LESS THAN 10 DAYS LEFT! REGISTER & RESERVE YOUR SEAT AT DEMYSTIFYING THE CSA & DJSI

LESS THAN 2 WEEKS LEFT!
REGISTER & RESERVE YOUR SEAT AT DEMYSTIFYING THE CSA & DJSI
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.

AGENDA

WELCOME OF THE DAY 
* 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

WORKSHOP 1: HUMAN RIGHTS
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

WORKSHOP 2: HUMAN CAPITAL
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

WORKSHOP 3: SUPPLY CHAIN
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)

WORKSHOP 4: ESG DATA FROM AN INVESTOR PERSPECTIVE
with Hideki Suzuki, Senior Governance Data Analyst, Bloomberg LP

DJSI 2018 OUTLOOK & CLOSING REMARKS 
* 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

DETAILS
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.

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

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

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

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

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

We told you about this in our post of May 13, 2016.
Link: http://ga-institute.com/Sustainability-Update/tag/sec-concept-release/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The details are available for you in a new 253-page document, at: https://www.sec.gov/rules/proposed/2017/33-10425.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Treatment of subsidiaries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The National Geographic Can Have A Major Influence On Its Global Audience With Coverage Like This: Climate Change’s Hidden Costs

The National Geographic Society made its debut as a publishing force in 1888, introducing the natural world and faraway places to generation-after-generation, at first through the familiar yellow cover magazine (the “journal”), then on through broadcast and cable television programming, a web site, and movies.  (Remember “March of the Penguins”?)

And always, through the decades, the NG staff and contributors have kept up-to-date with world and domestic “happenings,” including wonderful places to visit and introductions to far-off cultures, explanations of geography and natural science, archeology and history — as well as reportage on serious storms, wars, civil unrest, droughts, famines, and other important touchstones of shared content to expand our personal knowledge.

NG through its communication channels reaches tens of millions of people worldwide.  And today the NG is focused on another hot topic:  climate change, and the costs (which run into the hundreds of billions of US dollars, according a report by the Universal Ecological Fund — “The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States.”

Key assertion of the study:  Extreme weather has cost the U.S. economy at least US$240 billion a year over the past 10 years!

The study authors point out that big storms lower the long-run growth rate of the U.S. economy and that economic and human impacts ripple through the country for us for decades. (New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is an example they shared.)  Crop yields are down US$56 billion since 2012 due to climate-related losses (drought).

NG shares a compelling chart showing numerous “billion dollar” weather disasters that have been increasing in recent years (due to drought, heat wave, wildfire, flood, hurricane, tornado, blizzard, etc).  There’s an accompanying video featuring Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”.  NG provides links to other articles, photos of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction, and a video, “Climate 101 – Renewable Energy.”

A number of experts contributed to the NG presentation, including report co-authors Sir Robert Watson, director of the UK’s Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, and Ryan Wiser, senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Amir Jina, University of Chicago; John Tomanio and Riley D. Champine, NG staff members; Adam Smith, National Climatic Data Center and colleague Jeff Masters, Weather Underground, at the Center.  The article author is Stephen Leahy.

Our Top Story makes a compelling case for action now! on climate change challenges and will be an oft-quoted source (we believe) for pushing back on climate change deniers.

Top Stories This Week…

Hidden Costs of Climate Change Running Hundreds of Billions a Year
(Friday – September 29, 2017)
Source: National Geographic – A new report warns of a high price tag on the impacts of global warming, from storm damage to health costs. But solutions can provide better value, the authors say.

Meet Hideki Suzuki, Bloomberg LP @ Demystifying The CSA & DJSI Workshop

Hideki Suzuki, Senior Governance Data Analyst, Bloomberg LP is speaking at Demystifying the Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) & The Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI). This practitioner workshop is presented by Governance & Accountability Institute in collaboration RobecoSAM on October 24, 2017 and is being hosted at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City.  Hideki will be focusing on ESG Data from an Investor Perspective.

MEET ONE OF THE SPEAKERS: HIDEKI SUZUKI
Senior Governance Data Analyst, Bloomberg LP
TOPIC:
ESG Data from an Investor Perspective

A conversation with Hideki:

Q:  What can attendees expect to learn from your session on ESG Data from an Investor Perspective?

In the session, I will walk through how RobecoSAM scores are viewed and utilized by investment professionals through our analytics.

Q:  What type of information from the RobecoSAM CSA is available to subscribers of the Bloomberg terminal?

The percentile rankings of each of the various criterion under the Environmental, Social, Economic and Total ESG categories for nearly 2000 companies are available. 

Q:  What can companies learn about their competitors if they have access to a Bloomberg terminal?

Benchmarking is made easy for corporate sustainability officers. Bloomberg terminal will let them see what others in the industry consider important, how their competitors are performing on the KPIs.

