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

U.S. / Global Cities Showing the Way on Climate Change Solutions

Sustainability — Forward Momentum!

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

U.S. / Global Cities Are Showing the Way on Climate Change Solutions — consider:  more than half of the world’s population (now at 7 billion) now live in cities. Many cities are vulnerable to the effects of climate change — rising seas; drought; severe storms; heat waves; winter blizzards…vicious storms of all types…and more.

City Fathers and Mothers are awake to the threats — and doing something about climate change!

While at the Federal level the public sector of the United States of America has abandoned the field to other nations to now lead on addressing climate change challenges, at the city/municipality level, there is a lot going on that is positive and encouraging.

Here’s a brief collection of recent events that spell out o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y at the domestic and global urban level.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors
At the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Miami Beach (the 85th annual for the association), climate change issues were high on the agenda. Of course — many U.S. cities are at water level, on oceans-rivers-bays. New York; Miami; Baltimore; Philadelphia: Boston; San Francisco; Chicago; Cleveland; New Orleans; St Louis — need we go on?

At the annual conference there were plenaries, workshops, committee meetings, task force meetings, and more. The headlines coming out of the Conference of Mayors:

A survey of the members found many U.S. mayors are taking action on climate protection and planning even more steps in the future.

City governments are focusing on:

  • Purchase of renewable energy electricity (69% of respondents already generate or purchase and 22% are considering doing so);
  • utilization of low-carbon transport (63% buy green vehicles for municipal fleets; 30% are considering; this includes hybrids, electric, natural gas, biodiesel);
  • striving for greater energy efficiency, especially for new municipal buildings 71%; 65% for existing buildings — this includes new policies put in place;
  • the association has teamed with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)**, to promote renew these programmatic approaches; this creates a framework for mayor and business leaders to collaborate to develop approaches to reduce carbon emissions, speed deployment of new technology, implement sustainable development strategies, and respond to the growing impacts of climate change.

Survey respondents were from 66 cities with populations ranging from 8.5 million to 21,000 across 30 of the U.S. states. These cities invest more than US$1.2 billion annually in electricity — a significant buying power to help create the changes needed in the municipal electricity market.

Collaboration — the survey demonstrated that cities are working with each other (90%) and with the private sector (87%) to accelerate action on climate change issues. This is important when considering the recent White House abandonment of the Paris Agreement.

Opportunity Spelled Out:

  • Half of responding cities are incentivizing energy efficiency in both new and existing commercial and residential buildings. There is significant room for growth here. And lots of opportunity for public-private sector collaboration.
  • Less than half of the cities have policies / programs to help businesses and their citizens choose renewable energy — more room for growth and opportunities for partnering.
  • 66% of the cities responding have put in place public charging stations; 36% are in the process of doing so with private sector partners (for electric vehicle charging).

Says Conference of Mayors CEO Tom Cochran: “The nation’s mayors are poised to take an even greater leadership role in fighting climate change and protecting cities from its negative impacts. Working together with the business community, we can achieve deeper results more quickly and broadly.”

While much progress is being made, the mayors collectively are striving to do more.

Notes Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, Alliance Co-Chair : “We need to create a baseline so we can measure our ongoing progress. Sustainability is a smart strategy for the future, and cities and companies need to learn from one another.”

One of the positive actions taken at the conference was adoption of a resolution — “Supporting a Cities-Driven Plan to Reverse Climate Change” — which notes that cities comprise 91% of the U.S. GDP, placing mayors at the center of marrying environmental protection with economic growth; and, it calls on the Trump Administration and the U.S. Congress to support the fight against climate change by fully committing to the Paris Climate Accord; the Obama Clean Power Plan; the Clean Energy Incentive Program; and other efforts to provide U.S. cities with the tools needed to combat climate change. (You can read the full text at: http://legacy.usmayors.org/resolutions/85th_Conference/proposedcommittee.asp?committee=Environment

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There’s much more encouraging news from the municipal government level.

The Compact of Mayors (“C40”) is the world’s largest cooperative effort among mayors and city leadership working together to reduce GhG emissions and address climate risk in the world’s cities. The effort was launched by the United Nations General Secretary in June 2016. And in the year since:

652 cities have joined the effort;
— representing almost 500 million people residing in the urban centers;
— which is about 7% of the global population today.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (now returned to chair the eponymous Bloomberg LP organization after 12 years in office) is serving as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and spearheads the Compact of Mayors initiative.

Ambitious plans: commitments to the Compact of Mayors are set to deliver half of the global urban potential GhG emissions reductions by 2020. But, there is still much more to do, the Compact notes, on the part of the nations in which the cities are located. (Like the USA!).

