue sets for many years as we counseled large company managements.

Our first activity as we got underway was the launch of our Accountability Central web platform.  Our colleague Ken Cynar organized the task, setting up his systems for scouring traditional and other media for “sustainability,” “responsibility,” “ESG” and related news, commentary and research results.  Very early in the morning, Ken would scour to find (literally back then) a handful of content to share with our growing audience.

Ten years on, Ken (our Editor-in-Chief) is at the top of his game. This is our 341st weekly issue of the newsletter.  This week he shared with our readers more than 100 articles, all selected by hand, scanning some 1,000 (!) items every week.  A typical week, says Ken, modestly.

Ken joined our team after a distinguished career in government service almost 20 years ago.  He brings you news and more from “everywhere,” in that he has done his scanning, selection and “posting” from such locales as the Czech Republic (his most recent trip), Germany, Italy, France, and various places around North America.

Ken’s selections continue to populate our Accountability Central website; our SustainabilityHQ news selections, and of course, this newsletter.  To Ken, our team member 10 years in — thank you, and well done!

Ken’s selection for you as Top Story this week is a very interesting read.  The panel convened in Singapore was supposed to talk about “Will Businesses Drive the SDGs?” — but quickly veered into a discussion about the financial markets, not rewarding companies for improving their ESG performance…and so the SDG goals cannot be met.  This turned out to be a very controversial dialogue — one you’ll want to tune in to. Many companies are mentioned as the conversation continued and points were made pro and con about sustainability issues and topics.

Speaking of SDGs, G&A has developed an “SDG Alignment Analysis and Strategic Advice” service offering to help companies leverage and align with the SDGs to maximize the impact and value of their corporate sustainability journey and sustainability reporting.  Find out more here.

Top Story

Do financial markets care about sustainability?
(Tuesday – March 07, 2017)
Source: Eco-Business – Razzouk threw this grenade at an audience of sustainability professionals last month, suggesting that as the market does not reward companies for improving their environmental and social performance, the UN’s Sustainable…

World’s Largest Asset Manager on Climate Risk Disclosure — the BlackRock Expectations of Public Company Boards and C-Suite

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

Monday, March 13, 2017 — The world’s largest asset management firm has clear expectations that corporate managements will disclose more on climate risk to their shareholder base…BlackRock speaks out.  Corporate boards and C-Suite – Important News for You….

You all know BlackRock — this the New York City-based “world’s largest asset manager guiding individuals, financial professionals, and institutions in building better financial futures…”

“That includes offerings such as mutual fund, closed-end funds, managed accounts, alternative investments, iShares ETFs, defined contribution plans…”

And — “advocating for public policies that we believe are in our investors’ long-term interests…” “…ensuring long-term sustainability for the firm, client investments and the communities where we work…”

For BlackRock, Corporate Sustainability includes: (1) human capital, (2) corporate governance (3) environmental sustainability, (4) ethics and integrity, (5) inclusion and diversity, (6) advocating for public policy, and (7) health and safety.

In terms of Responsible Investing, the BlackRock approach includes (1) investment stewardship and (2) having a sustainable investing platform (targeting social and environmental objectives AND the all-important financial return).

So it should not come as a big surprise to the boards and managements of literally thousands of public issuers that BlackRock has great expectations regarding the individual company’s (in a portfolio or hope to be) climate change disclosure practices.

What We Are Doing/How We Do it – Shared by BlackRock

Right now the BlackRock managers are sharing with other asset owners & managers their approach to sustainable investing. There are important lessons for corporate managements in these explanations:

As part of the investment process, BlackRock continues to assess a range of factors (that could impact the long-term financial sustainability of the public companies or companies).

Over the past two years, a number of projects have helped BlackRock to more fully understand climate change. BlackRock believes that climate risk (climate risk/change issues) have the potential to present definitive risks and opportunities that could or will impact long-term shareholder value.

The BlackRock team members also contributed to external initiatives such as the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) and the continued development of the voluntary reporting guidelines of the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB).

Larry Fink – the influential CEO of BlackRock — sent letters directly to the CEO’s of public companies in 2016 and then again recently (2017) that called attention to the need for the companies to help their investors better understand the ESG factors most relevant to the firm to generate value over time.

That especially includes more robust disclosure and reporting on the issues related to climate risk. (We need to keep in mind that “risk” has a companion — “opportunity,” as represented in the Chinese pictograph for a crisis.)

