Technology: Providing Vital Components Influencing the Fight Against COVID-19

G&A Institute Team Note
We continue to bring you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency. This is post #17 in the series, “Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Coronavirus Crisis” –

16 April 2020   #WeRise2FightCOVID-19   “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis”

By Lama Alaraj – Sustainability Reporting Analyst-Intern at G&A Institute

As the tasks of our everyday world are put on hold, all around the world we are playing the waiting game, hoping for an end to this madness.

While at home, waiting for the world to be “normal” again, often our only source of communication with the outside is through our tech devices.

Without most people doing much to get ready for the unanticipated spread of the virus, technology for connecting with one another and the outside world was widely-available and already serving as our first source of comfort…and tech connectivity remains so during this crisis.

Where we stand today: Many sectors in our economies are muted and our reliance as a global society leaning on the digital world greater than ever.

What about after the crisis ebbs and then eventually passes? This is a survey of what is happening in the virus crisis and how tech companies are lending their support. And what developments during the crisis might be breakthroughs for future use.  Here is a round-up of what tech companies are doing in the virus crisis.

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Blue Dot
From the beginning of the crisis, this Canadian tech startup had caught on to the danger posed by virus even before the WHO released an official statement. Blue Dot used a cloud-based GIS platform that works to detect infectious disease outbreaks around the world. This sophisticated technology also uses AI to send alerts about diseases tailored to the affected region (source: Bluedot, 2020).

The power of knowledge enabled by these approaches to use of advanced technology is unrivaled. Artificial intelligence (AI) has the capability of harnessing a previously unthinkable amount of data to sift through, then applying results to an algorithm and calculating vital information that influences our responses (Source: Bowles, 2020).

Technology tools were not only able to detect the first few cases of COVID-19, but through this innovative software development, Blue Dot was able to predict the region the disease was going to spread to from the initial location at Wuhan.

The CBS Network program “60 Minutes” had a good look at the technology and approach behind the success of the Blue Dot detection capabilities.  The program:  ‘The Computer Algorithm That Was Among the First to Detect the Coronavirus Outbreak”.

Subtext:   On New Year’s Eve, a small company in Canada was among the first to raise the alarm about an infectious disease outbreak. Its computer algorithm calculated where the virus might spread next. The technology could change the way we fight another contagion.

You can see the segment here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-outbreak-computer-algorithm-artificial-intelligence/

We are seeing the global tech giants partnering with the American government to fight against the pandemic. Supercomputers and Artificial Intelligence are the key components in the battle.

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The IBM supercomputer (Watson) is built to analyze standard mathematical problems utilizing AI to generate algorithms based on various models.

In Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the IBM technology was used to look at 8000 different drug compounds – quickly narrowed down to 77 that are believed to be possible components of a future vaccine (Gil, 2020).

This supercomputing / processing power has helped in the current crisis by being able to conduct rapid research that otherwise would have taken years.

Although technology has not yet found a solution for our current dilemma, the foundations and resources these companies are providing are based on valuable insights — giving us relief from trying to understand this disease completely in the blind.

The relationship between health and technology — which has been going on for years —  is now leading the fight in the combat zone.  And there are many promising opportunities for society in the post-crisis, thanks to tech advances.

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Microsoft – another global tech giant — has introduced a Healthcare chatbot. The bot uses machine learning to quickly assess COVID-19 symptoms and provide a resolution of whether you should stay home or seek medical help. The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently using this innovation.

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A statement from Alphabet’s Google Inc, and Apple Inc was released recently in regards to the latest development against the fight. The tech giants are now going to utilize AI through our smartphones in order to be able to track the movement of COVID-19.

The end result is that our smartphones will actually start sending us warnings when we have come into contact with a person who has tested positive with the deadly virus.

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Although this is an incredibly sophisticated innovation that can help us flatten the curve, where do we draw the line when it comes to AI and our morals and ethics?  And personal privacy?

There have been a lot of positive changes coming out from this sector that will aid the world’s health professionals with resources to speed up the process in finding a cure.

However, the concept of utilizing surveillance and accessing our private medical records is an area of concern for many. This exact turn in events is what makes humankind fear the coming of AI.

While economies around the world are experiencing a global shutdown and many are suffering due to this, some tech companies have actually experienced new growth.

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Zoom, a video conferencing application, actually experienced a dramatic surge in the amount of users (10X user growth just in days!).

Many people in all walks of life had to adapt quickly to the new norm and Zoom presented its platform as the easy, available answer to be able to connect multiple users at once making meetings, interviews, school classes possible. (The company did experience problems and suffered wide public criticism in the rollout to a broader audience, with many new users mostly unfamiliar with the platform.)

As Zoom shows, the world as we know it every day can be completely transformed in the blink of an eye.

In a world that has just turned dark, our strength must not be divided. Zoom in its concern for society gave us the platform to jump back into our accustomed social constructs in order to hold onto some sense of normal — but for many, through a digitalized lens.

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Bloomberg LP reported that Samsung was experiencing growth in the crisis. The company released their results for the Q1 with an unexpected increase in sales by 5%.

The positive performance of some tech companies can be attributed to the economic shock we are in due to the pandemic. The instantaneous lock-downs across the world changed the consumer demand pattern, where the almost-complete transition to work from home and adaptation to social distancing spiked a demand in video gaming — and thus demand for semiconductors that Samsung provided (Kim, 2020).

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Cautionary Note
The growth the companies are currently experiencing may not be sustainable throughout the rest of the year due to the continuing, aggressive economic downturn and spreading of the virus.

With all these changes that we are seeing it is important to take into account the concern that some may not be able to take part in this ongoing transition. Many businesses have completely shut down for the time being without being able to continue production from home.

We are asking ourselves the questions: What will happen to these concerns when the virus crisis levels off and then subsides? What will happen to their workers?

Moreover, in areas where poverty is more prevalent, and rural regions, there is a real digital divide. This is becoming quite evident in the crisis.

Not every household has access to the internet (or can afford access) and therefore individuals and families cannot take part in the current state of daily life.

The opportunity to cling on to some piece of our world as we knew it is not available to all. For example, there are many school children who currently are not able to attend school, and without technology are missing out on continuing their education. Often, this is simply because they do not have adequate access to the internet or a machine to use for their class work.

We are seeing companies in the tech industry doing their part through the donation of large sums of money to various needy causes.  Examples:

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Google has stepped up and is donating US$800 million to help governmental institutions and small businesses through this pandemic and economic crisis. The money will be supplied through channels of advertising credits/grants and loans (Zakir, 2020). Although this does not “fix” the detrimental effects of COVID-19, the tech giant provides temporary relief in dire times.

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Chuck Robbins, the CEO of Cisco released a statement that the company will be donating “$225 million in cash, in-kind and planned-giving” to support the cumbersome fight against the pandemic.

During times of crisis, of course we do need business leaders like this CEO to help to meet peoples’ needs in order to provide humanity with hope and comfort amid the chaos. That includes shifting from normal production to emergency supplies for the medical community.

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Honeywell has turned their operations over to producing N95 masks in their facilities, to help to address the global supply shortage. Efforts such as these are helping to make us more capable of coping through this crisis and the corporate contributions are helping buffer the severity of the pandemic.

The significance of the technology sector’s heavy involvement with the pandemic of today is no surprise. While many of us are sheltered at home, the internet has become our source of sanity. For many governments, artificial intelligence is their presumed knight in shining armor, ready to save the world.

I do believe that in the new normative we will not be shying away from our relationship with groundbreaking technology. However, there is much uncertainty in this transition.

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The Future Outlook
Our heavy dependence on the technology sector during this crisis is going to have dramatic impacts in our labor force, education and our various economic markets. Moreover, current global economies who do not have a developed technological sector may be left further behind and unable to reap benefits from the current against the pandemic.

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About the Author
Lama Alaraj
is a Sustainability Reporting Analyst-Intern at G&A Institute. She graduated from Dalhousie University (Canada) with a double major in economics and international development studies. Over the years, she developed a growing interest in the power of technology and how it manages to integrate in every sector in our global community.

In addition to the G&A analyst-internship, Lama is currently working as a marketing consultant for Web.com, a company built on web development.

Her personal goal is to take the knowledge she gains from this role and apply it extensively throughout any project or role she takes on.

Lama is very excited to be part of the G&A Institute community and to learn about how industries manage to adhere to their environmental responsibilities. Lama thinks that as the climate continues to change, the choices we make today are more vital than ever.

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G&A Institute Team Note

In this series we are bringing you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency.

New items will be posted at the top of the blog post and the items posted today will move down the queue.

We created the tag “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis” for this continuing series – and the hashtag #WeRise2FightCOVID-19 for our Twitter posts. Do join the conversation and contribute your views and news.

Do send us news about your organization – info@ga-institute.com so we can share. Stay safe – be well — keep in touch!

Stepping Up in the Virus Crisis: Leaders in the Oil & Gas Sector

G&A Institute Team Note
We continue to bring you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency. This is post #16 in the series, “Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Coronavirus Crisis”.

13 April 2020    #WeRise2FightCOVID-19 “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis”

By Sarah El-Miligy – Sustainability Reporting Analyst-Intern, G&A Institute

The Oil and Gas Sector has already taken strong hits due to the OPEC+ conflict and the Saudi-Russian oil price war prior to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.

The worldwide pandemic was the second hit this year that has dramatically affected the oil and gas industry, causing significant disruption with long-term harmful consequences.

According to the IEA, for the 1st time since 2009 the global demand for oil is expected to fall by 2.5 million barrels per day in the 1st quarter of 2020.

These negative consequences are expected to extend out to 2022.

However, the industry’s recovery given the amount of damage caused by the virus can’t be predicted at this stage, given the evolving nature of the coronavirus and the widespread impact on the global society.

The oil and gas industry has had to take a major step back — as have many different industries across the globe – due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Largest of the Oil & Gas Companies

The top industry players are found to be ready to fight back and help to mitigate the drastic effects of the pandemic and to support their communities through a strong global response.

Despite being financially-affected due to the decline in production, travel restrictions, drop in oil demand and lower oil prices resulting from the pandemic, many companies in the industry have contributed to the global efforts taken in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

For example, some by directing considerable amount of funds to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund as a part of their demonstration of social responsibility towards their employees, customers and the communities where they operate.

Looking at the top 10 O&G companies, some of them have invested in research and innovation, even shifting their production lines and putting their technical knowledge and financial resources in use in order to help fighting the battle against the virus. Other companies had a quick response and supplied key protection products used by the healthcare professionals.

On the internal front, the oil and gas companies have shown immediate responses to guarantee the safety of their employees and customers.

This begins with updating their health and safety protocols and constantly introducing new, up-to-date protection policies in order to ensure the safety of their dispersed staff.

Social distancing measures have been one of the premier precautionary actions adopted and stressed upon industry-wide.

In response to the many negative impacts of the pandemic, the major players in the oil and gas industry — such as BP, ExxonMobil, Total, Chevron — have demonstrated significant Corporate Citizenship practices while dealing with the current crisis at all levels.

I’ve compiled 10 corporate examples for you:

1- ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil Global Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

According to the company’s official website the efforts by the Oil & Gas giant in fighting COVID-19 include:

  • Supporting vulnerable communities, specially in the most infected countries through financial donations, subsidized fuel supply and providing other significant products required to address the COVID-19 challenges.
  • Investing in research and development, producing an innovative reusable personal protection equipment to the healthcare staff and other consumers.
  • Taking a number of measures to slow the spread of the virus in many European and Asian countries.
  • Directing operations to focus on manufacturing ingredients such as isopropyl alcohol, which is used in the production of hand sanitizers, alcohol wipes and disinfectant sprays.
  • Implementing health and safety precautionary actions in order to protect the employees such as applying restrictions on business travel, as well as applying working from home and social distancing policies.
  • In terms of customer safety, ExxonMobil has increased the safety and hygiene levels in all their stations and stores. As well as applying online payment where available in order to limit the money transactions.
  • Implementing a 14-day work-from-home policy for individuals traveling from locations with sustained community transmission, as defined by the U.S. NIH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

West Texas Food Bank Initiative
ExxonMobil is supporting hunger relief in the Midland-Odessa area and across West Texas with a US$100,000 donation to the West Texas Food Bank to help those facing difficult economic circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting Online Education
ExxonMobil supports Online Education with $100,000 funds for Carlsbad Municipal Schools in response to the distance-based education policies due to the coronavirus outbreak. 14 schools in the district have been closed affecting 7,000 students. This funding will support providing low-income students with the needed equipment and internet connectivity facilitating the transition to online learning.

The Global Center for Medical Innovation Partnership
ExxonMobil is aware of the scarcity of protective masks and responded by manufacturing reusable protective masks to help solve the problem, in collaboration with the Global Centre for Medical Innovation (GCMI).

The mask would use disposable cartridges containing filter fabrics and would withstand sterilization. Because of this, it would not need to be replaced. The company and center stated that the new mask design covered the mouth and nose even better than existing N95 masks.

Prototypes are currently being tested and reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

If/when approved, production will begin immediately, with ExxonMobil supporting the identification of manufacturers familiar with the materials and process to quickly deliver the masks to doctors, nurses and health care providers.

Once approved, manufacturers indicate they will be able to produce as many as 40,000 ready-to-use masks and filter cartridges per hour

Source

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2- BP

The Corporation Supporting Communities

  • The BP Foundation will donate $2 million USD to the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to support medical professionals and patients worldwide by providing critical aid and supplies. The Solidarity Response Fund also helps track and understand the spread of the COVID-19 virus and supports efforts to develop tests, treatments, and ultimately, a vaccine.
  • In Brazil, BP is following a different approach, allocating their own resources (ethanol from sugarcane used normally in fuel) to use them as a disinfectant, not only for their employees use but also distributing it to local health services to help close to 1.4 million people in danger and risk of infection.
  • BP also started offering free fuel to emergency service vehicles in the United Kingdom, as well as supplying free fuel to jets that serve as air ambulances there, along with their continuous support to the efforts in Australia, Spain, Turkey and Poland to control the pandemic.
  • In the UK, emergency service vehicles can refuel for free at BP retail stations as well as supplying free fuel to air ambulances. In additional, supporting similar efforts in Spain, Turkey, Poland, and Australia.
  • And in Germany where they have provided fuel cards to health care workers.

BP Turkey will provide free fuel to ambulances operated by the Ministry of Health Istanbul Directorate to support the fight against COVID-19

Source https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/news-and-insights/covid-19-bp-response.html

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3- Total Group

France today is one of the most affected countries with high numbers of coronavirus cases, and the nation’s companies are responding to the pandemic spreading.

The French oil & gas player “Total Group” has been consulting with the French health authorities to supply the healthcare staff in France with gasoline vouchers worth up to 50 million Euros that can be used at Total stations across the country.

The company has provided the hospitals’ professionals with a telephone number and an email published on their website in order to receive their vouchers.

“In this period of crisis, Total’s teams remain mobilized to enable French people to make all their necessary travel arrangements. With its nationwide network, Total is working alongside those who are fighting the epidemic everywhere. Which is why the Group has decided to make this practical gesture of support for our hospital staff, who are working to ensure the health of patients.” –  Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and CEO of Total

Moreover, the Total Foundation will contribute €5 million to the Pasteur Institute and to hospital and health associations involved in the fight against COVID-19.

Source https://www.total.com

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4- Shell

Caring for the People

Shell is doing many things to keep their customers, colleagues and communities safe. These include carrying out enhanced cleaning operations, increasing stocks of sanitation products and other essential goods, social distancing, working from home policies and health monitoring for teams at retail sites

Caring for the community:

  • Shell has also increased the production of some of the key products which is used in manufacturing soaps and sanitizers in response to COVID-19
  • Shell Manufacturing plants in the Netherlands and Canada are diverting their resources to produce isopropyl alcohol (IPA) as fast as they can. IPA makes up about half the content of the hand-sanitizing liquids being used to keep the virus down around the world.
  • The Shell team is also working closely with governments to keep track of and help meet evolving needs. On March 20, Shell announced that it would make 2.5 million liters of IPA — roughly equivalent to an Olympic-sized swimming pool — available free of charge for the Dutch healthcare sector.

On March 31, the Government of Canada listed Shell Canada as one of the Canadian companies that has stepped up to help during this crisis. Shell is donating 125,000 litres of IPA to the Government of Canada free of charge over the next three months to help the Canadian healthcare sector.

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5- Chevron Corporation

US operator Chevron has also donated $7 million to food banks, education and health services, and is matching employee donations two-to-one, in an initiative to integrate their employees in the world goal in fighting the pandemic.  Actions:

  • $500,000 has been allocated to purchase the required equipment of online learning to the Donors Choose program, “Keep Kids Learning”.
  • Helping to fund emergency services in remote parts of Western Australia and providing medical supplies to hospitals in Thailand.
  • More than $2 million has been granted to the American relief efforts in several U.S./ states and an additional $2 million to match 2:1 employee contribution to U.S.-based nonprofits.

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6- Valero
In a similar effort, the large refining company Valero has elected to donate $1.8m to fight the virus in the cities where it operates.

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7- OMV

Austrian oil, gas and petrochemical company OMV is donating $1.09m of fuel cards to the Austrian Red Cross and Caritas Austria, a food and shelter charity.

OMV Chairman and CEO Rainer Seele said: “These aid workers accomplish great things. We are helping them get around, which is an essential factor in delivering provisions and support to people in need as well as emergency aid”.

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8- Sinopec

Sinopec Corp., China’s leading energy and chemical company, has shown support and solidarity to the international community by supplying 10,256 tones of “much-needed bleaching powder” to more than 10 affected countries including Italy, France, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam.

The company has allocated limited time in their Yanshan Factory in Beijing to manufacture fabrics that are put in use to make the N95 disposable masks.  They got this assembly line running in just 12 days in order to cover the shortage in fabrics required to manufacture these masks to help give back to the society.

Source http://www.sinopecgroup.com/group/en/Sinopecnews/20200327/news_20200327_696607861362.shtml

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9- Southern Company Gas

Atlanta-based Southern Company Gas and its subsidiaries have committed a total of $4.85 million in support of communities affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Southern Company Gas Charitable Foundation will award $2.5 million in support of several human services organizations — including Meals on Wheels, American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and United Way, in seven states,.

The Alabama Power Foundation and Georgia Power Foundation have each pledged $1 million and the Mississippi Power Foundation has pledged $350,000 to the effort.

Source https://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=257009
https://scgcares.org/

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10- Sempra Energy

In San Diego, California, Sempra Energy Foundation has established a $1.75 million Nonprofit Hardship Fund to provide expedited grants ranging from $500 to $50,000 to small and midsize nonprofits serving the health, education, welfare, or social services in response to COVID-19 to the individuals and families in California, Texas, and Louisiana impacted by the coronavirus.

Source https://www.sempraenergyfoundation.org/pages/areas-of-giving/health-and-safety.shtml

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CONCLUSION

This COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented worldwide crisis that not only affecting the oil & gas industry but every industry and household around the globe. In response, many of the top oil and gas players concluded that to help overcome the affects of this horrific crisis they have to give back to their communities, employees and customers and unit to do their part in supporting and mitigating these negative effects of the pandemic.

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/03/covid19-fear-oil-market-mideast-coronavirus.html
  2. https://www.offshore-technology.com/features/coronavirus-fight-charity-help-covid-19/

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About the Author
Sarah El-Miligy
is a Sustainability Reporting Analyst-Intern with G&A Institute. She was was graduated from the Faculty of Economic studies and Political science at Alexandria University, holding a bachelor degree in Political science and she is currently acting as a Teacher Assistant in scientific research methodologies and Diplomatic and Consular Relations in the political section department and a former international diplomacy coordinator with Ambassador Sameh Abu- El Enien – Deputy Foreign Minister and Director of the Egyptian Diplomatic Academy at Universidad Oberta de Cataluña.

Sarah El-Miligy is also a Sustainability Research Analyst in Egypt at DCarbon for Environmental and Sustainability Consultancy, the first and sole Certified Global Reporting Initiative Training Partner in Egypt and a member of the GRI Gold Community.

She has a broad experience in volunteering and working abroad with the European Union, United Nations and the League of Arab States — specifically in the fields of Sustainable Development, Climate Change, Peacebuilding and Women and Youth Empowerment.

G&A Institute Team Note
This is another in our series – “Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Coronavirus:. We bring you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency.

New items will be posted at the top of the blog post and the items posted today will move down the queue.

We created the tag “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis” for this continuing series – and the hashtag #WeRise2FightCOVID-19 for our Twitter posts. Do join the conversation and contribute your views and news.

Do send us news about your organization – info@ga-institute.com so we can share. Stay safe – be well — keep in touch!

Watching For The Signals That Corporate Sustainability & Sustainable Investing Trends Will Continue to Advance in the Time of the Virus Crisis

By Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – and the G&A Institute Team

In each issue of our Highlights newsletter and in other of our G&A Institute communications we have been sharing news, opinion & perspectives and research results that we think will be of value to professionals in the corporate sector, in the capital markets, and in the social sector (not-for-profits, NGOs and other institutions). 

Our objective in structuring our communications over the past decade-plus is to help to inform and educate as corporate responsibility, sustainability and citizenship strategies re-shaped the corporate sector and investors adopted ESG / Sustainability approaches.

Driving “sustainable investing” to $1-in-$4 of professionally-managed AUM according to the latest survey of US SIF. In response 86% of S&P 500(r) firms are publishing sustainability et al reports according to the latest survey by our team. (Updates to both surveys are in the works in 2020.)

Over time, our focus and communications helped to tell the story of a revolution taking place in the private, public and social sectors of our society. Companies re-defining “purpose”. Investors adopting new approaches…SRI, impact, green, sustainable, and other identifiers.

Suddenly, we are all in a new and very challenging (and frightening) operating environment (both personally and in our businesses) and the questions that we have and that are on the sustainability professionals’ minds are…

(1) what might be the impact of the global coronavirus crisis on the corporate sector’s forward movement — are / will companies continue on their sustainability journey, embrace and demonstrate corporate purpose and the new era of stakeholder primacy, demonstrate excellence in corporate citizenship, and

(2) what might be the impact of the virus crisis on the capital markets and investors’ perspectives of the value and importance of embracing sustainable investing as the global capital markets continue to be in turmoil …will the crisis be a plus or minus for ESG / sustainable investing? What might the longer-term effects of the crisis be for both issuer and investors in a prolonged crisis? Will the resilience of the more sustainable enterprises be the winners in the competition for capital?

Our team has been closely monitoring (worldwide!) for news and opinions and research findings to help answer these and other questions and we bring you updates today. 

Thanks to G&A’s Editor-in-Chief Ken Cynar and Senior Sustainability Analyst Elizabeth Peterson for their continuous “captures” of many key items for the newsletter and for G&A’s themed web platforms.  We present the news, perspectives and research in the weekly newsletter and on our web platforms.

There are many more timely news and opinion items on our Sustainability HQ(tm) web platform for your reading – news is captured and posted every day in the categories presented in the newsletter as well as in other categories.  We invite your regular reading.

We are presenting the news of the efforts of companies to lend their support to the people in need by leveraging the corporate assets (and know how!). We’re presenting details of these efforts in this series of blog posts with hashtag #WeRise2FightCOVID-19 and grouped as “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis”. Thank you to all of the corporate leaders, managers and workforce doing their best in the crisis to help society.

The G&A Institute team members continue to all be “sheltered in place” working remotely and carrying on the work for clients.  It’s challenging but the good news is that the incredible advances made in technology are making a difference. 

Just imagine this virus crisis occurring in the days before email, private web-enabled networks, group teleconferencing tools, virtual meetings, the global internet ,and the “www” digital highway connecting us all around the world. 

A shout out here to the tech industry innovators who’ve made these tools available over the past three decades. 

And our heartfelt thank you to the men and women who today keep our society moving. Those stocking store shelves, keeping the lights on, policing our streets, responding to fire alarms and ambulance calls, keeping public transportation systems going, and many others working in silence or out of our sight.  A good number of companies are identified as essential business — people are working there every day, not at home.

And many thanks (in adequate word) to our brave first responders in the medical universe who put our needs first as they are exposed to danger. We are all in their debt.

We hope that this blog communication finds you well – please stay safe! 

For more content:  https://www.sustainabilityhq.com/

Five Featured Stories That
Provide Some Context in the Crisis

Coronavirus pandemic will drive responsible investing ‘skywards’   
Source: Financial Mirror – The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout will trigger a ‘skyward surge’ in sustainable, responsible and impactful investing over the next 12 months, according to Nigel Green, the CEO of financial advisory deVere Group,…

Are ESG and sustainability the new alpha mantra?   
Source: FT – When fund managers will start to think again about alpha-seeking strategies, as opposed to simply surviving the coronavirus, my bet is that more than a few will tell investors that sustainability and ESG-based screening will top…

COVID-19: A Rapid Human Rights Due Diligence Tool for Companies   
Source: BSR – The critical role of business during the time of COVID-19 is clear for everyone to see. Whether it is providing access to accurate information, continuing to pay hourly waged staff, or ensuring continuity of emergency supplies,…

12 Amazing Documentaries on Sustainability, Regeneration That You Now Have Time to Watch   
Source: Sustainable Brands – As many of us find ourselves with much more time at home due to the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of us are finding opportunities to do things we couldn’t quite get to in the course of our ‘regular lives’ before the widespread lockdowns.

Reserve management and sustainability: the case for green bonds?
Source: BIS – Central banks are playing an increasingly active role in promoting the move towards a sustainable global economy. One area in which they are thus involved is in guiding attempts to mobilise funds to contribute to the large-scale…

Marriott, Apple, Google, Facebook, Schein, CVS, Sentient Technologies, American Express, JPMorgan Chase — Finding Ways to Help – and Innovate!

G&A Institute Team Note: We continue to bring you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency.

This is post #15 in the series, “Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Coronavirus Crisis” – April 10, 2020

#WeRise2FightCOVID-19 “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis”

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

The team members at G&A Institute are in conversations throughout the day with corporate managers, with the discussions centering on sharing “what companies can do / what companies are doing” to meet the challenges of the cororanvirus pandemic.

That consideration for many companies today is both internally and external focused — the key tasks are keeping people safe, serving the community’s needs, keeping the corporate operations going to be best of their ability, and looking forward to the post-crisis era.

Here are a few selections of what executives and managers and their organizations are doing.  As we are thinking…

Life hands you the lemon / squeeze! / make the lemonade!
And get it around to others as fast as you can.

Setting An Example: Cut My Pay, Says Schein CEO

Stanley M. Bergman, CEO of Henry Schein Inc. (important suppliers to the medical community) is taking a temporary cut in salary during the virus crisis. As his company’s client base experiences hazards and cares for patients, the CEO (in SEC filing) will take 100% pay cut.

The company also stopped its share buyback program. The company markets equipment and supplies for clinics, dentist & doctor offices, and other segments of healthcare.

Schein is a co-founder of the Pandemic Supply Chain Network, using its own supply chain for distribution of testing supplies. The network was created at the 2015 Davos meeting as a public-private partnership. Now, the PSCN is part of the global COVID-19 response.

Information for you if would like to become a part of the effort: https://www.weforum.org/projects/pandemic-supply-chain-network-pscn

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Apple & Google Teaming For New “Contact-Tracing” Bluetooth App

It’s hard to get one’s head around the pandemic: millions, tens of millions, yes billions of people are stationary, immobile, not able to move around, sheltered at home, working remotely.

And tens of millions of us are not able to not move around, we must be at our posts, picking the crops, stocking the warehouse, driving the truck, stocking the shelves, manning the cash registers at retail.

Or more frightening, driving the ambulance, being on post in the emergency room or in the ICU, or in the wards with non-COVID patients.

Or driving the police car to respond to “the unknown”, or the fire truck to extinguish the blaze and save lives. Think about the EMT in the ambulance, hour after hour, running to danger.

Keeping on touch, virtually all of us, mobile and immobile rely on our cell phone…the lifeline to loved ones as well.

For those who must be on their designated post, moving around, interacting, the fear is that the virus could be too close, within reach to infect. To the rescue: Apple Inc. and Google – in a rare partnership, the rivals are adding technology to the phone to alert us if we’ve come into contact with a person with the virus.

This is to be an opt-in feature – “contact-tracing” – that immediately alerts us: quarantine and isolate and then treat or seek treatment because we have been in close contact with an infected person.

Over time we can expect to see this application added to the basic phone operating systems.

Watch for the news in May for iPhones and Android; the management of the system will be by public health agencies. The reports to the phone will be on anonymous basis. As the two companies announced the collaboration,  The phone owner must opt-in to be part of the network.

MIT says it is developing a similar system. Of course, there are numerous privacy protection issues – we’ll see how that goes on the rollout.

Facebook Joins the Tracing Effort

Facebook is one of the world’s leading social media platforms (claiming 2 billion-plus of the “connected”). Users are invited to share their own coronavirus symptoms and experiences to help researchers pinpoint “where” the disease is occurring.

Carnegie Mellon, the great tech school, is using the data in pilot effort to try to see where data is telling us help is needed. Such as the all-important ventilators that are in such short supply. Or where “go home/stay home” guidance or orders are needed. The output is going to be shared with public sector health managers.

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Headed to the Drug Store? How Do You Know What You Need is There?

The CEO of the nationwide CVS drug store network, Larry Merlo, was interviewed by Barron’s Jack Hough. The CVS stores are in the midst of becoming “HealthHUBS” (to provide medical services) and strengthening is “Caremark” program for pharmacy benefits management. And now, the CVS workforce is pressed to help customers in the midst of the virus crisis.

Explains CEO Merlo: Home deliveries are up by three times the usual volume. Tele-medicine connections are up two times. CVS waived copays for tele-medicine and for deliveries. COVID-19 testing was starting in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts (in a store parking lot) to do 100-plus test a day. Stores are being kept stocked. Limits are applied to prevent hoarding.

The company maintains close contact with suppliers to keep the pipeline stocked and moving to stores. CDC guidelines are followed in the stores. Cash bonuses are being doled out to hourly store staff, pharmacists, managers. There is day care service where possible; sick leave is granted to part-timers.

Lessons Learned: Keeping mind the Chinese sign for crisis (“danger” and “opportunity”), we learn that the CVS CEO thinks the crisis has helped to strengthen the firm’s confidence in what CVS can do to help to change the trajectory of healthcare delivery.

Pharmacies (local) and tele-medicine (distant) are key elements. The critical role that healthcare professionals play in local communities (where CVS outlets are located) is really being demonstrated today.

Marriott and Hilton have been working with CVS to create a transition for those folks who are furloughed. Speaking of Marriott…

* * * * * * * *

Holding on to Customers / Serving the Local Community & Responders

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson in communications to patrons explains that cancellations for scheduled trips are being adjusted out to June 30th (usually 24 hours notice is required). Expiration of points accrued for use at the properties is being extended. “Experience flexibility” is the theme.

And about helping the communities in which the resorts and hotels are based:

  • Marriott properties are donating food, pre-cooked and cooked meals to crisis responders, as well as a supply of cleaning products, masks, gloves, sanitizers, wipes, shower caps, anti-microbial wipes, and other supplies to local communities. Hotel windows sport signs and symbols of love and support to those passing by.
  • Working with American Express and JPMorgan Chase (two credit card partnering organizations), Marriott committed to provide $10 million worth of hotel stays to professionals on the front lines of the crisis. “Rooms for Responders” are being made available in New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington DC, and Newark, New Jersey.
  • To reach the responders, Marriott is working with the American College of Emergency Physicians and Emergency Nurses Association to help match doctors and nurses with available rooms.

And the “Community Caregiver Program” initiative (coordinated by franchisees and property owners) provides deep discount accommodations near to hospitals to first responders and healthcare professionals stepping up to serve local communities. This is available in North America, the Caribbean and Latin America (at 2,500 hotels to date).

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The Food Supply in the Crisis – Changes in Post-Crisis Behaviors

What is happening in the food sector? Mike Geraghty writing on the Sensient Technologies Corporation platform shares the results of a mid-March 2020 study by Nielsen that forecasts six key consumer behavior shifts happening during the crisis.

The findings will have a major impact on the food industry and will/could lead to permanent changes in the way consumers shop for food.

These are (by their headlines):

  • Proactive Health-Minded Buying
  • Reactive Health Management
  • Pantry Preparation
  • Quarantined Living Preparation
  • Restricted Living
  • Living a New Normal

Under each category headlines there are explanations of the shifts seen in consumer behavior and COVID-19 event markers. There’s valuable findings and shared perspectives here for you from the Sentient folks (providers of color technologies and services for the food and beverage industries).

The commentary: https://sensientfoodcolors.com/en-us/global-markets/covid-19-changing-food-industry/?utm_source=FoodNavigator&utm_medium=Email%20Top%20Text%20US&utm_campaign=COVID&utm_content=Apr%202020

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G&A Institute Team Note:
We continue to bring you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency and organize their response.

New items are posted at the top of the blog post and the items posted today will move down the queue.

We created the tag “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis” for this continuing series – and the hashtag #WeRise2FightCOVID-19 for our Twitter posts. Do join the conversation and contribute your views and news.

Do send us news about your organization – info@ga-institute.com so we can share. Stay safe – be well — keep in touch!

Perspectives – Bloomberg, McKinsey, Leading ESG Investors, Mark Cuban – on Corporate Purpose and the Virus Crisis

Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Coronavirus Crisis – Post #8   

“Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis”   #WeRise2FightCOVID-19

April 1, 2020

By Hank Boerner, Chair & Chief Strategist, and the G&A Institute team members

On Corporate Purpose – Words and Actions – Thoughts From Influentials As The Virus Crisis Deepens Worldwide — the Focus on Purpose Can Help Corporate Generals Lead From the Front

In summer 2019, The Business Roundtable (BRT), the association of the CEOs of 200 firms, revamped the organization’s mission statement to read…

…“as leaders of America’s largest corporations, BRT CEOs believe we have a responsibility to help build a strong and sustainable economic future in the United States.”

This followed the publication of the January 2019 CEO-to-CEO letter of Larry Fink, who heads BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager (and therefore a major fiduciary investing in the BRT companies). He regularly writes to the CEOs of companies that BlackRock invests in to let them know where of the major investors stands.

He wrote at the start of 2019…

…Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them. And, profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose; in fact, profits and purpose are inextricably linked.

And again in his January 2020 letter to CEOs, Chair & CEO Larry Fink said:

…“As I have written in past letters [to CEOs in 2019, 2018] a company cannot achieve long-term profits without embracing purpose and considering the needs of considering the needs of a broad range of stakeholders. Ultimately, purpose is the engine of long-term profitability.”

Fast forward to March 2020 and now into April. What is the walk-of-the-talk of the CEOs (181 of them) who were signatories as the coronavirus crisis grips the U.S. and the world — and the actions of the signatories’ firms as stakeholders look for aid, comfort, security, payroll, taxes paid, and more?

And what other companies not necessarily in the Roundtable? What actions are taken leveraging corporate power to help society?

The stakeholders are watching. And a good number of the Business Roundtable companies are responding to address societal needs.

And what are the perspectives shared about all of this? We bring you some of these today. Here are some of the views and advice of experts and  influentials.

McKinsey Speaks – On How to Demonstrate Corporate Purpose

Says the influential management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company: Companies will define what they do in the crucible of COVID-19 response – or be defined by it.

So what could company managements be doing when the primary purpose of their efforts is to help the enterprise survive? McKinsey acknowledges this — and provides some advice. This is from their bulletin today.

Questions are being asked, of course, related to survival. How long will the crisis last? What are peers doing? How do we pay our people?

“WIN” – what is important now? (The G&A team has asked and helped to answer that question many times in our three decades of crisis management support for client companies over the years.)

First up, advises the McKinsey team members — understand your stakeholder needs and then with the understanding gained, prioritize your response. There will be tradeoffs among stakeholders – prepare for that.

Then, bring the greatest strengths of the organization to bear – consider, how can you make a difference?

McKinsey advises “collaborate with suppliers and customers and they may identify strengths you didn’t know you had”.

Examples offered:  Car makers can make ventilators (GM, Ford etc). Perfume companies can rapidly turn to manufacture hand sanitizer (LVMH and Estee Lauder are doing that today as we’ve reported in these briefs).

As you move forward, test the assumption and decisions you are taking against your stated purpose – communicate – explain (how and why).

Banks have a commitment to lend money in their community. If the bank pulls away – why? The action could help to define that institution in and after the crisis.

Give people something to do! (We also shared this advice a number of times early in the crisis.)

Involve employees in solutions. Give them a sense of purpose. Your team is looking for signals of leadership. And how to help.

And McKinsey says, the positive is that you may in the process be identifying the next generation of your company’s leadership!

Try new ways. Try using “cross-cutting” teams to develop new solutions, new ways to do things.

When in 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit, Wal-Mart Stores asked employees to deliver supplies to areas that were hard to reach. And we remember that the company’s store managers on their own ordered extra supplies and kept the stores open – even as their own homes were being destroyed.

That led to the CEO embarking on a strategic sustainability journey that revolutionized the whole company and in the process formed the Sustainability Consortium!

And like the best of the military leaders, you should yourself lead from the front. Communicate – often, early. Don’t sugarcoat the news. Adapt to changing conditions (and then communicate again). Your enterprise looks to its leaders for guidance.

Things that stand out for us that McKinsey explains:

  • Executives are uniquely poised now to bring corporate power, guided by social purpose to aid millions of dislodged and vulnerable lives. Done well, your actions can bridge the divide between shareholders and stakeholders. And leave a lasting, positive legacy.
  • Credibility is both essential and fragile element of executive leadership. Authentic actions demonstrate the company’s genuine commitment to social purpose.

Thanks to McKinsey’s Bill Schaninger, senior partner in Philadelphia, and Bruce Simpson, senior partner in Toronto, and their colleagues Han Zhang and Chris Zhu, for the valuable insights and guidance offered to corporate leaders.

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Mark Cuban on COVID-19 – Words & Action

We are often entertained by the antics of Mark Cuban on the courts (he’s owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team) and appearances on the hit TV show, “Shark Tank”. He was serious this week in addressing the virus crisis.

On Twitter he advised the federal policymakers: “Dear government, here is why you require companies that receive bailouts to retain 100% of their employees. The cost of the bailout loan – eventual payments will cost taxpayers less than the cost of government assistance programs for fired employees. Case closed.”

And…

“If you run a business, BEFORE YOUR FIRE ANYONE (or any more), you have an obligation to yourself/employees to find every gov loan option available today and those soon to come. Find the time. When the gov loans start you want to be already an expert and in line.”

Mark Cuban then walked-the-talk, setting up a way to pay his team’s venue employees (American Airlines Arena) even though games are cancelled and no one is coming. Then sent $100,000+ to the area’s not-for-profits aiding the Big D residents.

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Investor Coalition Speaks Its Mind on Corporate Purpose

Nearly 200 long-term institutional investors (with AUM of US$4.7 trillion) called on company managements to protect their workers – difficult to do, the investors acknowledge. Board directors are accountable for long-term Human Capital Management strategies (they remind board members on both domestic U.S. and global companies).

The steps companies could take, says the investor group:

  • Provide paid leave – including emergency leave) for full-time, part-time and subcontracted workers.
  • Prioritize health and safety – meaning, worker and public health safety, and to protect social license to operate. That may include closing facilities as precautionary step.
  • Maintain employment levels – your workers are well-trained (we hope!) and will enable the company to ramp up quickly once the crisis is resolved.
  • And be on the watch for any moves that may be discriminatory.
  • Maintain customer – and supplier — relationships to ensure that you can help stabilize them if necessary (such as financial challenges to suppliers) and to protect your own and other communities and businesses.
  • Practice financial prudence – demonstrate, the advisors strongly urge, the highest levels of ethical financial management and responsibility. And, limit executive and senior management compensation during the crisis (not repeating the practices of companies in the 2008 financial practices with money provided by the taxpayer).

Corporate leadership is critically-needed, the coalition stresses, to help society get through the crisis.

Among the investors in the coalition issuing the advice to public company managements: the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) coalition (with 300 institutional members); the New York City public employees pension fund, led by Comptroller Scott Stringer; AFL-CIO fund; the state treasurers of Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Oregon, Vermont; American Federation of Teachers (AFT); the British Columbia Government and Services Employees Union; Aviva Investors; APG; Boston Common Asset Management; Coalition on Corporate Responsibility in Indiana & Michigan; Cornerstone Capital Group; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Robeco Asset Management; numerous foundations and religious orders and denominations.

Information: https://www.iccr.org/program-areas/human-rights/investor-action-coronavirus

All of this is spelled out in the “Investor Statement on Coronavirus Response” being circulated among fiduciaries.

* * * * * * * *

Believe the Investor’s Urging Will Pay Off?

Bloomberg LP provides us with some of the early answers.  Bloomberg Intelligence’s (BI) Shaheen Contractor (ESG Team BI Industry Analyst) in a brief for terminal users noted that an analysis of ESG Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) during the selloff for the week ending February 28 provided a buffer for their investors and outperformed their benchmarks. The data: only 8% of ESG ETFs had outflows while 22% of all U.S. ETFs saw outflows.

This, she writes, suggests ESG is seen by investors as a long-term investment and not a trading strategy.

And the flow to ESG ETF’s suggests that these instruments are “sticky” and less cyclical. Where where the flows to ESG ETFs? BlackRock, JPMorgan, BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, DWS, State Street, and Vanguard all saw inflows during the drawdown.

Good news for investors looking for “proof of concept” of ESG/sustainable investing from Shaheen Contractor – thanks to her and Bloomberg for sharing this good news.

Her email is: scontractor2@bloomberg.net

The brief: “ESG ETFs See Relative Outperformance, Inflows During Drawdown”

For information, it is on the Bloomberg: https://blinks.bloomberg.com/news/stories/Q6RT29T0G1L2

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Lead from the front.  The general who led the effort to win WW II for the U.S.A. and the democracies, General Dwight D. Eisenhower (President, 1953-1961) observed:   “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.  You don’t lead by hitting people over the head–that’s assault, not leadership.”

* * * * * * * *

G&A Institute Team Note
We continue to bring you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency.

The new items will be posted at the top of the blog post and the items today will move down the queue.

We created the tag Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis” for this continuing series – and the hashtag WeRise2FightCOVID-19 for our Twitter posts.  Do join the conversation and contribute your views and news.

Send us news about your organization – info@ga-institute.com so we can share.   Stay safe – be well — keep in touch!

Company in the CSR Reporting Spotlight: Salesforce

By Julia Nehring – Report Analyst-Researcher, G&A Institute

In recent months I have been analyzing many dozens of corporate sustainability, responsibility, stewardship, corporate citizenship, and similarly-titled public reports. Many of these are published by very prominent names with well-known brands attached to the corporate name.

For example, you probably know of Salesforce. As many technology companies have done, the enterprise began humbly in a small West Coast residence in 1999, when several entrepreneurs attempted to re-imagine how businesses could utilize computer software.

Today, the company offers a variety of sales, marketing, analytics, and other business services to its 150,000+ clients, which include startups, nonprofits, governments, large corporations, and anything in-between.

Measuring success, between 2017 and 2019 alone, Salesforce’s employee base increased 44 percent and its billions of dollars’ in revenue increased by 58%.

During this period of significant growth, Salesforce has impressively been lauded as a best workplace for diversity, a best workplace for women, and a best workplace overall, among numerous other types of accolades.

The Company’s Reporting Practices

Salesforce discusses these and a range of other accomplishments in its FY19 Stakeholder Impact Report. However, I am not commenting here to heap praise on Salesforce.

Using my lens as a CSR analyst-intern, I will attempt to highlight several reporting frameworks and concepts Salesforce has chosen to use in its most recent report that provide both transparency and promotional value for the company’s practices and accomplishments.

I also offer my own comments and ideas that come from learning about different reporting guidelines from different agencies, as well as reviewing many dozens of corporate CSR reports as a GRI report analyst.

Clicking on any of the links below will take you to G&A resources mentioned about the topic.

ESG Reporting Frameworks

By far the most commonly-used framework worldwide by companies in G&A’s research is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Salesforce includes multiple references to this framework (formally, the GRI Standards) in its content index. (Best practice: including a content index in your company’s report to help users find information quickly.)

However, the report was not prepared “in accordance” with the GRI Standards. Instead, Salesforce opted to reference only certain disclosures and metrics of the GRI framework, as they apparently deemed applicable internally.

The apparent rationale? Since each framework identified in the report — including the GRI Standards, the Task Force on Financial-related Disclosures (TCFD), and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) — define materiality in different ways, Salesforce did “not attempt to formally reconcile the divergent uses of the term materiality”.

In other words, instead of providing a more complete set of disclosures for one of the frameworks, the company opted to in effect dabble in each.

Along with its GRI references, the report includes some SASB references in the content index, and (positively) mentions its support of and use of the TCFD in conducting a climate-related scenario analysis.

I think investors may find this confusing. While Salesforce is ahead of the majority of companies who do not currently acknowledge SASB or TCFD at all, it is difficult for the report reader to discern which disclosures from each framework have been excluded. This does not help to paint a full picture for the reader.

It appears the company does acknowledge this, as it states that, “Over time we will work to expand our disclosures and align more closely to the leading frameworks, even as the frameworks themselves rapidly evolve.” A good practice, I think.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Salesforce is a supporter of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (the 17 SDGs). In its report, Salesforce lists 12 SDGs that the company closely aligns with.

However, the company does not explicitly state how each SDG aligns with a particular action or initiative. Providing this level of detail — common practice among companies that discuss SDGs in their reports — Salesforce could show the reader that these are not merely ideals for the company, but that in fact Salesforce is actually taking actions in regards to each stated goal.

Regarding External Review

Ernst & Young was retained to review and provide limited assurance for select sustainability metrics in Salesforce’s report.

The items reviewed cover Salesforce’s reported GHG emissions, energy procured from renewable resources, and carbon credits. A limited level of assurance and review of only GHG data or specified sections is very commonly seen in CSR reports.

The companies that tend to stand out among their peers in our wide and deep research of corporate disclosure are those that have decided (strategically) to obtain reasonable/high assurance, or opt to have the entire report reviewed by credible third party auditors.

Salesforce’s awards and growth speak for themselves — the company is undoubtedly providing great value to its clients and doing so in a way that people admire.

While its Stakeholder Impact report overall does an excellent job at showcasing the company’s progress, in my comments here I covered the above areas to encourage and provoke thoughts of striving for even greater completeness and reader comprehension.

Not just for Salesforce, but for public companies in general with Saleforce’s report as one example.

Epilogue: Why did I decide to review Salesforce?

During my time as an analyst-intern for G&A Institute, my intern colleagues and I analyzed dozens upon dozens of CSR reports in depth over the months, many of which are reports of The Business Roundtable (BRT) companies.

Many BRT CEO members signed on to the re-stated “corporate purpose” statement last summer and we researched the companies’ sustainability / responsibility track records and public disclosure practices.

In our research, we found that:

  • Twenty-nine (29) BRT companies had upward trends for all Yahoo! platform’s sharing of Sustainalytics scores (including those for environment, social, and governance) since 2017.
  • Of these 29, five had CEOs that were identified on the Harvard Business Review’s Top 100 CEOs list
  • Of these five, Salesforce was the only company whose Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) score rose between 2017 – 2018 (from “B” to”A” score)

So, while I certainly do enjoy using Salesforce’s tools at my job, it had no bearing on my decision to analyze the company’s CSR report for this project. The company’s growth in spite of (or because of) its commitment to people and planet is very exciting to see.

I hope that my analysis is helpful to Salesforce and other companies that may be following this corporate responsibility leader’s sustainability journey.

* * * * * * * *

Since her internship as a report analyst, Julie Nehring joined G&A as a Sustainability Analyst. She continues her research role as a member of the G&A team. She pursued an MBA at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and interned at the Caterpillar Inc Data Innovation Lab. Julie previously worked for several years as a project manager for a national environmental consulting firm and for a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer. As the president of her university’s Net Impact chapter, she enjoyed helping colleagues and classmates get involved and volunteer in the community.

Note the views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Governance & Accountability Institute regarding the company.

Advanced Manufacturing in the Era of Greater Corporate Sustainability – Here’s “Industry 4.0” From the World Economic Forum

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

The 18th Century British song title goes, The World Turned Upside Down. American legend has it that at the end of the War of Independence with the American colonists winning the conflict, the British military played the song with the apt title at Yorktown, Virginia as they surrendered.

We can apply that song title to important developments in the global world of manufacturing in the 21st Century. Important news from Davos is the basis of our commentary here.

The mantra Take, Make, Dispose has been the traditional approach of many manufacturing firms over the many decades of the modern industrial revolution.

It’s 110 years and counting since entrepreneur Henry Ford set up his modern factory in Detroit with the assembly line bringing the car to the factory hand — rather than the worker walking around to find the car and install his component.

Are we in now in Phase One of dramatic change? Phase Two? Three?  The World Economic Forum discussions center on Phase Four – as in, the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And part of that is the focus on achieving greater sustainability in industry.

Discussions and presentations at the WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland always brings forth new ideas, new concepts, new approaches to topic areas such as manufacturing and production. 

The WEF Advanced Manufacturing and Production Initiative has been addressing many issues, including using data and 3-D printing and new materials to foster innovation, and supporting the widespread adoption of “inclusive” technologies.  What does that mean in practical terms?

Furthering the discussion that got underway in 2019, this year the Davos gathering’s participants were treated to a presentation focused on “Industry 4.0” for manufacturing a more sustainable world by a corporate CEO, whose ideas for “four simple solutions” that can help make the global manufacturing industry more sustainable. 

We bring you today CEO Ric Fulop’s “four” simple solutions:

First, the Desktop Metal CEO advises, companies can move to “tooling-free” manufacturing, eliminating scrap. Eliminating tooling can mean use of less parts and fewer products whizzing around the globe; only raw materials would be shipped, creating a more efficient supply chain. (And a more sustainable / less polluting global transport network for manufacturers.)

Second, the spreading out assembly of today can be consolidated, to achieve fewer, more multi-functional assemblies (meaning less parts to transport, saving energy, reducing emissions, saving money). Three-D printing can make contributions here, many experts say. More customization is also more possible with 3-D methods.

Third, “generative design” can open new ways to use artificial intelligence (AI) and mimic nature in some ways; 3-D printing is key here, because new design tools can help industry use fewer natural resources and manufacture lighter weight components for cars and airplanes – lowering carbon emissions in manufacture and long-term product use. And then…

Fourth, circular manufacturing and the use of new polymers moves us closer still to a process where parts are designed to fit into sustainable loops for re-use over and over. 

The Potential Impact on Vehicle Design & Manufacturing

Imagine a time (soon?) when automobile / vehicle parts and components live a very long life, to be used over and over in a line of future new vehicles, as well as live longer “first” lives upon manufacture and use.

Longer use is a fit with current practice — people are now keeping their autos much longer these days and this approach could stretch out vehicle use for years after purchase.

Think of “re-purchase” of your car, with parts and components being re-used in assembly along with the new toys and gadgets that impel us to purchase “the new”.

The post-WWII industrial approach of “planned obsolescence” would be going away. That does not have to mean that auto makers would suffer loss of market; there will always be the new new thing on wheels, but the parts etc may be in their second or third of fourth life!

Henry Ford, the Ford Motor Company founder, not only perfected the process of automobile manufacturing, he took advantage of, and helped to further advance, important materials and components of the car.

Henry Ford-Master Tinkerer

Think of the company’s use of metals / metallurgy; glass; paints; engine blocks; driveshaft components and innovations; fabrics & leather; electrical parts and systems; rubber (tires, fan belts); lighting systems — all present in the Tin Lizzy, the famed Model T, with millions of these cars and T-trucks putting Americans on the road to the future.

Materials in manufacturing are still key; various metals, ordinary and exotic, most long used in modern manufacturing, may over time give way to the use of advanced polymers that are more environmentally-friendly and perfectly suitable for the evolving circular economy. (They don’t rust or get tossed out too soon in the useful life.) Goodbye, auto graveyards at some point.

That old ’56 Chevy or ’69 Pontiac or ’40 Ford that you always yearned to have? Those cars’ future descendants may some day be assembled from parts that date 50 or 60 years back or so.

WEF Lighthouse Companies

The WEF’s concept of developing a network of “lighthouse” companies that would develop the way forward was unveiled in 2019.

Companies in such industries as chemicals, automotive, textiles, healthcare, and electronics would collaborate to develop more efficient processes along the lines outlined here.

The “Platform” developed by WEF today includes 130 organizations from 22 industry sectors, governments, academia and civil society working together. 

One of the participating companies is Desktop Metal; Founder/CEO Ric Fulop described for you the “four simple solutions” above — and in this week’s Top Story.

Top Story

4 ways the way we make things can change for a sustainable world    
Source: World Economic Forum – The way we make things is changing. But the Fourth Industrial Revolution isn’t solely about how new manufacturing technologies, like 3D printing, will benefit companies and consumers. It’s also about how industry can usher in a…

More on the World Economic Forum’s “Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Production” is available at: https://www.weforum.org/platforms/shaping-the-future-of-production

Find this blog post interesting? I explored Henry Ford’s tinkering and the impact on America in a post: https://www.hankboerner.com/staytuned/the-21st-century-company-and-you-iteration-innovation-progress-and-the-now-very-familiar-disruption/

The Circular Economy is Coming Our Way. Here Are Some Things to Think About for Your Product Development and Product Delivery…

February 13, 2020

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

During your travels, or even going about your usual business and personal activities, do you recall the days when… 

For example, experienced pilots remember having to use cockpit instruments (going “IFR”) when flying over large cities because the “smog” (usually thick yellow) eliminated visibility below. 

That was caused by belching smokestacks as dirty coal was burned for industrial use or for generating electric power. Con Ed in New York City was a prominent “smokestacker” in those days.

Or, you may have seen deep and wide gouges in our good Earth where giant machine scoopers were pulling a variety of minerals out for manufacturing products.  The American west and south (and north and east!) are filled with these gaping holes. Wonderful vistas?

As a young pilot, up there as the “Eye in the Sky” on weekends as a hobby to build flight hours, flying and broadcasting beach traffic to WGBB and WGSM (radio) below, I often had to fly in and out of the yellow mists IFR. With choking effects as the cockpit air filled.

Or as you traveled past a flowing river you may have seen thick flows of rubber or petroleum-based factory discharges…don’t worry, downstream the ocean will take it away, we were told.

(I remember seeing the US Royal plant outflow into the Connecticut River, with the rocks in the river all rubber-covered! The river flowed south to Long Island Sound and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Where the junk disappeared. Or did it!

In many countries, especially in Europe and North America, the good news is we have been moving far away from those days. In the U.S., the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, RCRA, Superfund/CERCLA, and a host of other environmental regulations helped to make this one of the cleanest (relatively) countries by the end of the 20th Century.

That’s the good news!

And as the linear model of many years in old-line production methods continues to recede in many factories – that is, the traditional  take, make, use, dispose – and that model moves farther into the past (as described by Tom Tapper of “Nice and Serious” writing for Sustainable Brands), the “circular model” has been steadily emerging. The positive effects are being felt all along the value chain.

So what does this mean for branded company leadership?  Whose brand out there in the consumer or B-to-B marketplaces signals “we hold these values dear” or “look to us for sustainability leadership” or “corporate and societal responsibility is at our core”?

Tom Tapper cites examples of products and practices new and old from such firms as Unilever, CIG, Haagen-Dazs, Coca Cola, Stella, and Aesop, with a focus on their distinct product delivery (packaging, bottles, capsules, other means).  

He offers us his perspectives in a sometimes whimsical but always firmly- grounded style on what to expect in the coming years in brand marketing.

In a circular economy, the author sees five trends to watch:

  • We’ll be thinking of Bottles as “objects of desire”.  (Remember the classic, dark brown 1890’s voluptuous-evoking stylized Coca-Cola bottle of yesteryear?  And whatever happened to the little plastic Pez dispensers!) These were ions of yesteryear.
  • Product and Story. Or, as story.  The quality of and qualities of the product will be the main story told by marketers.  (The smart brand marketing leaders have been doing this for years!)  The drive to reduce plastics use, as example, gives smart marketers new ways to talk about product and packaging that has plastic workarounds (in product and packaging). Not that plastic will go away; it will be “different” in many ways.
  • “Hermit Crab Branding”.  If the brand does not have that beautiful bottle or packaging to offer consumers, they can offer stickers in packs to enable consumers to do their own packaging customizing. Or to cover over the branding on a competitor’s bottle. That is thinking like the Hermit Crab, which live in other sea critters’ cast-off shells.
  • The Coming of Dispenser Wars.  Push here for soap – the product dispenser becomes the competitive battleground, thinks author Tom Tapper. Will consumers want “memorable refill experiences”? Will marketers entertain the customer as he/she refills their containers?  (With music, sounds?) Maybe.  Non-branded containers may become the choice of the merchant (more profit!), like store brands are today.
  • Refill Truck Revolution.  Push here for the soap. If individual product packaging and products in bottles as today’s primary delivery modes recede into the past, will a fleet of electric vehicles someday be visiting your neighborhood to bring you “a premium refill experience”?  Filling your vat when you run low?

So the opportunities inherent in the coming of the Circular Economy, Tom Tapper tells us, present challenges for us as well, especially in that we have to discard the old ways and adapt to change, as in the relationship of the brand and product to the buyers. 

Progress is always about adapting to change.  Risk and opportunity. Welcoming and forbidding.

Just consider for a moment the work involved in the disappearance of those old belching smokestacks and smog over our heads and junk flowing into rivers from outflow pipes and deep gouges in the Earth.  Pilots don’t need to wear smoke masks anymore as they pass over U.S. cities.

We are certainly more productive as a society today than ever before!  U.S. industry is booming, turning out various goods.

And that presents many challenges as well – which the coming of the Circular Economy could help us deal with.

We’re reminded here of the favorite quote of the late Lee Iacocca (he was a leader of both Chrysler and Ford Motor Company.  Lead, follow or get out the way – good advice today: the Circular Economy is coming our way.

Top Stories for This Week

What Will a Circular Economy Mean for Branding?
Source: Sustainable Brands
While a circular economy will present huge challenges to most brands’ conventional business models, there are huge opportunities for those who embrace and adapt to this change — while those who drag their heels with incremental changes will undoubtedly fall behind.

Purpose – This Was the Buzzword of 2019 for The Corporate Sector & Investment Community. The “Purpose” Debate Will Continue in 2020

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

Another in the series about The Corporate Citizen and Society

As 2019 draws to a close — we look back at a year with a lively discussion about The Corporate Citizen and Society…and “Purpose” discussions…

The year 2019 began with an important challenge to corporate leaders from Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock (with more than US$6 trillion in AUM). 

The very influential investor writes each year to the CEOs of companies that his firm invests in on behalf of BlackRock clients. There are literally hundreds of publicly-traded companies in the BlackRock portfolio (managed and indexed funds).

At the start of 2018, CEO Fink wrote that every company needs a framework to navigate difficult landscapes and it must begin with a clear embodiment of the company’s purpose (in the business model and corporate strategy).

He explained to the many CEOs: “Purpose being not a mere tagline or marketing campaign; it is a reason for the company’s being – what is does every day to create value for its stakeholders.”

Then (in January 2019) Larry Fink explained in his start-of-the-year letter to CEOs as he expanded on the theme, Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.  And, profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose; in fact, profits and purpose are inextricably linked.

This 2019 communication to CEOs pointed out that the world needs their leadership (especially) in a polarized environment. Stakeholders are pushing companies to tackle social and political issues as governments fall short of doing that.

And (very important) Millennials, now outnumbering the Baby Boomers in the workforce, represent a new generation’s focus – on various expressions of, and clear demonstrations of corporate purpose.

The January 2019 letter of course created a buzz in the corporate sector and in the capital markets as people thought about the meaning and weighed in on all sides of the issue.  What many agreed with was that there were now clear signals that the half-century doctrine for the corporate sector of “shareholder primacy” was giving way to “stakeholder primacy.”

As the purpose discussion rolled on, in August 2019 the influential Business Roundtable issued a revision of its Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, signed by 181 of the CEOs of the largest of American companies (firms both publicly-traded and privately-owned). 

Important step forward: the CEOs publicly committed to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders: customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders.

The Roundtable’s Principles of Corporate Governance has been issued since 1978; from 1997 on this endorsed the principle of shareholder primacy (that corporations existing principally to serve shareholders).  The new statement, said the BRT in summer 2019, outlines a modern standard for corporate responsibility. 

The team at G&A Institute looked at the companies whose CEOs are members of the Business Roundtable (almost 200 in all), examining their public disclosures and structured reporting on “walking-the-talk” of “purpose” and “responsibility to stakeholders” 

What are the companies doing — and how are they telling the story of the doing — the walking the talk?

Our approach was to analyze the means of disclosure and reporting “on corporate purpose” and the focus on any related content of sustainability / responsibility / ESG / corporate citizenship reporting by the BRT member companies.  (The good news to share:  there’s plenty of relevant information on purpose in the leadership corporate reporting. You can read through the respective corporate reports to divine the meaning and expressions of purpose in the pages.)

The analysis is available on the G&A Institute web site – see this week’s Top Story for the headline and link to our Resource Paper. There are relevant links there as well.

What will the purpose of the corporation discussion be in the new year, 2020?  Stay tuned to the perspectives shared that we’ll have in our G&A Institute Sustainability Highlights newsletter and on this blog.

Best wishes to you for the holiday season from all of us at G&A!

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s 2019 letter: https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/investor-relations/larry-fink-ceo-letter

G&A Institute Releases Analysis of The Business Roundtable Companies’ ESG Reporting Practices
Source: Governance & Accountability Institute

Highlights:

 Governance & Accountability Institute’s research team examined the ESG / sustainability reporting practices of the BRT signatory corporations to examine trends and create a baseline for tracking progress and actions going  forward.  G&A released these initial benchmark results in a resource paper available on our website.