# # #

And…CDP’s Cities Initiative reports that more than 500 cities are now disclosing their initiatives related to climate change. More than US$26 billion in climate-related projects are underway or targeted.

CDP is providing a global platform for cities to measure, manage and disclose their environmental data on an annual basis. This is intended to help local governments manage emissions, build greater resilience and protect against the growing impacts of climate change. So far, cities are disclosing almost 5,000 climate actions.

And be sure to note this: there has been a 70% increase in cities’ sustainability-related disclosure since the Paris Agreement was adopted; 1,000-plus economic opportunities have been identified by almost 400 cities; and, 56% of cities identified opportunities to develop new businesses or industries linked to climate change.

More information for you at: https://www.cdp.net/en/cities

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Then there is “America’s Pledge” — an effort involving 227 cities and counties, 9 states and 1,650 businesses and investors that have pledged to uphold the U.S.A. commitment to the Paris Agreement! (Reducing our country’s GhG emissions by 26% to 38% by 2025, compared to 2005 levels.) The group is led by California Governor Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg.

As The New York Times reported on July 11, 2017 (“US Cities, States and Business Pledge to Measure Emissions”):

Former Mayor/Bloomberg LP Chair Michael Bloomberg:
“The American government may have pulled out of the Paris Agreement, but American Society remains committed. We will redouble our efforts to achieve its goals.

California Governor Jerry Brown:
“Were sending a clear message to the world that America’s states, cities and businesses are moving forward with our country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, with or without Washington DC.”

The new group will measure the effect (by 2025) of new climate actions by cities, states, business, universities, that sign on for the effort. The analysis will be performed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Rocky Mountain Institute.

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Bloomberg Philanthropies
All of these efforts of course takes money!  Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic arm – Bloomberg Philanthropies – has a cities-focused initiative: What Works Cities Initiative.

This is one of the largest efforts to help cities use data for making local decisions, and get technical assistance from experts through the  Bloomberg organization.

Four more cities just joined up: Arlington, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Fort Collins, Colorado; Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That makes 85 U.S. cities in 37 states are now participating.

Cities commit to a “WWC” Standard, using data to improve performance and results that make their residents’ lives better. More info at: https://whatworkscities.bloomberg.org/cities/

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Why Is City-Level Action on Climate Change So Critical?

The total population of urban areas (486 areas) in the United States of America was 80.7% of the country’s total population in 2010, according to  an analysis by Reuters News.

More Americans are moving to urban areas, according to the 2010 census. (As reported by Reuters in March 2012.) The nation’s total population growth was 9.7% from 2000 to 2010; urban growth was 12.1%. In some places the growth was 50% — like Charlotte, North Carolina (64.%).

The most urbanized state in America is California — where 95% of the total population live in urban areas (35.4 million people).

Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim is the nation’s second largest city (at 12,1 million residents); New York/Newark NJ is #1 (18.4 million); Chicago is #3, noted Reuters in the story.

So — we are keeping close watch on the significant efforts at the city/municipal level efforts in the United States of America with regard to developing climate change solutions.  Cities and states are showing the way for this nation, as the Federal government at least for now has abandoned climate change leadership.

Summing up:  With literally thousands of  local government units developing partnerships with the private sector, and with NGOs and other stakeholders, and looking to the U.S. capital markets to help fund infrastructure and other initiatives — a climate change economic boom is underway!  Are you part of it?  We see great o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y spelled out at the American municipal level.

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Notes:

**Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, non-partisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change. Link: www.c2es.org.

 

 

Are You Still In? Are You Signed on Yet? C’Mon – the Country Needs You!

by Hank Boerner, Chairman & Chief StrategistG&A Institute

Question of the Day:  Are YOU Still In?  Have you signed on?  “In” — that is, for the long haul on addressing the many challenges of climate change and related global warming issues.  And “signed on” — to the We Are Still In Movement (please see wearestillin.com for information).

Right now, there are more than 2,000 signatories to the statement that was released on June 5 (2017), right after President Donald Trump figuratively “tore up” the important, historic commitment of the United States of America to the COP 21 Paris Accord.

The new movement is a voluntary grassroots approach that includes a wide array of bold names in different sectors of the American economy (bold name highlights further down in this commentary for you).

The signatories include investors (asset owners and asset managers); mayors of cities and leaders of local municipalities; universities and colleges; state governors and state governments; and (very encouraging!) lots of American corporations.

Folks at Ceres and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and various sustainable, responsible and impact investment thought leaders are helping to get the word around. (Thank you to Anne Kelly and Jessie Arnell at Ceres and Marty Spitzer at WWF.)