BlackRock’s Investment Stewardship Team meets with portfolio company managements and votes BlackRock shares at proxy voting time; if an issue is in focus and the C-suite will not make progress on the issue, the team will elevate the concern to the company’s board room. And they “may” in time vote against director nominees and for shareholders proposals that are on the right side of BlackRock’s own concerns.

Company Boards and Executives – for 2017

BlackRock engages with 1,500 companies (on average) every year. As (according to BlackRock) climate risk awareness and its engagement with companies on the issues is being advanced, and as the asset management firm’s own thinking on climate risk continues to evolve, that issue is on the table for the Investment Stewardship Team discussions with company managements in 2017.

Companies “most exposed” to climate risk will be encouraged as part of the discussions to consider reporting recommendations coming from the FSB Task Force.

And, the board will be expected to have “demonstrable fluency in how climate risk affects the business and management’s approach to adapting to and mitigating the risk. Corporate disclosure on all of this will be key to the ongoing relationship with the investor – BlackRock (with US$5 trillion and more AUM).

Other Investment Management Peers

Tim Smith, Director of ESG Shareholder Engagement at Walden Asset Management (Boston)

Tim Smith, Director of ESG Shareholder Engagement at Walden Asset Management (Boston) and long a robust and powerful voice in the sustainable investing movement, applauded BlackRock’s shared information.

“The announcement that climate risk will be a priority in their engagements with public companies is an exceedingly important message being sent by one of your largest shareholders. That they believe climate risk is a priority reinforces the importance of the issues for senior managements of public companies. We’re hopeful that BlackRock’s announcement and engagement on climate risk will result in active support for shareholder resolutions on climate change.”

Walden and others filed their own shareholder resolution with BlackRock asking for a review of the asset manager’s corporate proxy voting process and record on climate change.

BlackRock has been accused by investment peers for its proxy voting practices. For example, Climate Wire reported in 2016 that IF BlackRock and its large institutional investment peers had supported a climate resolution filed with Exxon Mobil (this was part of the not-for-profit Asset Owners Disclosure Project) the resolution would have passed in the final vote by shareholders.

We’ll see what the 2017 BlackRock moves mean in the corporate proxy season getting underway now with continued investor focus on climate change / climate risk / global warming disclosure and reporting demands.

As corporate sustainability consultants and advisors, we at G&A Institute (and as part of our pro bono research work as the exclusive Data Partners for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in the United States) analyzed more than 1,500 report sustainability reports in 2016 — and we are seeing an increase now in 2017 early survey results that corporate disclosure on climate risk issues is definitely on the increase.

We will soon release the results of our team’s analysis of S&P 500(r) on sustainability reporting and related issues. Recall that our analysis last year found that 81 percent of the 500 companies were doing structured sustainability reporting.

There’s more information for you here:

https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/en-us/about-us/investment-stewardship/engagement-priorities

https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/en-us/literature/market-commentary/how-blackrock-investment-stewardship-engages-on-climate-risk-march2017.pdf

Asset Owners Disclosure Project:  http://aodproject.net/

Tim Smith / Walden Asset Management:

http://www.waldenassetmgmt.com/team/smith-timothy

 

 

Dangerous Antics – Fiddling with the Future of US EPA and the Health and Safety of the American People

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

The Trump Administration  — Making moves now on the US EPA to destroy its effectiveness through budget cuts and ideological attacks on its missions.

In his landmark work published in 1993 – “A Fierce Green Fire – The American Environment Movement” – former New York Times journalist Philip Shabecoff explained:  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created by President Richard Nixon (a Republican) in December 1970 (two years into his first term) as part of an overall re-organization of the Federal government. The EPA was created without any benefit of statute by the U.S. Congress.

Parts of programs, departments and regulations were pulled from 15 different areas of the government and cobbled together a single environmental protection agency intended to be the watchdog, police officer and chief weapon against all forms of pollution, author Schabecoff explained to us.

The EPA quickly became the lightning rod for the nation’s hopes for cleaning up pollution and fears about intrusive Federal regulation.

As the first EPA Administrator, William Ruckelshaus (appointed by Richard Nixon) explained to the author in 1989: “The normal condition of the EPA was to be ground between two irresistible forces: the environmental movement, pushing very hard to get [pollution] emissions no matter where they were (air, water)…and another group on the side of industry pushing just as hard and trying to stop all of that stuff…” Both, Ruckelshaus pointed out, regardless of the seriousness of the problem.