* * * * * * * *

CAREER BACKGROUND:
Hideki Suzuki, Senior Governance Data Analyst, Bloomberg LP
Hideki Suzuki is a senior corporate governance analyst at Bloomberg.

After joining Bloomberg LP in 1999, he spent the first 5 years in electronic trading desk support and third party fixed income and its derivatives pricing contents team.

In 2005, Hideki moved to equity fundamentals data department then moved to ESG team in 12/2008. From 2014 on, his focus has been to build database and analytics for corporate governance and executive compensation products on Bloomberg terminal.

He has a BA in Economics and History from Fordham University.

For more information about the course and how to register, visit: http://bit.ly/CSAtrain

* * * * * * * *

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, specifically 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.

Click here for more info and to register.

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 and learnings.
  • Effective approaches to 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.

For more information about the course and how to register, visit: http://bit.ly/CSAtrain

Meet Jocelyn Cascio, Intel Corporation @ Demystifying The CSA & DJSI Workshop

Jocelyn Cascio, Supply Chain Sustainability Senior Manger at Intel Corporation is speaking at Demystifying the Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) & The Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI). This practitioner workshop is presented by Governance & Accountability Institute in collaboration RobecoSAM on October 24, 2017 and is being hosted at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City.  Jocelyn will be focusing on assessment questions for supply chain at the workshop.

MEET ONE OF THE SPEAKERS: JOCELYN CASCIO
Supply Chain Sustainability Senior Manager at Intel Corporation

Topic: Workshop 3: Supply Chain

A conversation with Jocelyn:

Q:  What is your involvement and experience at Intel Corporation in completing the RobecoSAM CSA for the DJSI each year? 

For the past 6 years, my team and I have owned completion of the Supply Chain section of the CSA. We analyze, synthesize and consolidate data from various sources and collaborate across internal stakeholders to ensure the most complete story in the application. We also own the SC section in Intel’s CSR Report.

Q:  What can attendees expect to learn from your session on Supply Chain?

  • Insight on how Intel has evolved our Supply Chain Sustainability Program over the past decade and how we’ve integrated Sustainability into our standard supply chain processes.
  • How we’ve leveraged Industry Associations like the EICC to create and proliferate standards and achieve the greatest possible reach across our global Supply Chain.
  • What some of the key focus areas of our program are (e.g., Forced and Bonded Labor, Conflict Minerals, Supplier Diversity) and how we measure them.
  • How our Supplier Capability Building Program supports and enables supplier performance improvement. 

Q:  What advice do you have or opportunity that you see for attendees who are considering attending the program and looking to improve their RobecoSAM CSA responses, and get on the DJSI? 

Build strong relationships internally with others in your company that work on the different programs comprehended in the CSA. Determine an overall lead as well as clear ownership for the various sections to ensure you are able to provide the most complete picture with all relevant data. Have a strong multi-stakeholder sensing process in place to ensure you comprehend the various, ever-changing and increasing priorities (including DJSI); this will enable you to stay ahead of emerging issues and be proactive versus being completely reactive and potentially losing points.

* * * * * * * *

CAREER BACKGROUND:
Jocelyn Cascio, Supply Chain Sustainability Senior Manager at Intel Corporation

Since 2009, Jocelyn Cascio has been the Supply Chain Sustainability Senior Manager at Intel, working internally and externally to integrate sustainability more deeply into the supply chain, define increased expectations for suppliers and lead capability building efforts.  She has spent her 20 year tenure at Intel in various roles across the Supply Chain, leading business process improvement and change management efforts on a variety of global, cross functional initiatives.  She is a Lean Six Sigma Certified Black Belt with a BA in Organizational Communication from Arizona State University and an MBA from Babson College.  She also holds Leading Organizational Transition and CSCMP Supply Chain Masters certifications.  Jocelyn’s personal passions include competing in equestrian sports as well as marathons and Ironman triathlons.

* * * * * * * *

For more information about the course and how to register, visit: http://bit.ly/CSAtrain

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, specifically 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.

Click here for more info and to register.

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 and learnings.
  • Effective approaches to 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.

For more information about the course and how to register, visit: http://bit.ly/CSAtrain

Sustainable Business Practices Can Impact The Bottom Line, Say This Quartet of Researchers — Lessons Here For Busy Execs

You can read our Top Story this week first and then you can forward this important commentary to your C-Suite if the execs there have been wondering how corporate sustainability may be impacting a company’s bottom linein positive ways.

A quartet of experts writing in the Harvard Business Review has responded to the short-term, bottom-line pressures that we hear so much about throughout much of Corporate America.

To develop their case, the authors (three academics and a consultant) looked at Brazil’s giant beef industry, a challenge for studying considering the size and complexity of the industry and its long-term impact on the planet.  (Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter and second largest consumer market for beef products.)