The message points for signatories of all stripes are:

Despite the Trump Administration reneging on an important commitment (governmental and moral!), major players in the U.S. economy are still in — and stepping up, moving ahead on climate action.

Signatories are committing to drive down carbon pollution and address head on the challenges related to climate change (and especially the part that human activity plays in the changes taking place).  The goals put in place and the ambitious goals to come will help to ensure that the United States remains in the game and a global leader in reducing carbon emissions.

The broad-based coalition driving the We Are Still In movement
Just in the month of June, those signing on included:

  • 199 cities and counties;
  • 9 U.S. states;
  • 1,531 business leaders and investors;
  • 308 universities and colleges.

These players agree that:

  1. government alone is not driving the process;
  2. the Paris Accord represents an important blueprint for creating new jobs (think solar, wind, geothermal, energy conservation, etc);
  3. create prosperity on a broad, domestic and global basis;
  4. create stability in the world community, with developed economies assisting less-developed nations as ALL embrace the promises made in Paris (almost 200 nations are signed; notably absent now sad to say are just the USA, Nicaragua and Syria).

The We Are Still In Movement is sending clear signals to the global community in Plain English — not always present in White House’s erratic and often contradictory communications — that leaders throughout the American economic scene, in all geographies, in all sectors, are moving forward to help this nation meet the goals promised in Paris.

We will keep America Great in the global efforts to address climate change issues and provide innovative, job-creating, environmentally-friendly solutions!

ECONOMIC POWER
The signatories to date represent 124 million people in this nation (1/3 of the population!) and contributing US$6.2 trillion to the national economy.  This includes 38 Fortune 500 companies(bravo!) representing US$2.1 trillion in annual revenues and employing 4.7 million team members.

Here is the “Open Letter to the International Community” from the Movement for important background: http://wearestillin.com/

So — back to the question…are you signed on yet?  You can find more information at: www.wearestillin.com  — where you can sign up!

A Brief Selection of Bold Names for Your Reference

CORPORATE SECTOR
Bloomberg, LP; Mars Incorporated; Amazon; eBay; Google; Levi Strauss; Seagate Technology; Sealed Air Corporation; Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge; The Estee Lauder Companies; Microsoft; Apple; Nike; Campbell Soup Company; IBM: The Hartford; Starbucks; Intel; International Flavors & Fragrances; Wal-Mart Stores; Toshiba American Business Solutions; Johnson Controls.

THE INVESTMENT COMMUNITY
CalPERS; CalSTRS; New York City Office of the Comptroller; Office of the New York State Comptroller; Oregon State Treasury; Green Century Capital Management; Washington State Investment Board; Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment; Cornerstone Capital Group; Nathan Cummings Foundation; Ambata Capital; Boston Trust/Walden Asset Management; Amalgamated Bank; Moore Capital Management; Azzad Capital Management; Sustainability and Impact Investing Group of Rockefeller & Company; California Clean Energy Fund; California State Controller; Calvert Research and Management; Trillium Asset Management; Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; Clean Yield Asset Management; Rhode Island State Treasurer; Zevin Asset Management; Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds.

STATES / GOVERNORS
California; Connecticut; Hawaii; New York; North Carolina; Oregon; Rhode Island; Virginia; Washington.

MAYORS  OF CITIES
The Honorables: Bill DeBlasio (New York City), Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles); Kasim Reed (Atlanta), Rahm Emanuel (Chicago),  Hillary Schieve (Reno, NV); Bridget Donnell Newton (Rockville MD).

ACADEMIC CENTERS
University of Iowa; University of Maryland, University College; University of Massachusetts; Arizona State University; Bates College; Oregon State University; Occidental College; Northwestern University; Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; State University of New York (the colleges at Albany, New Paltz, Stony Brook, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Cortland, Oswego, Orange).

FAMILY FOUNDATIONS
Linton Family Foundation; Lora & Martin Kelley Foundation; Merck Family Fund.

ENTREPRENEURS/SMALL BUSINESS
Keller Estate Winery; The Junkluggers; Crystal Mountain Resort; Rune’s Furniture; Sara Danielle Designs; Eco Promotional Products; Say It Forward Productions; Mom’s Organic Market; Sons and Daughters Farm; Fetzer Vineyards; RC Flying Cameras LLC; Dallas Maids LLC; Rocca Family Vineyards; York Machine Works; Joe’s Tree Service.

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES
Steve Harvey Law LLC; BCK Law PC; Christopher Intellectual Property Law PLLC; the Hvizda Team LLC/Keller Williams Realty Metro; Jim Henry, Architect; CTA Architects and Engineers; Cycle Architecture + Planning.

ASSOCIATIONS
National Ski Areas Foundation; National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association; Outdoor Industry Association; U.S. Green Building Council.

And Of Course the Usual Suspects – Pioneering Leaders in Sustainability:
Bloomberg LP; Ben & Jerry’s; Patagonia; Unilever…and more.

We have provided a brief overview here – please do check out the full roster at the WeAreStillIin.com.

And of course, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. was an early signatory!

And the latch handle is out:  we invite you to sign on for your organization!

 

 

 

 

 

82% of the S&P 500® Published a Sustainability Report in 2016 – Analysis Just Released on the Index Universe of Leading Companies

Everyone in the investing world and the corporate suite knows of the importance of the S&P 500 Index®; it’s the intellectual property of the S&P Dow Jones Indices unit of S&P Global and is the widely used benchmark by which asset managers track their performance (against the index performance).

Many investments are benchmarked to the index – almost a total of US$8 trillion, in fact.  The index is made up of 500 leading (large-cap) public companies and represents roughly 80% of the total market capitalization of these enterprises.   The index was launched 60 years ago (in March 1957).

Investopedia explains that the index covers the majority of the US economy and is considered by experts to be a highly reliable indicator of overall stock market performance. The index managers select corporate stocks to be in the index by a number of factors, according to liquidity, market size and industry category; and, the company included represents a proportion of the portfolio.  There are small changes year-to-year in the index as companies are selected in and dropped from inclusion.

The G&A Institute team in carefully tracking the increasing embrace of sustainability by US companies, and the reporting on the “sustainability journey” by these large-cap public companies began analyzing the S&P 500 companies’ disclosure and structured reporting on sustainability (and related terms, such as corporate responsibility, environmental update, corporate citizenship, and others).

Our first analysis was shared publicly in 2011, for the results of year 2010 company reporting.  We found that just about 20% or one-in-five of the S&P 500 universe was publishing a sustainability report in some form.  That became our baseline.  The 2012 reporting analysis revealed a dramatic increase — more than half of the companies were then reporting (the tally was 53%).

The number increased considerably in 2013 to 73% and then 75% the following year.  By 2015 the tally was 81% (eight of 10 companies in the index) and now we have year 2016 results — holding steady at 82%.  We share the news broadly in our Flash Report at the conclusion of the analysis — that’s our Top Story for you this week.

Our analysis includes identifying GICS sector reporting (financials, health care, energy, etc.), and the increase year-to-year where that occurs within a sector.

G&A’s EVP Louis Coppola has been the architect of the S&P 500 analysis, with the careful analytical work done by successive teams of outstanding intern-analysts over the years.  This year’s team includes Alvis Yuen, team leader who has worked on the annual analysis for several years now; and team members Amanda Hoster, Elizabeth Peterson, Juliet Russell, Alan Stautz, Yangshengjing “UB” Qiu, and Olivia (Sihui) Wang.  We thank these outstanding professionals for their dedication and hard work completing the analysis.

The investment community takes a close look at the G&A Institute research and each year reaches out to the non-reporters (a shrinking base, we’re happy to say) for engagement, and often, targets for filing shareholder resolutions to encourage the start of reporting on the corporate sustainability efforts. (In many cases for the holdouts, there are no such efforts underway — and so, no reports!)

You’ll find more details about the 2017 work (examining 2016 reporting results) in our Flash Report.  Do send us an email if you have questions about the exercise if you would like to have more information.

Read more at:

FLASH REPORT: 82% of the S&P 500 Companies Published Corporate Sustainability Reports in 2016
(Wednesday – May 31, 2017)
Source: Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.  – In the sixth annual monitoring and analysis of S&P 500 Index® company sustainability reporting, just completed by the Governance & Accountability Institute research team, the findings are that eighty-two percent (82%) of the companies included in this important investment benchmark published a sustainability or corporate responsibility report in the year 2016.

The S&P Index is one of the most widely-followed barometers of the US economy, and conditions for large-cap public companies in the capital markets.

To put this in context, in charting prior years reporting, G&A found that:

  • in the year 2011, just under 20% of S&P 500 companies had reported on their sustainability, corporate social responsibility, ESG performance and related topics & issues;
  • in 2012, 53% (for the first time a majority) of S&P 500 companies were reporting;
  • by 2013, 72% were reporting — that is 7-out-of-10 of all companies in the popular benchmark;
  • in 2014, 75% of the S&P 500 were publishing reports;
  • in 2015, 81% of the total companies were reporting;
  • in 2016, 82% signals a steady embrace by large-cap companies of sustainability reporting.

Meet Kate Starr, CFA, CIO, Flat World Partners @ #Intro2ESG Training

Presenting at Introduction to ESG, Sustainable & Impact Investment OneDay Training
The How & Why of Applying ESG to Corporate Valuations
Hosted by Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College/CUNY on June 15th

Introduction:  For professionals in the capital markets, and in the corporate sector, G&A Institute and Global Change Associates are teamed to present a one-day professional training program, hosted by Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College/CUNY, in midtown Manhattan.  This is an excellent introduction to the application of ESG factors to investment making decisions and corporate valuations.  Find out more at https://intro2esg.eventbrite.com

ESG = the corporate environmental, social or societal and corporate governance factors to be evaluated by the financial analyst, asset owner, asset manager, and others in the capital markets in looking beyond the financial in selecting public companies for “buy/sell/hold” portfolio management decisions. (This is also referred to as “sustainable investing,” “impact investing,” and similar titles by practitioners.)

The outstanding faculty presenting during the one-day course will include experts in ESG / sustainable / impact investing, covering topics such as best practices; data sources; analytical tools; research resources; methodologies; why ESG matters; and realized outcomes using these approaches to analysis and investment management.

MEET ONE OF YOUR COURSE LEADERS
Kate Starr, CFA
Chief Investment Officer, Flat World Partners
TOPIC: What Investors Need to Know About the Rising Importance of Impact Investing

A conversation with Kate:

Q:   How is your day-to-day work related to the Intro to ESG, Sustainable & Impact Investment Certificate Program to be presented at Baruch?
[KS] Here at Flat World Partners, we help family offices, foundations, pension funds, and wealth advisors build customized investment portfolios that drive positive environmental and social impact.  We look at everything from direct investments in early-stage companies to public equity and fixed income and think about how ESG works across asset classes.

Q:  What can attendees expect to learn from your session?
[KS] I’ll be focusing on “impact investing” — what it means and where it fits into an overall portfolio from both an investment and a client service perspective.  We’ll talk about the issue of impact measurement and how to think about simple, effective ways to do it. Last, we’ll discuss some of the most interesting themes and strategies that we’re seeing in the market right now.

Q:  What advice do you have or opportunity that you see for attendees who complete the Certificate Program?
[KS] Our entire business is focused on impact, or sustainable investing, because we believe that it represents the future of investing.  Clients have already woken up to the fact that finance and investment plays a big role in shaping the world around them. 

Finance and investment teams who can recognize that demand and lead their clients to a better future will be the ones to be sustainable over the long-term.

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CAREER BACKGROUND: KATE STARR
Kate leads investment strategy and portfolio development at Flat World Partners. In her prior role at the Heron Foundation, Kate formed and led the team that invests Heron’s approximately US$300 million portfolio for impact. Working with the board and staff, Kate developed the investment policy statement and implementation plan to move the foundation to invest 100% of its assets for mission.

Kate started her career as an economics and equities analyst at First Asset Management and moved into research on microfinance in Tanzania.  She is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), co-leading the Sustainability Committee at the New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA),.  She serves on the investment committee of the Christopher Reynolds Foundation; and, serves as an advisor to the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Mission Investors Exchange.

She was graduated from Indiana University with an Honors degree in English and Italian, and earned a Master’s degree in International Relations from Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies.

For more information about the course and how to register, visit: https://intro2esg.eventbrite.com

Meet Hideki Suzuki, Senior ESG Analyst, Bloomberg LP @ #Intro2ESG Training

Presenting at Introduction to ESG, Sustainable & Impact Investment OneDay Training
The How & Why of Applying ESG to Corporate Valuations
Hosted by Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College/CUNY on June 15th

Introduction:  For professionals in the capital markets, and in the corporate sector, G&A Institute and Global Change Associates are teamed to present a one-day professional training program, hosted by Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College/CUNY, in midtown Manhattan.  This is an excellent introduction to the application of ESG factors to investment making decisions and corporate valuations.  Find out more at https://intro2esg.eventbrite.com

ESG = the corporate environmental, social or societal and corporate governance factors to be evaluated by the financial analyst, asset owner, asset manager, and others in the capital markets in looking beyond the financial in selecting public companies for “buy/sell/hold” portfolio management decisions. (This is also referred to as “sustainable investing,” “impact investing,” and similar titles by practitioners.)

The outstanding faculty presenting during the one-day course will include experts in ESG / sustainable / impact investing, covering topics such as best practices; data sources; analytical tools; research resources; methodologies; why ESG matters; and realized outcomes using these approaches to analysis and investment management.

MEET ONE OF YOUR COURSE LEADERS
Hideki Suzuki
Senior ESG Analyst, Bloomberg LP
TOPIC:  ESG Equity Fundamentals Data Analytics

A conversation with Hideki:

Q:  How is your day-to-day work related to the Intro to ESG, Sustainable & Impact Investment Certificate Program to be presented at Baruch?
[HS] 
My day-to-day is to manage ESG data products on Bloomberg – both on and off terminal. We extract and ingest listed company & debt issuer ESG data into our system and make sure they speak with our analytics correctly.

Q:  What can attendees expect to learn from your session?
[HS] ESG information is easy to digest when a company/issuer gives you fiscal period environmental and social data  that give analysts company operational insights – by that we mean operational risks & opportunities into how companies manage things like resource consumption and human capital issues.

As for governance, how well is this company being managed?

This is a qualitative question every analyst is trying to answer by looking at company structure and listening into CEO/CFO’s presentations. Quantitative data on board of directors and executive  statistics – ex) company executive pay practice, can give you clues on how company rewards executives for taking risks etc.

Participants will learn “how you can navigate a widening variety of datasets available on the Bloomberg terminal to find best-in-class issuers.”

What advice do you have or opportunity that you see for attendees who complete the Certificate Program?
[HS] Data is still challenging at times in this space but challenge is an opportunity for investors – opportunity to manage beta, generate alpha and an engagement opportunity with the public company. If you are a consultant or in other service provider space, this is your business opportunity to help companies/investment firms respond to ESG questions and help them tell their ESG stories well.

* * * * * * * *

CAREER BACKGROUND: HIDEKI SUZUKI
Hideki is a senior corporate governance analyst and also a team lead for ESG data team at Bloomberg.

After joining Bloomberg LP in 1999, he spent the first five years in electronic trading desk support and 3rd party fixed-income and the derivatives pricing contents team.

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

Since 2016, he is a team lead for the ESG data analyst team at Bloomberg.

He has a B.A. in Economics and History from Fordham University.

For more information about the course and how to register, visit: https://intro2esg.eventbrite.com

 

Meet Agnes Terestchenko, Senior Manager, Investor Initiatives North America, CDP Speaker @ #Intro2ESG Training

Presenting at Introduction to ESG, Sustainable & Impact Investment OneDay Training
The How & Why of Applying ESG to Corporate Valuations
Hosted by Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College/CUNY on June 15th

Introduction:  For professionals in the capital markets, and in the corporate sector, G&A Institute and Global Change Associates are teamed to present a one-day professional training program, hosted by Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College/CUNY, in midtown Manhattan.  This is an excellent introduction to the application of ESG factors to investment making decisions and corporate valuations.  Find out more at https://intro2esg.eventbrite.com

ESG = the corporate environmental, social or societal and corporate governance factors to be evaluated by the financial analyst, asset owner, asset manager, and others in the capital markets in looking beyond the financial in selecting public companies for “buy/sell/hold” portfolio management decisions. (This is also referred to as “sustainable investing,” “impact investing,” and similar titles by practitioners.)

The outstanding faculty presenting during the one-day course will include experts in ESG / sustainable / impact investing, covering topics such as best practices; data sources; analytical tools; research resources; methodologies; why ESG matters; and realized outcomes using these approaches to analysis and investment management.

MEET ONE OF YOUR COURSE LEADERS
Agnes Terestchenko
Senior Manager, Investor Initiatives North America, CDP
TOPIC: CDP Investor Initiatives

 A conversation with Agnes:

Q:  How is your day-to-day work related to the Intro to ESG, Sustainable & Impact Investment Certificate Program to be presented at Baruch?
[AT] CDP is a global coalition of 800-plus institutional investors that give CDP the authority to request disclosure on material environmental information to over 6,000 companies.  Today, CDP has the largest global database of self-disclosed environmental information. Once collected, we give access to the data to investors and the public and encourage investors to engage with companies and to integrate environmental factors into their investment processes

Q:  What can attendees expect to learn from your session?
[AT] Information about the data collected, engagement resources for investors and how investors use environmental data in their investment processes.

Q:  What advice do you have or opportunity that you see for attendees who complete the Certificate Program?
[AT]  Integration of ESG factors into investment process is only at its beginning stages at many institutions, but because of increasing demand from asset owners, the Millennial generation, a growing number of investor coalitions and financial regulators, it will become more mainstream inside the financial world and is something attendees will need to know about.

* * * * * * * *

CAREER BACKGROUND: AGNES TERESTCHENKO
Agnes is Senior Manager, Investor Initiatives at CDP – the Global environmental reporting system. Agnes manages relationships with investor signatories & members for CDP’s Climate, Water, Forests and Carbon Action programs and assists the integration of environmental risk data into ESG & SRI focused approach to investment processes.

She also promotes CDP programs through public-speaking and development of research products leading to thought-leadership in emerging investment themes. After a full career in institutional equity sales at major European brokerage houses, Agnes followed her passion and specialized in ESG integration.

She joined CDP after working on specific projects with ICCR and Domini Social Investments. Agnes is a Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) Charterholder and a member of the steering Sustainable Investing Thought Leadership Group at the New York Society of Securities Analysts (NYSSA).

For more information about the course and how to register, visit: https://intro2esg.eventbrite.com

Preparing Professionals for Career Focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability and Sustainable & Responsible Investing

Important elements of the Governance & Accountability Institute mission is to share knowledge, perspectives and information about the opportunities in corporate responsibility, including career paths to success, and to do the same for men and women interested in sharpening their focus in the financial community, with the continuing embrace of ESG approaches by investment firms of all types (“sustainable investing”).

We partner with outstanding academic centers to present structured courses for the introduction to the relevant issues and processes by best-in-class faculty who bring their real-world experience to the courses.

Two current examples:  Our just-completed “CSR Certificate” two-day course in partnership with Rutgers Institute for Ethical Leadership (IEL) at the Rutgers University Business School in Newark, New Jersey.  We had a wonderful line up of presenters from the corporate world (Prudential, Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield, PepsiCo, Pirelli Tires, Johnson & Johnson), from ESG service providers (CSR Hub, Futerra, Ethisphere Institute, EcoVadis, Hansen Philanthropic Solutions), global ESG standard setters (CDP), investment management firms (Cornerstone Capital), academics (Rutgers IEL, Rutgers University), and UN multilateral organizations (UNGC, UN PRI).  A hearty “thank you” to our great faculty and our latest group of students.

We’ll present this popular course again in the Fall — stay tuned for “save-the-date” announcements as G&A and Rutgers IEL share information about the next upcoming course.

Coming Up
On Thursday, June 15th, we are presenting our “Intro to ESG, Sustainable & Impact Investing Training,” hosted at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College/CUNY in midtown Manhattan, presented by G&A Institute and Global Change Associates. This one-day training program is in response to the growing demand for sustainable impact investment education by asset owners, asset management, financial analysts and others in the finance community.  This is a full day of lectures by outstanding speakers who are practitioners in the field, sharing their knowledge to bring participants up to speed on ESG / sustainable investing best practices, research, data providers and methodologies. At the end of the program, participants will receive a certificate of completion.

We’ll be sharing news about this learning opportunity with you in the days ahead.

To register, and find out more information visit:  http://bit.ly/Intro2ESG

G&A Institute in partnership with IntegTree’s Dr. Nitish Singh provides convenient on-line education for professionals — “Certification in Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Strategies.”  The courseware provides a broad overview to equip professionals with cutting-edge sustainability skills that companies need to thrive in the rapidly expanding, global “green economy.”  There is information for you at: http://bit.ly/CRSScertf

Are you interested in participating in these learning and knowledge-sharing opportunities in some way?  Please contact Louis Coppola at lcoppola@ga-institute.com — let’s have a conversation.

The path to a rewarding sustainability career
(Tuesday – May 16, 2017)
Source: Eco-Business – Four young professionals from around the world share how their choice of a postgraduate sustainability programme paved the way to a rewarding and meaningful career in the sector.

World Bank & Partners + S&P Dow Jones Indices, & Partners — Rolling Out New Sustainable Investing Approaches for Institutions…

Forward Momentum! — Two new approaches that spell out a-d-v-a-n-c-e-m-e-n-t for sustainable investment: World Bank and S&P Dow Jones Indices (separately) roll out new products and approaches with key partners’ participation.

Despite the nay-saying about climate change, global warming, sustainability and related subjects in certain quarters in the United States, major players in global finance enthusiastically rolled out new products / approaches for institutional customers.

First:  The World Bank, as part of its “SDGs Everyone” initiative has partnered with (initially) institutions in France and Italy for issuance of equity-index bonds that link returns to the performance of 50 companies that “advance global development priorities” as determined by the methodology of Vigeo Eiris Equities.  The bonds are being marketed by BNP Paribas. (Proceeds:  163 million Euros.)

The proceeds will be used to finance projects that help to eliminate poverty and boost shared prosperity, advancing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are being adopted by nations around the world.  This is the World Bank and partners “walking the talk” of sustainability and responding practically to the aspirational 2030 SDG goals.

Second:  S&P Dow Jones Indices (“S&P DJI”) created the S&P Green Bond Select Index (for ‘green label” bonds), to “meet strong market demand,” according to the company.  The first licensee is VanEck, to create an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).   S&P DJI offers more than 100 financial indices to its global capital market customers. (The S&P 500, for example, represents more than 80% of U.S. value of corporate equities and is the most widely used benchmark.

G&A Institute each year monitors and reports on the S&P 500 universe of companies’ reporting on their sustainability journeys.  Watch for our news coming shortly on the latest survey results.

VanEck notes that the market value of “green bonds” was US$82 billion in 2016 and could reach $150 billion in 2017.  Click here for details . There’s also a good introduction to “green bonds” on the web site.

As Sustainable Brands, in reporting on the developments noted…”this could expand sustainability investment and drive it towards the mainstream…”  The details are here for you in our Top Story:

Dow Jones, World Bank Unveil New Financial Tools to Expand Sustainability Investments
(Wednesday – March 15, 2017)
Source: Sustainable Brands – &P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI), the world’s leading provider of index-based concepts, data and research, has announced the launch of the S&P Green Bond Select Index which captures the most liquid and tradeable segment of…

Climate Change Resolutions / and Investors’ Voting — “Hurricane” Coming in 2017 Shareholder Voting?

“Stormy Weather Ahead Warning”:  Climate Change Resolutions / and Investors’ Voting — “Hurricane” Coming in 2017 Shareholder Proxy Voting Season?

Guest Commentary – by Seth DuppstadtProxy Insight Limited

The United Nations‘ consensus reached in the “Paris Agreement” (COP 21), the goal to limit global temperature rise to within 2 degrees Celsius could turn shareholder support for climate change resolutions from a squall into a powerful hurricane at U.S. energy and utility companies this proxy season. says our team at Proxy Insight.

Example cited:  The BlackRock Investment Stewardship Team’s new guidance on climate risk engagement made the possibility of a Category 5 storm conceivable — if companies aren’t responsive.

During the 2016 corporate proxy season, a particularly successful subset of shareholder-sponsored climate change resolutions — known as 2 Degree Scenario (“2DS”) proposals —  averaged 37.73 percent shareholder support:

ISSUER MEETING DATE % FOR
Devon Energy Corporation 8-Jun-16 36.06
Southern Company (The) 25-May-16 34.46
Exxon Mobil Corporation 25-May-16 38.14
Chevron Corporation 25-May-16 40.76
FirstEnergy Corporation 17-May-16 31.9
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation 10-May-16 42
Occidental Petroleum Corporation 29-Apr-16 48.99
Noble Energy Inc. 26-Apr-16 25.1
AES Corporation (The) 21-Apr-16 42.21

 

This was a notably high level of support for a first-round shareholder proposal — especially for climate change related. *

Example:  The proposal at Occidental Petroleum almost gained a majority with 48.99% of votes cast in support (not including abstentions).

Proxy Insight data show Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recommended For votes for all nine 2DS resolutions, while proxy advisor Glass Lewis opposed one.

The shareholder resolutions ask companies to stress test their portfolios and report on financial risks that could occur in a low-carbon economy.

Up to 17 2DS resolutions are expected to move to vote at U.S. companies in 2017 proxy voting, according to Ceres.  (Ten will be filed at companies not having these resolutions before).  The next scheduled company voting on 2DS will be at AES Corp on April 20th. A preliminary proxy indicates Duke Energy shareholders will be voting on May 4.

*excluding non-US “Strategic Resilience for 2035” proposals (2015/16)

 TOP-10 INVESTORS (AUM) MOST FREQUENTLY SUPPORTING “2DS” CLIMATE CHANGE RESOLUTIONS

Investor For Against Abstain DNV Split
Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Legal & General Investment Management 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Legg Mason Partners Fund Advisor, LLC. 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
AXA Investment Managers 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
APG (Stichting PF ABP) 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Schroders 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
M&G Investment Management 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Aviva Investors 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%

Information is available at:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/climate-change-voting-calm-before-storm-seth-duppstadt

Proxy Insight is the leading provider of global shareholder voting analytics.

Visit www.proxyinsight.com for more information, where you can also sign up for a trial or contact Seth Duppstadt, SVP Proxy Insight Limited at: seth.duppstadt@proxyinsight.com  Telephone:  646-513-4141