We are a half-century and more beyond all of this back and forth, and the arguments about EPA’s role and importance rage on.

Today we in the sustainability movement are alarmed at the recklessness of the Trump White House and the key Administration officials now charged with responsibility to protect the environment and public health in two key cabinet departments: The EPA and the Department of Energy.

The ripple effects of the attacks on climate change science are in reality much larger: The Department of Defense (which has declared climate change to be a major threat long-term); the Department of Interior, overseeing the nation’s precious legacy of national parks and more; the Department of Agriculture (and oversight of tens of millions of acres of farmland); the Department of Commerce; the Department of Justice..and on and on.

The destruction could start early: The Washington Post (with its ear to the ground) is closely watching the administration and reported on February 17th that President Donald Trump planned to target the EPA with new Executive Orders (between two and five are coming) that would restrict the Agency’s oversight role and reverse some of the key actions that comprise the Obama Administration legacy on climate change and related issues.

Such as: rolling back the Clean Energy Plan (designed to limit power plant GhG emissions), which required states to develop their own plan as well. And, withdrawing from the critical agreement reached in Paris at COP 21 to limit the heating up of Planet Earth (which most of the other nations of the world have also adopted, notably China and India).

The destroyers now at the helm of the EPA also don’t like the Agency’s role in protecting wetlands, rivers etc. (The Post was expanding on coverage originally developed by investigative reporters at Mother Jones.)

Mother Jones quoted an official of the Trump transition team: “What I would like to see are executive orders implementing all of President Trump’s main campaign promises on environment and energy, including withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty.”

And, in the Washington Post/Mother Jones reportage: “The holy grail for conservatives would be reversing the Agency’s ‘so-called endangerment finding,’ which states that GhG emissions harm public health and must therefore be regulated [by EPA] under the Clean Air Act.”

Think about this statement by H. Sterling Burnett of the right-wing Heartland Institute: “I read the Constitution of the United States and the word ‘environmental protection’ does not appear there.” He cheered the early actions by the Trump-ians to give the green light to the Keystone Pipeline and Dakota Access Project.

On March 1st The Washington Post told us that the White House will cut the EPA staff by one-fifth — and eliminate dozens of programs.

A document obtained by the Post revealed that the cuts would help to offset the planned increase in military spending. Cutting the EPA budget from US$ 8.2 billion to $6.1 billion could have a significant [negative] impact on the Agency.

We should remember that in his hectic, frenetic campaigning, Donald Trump-the-candidate vowed to get rid of EPA in almost every present form – and his appointee, now EPA Administrator (Scott Pruitt) sued EPA over and over again when he was Attorney General of Oklahoma, challenging its authority to regulate mercury pollution, smog (fog/smoke), an power plant carbon emissions (the heart of the Obama Clean Energy Plan).

In practical terms, the Post explained, the massive Chesapeake Bay clean up project, now funded at $73 million, would be getting $5 million in the coming Fiscal Year (October 1st on). Three dozen programs would be eliminated (radon; grants to states; climate change initiatives; aid to Alaskan native villages); and the “U.S. Global Change Research Program” created by President George H.W. Bush back in 1989 would be gone.

Important elements of the American Society have tackled conservation, environmental, sustainability and related issues to reduce harm to human health and our physical home – Mother Earth – over the past five decades: Federal and state and local governments; NGOs; industry; investors; ordinary citizens; academia.

Today, the progress in protecting our nation’s resources and human health made since rivers caught fire and the atmosphere of our cities and towns could be seen and smelled, is under attack.

The good news is that for the most part, absent some elements of society, the alarms bells are going off and people are mobilizing to progress, not retreat, on environmental protection issues.

American Industry – Legacy of Three Decade Commitment to Environmental Protection – The Commitment Must Continue

The good news to look back on and then to project down to the 21st Century and Year 2017 includes  the comments by leaders of the largest chemical industry player of the day as the EPA was launched and key initial legislation passed (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and many more)  – that is the DuPont deNemours Company.

Think about the importance of these critical arguments – which could be considered as foundational aspirations for today’s corporate sustainability movement:

Former DuPont CEO Irving Shapiro told author Philip Shabecoff: “You’ve have to be dumb and deaf not to recognize the public gives a damn about the environment and a business man who ignores it writes his out death warrant.”

