“Does the RobecoSAM CSA Deliver Quantifiable Business Returns?” – Find out April 6th in NYC at DJSI How INSIGHTS Inspire Action

As the opening of RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) draws nearer we wanted to remind you about our upcoming workshop on April 6th at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City. The workshop will be a very intimate discussion with 30 or fewer people with an opportunity to engage with representatives from RobecoSAM, G&A Institute, and your peers.

Participants will also have access to RobecoSAM’s benchmarking & leading practices database for the day. (Access to these databases normally cost 4’990 EUR and 2’500 EUR respectively.)

Click Here to Register & Find Out More Details! 

We’d also like to share with you a collection of video interviews which outline the value of the RobecoSAM CSA for leading companies. These topics and more will be discussed at our workshop.

RobecoSAM interviewed a number of leading companies that are long time CSA participants. Please enjoy… and let us know if you have any questions about the CSA or the upcoming event.

Does the CSA deliver quantifiable business returns?
The CSA results are often used by companies to refine their sustainability strategy, add credibility to sustainability focused RfPs, attract investors, and to motivate employees and increase engagement. Learn first-hand about all the benefits these companies realize. Watch this 2min video with statements from Siemens, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

How do you use the results of RobecoSAM’s CSA?
Companies that lead in sustainability use the CSA results in their communication with investors and B2B clients and to motivate employees to name just a few examples. To learn more, watch this 2min video with statements from Deutsche Telekom, AstraZeneca, Samsung, Siemens, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

Please join us on April 6th at Baruch College in NYC!
Click Here to For More Details & To Register! 
We look forward to seeing you there!

Where does RobecoSAM’s CSA fit your overall reporting approach? 
The discussions and outcomes that develop internally at Sustainability leaders from the process of completing the CSA are used as key input for their sustainability reporting strategy. Hear about it from the leaders in this 2min video with statements from AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, Siemens, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

Advice for peers: what are the pitfalls first time participants should avoid? 
Watch this short video to learn about the benefits companies realize from their CSA participation and receive expert advice on how to best manage the CSA questionnaire process. Experts from ABN Amro, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, Siemens, and Shinhan Financial Group.

“It’s not rocket science” – Advice for 1st time CSA participants
RobecoSAM asked a number of long time participants in our Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) what kind of advice they have for first time participants. Watch this 4min video to learn first hand from Axa Group, Philips, Grupo Nutresa, Cementos Argos and UPM Kymene.

Please join us on April 6th at Baruch College in NYC!
Click Here to For More Details & To Register! 
We look forward to seeing you there!

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

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

Guest Column – By Kyle Pennell

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

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

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

Trend: Foreign Producers Moving to the US

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

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

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

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

Foreign Countries Will Seek Compensation

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

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

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

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

Thousands of American Jobs Will Be Lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questionable Motives, Questionable Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Information: powerscout.com
    Email: kyle.pennell@powerscout.com


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

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

Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five umbrella categories were considered:

  • Shareholders
  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Planet
  • Community

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

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

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

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

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

The Top 5 Companies overall were:

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

The 100 roster is organized in categories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Important Group of ESG Rankers for Institutional Investors Expands to a Significant Player — Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS)

Traditional Corporate Governance Focus Expanding to Encompass  ISS Environmental & Social QualityScores for 1,500 Public Companies Coming in January… Expanding to 5,000 Companies in Q2…

by Hank Boerner – G&A Institute Chair

A significant new player is now entering the mix of the growing number of organizations providing institutional investors with ESG rankings and data.

At G&A Institute, we’ve been tracking the growth of these organizations (such as MSCI, Sustainalytics, RobecoSAM, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, and others) and work with our clients to help managements understand, optimize and utilize these important intelligence points coming from the rapidly-growing number of investors considering ESG.

Founded in 1985 as Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., ISS is the world’s leading provider of corporate governance and responsible investment solutions for asset owners, asset managers, hedge funds, and asset service providers. Institutional investors today rely on ISS’ expertise to help them make informed corporate governance decisions, integrate responsible investing policies and practices into their strategy, and execute upon these policies through end-to-end voting.

Among the issues monitored, analyzed and perspectives and opinions offered to the investors by ISS:  board room makeup; qualifications of individual board candidates standing for election; CEO compensation; separation of the posts of chair of the board and chief executive officer; proposed transactions such as merger or acquisition; shareholder rights; transparency and disclosure of board and C-suite activities; “over-boarding by directors”…and more.

Over the decades ISS has been a powerful and very visible force in annual corporate proxy voting issues, offering advice to the client base to help the institutions exercise their fiduciary duties, including the mechanics of the voting process during the annual electoral season.

Consider the influence of ISS in the capital markets:  117 global markets covered; 40,000 corporate meetings reviewed; on behalf of 1,700 global institutional investor clients.