Key finding:  “sustainable” and “deforestation-free” industry practices created significant financial benefits for all players in the industry value chain. Quantifying this, the authors found net benefits to ranchers ranging from 12% to 23% of revenues.  Sustainable agricultural practices provided the most financial benefits, while the uptake of deforestation-free commitments over time reduced risk to the industry and company components.

Their approach demonstrated (they write) that measuring the value chain of sustainable business can be done and the sustainable business itself can be cost-effective.  Brazil’s beef industry impact on the plant has been intense (with de-forestation and GHG emissions) and there have been significant steps taken to address the issues involved.

One industry participant explained that while there is no price premium for sustainability alone, there is for quality, and the company’s quality immediately increased with the adoption of sustainable practices.  Today, 70% of their beef products are sold with a quality premium, from “zero” two years ago. That resulted in increased revenues and greater customer satisfaction.

While the focus is on the Brazil beef industry (and the value chain from grower through the processor to retail) we think there’s some good material here to help executives understand “the possible” bottom line impacts through sustainable business practices.

The authors are Tensie Whelan of NYU Stern School of Business, Center for Sustainable Business; Bruno Zappa, A. Kearney strategy consultant; Rodrigo Zeidan, of NYU-Shanghai and Fundacao Dom Cabril/Brazil; and Greg  Fishbein at The Nature Conservancy / Collaboration for Forests & Agriculture.

The academic authors worked with AT Kearney to develop the methodology for their case.  The work included research, data analysis and interviews with key players.  Organizations examined included McDonald’s; Carrefour; JBS, Mafrig, Antea Group (all in Brazil); Infalora; Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV); and, The Nature Conservancy.
And, they provided a link to the Excel spreadsheets on which they calculated the numbers for the article (it’s embedded in the post).

Top Stories This Week…

How Do We Measure Sustainability?
(Friday – September 08, 2017)
Source: EWN – Globally, there has been an increase in demand for higher transparency on environmental, social and governance issues.

Broadening Activism Among Institutional Investor Classes on ESG Issues – Here to Stay, Says Proxy Advisor CEO

“Operating under the radar” — that is, various categories of institutional investors getting active in the “investor activist” game?  Bruce Goldfarb, CEO of Okapi Partners, describes a sea change that he sees that is underway, the trend in how large institutions are approaching in the [investor] push for corporate change.  The lens is the annual corporate proxy season and the many campaigns therein, including the 2017 campaign.  Okapi is one of the influential proxy advisors for both investor and companies, working on some 48 campaigns during 2017.

What did the firm’s leader see as patterns?  Well, for starters, large mutual fund advisories and ETF complexes (like Vanguard, Fidelity, BlackRock, State Street) — these organizations with many trillions’ of dollars in corporate holdings in their portfolios, “…have become increasingly intent on holding public company boards and management teams accountable in higher ESG standards,” CEO Goldfarb notes in our Top Story (published on the digital Forbes Investing platform).

As many of us well know, the first iteration of ESG was about the “G” — for several decades, the focus was on corporate governance issues.  (Such as: investors pushing for separation of Chair and CEO, the often described example of a popular campaign in the G space).  Over time, the emphasis on environmental and social issues (“E” and “S”) broadened the approach to the familiar ESG measurements because the E and S issues are tied to share performance and confidence (or lack of) in management.

The CEO in the interview points out that a climate change proposal at ExxonMobil recently was passed by a wide margin (investors supported the demand that the company publish an annual assessment of the impact of global warming policies) while a decade ago a push by investors in proxy campaigning to separate chair and CEO positions and a few environmental proposals failed by a very large margin.  Things are a-changin’ in the proxy arena.

In 2017, there have been (so far) 430 resolutions filed that address “S” and “E” issues, compared to 370 a year earlier.  Investors, says CEO Goldfarb, see the connection between ESG policies and stock performance more clearly now.

In our conversations with corporate managers (at all size enterprises) it is clear that the managers want to press the Investing Case upward to their bosses in the C-suite and board room.  Why should we make the investment in a sustainability effort, the question often goes, and the answer is that among other things, corporate performance and a scorecard of sorts on top management has a proxy, too — that is, the ESG performance of the enterprise!

You’ll find more from perspectives shared by the Okapi Partners CEO in the Forbes interview by staffer Antoine Gara in our Top Story this week.

Top Stories This Week…

An Insider Explains Why Wall Street’s Big Money Focus On Sustainability Is Here To Stay
(Friday – July 28, 2017)
Source: Forbes – When a hedge fund launches a major activist campaign calling for changes at companies here and in overseas markets it’s real news.

RESEARCH RESULTS: Using The GRI Sustainability Reporting Framework Improves The Quality of ESG Disclosures – Joint Research From G&A Institute and Baruch College Shows

(July 18, 2017 – New York, NY) — Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. is the data partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in the United States, United Kingdom, and The Republic of Ireland. In this role the Institute monitors, collects and analyzes every sustainability report published in these three countries. The results of this pro-bono work help to feed the GRI’s “Sustainability Disclosure Database,” the largest sustainability database in the world, with 41,734 sustainability reports as of June 30th, 2017.