The fact is, said CEO Shapiro (who was a lawyer), “DuPont has not been disadvantaged by the environmental laws. It is a stronger company today (in the early 1990s) than it was 25 years ago. Where the environment is on the public agenda depends on the public. If the public loses interest, corporate involvement will diminish…”

His predecessor as CEO, E. S. Woolard, had observed in 1989: “Environmentalism is now a mode of operation for every sector of society, industry included. We in industry have to develop a stronger awareness of ourselves as environmentalists…”

And:  remember, warned Dupont CEO Shapiro: “…if the public loses interest corporate involvement will diminish…”

Today let’s also consider the shared wisdom of a past administrator as she contemplated the news of the Trump Administration actions and intentions:

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (2013-2017) said to the Post: “The [proposed] budget is a fantasy if the Trump Administration believes it will preserve EPA’s mission to protect public health. It ignores the need to invest in science and to implement the law. It ignores the history that led to the EPA’s creation 46 years ago. It ignores the American People calling for its continued support.”

Consider the DuPont’ CEO’s comments above … if the American public loses interest.  At this time in our nation’s history, we must be diligent and in the streets (literally and metaphorically) protesting the moves of this administration and the connivance of the U.S. Congress if our representatives go along with EPA budget cuts as outlined to date.

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About “A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement,” by Philip Shabecoff; published 1993 by Harper Collins. I recommend a reading to gain a more complete understanding of the foundations of the environmental movement.

A decade ago I wrote a commentary on the 100-year evolvement of the conservation movement into the environmental movement and then on to today’s sustainability movement in my Corporate Finance Review column.  It’s still an interesting read:  http://www.hankboerner.com/library/Corporate%20Finance%20Review/Popular%20Movements%20-%20A%20Challenge%20for%20Institutions%20and%20Managers%2003&04-2005.pdf

 

 

How Valuable is Your Brand — and What Are You Doing to Enhance the Brand Through Your Company’s Sustainability Journey?

And how much value might your enterprise be “losing” in untapped brand value? Hmmm…

Some of the most popular — and valuable — brands in the world are housed under the big umbrella of Unilever (and consider that the Anglo-Dutch parent company name itself is a valuable brand).  Think Unilever brands: Dove (soap); Hellmanns (mayo); Lipton(tea); Breyer’s (ice cream); and Ben & Jerry’s (one of the great pioneers in CSR and purveyors of iconic ice creams).

In results announced in January, Unilever said its sponsored international survey results revealed these top lines:  (1) today a third of consumers are buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact; and (2) there’s a billion Euros opportunity now for brands that make their sustainability credentials more clear to the marketplace.

The company said in announcing results:  “As well as confirming the public’s high expectations of brands when it comes to having a positive social and environmental impact, the study’s findings uncover an unprecedented opportunity for companies to get it right.  More than one-in-five people surveyed said they would actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials clearer packaging and in marketing.”

This represents a potential untapped opportunity of almost one trillion Euros out of a 2.5 trillion euro total market for sustainable goods.  Wow!

Looking at this, Jake Dubbins, savvy CEO of the London-based media/ad firm, Media Bounty, was moved by the results to offer his own views on “brands, and the multinational companies that own most of them.”   He looks at the actions of Unilever, Tesla, The Body Shop, Energizer, and other brand marketers.

Says Dubbins: “…there’s a huge shift taking place…effectively positioning your brand as sustainable…you’ll be well placed to tap into the emerging  markets across the globe who are now leading the way in sustainability…”

Jake offers us more of his expert perspectives on why the most “sustainable” brands enjoy clear competitive advantage (and “top tips for success”) in his post on The Drum.

That’s our Top Story for you this week:

Research for Unilever shows that brands are missing out on £820 billion by not pushing sustainability
(Tuesday – February 21, 2017)
Source: The Drum – What defines sustainable? How sustainable is your brand? In short, does your brand actually have permission to ‘push’ sustainability?

“The Authoritative Voice for Wall Streeters,” Says It … Barron’s Tells Mainstream Investors It’s a “New Era of Sustainable Investing” … And that is, in the Trumpian Era, No Less…

The Barron’s weekly newspaper is the “hot read” for Wall Streeters – both institutional and retail investors alike eagerly absorb the news and opinions of the editors, writers, and columnists.  “Did you see Barron’s….?” is a familiar question in the investment community.