Now, “E” and “S” along with “G” issues are coming into sharp focus for ISS – due to the demand of its institutional clients – and included in the QualityScore process.

Tune in now to an important development that significantly expands the influence of ISS and communicates new dimensions of “G” (governance) into the ESG space (E=environmental, S=social, societal issues).  The E and S QualityScore builds on ISS’s market-leading Governance QualityScore, which provides a measure of governance risk, performance, disclosure and transparency in Board Structure, Compensation, Shareholder Right, and Audit & Risk Oversight.

The E&S QualityScore, says ISS, provides a measure of corporate disclosure practices and transparency to shareholders and stakeholders.  This is the Disclosure and Transparency Signal that investor-clients seek, and is a resource that enables effective comparison with company peers.

ISS had been an independent organization, then was acquired by MSCI, and later divested, becoming a unit of the P/E firm Vestar Capital; it was purchased by Genstar Capital in October 2017.  To rebuild the firm’s ESG capabilities lost as a result of the 2014 spinoff from MSCI,  ISS in September 2015 acquired Ethix SRI Advisors, one of Europe’s leading ESG analytics and advisory firms with offices in Scandinavia.

In January 2017, ISS also acquired IW Financial, one of the leading ESG analytics firms in the United States (based in Maine), and in June of 2017 acquired the climate investment data unit of Zurich-based South Pole Group.

ISS’s initial expansion beyond “G” to include Environmental and Social issues in the QualityScore, which will be announced on January 18, covers companies in six industries:  (1) Autos and Components; (2) Capital Goods; (3) Consumer Durables & Apparel; (4) Energy; (5) Materials; and, (6) Transportation – roughly 1,500 companies in all.

Public company managements have been invited to respond to the new “E&S” data verification process for their company (the period ends January 12th).

In 2Q the program expands to include 3,500 more corporate entities in other industries (the total corporate universe in focus by mid-year will be 5,000-plus public companies).

These ratings will be a critical part of a company’s ESG profile for the rapidly expanding number investors with Assets Under Management (AUM) that are considering ESG in their investment decision-making.  This number, as of the latest 2016 US SIF survey includes US$8.72 trillion out of $40.3 trillion total AUM in the United States.  This is now $1-out-of-every-$5   in the U.S. capital markets –and globally the numbers are even more striking with the latest GSIA report showing even larger percentages and rapid expansion in every other part of the world.

The G&A Institute team will be communicating much more detail about this important new initiative by ISS in the weeks ahead, through our various communications channels.  For more information, contact EVP Louis D. Coppola at: lcoppola@ga-institute.com or ISS at ESGHelpdesk@Issethix.com

There are details here on the ESG QualityScore:

For those interested in the Quality Score for Core Corporate Governance Practices in Focus:https://www.issgovernance.com/file/products/1_QS-2017-Methodology-Update-27Oct2017.pdf

Information on ISS Corporate Solutions is here:  https://login.isscorporatesolutions.com/galp/login

A thorough exploration of ISS’ new E and S QualityScores is available on the G&A Institute’s To The Point! platform including a conversation with Marija Kramer, Head of ISS’ Responsible Investment Business. This important brief is available without subscription, with our compliments by clicking here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Stories This Week…

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

The 2017 Net Impact Conference – Finding Your Path to Purpose

Guest Post by Cher Xue, Sustainability Report Analyst, Governance & Accountability Institute

The 2017 Net Impact Conference was held in Atlanta, GA, from October 26-28, 2017. The conference gathered about 2,000 students and young professionals who are committed to making a positive and lasting social and environmental impact throughout their careers.

Net Impact, headquartered in Oakland, California, is a leading global nonprofit, a global community with over 100,000 strong leaders and 300 chapters. Members are well equipped with the vital skills, experience and connections to people that will allow them to have the greatest impact — and turn their passions into a lifetime of world-changing action.

This year’s conference theme was “Path to Purpose” — and this resonated well in every session of the conference. To meet attendees’ different needs and interests, the conference offered more than 60 breakout sessions for professionals, students and faculties; these sessions are in the form of boot camps, panels and workshops.

The conference content covered a variety of different topics, including civic engagement, corporate impact, environment, equity, food, global development, social entrepreneurship, and startups & Tech. The conference also featured career advancement opportunities by organizing the on-site Expo, group mentoring and one-on-one career coaching.

One panel entitled, Leading with the Triple Bottom Line: Creating Shared Value Through Business, brought together people driving CSR and sustainability forward in their companies.

The panelists were:

  • Michael Oxman, the Managing Director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainability Business at Scheller College of Business, Georgia Tech;
  • Suzanne Fallender, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Intel;
  • Jami Buck-Vance, Director of Corporate Responsibility & Community Partnerships at Cox Enterprises; and,
  • Bruce Karas, V.P. of Environment & Sustainability at Coca-Cola North America Group.

This panel discussed details of both the challenges and solutions for corporate in social and environmental impact. The panelists shared their experience in what it takes to integrate impact metrics and values across the company. Young professionals, students, and people who would like to contribute to sustainability in their own companies found great advice for them to carry their work in the future.

Another panel –  Navigating the Clean Energy Transition  — featured:

  • Marilyn Brown, Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology;
  • Lee Ballin, Head of Sustainable Business Programs at Bloomberg;
  • John Federovitch, Senior Director of Renewable Energy & Efficiency at Walmart; and
  • Jim Hanna, Director of Datacenter Sustainability at Microsoft.

The panelists talked about how we could change the energy landscape from dependency on fossil fuels to cleaner options in an economically feasible and environmentally conscious way.

As the private sector plays a leading role in energy consumption, John Federovitch and Jim Hanna (from Walmart and Microsoft) shared their views on navigating the clean energy transition, the challenges, and future trends in Clean Energy.

Opening party at the World of Coca-Cola

In addition to panels and workshops, this year, in honor of the Net Impact’s 25th anniversary, the conference added more local networking events and excursions throughout the weekend for attendees to explore Atlanta. These included an opening party at the World of Coca-Cola, a visit to the Civil & Human Rights Museum, the panda enclosure at Atlanta Zoo, and a tour of the city’s “living walls project”.

The Atlanta city tour of street art and social justice allowed attendees to be immersed in its vibrant culture, socially conscious communities and southern charm.

Reception at the Georgia Aquarium

Atlanta is a thriving city with a history of social movements, and is the birthplace for one of the greatest Civil Rights icons, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The history of this southern city and national events influenced artists who create art in public space throughout the city with over 100 outdoor murals. The 4-hour long bus tour experience not only added welcome fun to the conference, but also allowed attendees to explore sections of town that use art as an identifier of their community, and examine how art was used to present powerful and thought-provoking messages.

Atlanta Alive: Street Art & Social Justice Tour

I found the three-day Net Impact conference in Atlanta to be a really wonderful gathering of the brightest, most enthusiastic and innovative change agents from all over the world. My participation allowed me to gain rich experience in all aspects, as well as tangible skills and actionable insights.  I am sure that participants came away feeling that the conference helped them to map out their Path to Purpose — to turn their passion into a purposeful career!

Qier “Cher” Xue is a recent graduate of Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment.  She majored in Environmental Management with concentration in Energy.  She also earned a Certificate in Sustainable System Analysis, and worked as student consultant at Lenovo.  Her interests are in renewable energy, supply chain management and sustainability.  She’s a grad of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with Distinction Cum Laude Honors in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management (B.S.).  G&A Institute is proud to have her working as Sustainable Reporting Analyst.


All Together Now — Industries, Sectors & Professional Groups See Collective Efforts As The Way Forward for Managing Sustainability Issues

There is encouraging news as corporate executives, managers and a range of professionals get together to address the risks and opportunities inherent in sustainability matters that could affect a particular industry, sector or profession.   And, how with collective industry effort these challenges might be addressed.

Example:  Landscape architects gathered in Los Angeles to discuss designing (the heart of their work) in the era of challenges posted by climate change and global warming.  Consider that perhaps 70% of the Year 2050 global population will be living in urban areas.  And so, urban landscapes will need to (1) accommodate and support the greatly expanded population and (2) addressing the changing climate conditions that will complicate their work.

There is a video (2:29 minutes) posted with the report.  The graphic depictions of possible solutions with to climate change with experts’ narratives about the challenges are interesting to view.  Thought provoking.

Other examples are in three stories below. The vinyl and apparel industries efforts are highlighted, and we also provide a link to the text of a speech by the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands on the global need for new business models and consumption cycle.

All together now…forward!

Top Stories This Week…

Architects shape future cities for sustainability at LA gathering
(Monday – October 23, 2017)
Source: aljazeera.com – In Los Angeles, landscape architects have gathered to focus on sustainability and designing for an era of global warming and climate change at the 2017 American landscape architects conference.   with 3 minute video  materials (concrete) landscapes…

Morningstar Now Informs Investors About ESG/Sustainable Mutual Funds — And The Good News Is That ESG Funds’ AUM Continues to Grow

The authoritative voice for many investors on the always expanding mutual fund universe is the Chicago-based Morningstar organization.  The company tracks mutual fund’s in- and outflows, performance, focus and other aspects of [mutual fund] activities.

The firm began adding ESG analysis to its legendary and comprehensive analytical work last year.  About 200 mutual funds with ESG criteria were initially being monitored by Morningstar, with analysis provided by Sustainalytics. **

Now here’s an important update for you:  we are apparently on pace for a record year for ESG funds this year.  In 3Q 2017, the universe of ESG funds (equity and fixed-income) continued to grow; there were five new fund launches and net flow (funds in) that “…keep the group on track for record year of attracting new assets.”