In addition to this important work, G&A Institute has analyzed the corporate sustainability (and related titles) reporting of the S&P 500® universe of companies for six years in a row, first releasing its benchmark studies on the 2010 reporting year.

In the first year of the study, for 2010 reporting, G&A Institute determined that 80 percent of the leading large-cap companies of the United States of America included in the index were laggards, and not publishing sustainability reports. Generally speaking, this result clearly demonstrated that U.S. companies were lagging many of their corporate peers in Europe where the rates of reporting on Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) issues were much higher and reporting is increasingly mandated.

Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in the S&P 500 universe companies, with 53% of the S&P 500 companies reporting in 2012; 72% reporting in 2013; 75% reporting in 2014; 81% in 2015, and in the most recent flash report issued by G&A Institute 82% of the S&P 500 were reporting in the 2016 calendar year. See more here: http://www.ga-institute.com/press-releases/article/flash-report-82-of-the-sp-500-companies-published-corporate-sustainability-reports-in-2016.html.

The dramatic rise in corporate reporting on sustainability is holding steady, with an increasing number of companies disclosing their strategy and performance on ESG metrics.

But Now That Most Companies Are Publishing Sustainability Reports the Question Arises: What is the Quality of the Content of These Reports?

To explore the answers, G&A teamed with The CSR-Sustainability Monitor® (CSR-S Monitor) research team at the Weissman Center for International Business, Baruch College/CUNY, to combine their partners’ “Big Data” sets to extract deeper intelligence on the subject.

Baruch’s CSR-S Monitor uses a content analysis approach to score CSR / Sustainability reports published by the world’s largest companies as identified in Fortune 500 and Global 500 rankings. The CSR-S Monitor scoring methodology categorizes the content of each report into 11 components called “Contextual Elements,” which cover the most commonly reported sustainability topics:  Chair’s / Executive Message, Environment, Philanthropy & Community Involvement, External Stakeholder Engagement, Supply Chain, Labor Relations, Governance, Anti-Corruption, Human Rights, Codes of Conduct, and Integrity Assurance.

More info on these 11 contextual elements can be seen online at: http://www.csrsmonitor.org/methodology/contextual_elements.pdf
(Note that only disclosure in the form of a standalone or web-based CSR report or Integrated Annual Report is considered for the purpose of scoring on the CSR-S Monitor.)

The Question Asked on The Combined “Big Data” Sets Is: 
Does Reporting Using The GRI Sustainability Reporting Framework Result in Higher Quality Reports?

The partners set out an ambitious study to answer this question through examining the quality of information and degree of verification provided in the reports that were identified as utilizing the GRI reporting frameworks, and the ones that did not.

Question Posed
Is there a difference between the world’s leading companies following the GRI guidelines and those not doing so? Short answer: Yes! CSR-S Monitor found that a supermajority of the large-cap companies do follow the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines, and following the GRI guidelines makes a big difference in most categories.

Highlights of the Analysis
The partners’ data sets matched up on 572 companies which were included as the Universe for this study. The data are taken strictly from reports published any time during the calendar year 2014. The CSR-S Monitor analysts scored companies on their disclosure on the 11 contextual elements, based on information quality and degree of verification. The G&A data were used to separate the scored reports into two buckets, those that utilized the GRI framework, and those that did not. There were a total of 481 (or 84%) companies publishing using the GRI framework, and 91 (16%) companies not using the GRI framework.

Results of Analysis 
Companies using the GRI framework consistently achieved average contextual element scores higher than the companies not using GRI for their reporting (scores are from 0-100 with 100 being the best).

  • Overall, the score was 45.7% for GRI reporter, vs. 29.6% for non-GRI;
  • For the Environment element, GRI reporters scored 64.9% vs. 51.0% for non-GRI;
  • For Labor Relations, GRI reporters scored 55.8% vs. 36.7% for non-GRI;
  • For Supply Chain, GRI reporters scored 46.6% vs. 28.2% for non-GRI;
  • For Anti-Corruption, GRI reporters scored 26.4% vs 10.4% for non-GRI;
  • For Integrity Assurance, GRI reporters scored 31.0% vs. 13.3% for non-GRI;
  • The largest differential was for Human Rights, with GRI reporters scoring 45.0% vs. 15.0% for non-GRI reporters.

Mert Demir, PhD, Director of Research at Weissman Center, commented on the CSR-S Monitor analysis:  “CSR-Sustainability Monitor scores reflect the breadth, depth, and degree of external/independent verification of the information in corporate sustainability reports, regardless of the firm’s underlying ESG performance. While sustainability reporting has become more mainstream over time, these reports still show limited standardization and considerable variation in content and quality, preventing effective comparisons of their information across time as well as among peers. Though stakeholders often find these reports core to their evaluation of a company, these issues make using them effectively challenging.