And so we ask — did you see Barron’s story this week (Feb 11th issue)?  “A New Era of Sustainability Emerges,” tells readers that the flurry of policy directives at the Trump White House has “fueled activism across the country;” it may also light a fire under some investors focused on sustainable business practices.

Columnist Reshma Kapadia says President Trump’s and allies proposals to roll back environmental and financial regulations…and reject climate-change science…the priorities of a growing number of investors who put a premium on environmental stewardship, corporate governance, transparency, and diversity are at odds with the Trumpian-era directions.

“But here’s the thing,” Reshma Kapadia writes, “the political backdrop could actually be good for ‘so-called’ ESG funds…”  And then she cites the authority of US SIF and the most recent survey of asset managers using ESG criteria — $US9 trillion, or $1-in-$5 in the US capital markets.

Important:  EPFR Global reports that since the November elections, investors have put almost $400 million into ESG stock funds.  And quoting Morningstar’s Jon Hale (head of sustainability research), “the political back drop could have a galvanizing effect, as investors look for ways to more explicitly support sustainable ideas.”

This is a report that you’ll want to read and share.  ESG investing is just common-sense investing, observes the columnist.  It’s one of the most important perspectives in sustainable, responsible and impact investing to appear in the new political era.

Reshma has been with The Wall Street Journal, Smart Money magazine, Reuters, and appears regularly in Barron’s pages.

(Note that you’ll have to register to read or be a subscriber to Barron’s. There are more than 300,000 weekly readers, subscription and newsstand.)

Top Story

A New Era of Sustainable Investing Emerges
(Monday – February 13, 2017)
Source: Barron’s – The political backdrop could actually be good for so-called ESG funds, which include environmental, social, and governance criteria in their stock-picking.

News From the Sustainability Front as The Trump White House Makes Controversial Moves on ESG Issues — Actions and Reactions

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

February 23, 2017
Forward Momentum! – Sustainability 2017

Are you like many of us having sleepless nights and anxiety spells as you watch the antics of the Trump White House and the creeping (and similarly moving-backwards) effects into the offices of important Federal agencies that the Administration is taking over?

Consider then “other news” — and not fake news, mind you, or alt-news — but encouraging real news that is coming from OTHER THAN the Federal government.

We are on track to continue to move ahead in building a more sustainable nation and world — despite the roadblocks being discussed or erected that are designed to slow the corporate sustainability movement or the steady uptake of sustainable investing in the capital markets.

Consider the Power and Influence of the Shareowner and Asset Managers:

The CEO of the largest asset manager in the world — BlackRock’s Larry Fink — in his annual letters to the CEOs of the S&P 500 (R) companies in January said this: “Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors relevant to a company’s business can provide essential insights into management effectiveness and thus a company’s long-term prospects. We look to see that a company is attuned to the key factors that contribute to long-term growth:
(1) sustainability of the business model and its operations; (2) attention to external and environmental factors that could impact the company; (3) recognition of the company’s role as a member of the communities in which it operates.

A global company, CEO Fink wrote to the CEOs, needs to be “local” in every single one of its markets. And as BlackRock constructively engages with the S&P 500 corporate CEOs, it will be looking to see how the company’s strategic framework reflects the impact of last year’s changes in the global environment…in the ‘new world’ in which the company is operating.

BlackRock manages US$5.1 trillion in Assets Under Management. The S&P 500 companies represent about 85% of the total market cap of corporate equities.  Heavyweights, we would say, in shaping U.S. sustainability.

* * * * * * * *

As S&R investment pioneer Steve Viederman often wisely notes, “where you sit determines where you stand…” (on the issues of the day).  More and more commercial space users (tenants and owners) want to “sit” in green spaces — which demonstrates where they “stand” on sustainability issues.

Consider:  In the corporate sector, Retail and other tenants are demanding that landlords provide “green buildings,” according to Chris Noon (Builtech Services LLC CEO). The majority of his company’s construction projects today can easily achieve LEED status, he says (depending on whether the tenant wanted to pursue the certification, which has some cost involved). The company is Chicago-based.

This is thanks to advances in materials, local building codes, a range of technology, and rising customer-demand.

End users want to “sit” in “green buildings” — more than 40% of American tenants recently surveyed across property types expect now to have a “sustainable home.” The most common approaches include energy-saving HVAC systems, windows and plumbing. More stringent (local and state) building codes are also an important factor.

Municipalities — not the Federal government — are re-writing building codes, to reflect environmental and safety advances and concerns. Next week (Feb 28) real estatyer industry reps will gather in Chicago for the Bisnow’s 7th Annual Retail Event at the University Club of Chicago to learn more about these trends.