Morningstar explains that “Sustainable Mutual Funds” experienced continued growth in assets and heavier inflow through 2016 and into 2017; Assets Under Management were about $60 billion through September.  New launches were by Brown Advisory, Essex, iShares and NuShares (four were bond funds and one, equity-focused).

Notes Morningstar:  Because many of these funds are “young,” with almost 100 lacking three-year track records, they remain small (below $50 million AUM). But the good news is that with continued new fund launches and flows in continuing, sustainable funds continue to gain traction in 3Q 2017, offering investors more choices who are focusing on ESG / sustainable portfolios.

The addition of ESG / Sustainable investing data and information to the influential Morningstar suite of services for investors was an important development, and a solid sign of ESG investing coming of age in the USA for the company’s customers.  Shortly after adding the ESG features, Morningstar made a strategic investment in Sustainalytics buying 40% of the firm earlier this year – another good sign for the sustainable investing community.

There’s good information for you in our Top Story.

There’s more news about sustainable investing here in this week’s Highlights — read on!

Keep watch: We will soon be sharing news about our new “To the Point” corporate management briefing service.  This new platform on launch will have lots of good, timely, actionable information about ESG players that influence the capital markets — and public company access and cost of capital.  For advance information, send an email to:  info@ga-institute.com

**Footnote:  Morningstar defines the ESG universe as fund that incorporate ESG criteria into their investment process (or) pursue a sustainability-related theme (or) seek measurable sustainability impact along with financial return.

Top Stories This Week…

Sustainable Funds Universe Continues to Expand
(Thursday – October 12, 2017)
Source: Morningstar – The universe of sustainable funds in the United States continued to grow in the third quarter, with five new fund launches and positive estimated net flows that keep the group on track for a record year of attracting new assets.


Focus on Assessment Questions for Human Rights, Human Capital & Supply Chain

A Practitioner Workshop on Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Presented By Governance & Accountability Institute
in collaboration with RobecoSAM

The aim of this workshop is to increase the participants’ knowledge about the methodology behind the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) and the RobecoSAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA). In this session but, special focus will be on selected criteria including Human Rights, Supply Chain, and Human Capital.

A workshop session will also be included on how institutional investors are utilizing data from the CSA and ESG data in their investment decision-making.

RobecoSAM and Governance & Accountability Institute expert representatives will contribute to the meeting overall and in particular present content (including analysis and slide decks) that address each of the criterion.

Representatives from CSA-responding corporations that are high scorers in the respective CSA criterion will respond and share their perspective and experience in crafting responses to the CSA. Participants can expect to take away a deeper understanding of:

  • The DJSI 2017 – results & learnings.
  • Effective approaches in assessing established and emerging sustainability topics in the CSA.
  • Rationale, the business case, performance, and results from last year’s assessment, and learn more about major challenges for companies, especially in the CSA Criteria of Human Rights, Human Capital, and Supply Chain.
  • How institutional investors / fiduciaries are utilizing ESG data.


* Hank Boerner, Co-Founder & Chairman, Governance & Accountability Institute
* Louis Coppola, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, Governance & Accountability Institute
* Robert Dornau, Director, Senior Manager Sustainability Services, RobecoSAM

with Top Scoring Corporate Representative:
Ariel Meyerstein, Senior Vice President, Corporate Sustainability, Citi

* Robert Dornau, Director, Senior Manager Sustainability Services, RobecoSAM
* Moderator: Louis Coppola, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, Governance & Accountability Institute

with Top Scoring Corporate Representative:
Tina M. Berg, Sustainability Specialist, 3M Corporate Social Responsibility 

* Robert Dornau, Director, Senior Manager Sustainability Services, RobecoSAM
* Moderator:
 Hank Boerner, Co-Founder & Chairman, Governance & Accountability Institute

Networking Lunch

with Top Scoring Corporate Representative:
Jocelyn Cascio, Supply Chain Sustainability Senior Manager at Intel Corporation 

* Robert Dornau, Director, Senior Manager Sustainability Services, RobecoSAM
* Moderator: Louis Coppola, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, Governance & Accountability Institute & Board Member of Global Sourcing Council (GSC)

with Hideki Suzuki, Senior Governance Data Analyst, Bloomberg LP

* Robert Dornau, Director, Senior Manager Sustainability Services, RobecoSAM
* Hank Boerner, Co-Founder & Chairman, Governance & Accountability Institute
* Louis Coppola, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, Governance & Accountability Institute

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
8:45 am – 4:00 pm
Baruch College/ CUNY
, Newman Vertical Campus
55 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

For information and to register click here.
Registrations will be open until October 22nd, 2017.

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