“The Monitor’s scores indicate these concerns have mostly been addressed with the adoption of a reporting framework such as GRI’s. GRI-compliant reports achieve significantly higher quality scores across all main domains of sustainability reporting. As companies pursue sustainability objectives, they increasingly face the necessity to address growing stakeholder concern and expectations regarding comprehensive, detailed, and material ESG information to complement financial information they believe to be insufficient to assess the big picture alone. And in this respect, following a reporting framework—GRI in particular—seems to make a big difference.”

Louis D. Coppola, MBA, Executive VP of G&A Institute and architect of the G&A Institute’s various research efforts including the S&P 500 studies, commented: “As we continue our in-depth analysis of corporate sustainability and responsibility disclosure and reporting, it is abundantly clear, year-after-year, that companies following the comprehensive GRI framework enjoy higher scores assigned by independent third party providers on a range of ESG factors important to stakeholders.

“The simple fact is that standardized sustainability reporting helps companies and its stakeholders, including investors to better utilize the information disclosed for decision making. Companies not following the GRI framework, by far the most commonly used sustainability reporting framework in the world, are consistently out-classed by their GRI reporting peers.

“By July 2018, companies reporting utilizing GRI will be required to utilize the new GRI Standards that were released in October 2016, to replace the fourth generation GRI G4. The GRI Standards are the first global standards for sustainability reporting and feature a modular, interrelated structure allowing for more flexibility in updating and in usage. The GRI Standards represent the global best practice for reporting on a range of economic, environmental and social impacts.”

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About CSR-Sustainability Monitor Report
The organization reports on the quality of CSR / Sustainability reports from the world’s largest companies. Using a content analysis-based system to score corporate reports; there are 11 contextual elements scored, based on scope of coverage, specificity of detail, and degree of verification. Companies in the Fortune 500 and Fortune Global 500 Indices are included in the analysis.

About The Weissman Center
Founded in 1994, Baruch College’s Weissman Center for International Business is designated to enable Baruch College/CUNY to respond to the global economy with programs appropriate to a pre-eminent school of business. The Center created the CSR-S Monitor as a tool for analyzing the CSR reporting by the largest U.S. and global companies; in the screening process, analysts measure the degree to which the reporting company provides integrity assurance as to accuracy and completeness of information disclosed.

About Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.
Founded in 2006, G&A Institute is a sustainability consulting firm headquartered in New York City, advising corporations in executing winning strategies that maximize return on investment at every step of their sustainability journey. The G&A consulting team helps corporate and investment community clients recognize, understand and address sustainability issues to address stakeholder and shareholder concerns.

G&A Institute is the Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in the USA, UK and Republic of Ireland. A G&A team of six or more perform this pro bono work on behalf of GRI. Over the past six-plus years, G&A has analyzed more than 5,000 sustainability reports in this role and databased more than 100 important data points for each of the [thousands of] reports.

G&A’s sustainability-focused consulting and advisory services fall into three main buckets: Sustainability/ESG Consulting; Communications and Recognitions, and Investor Relations. The resources available within each bucket include strategy-setting; sustainability/CSR reporting assistance; materiality assessments; stakeholder engagement; ESG benchmarking; enhancing investor relations ESG programs; investor engagement; investor ESG data review; sustainability communications; manager coaching; team building; training; advice on third party awards, recognitions, and index inclusions; ESG issues monitoring and customized research.

About *S&P 500® Index
According to S&P Dow Jones Indices / McGraw Hill Financial: “The S&P 500® is widely regarded as the best single gauge of large-cap US equities. There is over US$7 trillion benchmarked to the index, with index assets comprising approximately US$1.9 trillion of this total. The index includes 500 leading companies and captures approximately 80% coverage of available market capitalization.” The S&P 500 is a trademarked® property of S&P Dow Jones Indices, McGraw Hill Financial. Ticker: SPX

About Fortune Indices
According to Fortune.com: “The Fortune Global 500 is our annual ranking of the largest 500 corporations worldwide as measured by total revenue, whereas the Fortune 500 is exclusively U.S. corporations… Companies are ranked by total revenues for their respective fiscal years.” Copyright 2017 Time Inc. FORTUNE® and the FORTUNE Database names are trademarks of Time Inc. All rights reserved.

For more information, contact Governance & Accountability Institute:
Louis D. Coppola
Executive Vice President & CoFounder
Tel: 646.430.8230 x14
Email: lcoppola@ga-institute.com

Conversation with Professor Baruch Lev at NYU: Is Accounting Outmoded?

The book: The End of Accounting.

July 17, 2017

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

Questions:  Is Accounting as we know it now outmoded … beyond Its usefulness to investors? We share with you today the views of a global thought leader on Accounting and Corporate Reporting — Dr. Baruch Lev of Stern School of Business at New York University.

Professor Lev’s shares his views of the vital importance of intangibles to investors, with his call for far greater corporate transparency being needed … including his views on the importance of CSR and sustainability.

His latest work:  The End of Accounting – and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers — authored by Dr. Baruch Lev and Dr. Feng Gu of the University of Buffalo/ SUNY.  The professors’  important new work is the result of three years of research and collaboration, In the book they that suggests new approaches are needed to reform “old” accounting practices to provide more information of value to investors, who are mostly ignoring corporate accounting.

And as read the book, we were thinking:  what about ESG – CSR – Sustainability – and other new approaches that do focus on many intangible aspects of corporate operations?  We had a conversation with Dr. Lev and share his views on this and more with you today.

After reading the book, readers may ask:  Is this about the “The End of Accounting?” Or, “The Beginning of Really Useful Financial Information for Investors?”  My view:  It’s both!

And we discuss needed reforms in corporate reporting, for you to think about:  Are U.S. public companies prepared to publish the authors’ recommendations for a Resources and Consequences Report for investors’ benefit?  Read on to learn more…

And for sustainability / CSR professionals: This is an important new work for your consideration that focuses on the importance of intangible information for investors to help guide their decision-making.

First, some background:

Accounting as we know it has been around for 500+ years. Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli, the Italian mathematician (c 1447-1517) set out the principles of the double-entry bookkeeping system for the merchants of Old Venice in his 1494 work, Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita, a very important textbook of the day.

This “Father of Accounting” put forth the important concepts of ledgers, journals, credits and debits (and the balancing of same); A/R, A/P, Cost Accounting and much more. His is a rich legacy in the accounting and business worlds. **

But now, Professor Baruch Lev posits in his work with colleague Professor Feng Gu, we really need to reform this five-century-old approach to how we account for the financials and think and act way beyond the traditional.

Their Recommendations:

Let’s begin with the corporate “intangibles” – some investment professionals still speak of a company’s ESG / Sustainability / Responsibility strategies, programs and actions, achievements, and the burgeoning reportage of same (data & narrative) as addressing the intangibles (and not “the tangibles,” represented by the financial data).

But many analysts and asset managers look far beyond the financials to help determine the valuation of a public issuer. For example, veteran financial analyst Stephen McClellan, CFA, formerly VP and head of research for Merrill Lynch and author of the best seller, “Full of Bull,” has told conference audiences that as much as 80% of a corporate valuation may be based on the intangibles.

Writing for investors, Professors Lev and Gu put forth their suggestions for dramatic accounting and corporate reporting reform. They “establish empirically” in their work that traditional corporate accounting is failing investors and reforms are needed.

Their recommendation: have companies publish a “Resources and Consequences Report” with five main elements:

  • Development of [Corporate] Resources;
  • Resource Stocks;
  • Preservation of Resources;
  • Deployment of Resources;
  • Value Created.

Some of the information could be financial, as in today’s disclosures. But other information could quantify data, and there could be qualitative information as well. (Sounds like we are looking at some of the sustainability reports of corporate sustainability leaders?)

The elements of the report the good professors recommend:

Development of Resources: Detailed descriptions for investors of the company’s important internal research efforts, the R&D advances, the further development of present technologies to leverage to create value, etc. After “proof of concept,” how does the R&D contribute to the value of the company?

Resource Stocks: The company’s intellectual properties, the assets that are the foundation of investor value. (Patents, trademarks, processes, etc. — all “intangibles” that are in fact very tangible to investors.)

Preservation of Resources: The safety/security of such things as a company’s digital assets, IT, IP, and so on; are there cyber attacks? Was there damage – to what extent? What does the company do about these attacks? How does the company manage and secure its acquired knowledge?

Deployment of Resources: As the company creates “value,” how are the strategic resources deployed? How does the company use its intellectual assets?

Value Created: Here the professors would like to see reported the dollar results of all of the above. Companies would describe the changes in Resource value(s), and describe the nature of value (for a company with a subscription model, what is the value of the individual subscription; what is the value of a brand, etc.)

Notes Dr. Lev: “We suggest and demonstrate a new measure: adjusted cash flows.”

Highlights of our conversation:

G&A Institute: Your new book offers very powerful arguments for fundamentally changing present-day corporate accounting and the way that investors do or do not pay attention to that accounting in their analysis and portfolio decision-making. There are a lot of vested interests in the present system; can the accounting and corporate disclosure and reporting systems be changed to reflect your recommendations?

Dr. Lev: Things change very slowly in accounting policies and practices. The systems is changing, in that public company managements are disclosing a considerable amount of information that is beyond that required for SEC filings, in the areas that we touch on in examples in our book. So there is progress. But not fast enough, I believe, to really serve investors.

G&A Institute: The SEC months ago published a Concept Release requesting public input on the present methods of corporate disclosure. We were encouraged to see more than a dozen pages in the document devoted the question of ESG metrics, sustainability information, and the like. Your thoughts on this?

Dr. Lev: We have not seen any further communication on this and there are no rules proposed. Will the new administration take any of this seriously?

Observes Dr. Lev: There are now many corporate financial statements that virtually no one understands. There is great complexity in today’s accounting. When we look at the US Environmental Protection Agency and environmental rules, we see that once rules are in place, they are constantly debated in the public arena. Unlike the EPA situation, there is presently no public interest in debating our accounting rules.

G&A Institute: Well, let me introduce here the subject of the SASB approach — the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB). Of course, the adoption of the SASB approach by a public company for adopting to their mandated reporting is voluntary at this time. What are your thoughts on this approach to this type of intangibles disclosure?

Dr. Lev: Well, the SASB recommendations are built on top of the present approach to accounting and reporting. In effect they leave the financial reporting system “as is,” with their rules built on top of a weak foundation as we outline in the book. I’ve said this at the SASB annual conference and my comments were very well received.

I did point out that the SASB approach is quite useful for investors. But the demand for voluntary disclosure by companies could create an invitation for lawsuits all over the world, if certain disclosures were made regarding a company’s environmental impacts.

G&A Institute: Well, aren’t investors seeking information such as environmental performance, as well as related risk, opportunity, more of the “E” of ESG strategies, performance, and metrics?

Dr. Lev: It depends on the setting. Our book was in process over a three-year period. My co-author and I devoted an entire year to analyzing hundreds of quarterly analyst (earnings) calls. Keep in mind that an analyst may have just one opportunity to ask the question. There were no — no — questions ever raised about ESG performance, corporate sustainability, and related topics. We reviewed, as I said, hundreds of earnings calls, with about 25-to-30 questions on each call.

G&A Institute: What kinds of questions may be directed to corporate managers on the calls about intangible items?

Dr. Lev: There were questions about the R&D efforts, the pipeline for example for pharma companies. Customer franchise was an important topic. Changes in U.S. patent law resulted in much more information being disclosed by the U.SPatent Office related to the filings. The entire argument made for patent filing, for example, and this is a subject the analysts are interested in.

G&A Institute: Are there any discussions, analyst and corporate, about ESG/sustainability?

Dr. Lev: Yes, these questions are mostly in the one-to-one conversations. A challenge is that in my opinion, the ESG metrics available are not yet at investment-grade. There is a good bit of investor interest and discussion with companies about sustainability. The factors are quite relevant to investors. But the “how-wonderful-we-are” communications by large public companies are not really relevant to investors.

G&A Institute: What kinds of information about the CSR or environmental sustainability intangibles, in your opinion, is of importance to investors?

Dr. Lev: Think about the special capabilities of the public corporation. The organization typically has special capacity to do good. Not just to donate money, which is something the shareholders could do without the company. But to share with the stakeholder, like a community organization, the special know how and other resources to make good things happen. The world really expects this now of companies. Call it Corporate Social Responsibility if you like.

The Cisco Example

Explains Dr. Lev:  Cisco is a fine example of this. The Company has a Networking Academy, and they invite people to enroll and take free educational courses to learn more about networking. There have been millions of people graduating from this academy and receiving certificates. Cisco management leverages its special capacity in doing this. And it is a good idea if you think about the impact of this far-sighted approach to generate more interest in and business with Cisco.

The Home Depot Example

Another example he offers is Home Depot. The company teams with an NGO – Kaboom — to build playgrounds for children. In terms of special capacity, HD does provide materials, but also provides company legal talent to help situate the playgrounds in the neighborhood. That is far more than throwing money at a community need.

Dr. Lev Observes:  I think one of the issues is that the terminology is not clear. CSR — what is it? Good or bad for investors? Having good ideas and special capabilities is key, I think.

We asked about Dr. Milton Friedman’s Views on CSR

G&A Institute: This brings us to one of your former colleagues, Dr. Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago, who famously wrote in a New York Times magazine article that CSR is, in effect, hokum, and not the business of the company. Shareholders well being should be the main focus, and through dividends and other means, if a shareholder wants to give the money away, they can do that…not the company.

Dr. Lev: I was a student of Dr. Friedman and later a colleague at the University of Chicago after I got a Ph.D. He was a brilliant man. In my opinion, he was the greatest economist of the 20th Century and I put him on a pedestal. He liked to introduce a subject and then generate great debate on his suggestions, which he felt people could accept or reject. That, I think, is the case with his famous commentary on CSR. See, we are still debating his views today. He was proved right so many times during his time.

G&A Institute: Let’s conclude this talk with a question: Do you see a value for investors in accepting, or better understanding, such terminology as CSR and sustainability and sustainable investing?

Dr. Lev: Yes, these are important approaches for companies and investors. Four years ago I devoted a chapter to CSR in my book, “Winning Investors Over.” My views are fully set forth in the recent article, “Evaluating Sustainable Competitive Advantage,” published in the Spring 2017 issue of Journal of Applied Corporate Finance.

Notes Dr. Lev:  About “CSR” — there are other terms used, of course. Varying titles are very confusing. It is not always clear what CSR or sustainability may mean. For example, the Toyota Prius is a good approach to auto use. Is manufacturing that car “good CSR,” or just good business? A measure of sustainability? CSR is hard to define, sometimes. Good corporate citizenship is good for business and good for society, I believe.

G&A Institute: Thank, you Dr. Lev, for sharing your thoughts on accounting and the reforms needed, in your book and in this conversation.

# # #

Footnotes:

The book:: The End of Accounting – and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers … by Dr,Baruch Lev (Philip Bardes Professor of Accounting and Finance at the NYU Stern School of Business and Dr. Feng Gu (Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Accounting and Law at the University of Buffalo).

Published by Wiley & Sons, NY NY. You can find it on Amazon in print and Kindle formats.

# # #

Dr. Baruch Lev is the Philip Bardes Professor of Accounting and Finance at New York University Leonard Stern School of Business; he teaches courses in accounting, financial analysis and investor relations. He’s been with NYU for almost 20 years.

Dr. Lev is author of six books; his research areas of interest are corporate governance, earnings management; financial accounting; financial statement analysis; intangible assets and intellectual capital; capital markets; and, mergers & acquisitions.

He has taught at University of Chicago; the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Tel Aviv University (dean of the business school); University of California-Berkeley (business and law schools). He received his Bachelor of Accounting at Hebrew University; his MBA and doctorate (Accounting/Finance) are from the University of Chicago, where he was also a professor and (student of) and then academic colleague of Nobel Laureate (Economic Sciences-1976) Dr. Milton Friedman (1912-2006).

# # #

Dr. Milton Friedman’s article — “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”; published in The New York Times Magazine, issue of September 13, 1970. The commentary for your reading is here: http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html

# # #

** Thanks to the “International Accounting Day” account of Luca Pacioli’s life, his work and his legacy. There is information available at: http://accountants-day.info/index.php/international-accounting-day-previous/77-luca-pacioli

Where Are We Now With Climate Change Solutions After the G20 Meeting and the Trump White House Abandonment of COP 21/Paris Agreement?

All eyes were on Hamburg, Germany last week as the leaders of the “G20″ nations** gathered. High on the agenda was climate change and sustainable development.  Mixed messages came out of the gathering, but as Jens-Peter Saul explains in our first Top story, even if governments can’t agree in such gatherings, private industry is moving forward in providing climate change solutions.

These include solar and wind power, which investors are finding attractive these days. Low-carbon organizations and networks are attracting new members and partners.  Where? — in the USA, North Africa, Europe, China and elsewhere.  So, says the author of the HuffPo piece, while having visionary political leaders is important, response companies with strong commitment to clients and the society can also boost the sustainability agenda and provide solutions to address climate change challenges.

Author JP Saul is CEO of the Ramboll Group, a leading engineering and design firm based in Denmark. The company’s global work is across Buildings, Transport, Urban Design, Water, Environmental, and Health.  Ramboll Group helps to create more resilient cities, it says, helping municipalities to adopt to climate change.

At the end of the G20 meeting, the media were reporting…”G20 Ends on Anxious Note as World Leaders Remark on Trump’s Climate Defiance…”
There’s more on this for you in Top Story #2 — G&A Institute Chair and Chief Strategist Hank Boerner is interviewed by Forbes columnist Chris Skroupa on the stance of the Federal government regarding the progress made at COP 21 in Paris and now the way forward for the United States as the Trump White House abandons the Paris Agreement.

There is great hope for the USA to continue making progress toward the 2-degree goals of COP 21 thanks to the efforts of the public sector (states, cities, municipalities); large and small corporations; trade associations; and especially investors.

Top Stories This Week…

Boosting global sustainability is not dependent on G20
(Wednesday – July 05, 2017)
Source: Huff Post – Germany’s plan to boost climate and sustainable development at the G20 summit in Hamburg next weekend is arguably crumbling. But that does not mean that the climate and sustainability agendas are crumbling.

Climate Change — What Now With The White House Abandoning The Paris Agreement?
(June 10, 2017)
Source: Christopher P. Skroupa, Forbes – 
Hank Boerner: In the Paris meetings, the United States voluntarily agreed to cut Greenhouse Gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels and to commit up to $3 billion in various aid to poor countries by 2020. A small amount of money overall, we could say, and thanks to many actions already taken, we are cutting our greenhouse gas (GhGs) emissions as a nation.