* * * * * * * *

Institutional investors managing US$17 trillion in assets have created a new Corporate Governance framework — this is the Investor Stewardship Group.

The organizers include such investment powerhouses as BlackRock, Fidelity and RBC Global Asset Management (a dozen in all are involved at the start). There are six (6) Principles advanced to companies by the group that including addressing (1) investment stewardship for institutional investors and (2) for public corporation C-suite and board room. These Principles would be effective on January 1 (2018), giving companies and investors time to adjust.

One of the Principles is for majority voting for director elections (no majority, the candidate does not go on board). Another is the right for investors to nominate directors with information posted on the candidate in the proxy materials.

Both of these moves when adopted by public companies would greatly enhance the activism of sustainable & responsible investors, such as those in key coalitions active in the proxy season, and year-round in engagements with companies (such as ICCR, INCR).

No waiting for SEC action here, if the Commission moves away from investor-friendly policies and practices as signaled so far. And perhaps – this activism will send strong messages to the SEC Commissioners on both sides of the aisle.

Remember:  $17 trillion in AUM at the start of the initiative — stay tuned to the new Investor Stewardship Group.  These are more “Universal Owners” with clout.

* * * * * * * *

Not really unexpected but disappointing nevertheless:  The Trump Administration made its moves on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), part of the Bakken Field project work, carrying out a campaign promise that caters to the project’s primary owners (Energy Transfer Partners**) and other industry interests, S&R investors are acting rapidly in response.

The company needed a key easement to complete construction across a comparatively small distance. Except that…

  • The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the route would cross their drinking water source, impact their sacred sites, and threaten environmentally-sensitive areas;
  • would violate treaty territory without meeting international standards for their consent; (this is the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, which according to the U.S. Constitution, should be the supreme law of the land);
  • and ignore alleged shortcomings in the required environmental review (under the National Environmental Policy Act – NEPA).

These are “abuses”, and banks and financial services firms involved may be complicit in these violations by the nature of their financing, S&R investors note. Their involvement in the project financing could impact their brands and reputations and relationships with society. And so S&R shareholders are taking action.

Boston Common Asset Management, Storebrand Asset Management (in Norway) and First Peoples Worldwide developed an Investor Statement to Banks Financing the DAPL. The statement — being signed on to by other investors — is intended to encourage banks and lenders to support the Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for re-routing the pipeline to not violate — “invade” — their treaty-protected territory. The violations pose a clear risk, SRI shareholders are saying.

The banks involved include American, Dutch, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Canadian institutions.  They in turn are owned by shareholders, public sector agencies, and various fiduciaries — “Universal Owners,” we would say.

The banks include: Bayerische Landesbank (Germany); BBVA (Argentina); Credit Agricole (France); TD Securities (Canada); Wells Fargo; ABN AMRO (The Netherlands); Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ; and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and others.

The shareholders utilizing the Investor Statement say they recognize that banks have a contractual obligation with the respect to their transactions — but — they could use their influence to support the Tribe’s request for a re-route…and reach a “peaceful solution” acceptable to all parties.

As The Washington Post reported on January 24th, soon after the Trump Administration settled in, President Trump signed Executive Orders to revive the DAPL and the Keystone XL pipelines. “Another step in his effort to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy,” as the Post put it.

One Executive Order directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve in an expedited manner” the DAPL. Days later the Corps made their controversial decision, on February 7th reversing course granting Energy Transfer Partners their easement. This week the remaining protestors were removed from the site (some being arrested).

The sustainable & responsible & impact investment community is not sitting by to watch these egregious events, as we see in the Investor Statements to the banks involved. The banks are on notice — there are risks here for you.

* * * * * * * *

May be what is happening in the asset management and project lending activities related to the project is the IBG / YBG worldview of some in the financial services world:  I’ll Be Gone / You’ll Be Gone when all of this hits the fan one day.  (Like the massive Ogalala Aquifer being contaminated by a pipeline break. The route of the extension is on the ground above and on the reservation’s lake bed.  Not to mention the threats to the above ground Missouri River, providing water downstream to U.S. states and cities.)

* * * * * * * *

Energy Transfer Partners, L.P:  (NYSE:ETP)  This is a Master Limited Partnership based in Texas.  Founded in 1995, the company has 71,000 miles of pipelines carrying various products. The company plans to build other major pipelines — the Rover Project — to carry product from the shale regions (Marcellus and Utica) across the Northern U.S. state east of the Mississippi.  ETP LP acquired Sunoco (remember them?).

Mutual Funds – Bond Holders – other key fiduciaries with brands of their own to protect — are funding the operations of ETP LP.

Brand names of equity holders include Oppenheimer; Goldman Sachs Asset Management; CalPERS; JPMorgan Chase.  Bond holders include Lord Abbett, PIMCO, Vanguard.  There are 567 institutional owners — fiduciaries — with some 45% of ownership, according to Morningstar. Partners include Marathon Petroleum Company (NYSE:MPC) and Enbridge (NYSE:ENB). (Bloomberg News – August 2, 2016 – both firms put $2 billion in the project and related work.)

The Partnership used to have an “Ownership” explanation on its web site — now it’s disappeared. But you can review some of it in Google’s archived web site pages here: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.energytransfer.com/ownership_overview.aspx&num=1&strip=1&vwsrc=0

* * * * * * * *

We are seeing in developments every day (like these above with non-governmental strategies and actions) that hold out promise for corporate and societal sustainability advocates and sustainable investment professionals that with — or without — public sector support, the Forward Momentum continue to build.

We’ll share news and opinion with you — let us know your thoughts, and the actions that you / your organization is taking, to continue the momentum toward building a better future…a more sustainable nation and world.

Out the Seventh Generation, as the Native American tribes are doing out in the American West in protecting their Treaty lands.  In that regard we could say, a promise is a promise — the Federal and state governments should uphold promises made in treaties.  Which are covered as a “guarantee” by the U.S. Constitution that some folk in politics like to wave around for effect.

FYI — this is Article VI:  “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land, and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby…”

In the American West & Midwest: Coal-fired Electricity-Generating Plants to Close

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

February 22, 2017

Momentum Forward! – 2017

Some good news to share:  Several large American coal-fired electric utility plant operators are abandoning the burning of coal and moving to natural gas and renewables to generate electricity.  This news was reported by The Washington Post on February 14th. Headline:  “The West’s largest coal-fired power plan is closing. not even Trump can save it.”

Top of the news: a plant in Arizona that is the largest coal-fired facility in the western part of the United States (the 2,250-MW Navajo Generation Station outside Page, AZ) will be de-commissioned by the owners/operators at the end of 2019 — decades before expected, said the Post.

In the era of low natural gas prices, the use of coal would cost more to produce electric power, which would be passed on to the rate base. The US EPA had listed the plant as the #3 of the major carbon-emitting facilities.

The facility is operated by the Salt River Project, utility companies and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation*. The facility serves the Phoenix area.

The downside:  members of the Navajo and Hopi tribes would (1) lose their jobs in the Kayenta Mine that provides that provides the coal, and (2) the tribes will lose certain royalty payments.  Cautionary note:  The tribes of other operators could step up to continue operations.

* * * * * * * *

And less than a month earlier, in the State of Ohio the Dayton Power & Light Company and the Sierra Club reached agr3eement to close two plants (Killen and Stuart) which are coal-fired facilities. These will close in mid-2018. Stuart is a 2,440-MW plant; Killen is 666-MW.

Dayton Power & Light will develop solar power facilities to generate about half of the 555-MW by 2022.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission has the plan for its approval from DP&L.  This is good news for environmental NGOs and Ohio consumers; rate payers would be paying more for their electric power with coal — and be breathing in the results of coal-burning.

All of this, of course, comes as President Trump continues to promise to bring back coal mining, and signed an Executive Order to remove the obstacle for mining companies to dump wastes into surface waters (something that President Obama moved to prevent).

The shift from coal to natural gas: Forward Momentum in 2017 for sustainability!

* * * * * * * *

Footnote: About the Bureau of Land Reclamation*, from its web site:  Established in 1902, the Bureau of Reclamation is best known for the dams, powerplants, and canals it constructed in the 17 western states. These water projects led to homesteading and promoted the economic development of the West. Reclamation has constructed more than 600 dams and reservoirs including Hoover Dam on the Colorado River and Grand Coulee on the Columbia River.

The Bureau is  the largest wholesaler of water in the country, bringing water to more than 31 million people, and provided one-out-of-five Western farmers (140,000) with irrigation water for 10 million acres of farmland that produce 60% of the nation’s vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts.