The World Economic Forum on Corporate Citizenship Topics – With Focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Another in the series – The Corporate Citizen and Society – the Dynamics of the Relationship

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

“Davos” – the annual gathering of the elite in business, politics, popular culture and journalism (and other corners of society) in the Swiss winter is familiar to most of us.

This event attended by more than 2,000 global thought leaders is staged by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Each January the meeting is convened and a steady stream of proclamations comes forth with positions discussed and often adopted by participants.

The steady stream of news from Davos, Switzerland not only in winter but throughout the year frequently touches on matters to be categorized in the wheelhouses of managers in corporate governance, corporate sustainability, corporate responsibility, investor relations, and corporate citizenship (and other functions).

The WEF stages conferences during the year in East Asia, Africa and South America; also, in the Middle East, China and India. But “Davos” is the well-known appellation for the winter meeting in the city of that name.

Because so many corporate leaders make commitments and “promises” for future action at Davos and other WEF regional meetings, it’s important for those reporting to the C-suite as well as in the suite and in board rooms to be aware of the promises of strategy to be adopted or adjusted, and expected actions to follow.

Here is a brief look at some of these recent proclamations to illustrate this.

The 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (in January 2018) closed with a Call to Action to Globalize Compassion and Leave No One Behind.

This was an important gathering of 2,000+ leaders as the world’s attention continued to shift to “sustainability “ and related topics (such as global warming and transition to a low-carbon economy among the issues).

The meeting “celebrated” the spirit of inclusion, diversity and respect for human rights, putting people at the center of the story with a call to action, said one of the seven female co-chairs at the meeting, Sharon Burrow. “Let’s ensure that Davos 2018 is just the beginning of a movement where we globalize compassion and ensure a world in which no one is left behind.”

There were 400 separate sessions at the meeting, and one theme kept threading throughout: the need to embrace our common humanity in the face of the rapid technological changes ushered in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution” (FIR) was earlier framed and addressed in spring 2017 by the WEF Center for the FIR with new network centers opening in India, Japan and the UAE; partners for the initiative include the governments of Bahrain, the UK and Denmark, the Inter-American Development Bank, Deutsche Bank, and others.

The year before the January 2018 gathering in Davos, WEF had assembled 700 leaders in September 2017 (during the UN General Assembly and Climate Week meetings in New York City) to announce public-private initiatives:

  • One was the “Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth” – a private-public sector initiative to identify and fund new ventures (and scale them!) to “harness technologies” to benefit the global environment.
  • The Global Battery Alliance to “clean up” battery industry supply chains.
  • A “National Task Force” in South Africa to close skills gap.
  • A Disaster Risk Innovation Fund to test and scale innovations using mobile technologies to help in humanitarian emergencies and disasters. This was organized with the help of the United Kingdom for International Development (UK DFID) and the GSM Association (GSMA), the trade group representing almost 1,000 mobile communications operators and 300 industry companies.

The 2017 meeting was the WEF’s inaugural “Sustainable Development Impact Summit” — intended to broaden public-private sector cooperation to meet the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and work to achieve the goals agreed to at the 2015 Paris climate summit.

What steps can public and private and social sector leadership take to put the “common humanity” theme into action? Here are some things agreed to at Davos:

  • The WEF published a report – “Towards a Reskilling Revolution” — providing guidance need to help millions of people find jobs lost due to technological change.
  • The WEF-led “IT Industry Skills Initiative” whose “SkillSET” portal aims to reach a million IT workers by 2021.
  • A new multi-stakeholder initiative is “Friends of the Ocean Action” — launching an “Ocean Action Track” to protect oceans, seas and marine resources vital to so many coastal and non-coastal nations.
  • Marc Benioff – founder, Chair / Co-CEO of Salesforce.com, pledged US$4.5 million funding through the Benioff Ocean Initiative.

Salesforce Chair/Co-CEO Benioff heads the 30,000 employee company, and was named by Fortune as one of the world’s greatest leaders, and by Harvard Business Review as one of the 10 Best-Performing CEOs. He was the co-chair of the summit.

He explained: “There is incredible tension between the dramatic innovation that is occurring and the issue of equality. The technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution offer the opportunity to drive progress to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

(CEO Benioff has a new book out now – “Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change”.)

The summit was designed to accelerate the “successful achievement” of the UN SDGs.

  • The WEF’s “Closing the Gender Gap” is attracting state support in Latin America (Peru, Chile, Panama and Argentina were on board at the time of the meeting).
  • Corporate leaders from Alphabet, Coca-Cola Company, Royal Philips and Unilever teamed with governments of Indonesia, Nigeria, China and Rwanda to create the “Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy” (PACE) to address the mounting problems posed by discarded electronics and the plastic waste stream through recycling these manufactured items back into economy for future use.

As developing economies bring more people into the middle class, the consumption of meat products rises (more animal protein is consumed).

While this is good for ranchers and meat packers it is seen as not so good for the global environment by climate activists and sustainable food activists.

And so out of Davos comes the “Meat: the Future” initiative, to help identify ways that animal meat and protein production can be made more safe (for all involved, including the animals), affordable and sustainable as the industry players work to meet growing consumer demand.

Thomson Reuters, Europol and WEF announced a partnership to raise greater awareness worldwide to help governments and industry fight financial crime and modern slavers. Key: Promoting more effective information-sharing and step up best practices in compliance.

And that leads to a currently-debated hot issue: the growing prevalence of “fake news”, especially in political circles and affecting local elections in developed democracies.

  • The Craig Newmark Foundation is collaborating with WEF; the aim is to bring tech /social media industry leaders together with stakeholders to address fake news issues. (Craig Newmark was the founder of Craig’s List and his philanthropy includes funding for journalism institutions such as the Poynter Institute and graduate schools for journalists.)

The WEF, through its Davos and regional gatherings, and an array of public-private sector initiatives, provides ample opportunities for corporate citizens – and their CEOs and boards – to identify and leverage opportunities to bolster existing core businesses and develop new and innovative ventures with and without partners.

In 2015, WEF was recognized as The International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

We’ll continue to share news of interest related to the corporate sector from the World Economic Forum in this series of commentaries.

Note: In the public dialogue now about “purpose”, WEF developed its “Our Mission” statement years ago. “The Forum engages the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. We believe that progress happens by bringing together people from all walks of life who have th4e drive and influence to make positive change.”

Full statement here: https://www.weforum.org/about/world-economic-forum

The Climate Change Crisis – “Covering Climate Now” Can Shape The Public Dialogue – And Influence Outcomes

November 7 2019

Another in the About the Climate Change Crisis series

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

The increasing tempo of the public dialogue on “climate change” issues in the United States reflects in some ways the divide in public opinion on critical issues facing the American public, government, business, the financial sector.

Is the Climate changing? Yes and No. Are humans causing the changes? Yes and No. Do we need to take action now? Yes, No, Maybe.

Should we all be very worried about the survival of humanity? The planet?

Yes and No. As novelist Kurt Vonnegut would say — And so it goes.

The United States of America participated in the historic 2015 Paris (“COP 21”) meetings and signed on to the Paris Agreement (or Accord) along with almost 200 other nations, with President Barack Obama becoming a signatory in 2016.

The Paris Agreement was “official” for the U.S. (and the world) in November 2016 (as the family of nations formalized their commitment and involvement).

In September 2016 by presidential action President Obama had presented the necessary documents to the U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon for U.S. participation.

The People’s Republic of China also presented the documents, a collaboration negotiated by President Obama.

These steps by Barack Obama avoided presenting what amounted to an international treaty agreement to the U.S. Senate for ratification, as required by the U.S. ConstitutionArticle II-Section 2the advice and consent of the Senate is necessary for the President to make treaties.

Such approval for an international treaty assuredly would not happen in today’s contentious political environment. Even if not joining the other nations and tackling climate issues as an organized effort (the Federal Government might mean prevention of catastrophic damage to our nation.

Such is the yes/no politics today, even considering the massive threats posed by the changing climate.

The U.S. also contributed US$3 billion to the Green Climate Fund by President Obama’s orders.

And so by similar executive actions, his successor in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump in March 2017 with swipe of his pen (actually a Sharpie®) informally signaled the start of the complex and lengthy process of removing the U.S. from the historic Paris Agreement to limit the damage of global warming.

By his side: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (since gone from the environmental agency).

The backdrop: reliable scientific reports that 2016 was the warmest year on record to date!

And credible scientists telling us that we have a decade at most to get control of climate change issues!

So What Did New the U.S.A. Leader Do?

President Trump on November 4, 2019 officially notified the international community – and specifically the United Nations – that the process of withdrawal was beginning next fall and would be complete one year from now — the day before Election Day 2020.

Donald Trump before being elected declared among other things that climate change was a Chinese hoax. (One of his positioning comments on the subject: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” – November 6, 2012 tweet.)

But climate change is real – and we face a climate crisis in 2019!

Note that in November 2018 the government of the United States of America published the fourth climate change assessment by key U.S. government agencies: the “Climate Science Special Report” was prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the Federal government. (We’re including an overview in this series of commentaries.)

The contents are of significance if you are an investor, a company executive or board member, an issue advocate, public sector officer holder or civic leader, consumer — or other type of stakeholder. There are volumes of data and descriptions in the report presenting a range of “high probability” climate change outcomes in this the 21st Century.

Good news, at last from the important purveyors of news: the publishers of Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation created the “Covering Climate Now”  intended to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate emergency. (The initiative was launched in April 2019.)

The founders are joined by cooperating media that today reaches more than one billion people worldwide.

Representatives of 350 newsrooms in 32 countries have joined to ramp up coverage of the climate crisis and possible solutions. The campaign is designed to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate emergency.
Combined, the cooperating media reach more than one billion people worldwide.

Participants in the campaign include Bloomberg, Agence France-Press, The Guardian, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The New Jersey Star Ledger, The Oklahoman, Corporate Knights, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, La Republica (Italy), The Hindustan Times (India), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), La Razon (Spain), Greenbiz.com, Huffpost, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, Scientific American, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, and many many other communications platforms.
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Partner organizations in the campaign include wire services, news agencies, newspapers, magazines, digital news sites, journals, radio, podcasters, and institutions like Princeton University and Yale Climate Change & Health Initiative.

Could it be that the press, especially the U.S. press, is finally waking up to the climate story?

That question was posed in September 2019 by Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope in response to the initiative. Their comments are here for you:
https://www.cjr.org/covering_climate_now/climate-crisis-new-beginning.php

Is where you get your news a participant? Check the list here: https://www.coveringclimatenow.org/partners

Participating publisher Corporate Knights points out to us that “climate change” was suggested as a term to use by pollster Frank Luntz to President George W. Bush instead of the more frightening term, “global warming”. Let’s not scare the people. Gently move them forward.

We do need to return to the more accurate and realistic reference of global warming. The threats posed by warming of land and sea are visible to us – every day now!

But, OK, if climate change is the popular branding, then let’s talk about the climate change crisis or emergency (so says the media collaboration).
We’ve introduced a series of climate change crisis commentaries in this blog.

And the title for the running series of commentaries is: About the Climate Crisis series, following the lead of the collaborating journalists.

Let us know how we are doing. And suggest to us issues and topics and developments that might be of interest to other readers of the G&A Institute’s Sustainability Update blog.

Please do Stay Tuned to this series — “About the Climate Crisis”.

Climate Change-Related Disclosure: The TCFD Is Here — the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures

Original Document: August 2017 – published in G&A’s “To the Point” Management Briefing Platform

Republished on  Sustainability UpdateOctober 2, 2019

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

The Work of the TCFD Will Affect Your Company’s Important Financial Disclosure & Filings.

And Your Relationship With Investors, Lenders, Asset Managers, Insurers, Public Sector Entities…

More climate-related disclosure in store for your company’s income statement/cash flow statement/balance sheet.

How will your company be affected by the FSB TFCD guidelines for your company’s ESG disclosure?

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) is a global, multi-stakeholder organization that brings together senior policy makers from the G20** nations plus leaders from the European Union (with 28 individual states), Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, and Switzerland.

The Board’s gatherings include representatives of the G-20’s central bankers, regulatory leadership, bank and financial sector oversight leaders, and others.

The deliberate and work to create “financial stability” policies for countries to follow — these are not mandates, not replacements for existing sovereign authorities — that those at the table as thought leaders and influencers can also take home and implement in various ways.

There are six regional “consultative groups” that help coordinate activities in an additional 70-plus countries, including in developing economies & emerging markets.

In this way as financial sector policies are being formulated there is help available from more experienced professional (such as professional colleagues in developed nations, the G20 plus four group),

The work of the FSB (formed after the 2008 global financial crisis) is all about addressing risk in the financial services sector – the important tasks of identifying risk, addressing risk, avoiding risk, developing protective risk management approaches for underwriters (insurance companies); lenders (banks); investors (asset managers and asset owners).

And in “risk” for all of these entities and their activities there is the looming question of the possible impacts on all kinds of assets in a rapidly-changing global and in regional climate conditions.

The Finance Ministers and Central Bankers of the nations in the G-20 asked the FSB to address this evolving challenge and to review and make recommendations on how the financial sector can take account of climate-related issues. Think: The Federal Reserve and the Securities & Exchange Commission in the U.S.A. — the Bank of England in the U.K.

And the focus is on “risk” for all these entities and their activities.

Therefore, there is the looming questions about possible impacts of a changing climate on both corporate and fiduciary assets.

The FSB leaders convened a “Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures — the FSB TCFD*.

The task force is headed by Chair Michael Bloomberg (he’s former mayor of New York City, principal of Bloomberg LP, UN Envoy to Cities, chair of the SASB, etc.).  Mr. Bloomberg leads the 32-member task force; the work began in December 2015.

There were numerous invitations to stakeholders to submit suggestions (such as the American Bar Association); public meetings were held; industry input was solicited — and at year-end 2016 the recommendations were being drafted for public release in late-June 2017.

Quick Review
The primary aims of the task force work were:

  • To develop climate-related disclosures that could promote more informed investment, credit, and insurance underwriting decisions;
  • This, in turn, would enable stakeholders to understand the carbon-related assets in the financial sector and the financial system’s exposure to climate-related risks.

The recent release of the task force’s draft report is an important heads up to boards and managers in many sectors — the carbon-related risk / the climate change risk is likely to be a very important consideration for the financial sector players going forward, in the ways they do business with your company.

It is important to note that the FSB task force focused on the financial impact of climate change on a corporation, especially in the financial services sector — not the impact of the corporation on the environment.

These are the four top-line thematic areas for corporate disclosure on climate change matters across sectors and industries; these are to be disclosed in either the regular public filings or in supplemental reports on a voluntary basis (so far):

Corporate Governance Factors
The organization’s governance structure around climate change risk and opportunities (in the USA, the SEC has reminded public company boards of directors of their responsibility to oversee this more than six years ago).

Strategies / Strategy Setting
The current and potential impacts of climate risks on the company’s strategies, and, operations, business, and financial planning.

Risk Management
The company should identify, assess and manage climate-change risks and disclose the processes used to do this.

Metrics / Targets To Be Set
Determining the appropriate metrics used and targets set by the organization to assess and manage climate-related risks and opportunities? These should be explained to stakeholders.

Think about the approach of the FSB TCFD guidelines and the impact on your organization in this way:

  • There are transition risks for a company which will include: policy, legal; technology; markets; corporate reputation issues.
  • Transition opportunities for companies will include: enhancements in resource efficiency; varied energy/sources; innovative products & services; corporate resilience.
  • All of the above could and do have an impact on the company’s financials — its revenues and expenditures.
  • The impacts should be reflected in key corporate disclosures: the 10K, the proxy statement, the income statements; cash flow statements; balance sheets.
  • Which then impacts: corporate assets and liabilities; capital and financing.
  • And all of this is the province of the board of directors and the C-Suite of the public company. The responsibility is clearly at the top of the organization in the Task Force work.

Ask yourself as you evaluate these developments:  What business is your company in?  How resilient to climate-related risk is your company? Are you taking advantage of climate change opportunities?

There is [Task Force] Guidance for Financial and Non-Financial companies in certain sectors. 

  1. For the Financial Sector: Banks:  Insurance Companies; Asset Managers; Asset Owners.
  2. For Non-Financial Industry Categories: [Initially] Energy; Transport; Materials & Buildings; Forest Products.  These industries are identified as accounting for the largest proportion of GHG emissions, energy usage, and water usage.

The task force suggests that companies in these sectors with more than US$1 billion in annual revenues should consider disclosing strategy and metrics and targets information in other reports when the information is not considered to be material and therefore included in the required financial filings.

It is expected that the adoption/uptake of the FSB task force recommendations by companies in the financial sector and in targeted industries will evolve over time, as companies disclose important information and [especially] as financial sector firms utilize the information in some way.

The task force adopted a five-year time frame for development of quality and consistency of reporting as suggested by the recommendations.

The ultimate goal: Broad understanding of the concentration of carbon-related assets in the financial system and the financial system’s exposure to climate-related risks (such as in the industries in focus).

The task force will be monitoring implementation of the recommendations beginning later in 2017 and into 2018 and will engage with stakeholders going forward.

Corporate Community Reaction

How did the corporate community react to these recommendations?
The FSB says more 100 companies with combined market caps of US$3.3 trillion and financial community firms with more than $24 trillion in AUM provided statements of support, encouraging the embrace of the TFCD recommendations.

The FSB task force recommendations closely align with other public disclosure standards and frameworks. Adoption would move a company in the direction of an integrated reporting structure.

The SASB recommendations for sustainability disclosure such as in the 10-k is closely aligned with material information (and materiality is addressed by the task force).

It’s important to keep in mind: The GRI Standards, taking effect in January 2018, replaces the current G4 framework for all corporate reporting; the GRI Standards will definitely move companies in the direction of reporting against the FSB TFCD recommendations.

If you have questions about the task force recommendations and the impact on your company, or the opportunities presented for enhanced disclosure for investors and stakeholders, the G&A Institute team is available for a conversation.

We are monitoring the uptake of the important climate change disclosure recommendations by U.S. and global companies going forward.

RESOURCES:

# # #

Notes:

The TCFD:
* The Task Force Vice Chairs include Graeme Pitkethly, CFO Unilever; Denise Pavarina, Managing Officer Banco Bradesco; Christian Thimann, Group Head, Strategy, Sustainability and Public Affairs, AXA; and Yeo Lian Sim, Special Advisor, Singapore Stock Exchange.

Task Force Members include leaders at KPMG; BlackRock; Generation Investment Management; JP MorganChase; UBS Asset Management; Moody’s; Tata Group; Ernst & Young; Barclays; Bank of China; Deloitte; PGGM; Swiss Re; BHP Billiton; HSBC; Storebrand; Aviva Investors; ENI; S&P Global Ratings; Tokio Marine Holdings; Canada Pension Plan Investment Board; Daimler; Air Liquide Group; Dow Chemical; EnBW; PGGM. 

Keep in mind these important organizations are members of the Financial Stability Board:

  • USA:  U.S. Department of the Treasury; US Securities & Exchange Commission; Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Canada:  Bank of Canada; Office of Superintendent of Financial Institutions; Department of Finance
  • China:  People’s Bank of Chain; China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission; Ministry of Finance
  • United Kingdom: Bank of England; Financial Conduct Authority; HM Treasury
  • Germany:  Deutsche Bundesbank; BAFIN; Bundesministerium der Finanzen 

The complete list is here: https://www.fsb.org/about/fsb-members/

The G-20

** The Group of Twenty (“G20”) nations comprise an international forum for discussing economic, financial and related issues. The Group of 20 account for more than 80% of the world Gross Domestic Product and almost the same amount of world population.

The first meeting of the Group was in Berlin in late-1999; there have been almost two dozen meetings since then; attendees include heads of state. (The initial participants were finance ministers and central bank leaders — the same players who asked for the Task Force to go to work on expanding corporate disclosure on climate change issues.) 

The G-20 nations are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudia Arabia, the Republic of South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America – plus the European Union; plus the European Central Bank; plus The Netherlands and Spain, “non-members” that attends leader summits.

Also participating and invited to conferences: Chair, ASEAN Association of Southeast Asian Nations; African Union; New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); World Health Organization (WHO); International Monetary Fund (IMF); United Nations; World Bank; International Labour Organization (ILO); Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); World Trade Organization (WTO); Chile, representing the APEC nations; Asian Development Bank (ADB).  The invite list can vary. 

The G7 is a smaller group: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States of America.

This was originally the G8; Russia was added (the eighth state) was suspended after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The G7 governments’ focus is on issues in the more developed industrial economies.

NASDAQ Exchange Publishes the “ESG Reporting Guide” for Corporate Managements and Boards

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

There is encouraging news for sustainability professionals coming from the world of stock exchanges this month.  The NASDAQ Exchange just published its guide for listed companies – as well for privately-owned firms as perhaps future IPOs for NASDAQ listing – for companies’ public ESG reporting. 

This is the ESG Reporting Guide – A Voluntary Support Program for Companies”.

The pilot program for the guide effort got underway with NASDAQ’s Nordic and Baltic markets in 2017; the May 2019 guide includes third party reporting methodologies for company leaders’ education. 

The recommendations are “completely voluntary” for companies, the exchange emphasizes. Evan Harvey is the Global Head of Sustainability for NASDAQ and key player in development of the guide.

As the corporate ESG reporting pace continues to increase in both volume and velocity, company boards and managements do need more guidance on evolving ESG / sustainability standards and frameworks that could be used [for their increased disclosure and structured reports such as those published annually or periodically for their investors]. 

These frameworks, NASDAQ explains, include the Global Reporting Initiative Standards, (GRI); the standards of the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB) for 79 industries; the TCFD recommendations (the work of the FSB’s Task Force on Climate-Related for Financial Disclosures); and (as example) the guidance and frameworks for industry reporting such as GRESB for the real estate industry. Note: G&A Institute is the Data Partner for the GRI in the U.S.A., U.K. and Republic of Ireland.

The NASDAQ guide developed along the lines of such ESG / sustainability reporting “being voluntary” by private sector companies underscores that we are yet not quite at the “order to publish” from the United States stock exchanges.

Halfway ‘round the world, the Hong Kong and Singapore stock exchanges set the pace with such listed company rules.  In Hong Kong, listed companies must “comply or explain” for their ESG reporting; in Singapore, the rule is to publish the annual corporate sustainability report after 1/1/17 – also on comply or explain basis.

And in Europe, companies larger than certain market caps and employee counts must report on their CR activities; (“The European Directive of Non-Financial and Diversity Information by Certain Large Companies”, part of the EU’s Initiative of CSR.)

Getting to a “listed rule requirement” that exchange-listed companies must publish an annual or more frequent corporate sustainability report is a heavy lift in the U.S. capital markets, which typically reflect the direction of the political winds in Washington D.C. and the opinions within the corporate community. (Such as: this type of reporting means more work and expense.)

Right now, the chair of the SEC – the regulator of both the stock exchanges and publicly-traded companies – is a Republican and two other members of the five-member Commission are “Rs”.  Their party’s leader in the White House is busily dismantling environmental protection and other rules and pulling the U.S. out of the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.

Background:  The regulatory activities of the stock exchanges based in the United States are governed by statutes passed by the U.S. Congress (such as the Securities Act of 1933 and Exchange Act of 1934) and the stock exchanges therefore by federal law are designated as non-governmental “self-regulating organizations” or SROs. 

As SROs, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ Exchange have certain authority to establish rules and regulations and set standards for companies (“issuers”) whose stock is listed for trading on their exchange.  Of course, the views of the listed company leaders and other stakeholders are considered when rules are being developed.

Proposed listing company or brokerage (“member”) rules are filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission (created by that 1934 law) to oversee and regulate certain activities. And so, the proposed rules for listed companies, brokerage firms and other entities are filed with SEC and public comment invited before SEC approval and then the exchange’s official adoption of the Rule.  

A recent NASDAQ SEC filing example is: “Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule to Adopt Additional Requirements for Listings in Connection with an Offering Under Regulation A of the Securities Act” in April 2019.

Should the U.S. exchanges adopt rules requiring corporate ESG reporting?  Could they?  Will they? Will SEC review and approve such rules for exchange-listed firms?  These are important questions for our times.  Of course, many people are “Staying Tuned!”

An important P.S.: The 1934 Act also ordered publicly traded companies to file annual and other periodic reports.  In the 1970s, the NYSE listing rules required listed companies to begin publishing quarterly reports; some of the listed companies reacted with great alarm. 

But shortly afterward the SEC made this a requirement for all listed companies. And so the familiar 10-K, 10-Q etc.  This extends to non-US companies raising capital in the U.S. such as listing their securities on an American exchange.

Note from Hank Boerner: This writer once served as the NYSE’s head of communications and as the Exchange’s advisor to listed company investor relations, corporate secretaries and corporate communicators on things like timely disclosure and related topics.

Our announcement of [new] listed company rules calling for quarterly corporate reporting and other reforms was quickly greeted by many more jeers than welcoming cheers! But today, quarterly reporting is a settled matter. One day, we may see the same for corporate sustainability reporting.

Click here to find out more about Hong Kong and Singapore exchange rules.

NASDAQ, NYSE, Hong Kong, Singapore – all are participating in the World Federation of Stock Exchanges (WFE) Principles to exert leadership in promoting a sustainable finance agenda. Those principles are explained in the report here.

This Week’s Top Stories

Nasdaq Launches Global Environmental, Social And Governance (ESG) Reporting Guide For Companies
(Thursday – May 23, 2019) Source: NASDAQ – Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) has announced the launch of its new global environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting guide to support public and private companies. The 2019 ESG Reporting Guide includes the latest… 

More information is available at: https://business.nasdaq.com/esg-guide

G&A NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR 2019/2020 SUSTAINABILITY REPORTS RESEARCH ANALYST INTERNSHIP

G&A’S unpaid internship opportunity is for qualified students interested in learning more about corporate sustainability and corporate ESG performance (“Environmental, Social, Governance”) issues. G&A Institute Interns learn important elements about the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards for sustainability reporting as well as other common frameworks such as CDP, RobecoSAM CSA (DJSI), SASB, IIRC, SDGs, and concepts in sustainability such as materiality, stakeholder engagement, external assurance, balance, comparability, and many others that can be used in their future careers.

The work will support G&A’s pro-bono unpaid relationship as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) data partner for the US, UK, and Ireland, along with contributing to associated research on sustainability reporting trends.

The GRI’s reporting framework and standards are the most widely used in the world for these types of reports. However, G&A interns will analyze all types of sustainability reporting and frameworks; beyond the GRI framework.

This is a rapidly growing area of interest to Wall Street, Investors and various corporations from all sectors and industries. In 2018, G&A interns contributed to recent research backing G&A’s annual publication tracking sustainability reporting trends and found that 85% of S&P 500 companies were publishing sustainability reports. This number is up from 20% in 2011!

Opportunity:  

  • Discover the ins and outs of the world’s leading sustainability framework (GRI)
  • Learn to analyze data and interpret content from GRI sustainability reporting
  • Gain insights into the rapidly growing field of ESG from industry-experts
  • Assist in team research supporting G&A publications; public recognition will be given to all interns involved in research and publications

Internship Title:  Sustainability Report Research Analyst (supporting G&A’s GRI Data Partner relationship)

Virtual Location: Work is done remotely – at your own location with a flexible work schedule.  Initial training via virtual meeting tools. There will be opportunities to attend industry networking and training events with G&A’s network of event and training partners.

Time Period & Commitments: Internship position requires approximately 10 hours per week and runs Summer 2019 through May 2020.  The timing of the work is flexible for a majority of the time required and can be done remotely. 

Compensation: This is an unpaid experience only internship.

MORE ABOUT THE INTERN POSITION
In this role, you will work as part of a team to analyze sustainability reports for inclusion in the largest global database of sustainability reports, the GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database (database.globalreporting.org).
Learning to read, analyze, use and structure data from reports using the GRI Standards, GRI G4, GRI-Reference, as well as NON-GRI corporate and institutional reports, will comprise the majority of this assignment.  The research will also contribute to several published research reports on various trends in sustainability reporting which are widely referenced by media, academics, business, capital markets players and other important sustainability stakeholders.

Student(s) selected will have the opportunity to experience a fast-paced, highly-adaptive, mentoring culture in a small but growing company with a unique niche. This is a hands-on position with considerable learning opportunity for those headed into corporate responsibility / sustainability / citizenship or sustainability / impact investment careers.

G&A interns get public recognition for their work in published reports, on G&A’s web platforms, blogs, and public press releases.

G&A’s is proud of its Intern Alumni and are happy to share their success with the world, as they accomplish great things through their careers navigating the way to sustainability.  To see what past G&A Interns have been doing (and their backgrounds) check out G&A’s Honor Roll at http://www.ga-institute.com/about-the-institute/the-honor-roll.html  

INTERNSHIP CANDIDATE REQUIREMENTS

  • Must be in senior year of Bachelors program or in a Masters program with major/studies focused on business, capital markets, ESG, environmental and/or sustainability issues and topics.
  • Demonstrate strong background / keen interest or past work experience in ESG and sustainability-related issues / topics.  
  • Having a basic understanding of business and the capital markets is mandatory.
  • Must have strong skillsets and experience in independent online research and analysis.
  • Must be excellent at using Excel / Google Sheets and researching on Google.
  • Have strong technical, communication and organizational skills. 
  • Must be self-driven and able to work independently to meet expectations and deadlines.
  • Must be fluent in English, additional languages are a plus.
  • Applicants with good writing and editing abilities will have a preference.

APPLICATION PROCESS
If you meet the above requirements, interested students should send:

  1. A cover letter outlining why you would be a good fit for this role.
  2. Resume including your education, skill sets, and work experience.
  3. A one-to-two page introduction essay on what you would like to learn more about (in terms of your career goals), what your interests are, and anything else you feel may be relevant to the job/our organization. Include sectors or industries you may be particularly interested in regarding ESG / Sustainability.
  4. Samples of writing or research on sustainability or other topics are also a plus.

Send application materials to Governance & Accountability Institute at:
lcoppola@ga-institute.com & agallagher@ga-institute.com

ABOUT GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY INSTITUTE
Founded in 2006, Governance & Accountability Institute is a New York City-based company that specializes in research, communications, strategies and other services focused on corporate sustainability and corporate ESG performance (“Environmental, Social, Governance”) issues. 

G&A is the data partner for the United States, United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).  The Global Reporting Initiative is a non-profit organization that promotes the use of sustainability reporting as a way for organizations to become more sustainable and contribute to sustainable development.

GRI provides all companies and organizations with a comprehensive set of sustainability reporting standards that are the most widely used and respected around the world.  Currently, thousands of global organizations use the GRI to report on their Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) strategies, impacts, opportunities and engagements (www.globalreporting.org).  

As the US, UK and Ireland data partner of the GRI, G&A’s role is to collect, organize, and analyze sustainability reports that are issued by corporations, public entities, not-for-profits and other entities in the United States, United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland for the benefit of all stakeholders. 

Send application materials to Governance & Accountability Institute at:
lcoppola@ga-institute.com & agallagher@ga-institute.com

A Deeper Shade of Green: The Social Layer of Green FSAs

By Ruth Rennie

Developing Green Firm Specific Advantages (GFSAs) allows firms to build business capacities and assets that enhance both economic and environmental performance.

However developing GFSAs focused solely on environmental management capacity will be inadequate to deliver sustainability and long term financial performance.

An additional set of GFSAs that build capacity to manage the social dimension of the people, planet, profit equation are required. These relate to the internalisation of the social contract, operational approaches that develop social equity, and communications approaches focused on inclusive constituency building.

Introduction

Sustainability frameworks build on the fundamental concept of the “triple bottom line” (TBL) balancing the needs of profit, planet and people. The TBL concept aims to broaden the focus of business performance from profit and loss to tracking and managing a company’s economic (not just financial), social, and environmental impact.

This enables companies to understand the full costs of doing business and calculate real value added.

Today risks associated with climate change, resource scarcity, increasingly stringent government regulation and consumer pressure for transparent and accountable business practice have shifted the focus of sustainability from a simple demonstration of corporate social responsibility to a core driver of commercial viability. Yet business leaders still seldom pay the same attention to people and planet targets as they do to achieving profitability (source: Elkington 2018).

The definition of “green” firm specific advantages (FSAs) first developed in the 1990s acknowledges that firms are likely to invest in better environmental performance only if they will also lead to higher economic returns.

Green FSAs (GFSAs) are business capacities and assets that allow firms to enhance both economic and environmental performance by enabling them to respond to and leverage evolving environmental challenges to achieve sustainable growth and competitive advantage. Developing GFSAs has a range of benefits for firms including cost and operational efficiencies, improved innovation and technological capabilities, enhanced product differentiation and market opportunities, and reputational enhancement (Singh et al 2014).

However, the definition of “green” FSAs related only to environmental management capabilities, creates an unbalanced framework that ignores critical capacities and assets that firms need to manage the social dimensions of sustainability that are increasingly critical to ensure both environmental and financial performance.

The need for wider set of Green FSAs

Though much of the sustainability industry of consultants and framework developers continue to equate “sustainability” and “green” approaches with environmentally-friendly and carbon neutral, the new generation of “green” frameworks explicitly link these issues with social equity and inclusion.

The United Nations calls for “Green Economies” which are “low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive” (UN Environment). The current “Green New Deal” policy resolution in the USA emphasises the role of environmental crises and economic transformation in exacerbating “systemic injustices” by disproportionately affecting already disadvantaged “frontline and vulnerable communities.” (Green New Deal Policy Resolution, 2019).

There is ample evidence that businesses are increasingly confronted with risks related to social equity and inclusion that threaten both their commercial and sustainability performance. In a recent survey 80 percent of businesses said they expected their company to be affected by changes to “the social contract” (defined as the general agreement on the rights and responsibilities of members of society[1]) over the next 10 years.

These include workforce risks related to payment of a living wage, technology replacing jobs, and erosion of worker benefits through efficiency measures such as outsourcing.

They also include risks from tensions arising from increasing social inequalities, and rising expectations of the role of business in solving social issues, creating a situation where “Social license to operate is at a higher standard than regulatory license to operate” (BRS 2017).

It is therefore not surprising that companies are now giving the highest priority in their sustainability efforts to social issues related to ethics, diversity, human rights and women’s empowerment, alongside climate change. (BSR 2018)

These trends highlight the limitations of cultivating GFSAs that address only a firm’s environmental management capacity to deliver long-term business sustainability or financial performance. Firms also need to develop “new green” FSAs to strengthen their ability to engage a wide range of stakeholders around a mutually beneficial social contract.

As with the GFSAs defined by Singh et al, the social set of GFSAs also need to be embedded into the firm’s planning and organisational practices, operational practices and communications. This effectively creates an additional layer of GFSAs related to “social management” (for want of a better term) as shown in the diagram below. These relate to the internalisation of the social contract, operational approaches that develop social equity, and communications approaches focused on inclusive constituency building.

[1] The full definition of “social contract” used in the survey was «the unwritten and tacit agreement that exists among members of society (individuals and organizations) that guides behavior and establishes rights and responsibilities of members of society.” (BSR 2017)

Fig 1: Green FSAs : Environmental and Social Management Dimensions

Social Contract Internalization Green FSAs

In the broadest terms Social Contract Internalization GFSAs relate to a firm’s capabilities to incorporate relevant social trends and expectations into strategic planning and develop strategies to mitigate risks related to the impact of their business operations, products and services on different social groups and wider patterns of inequality. Developing this perspective allows firms to internalise the social costs of products, technologies and business practices, and balance environmental management and operational efficiencies with social equity considerations.

Social contract internalisation GFSAs therefore enable firms to develop socially sustainable workforce capacity and supply chain relationships. This includes adopting approaches to measure, report on and address the gender pay gap by which men are still paid more than women for equal work in nearly every country in the world (Rubery, 2019).

It also includes adopting proactive strategies to manage the full range of costs to workers, supply chain actors and communities associated with practices such as the dematerialization of products, sourcing of eco-friendly inputs, achieving resource efficiencies, outsourcing and technological innovation.

For example by assessing the social impact of a shift from producing or using non-renewable to renewable resources such as biofuels on producer communities smallholder agriculture, livelihoods and food security (UNRISD 2012). It also includes developing human resource management strategies that ensure workplace health and safety and freedom from discrimination and harassment, and proactive strategies to address inequalities in access to employment or livelihood opportunities.

Beyond this, firms can develop the capacity for product innovation and expansion to new market segments to address inequalities in access to sustainable products and services between different social groups.


Social Contract Internalization Green FSAs Example – Green Jobs

The International Labour Organisation (ILO)  defines “Green Jobs” as those that both provide employment in the production of green products and services or in environmentally friendly processes AND meet the criteria of decent work by ensuring productive work, a fair income, security and rights at work, social protection, social dialogue and gender equality (ILO 1 & 2).

Yet the social dimension is still often absent from “green” jobs.

A recent study of around 300,000 organisations in Portugal found that the green job sector employs workers with lower qualifications and has poorer provision and lower coverage of Occupational Health and Safety Services resulting in a higher incidence and severity of accidents at work (Moreira et.al, 2018).

Internalization of Social Contract Green FSAs would therefore help firms to mitigate risks and reduce costs of workplace accidents, and demonstrate commitment to reducing the vulnerabilities of low income workers.


Social Equity Development Green FSAs

Social equity development GFSAs recognize that the unequal distribution of risks and rewards within commercial value chains ultimately pose a threat to the long-term sustainability and financial viability of current business models. This is most apparent in the global commodity supply chains where price fluctuations and buying practices such as spot trading create high risk for producers and suppliers that threaten the whole supply chain.

Social equity development green FSAs enable firms to develop business practices and operational processes to share risk and balance the social equity of key actors in the supply chain such as developing long term supplier agreements and investing in producer capacity.

Building social equity in supply chains enables firms to ensure business continuity and implement effective environmental management with producers as long term partners. It also enables firms to develop speciality products based on quality, transparency and local knowledge, enhance brand value develop product portfolios, and satisfy growing consumer demand for authenticity and transparency (Brown 2018, Samper 2018).


Social Equity Development Green FSAs Example – Mars Sustainable in a Generation Plan drive a new approach to commodity sourcing.

Alongside actions to address GHG emissions, water stress, land use, and deforestation the Sustainable in a Generation Plan commits to meaningfully improve the working lives of one million people in its value chain to enable them to thrive.

To do this the company has adopted a new approach to commodity sourcing from known origins and in many cases known farms, with price and sustainability impacts evaluated side by side and generally from longer term partnership arrangements with fewer suppliers.”

In addition Mars is focusing on increasing income, respecting human rights and unlocking opportunities for women. The focus on cultivating long term buyer relationships and investing in the productivity and livelihoods of smallholder suppliers allows Mars to mitigate the risks that poverty discourages the next generation of farmers from participation in essential commodity supply chains. (Sustainable Brands 2018)


Inclusive Constituency Building Green FSAs

The concept of inclusive constituency building goes beyond reputation management, operational partnership development and targeted engagement with local stakeholders already identified in the GFSA framework. Rather it recognises the increasing consumer demand for businesses to demonstrate strong social purpose and to participate in a company’s broader vision. (Brown 2018, BBMG 2017).

A recent global survey shows at least half of consumers believe brands can do more to solve social ills than government and that it is easier for people to get brands to address social problems than to get government to take action. Moreover 57% report buying or boycotting brands based on the brand’s position on a social or political issue (Edelman 2018).

Inclusive constituency-building GFSAs enable firms to develop purpose driven narratives to engage consumers, investors, supply chain actors, local communities and wider stakeholders such as governments, regulators and NGOs in an ongoing relationship based on transparent communication and accountability to build a broad coalition of support for their activities products and services.

This allows firms to develop stronger brand value and engage proactively with employees, customers and peers as brand ambassadors. It also increases firms’ ability for early sensing of societal concerns and foster an organisation-wide culture of listening and engaging with stakeholders that creates goodwill, can transform conflict into productive collaborations and garners “benefit of the doubt” support in regulatory compliance and public approvals processes.

Inclusive constituency building GFSAs also build firms capacity to engage in constructive dialogue to drive product innovation, enhance creativity and strengthen employee motivation through the inclusion of wider perspectives (Sharma and Vrendenberg 1998).


Inclusive Constituency Building Green FSAs Example – Amazon

Amazon is one of the most financially successful companies in the world, and has made environmental sustainability commitments to increase its use of renewable energy and make all amazon shipments net zero carbon, with a target of 50% by 2030. Yet the company’s financial and environmental management strategies are undermined by its failure to develop an inclusive constituency for its brand.

Amazon recently pulled out of a deal to set up a new headquarters in New York City, fearing damage to its reputation from a barrage of objections from politicians, unions, public housing residents, local community leaders and government institutions.

These objections echoed Amazon’s failure to address poor labor practices and anti-unionisation policies, or to contribute to alleviating social inequality issues to which it contributes, by threatening to halt growth in its home city of Seattle if the city approved a tax on large employers to fund homeless services and low-income housing (Sainato, 2018).

The failure of the deal has been attributed to Amazon’s failure to develop a robust strategy to build support amongst key stakeholders groups and miscalculation on how much it needed to engage with those audiences to make the development of the New York HQs a success (Goodman and Weise, 2019).


Conclusion

To adequately ensure sustainability including environmental management and financial performance, Firms need to develop an additional set of Green FSAs focused on the social dimension of the people, planet profit equation.

Social contract internalisation GFSAs that incorporate a social equity and inclusion perspective into strategic planning enable firms to develop socially sustainable workforce capacity and supply chain relationships and strengthen capacity for product innovation and market positioning.

Social equity development GFSAs that build capacity to rebalance risk and build inclusiveness in supply chains enable firms to ensure business continuity and implement effective environmental management strategies based on long term partnerships and to develop product differentiation.

Inclusive constituency building GFSAs that build capacity to engage stakeholders in a broad coalition of support for a firm’s activities products and services allow firms to develop stronger brand value, sense and respond to societal concerns and drive product innovation, creativity and employee motivation through constructive engagement with wider stakeholder perspectives.

REFERENCES

BBMG Globescan (2017), Brand Purpose in Divided Times, Four strategies for Brand leadership. http://bbmg.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/BBMG_GlobeScan_BrandPurposeReport_2017.pdf

Britton-Purdy, Jedediah (2019) “The Green New Deal Is What Realistic Environmental Policy Looks Like”, The New York Times Feb. 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/opinion/green-new-deal-ocasio-cortez-.html

Brown, Nick (2018), “A Radical New Social Contract Concept from James Hoffmann”, Daily Coffee News, October 15, 2018, https://dailycoffeenews.com/2018/10/15/a-radical-new-social-contract-concept-from-james-hoffmann/

BSR, Globescan (2017), The State of Sustainable Business 2017, Results of the 9th Annual Survey of Sustainable, Business Leaders, July 2017, https://www.bsr.org/reports/2017_BSR_Sustainable-Business-Survey.pdf

BSR, Globescan (2018), The State of Sustainable Business 2018, Results of the 10th Annual Survey of Sustainable, Business Leaders, 2018, https://www.bsr.org/files/event-resources/BSR_Globescan_State_of_Sustainable_Business_2018.pdf

Edelman (2017, 2018), Beyond No Brand’s Land, Edelman Earned Brand Study, https://www.edelman.com/earned-brand, / https://www.edelman.com/research/earned-brand-2017

Elkington, John (2018), “25 Years Ago I Coined the Phrase “Triple Bottom Line.” Here’s Why It’s Time to Rethink It”, Harvard Business Review, June 25, 2018. https://hbr.org/2018/06/25-years-ago-i-coined-the-phrase-triple-bottom-line-heres-why-im-giving-up-on-it

Goodman, J. David and Weise, Karen, (2019) “Why the Amazon Deal Collapsed: A Tech Giant Stumbles in N.Y.’s Raucous Political Arena”, The New York Times, Feb. 15, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/15/nyregion/amazon-hq2-nyc.html

Green New Deal Policy Resolution, G:\M\16\OCASNY\OCASNY_004.XML February 5, 2019 (3:27 p.m.) https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/5729033/Green-New-Deal-FINAL.pdf

ILO 1 – What are Green Jobs? https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/green-jobs/news/WCMS_220248/lang–en/index.htm

ILO 2 – Decent Work, https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/decent-work/lang–en/index.htm

Kantor, Jodi and Streitfeld, David (2015), Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace, The New York Times, Aug. 15, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html

Moreira, Sandra, Vasconcelos, Lia, Silva Santos, Carlos, (2018)“Occupational health indicators: Exploring the social and decent work dimensions of green jobs in Portugal” Work, vol. 61, no. 2, 2018 pp. 189-209, https://content.iospress.com/articles/work/wor182792

Rubery, Jill BBC (2019), “Is equal pay actually possible?, BBC News 22 February 2019 https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47212342

Sainato, Michael (2018) Exploited Amazon workers need a union. When will they get one?, The Guardian, Sun 8 Jul 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/08/amazon-jeff-bezos-unionize-working-conditions

Samper, Luis F. (2018), “A New World Coffee Order” Daily Coffee News, October 17, 2018, https://dailycoffeenews.com/2018/10/17/a-new-world-coffee-order/

Sharma, Sanjay and Vredenburg, Harrie (1998), “Proactive Corporate Environmental Strategy and the Development of Competitively Valuable Organizational Capabilities” Strategic Management Journal, 19: 729–753 (1998) http://www.jstor.org/pss/3094125

Singh Nitish, Yung‐Hwal Park, Carri R. Tolmie, Boris Bartikowski (2014), “Green Firm‐Specific Advantages for Enhancing Environmental and Economic Performance”, Global Business and Organizational Excellence, November/December 2014 pp6-17 https://doi.org/10.1002/joe.21580

Sustainable Brands (2018), Screw Incremental Improvements: Mars Is Changing How It Does Business, September 19, 2018, https://sustainablebrands.com/read/walking-the-talk-1/screw-incremental-improvements-mars-is-changing-how-it-does-business / See also – Henderson, James (2017) Mars CEO Grant F. Reid has said business needs to lead “transformational change” in order to tackle the most urgent threats facing the planet and its people, including a radical overhaul of supply chains”. Sep 08, 2017, https://www.supplychaindigital.com/scm/mars-ceo-transformational-business-change-needed-including-radical-rethink-supply-chains

UN Environment “About the Green Economy”? https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/green-economy/about-green-economy https://www.unenvironment.org/regions/asia-and-pacific/regional-initiatives/supporting-resource-efficiency/green-economy

UNRISD (2012), Social Dimensions of Green Economy Research and Policy Brief 12, May 2012, https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/143941/RPB%2012e.pdf

* * *

A message from G&A Institute

This is the “final paper” authored by Ruth Rennie as she completed the on-line, self-study “Certification in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Strategies” hosted by Governance & Accountability Institute and developed by Professor Nitish Singh, Ph.D., Associate Professor of International Business at the Boeing Institute of International Business at Saint Louis University, and founder and consultant at IntegTree LLC; and, Instructor Brendan M. Keating, Adjunct Professor at Wilmington University and VP of IntegTree.

The professionals completing the course work receive certificates from the Swain Center for Executive & Professional Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and from G&A Institute.

The certification program provides a broad overview of key corporate responsibility challenges and strategies that will enable organizations to succeed in the 21st Century Green Economy.

Ruth Rennie is a Sustainability and Social Impact Consultant educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland (M.Phil. – Master of Philosophy, History; at Universite Paris 7 (Paris, France), Diplome d’Etudes Approfondies (DEA); and, Victoria University, New Zealand, Dip TESL (Diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language). Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ruth-rennie/

Ruth’s email: rennie.ruth@gmail.com

More information on the CSR course is available at:

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

INTERNSHIP: SUSTAINABILITY REPORTS DATA ANALYST

G&A is offering unpaid internship opportunities for qualified students interested in learning more about corporate sustainability and corporate ESG performance (“Environmental, Social, Governance”) issues. G&A Institute interns learn important elements about the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards for sustainability reporting as well as other common frameworks such as CDP, RobecoSAM CSA (DJSI), SASB, IIRC, SDGs, and concepts in sustainability such as materiality, stakeholder engagement, assurance, balance, comparability, and many others that can be used in their future work situations.

The work will support G&A’s pro-bono unpaid relationship as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) data partner for the US, UK, and Ireland, along with contributing to associated research on sustainability reporting trends.

This is a very fast growing area of interest to corporations and Wall Street.  The GRI’s reporting framework and standards are the most widely used in the world for these types of reports.

Opportunity:  Learn to analyze data and interpret content from GRI sustainability reporting

Intern Position:  Sustainability Report Data Analyst (supporting G&A’s GRI Data Partner relationship)

Location: Virtual — Work is done remotely – at your own location with a flexible work schedule.  Initial training via virtual meeting tools. There will be opportunities to attend industry networking and training events with G&A’s network of event and training partners.

Time Requirements: Position requires approximately 10 hours per week and begins ASAP.  The timing of the work is flexible for a majority of the time required and can be done remotely.  The internship will take place starting in September 2018 and ending May 2019.

Compensation: This is an unpaid experience only internship position.

MORE ABOUT THE INTERN POSITION
In this role, you will work as part of a team to analyze sustainability reports for inclusion in the largest global database of sustainability reports, the GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database (database.globalreporting.org).

Learning to read, analyze, use and structure data from reports using the GRI Standards, GRI G4, GRI-Reference, as well as NON-GRI corporate and institutional reports, will comprise the majority of this assignment.  The research will also contribute to several published research reports on various trends in sustainability reporting which are widely referenced by media, academics, business, capital markets players and other important sustainability stakeholders.

The student(s) selected will have the opportunity to experience a fast-paced, highly-adaptive (and nurturing) culture in a small but growing company with a unique niche. This is a hands-on position with a considerable learning opportunity for those headed for a career in corporate responsibility, sustainability, citizenship or impact investment.

G&A interns get public recognition for their work in our published reports, on our web platform, and in other ways.

We are proud of our intern alumni and are happy to share their success with the world, as they accomplish great things through their careers navigating the way to sustainability.  To see what other interns have been doing (and their backgrounds) check out G&A’s Intern Honor Roll at http://www.ga-institute.com/about-the-institute/the-honor-roll.html

REQUIREMENTS

  • Must be in senior year of Bachelors program or in a Masters program with major/studies focused on business, capital markets, ESG, environmental and/or sustainability issues and topics.
  • Demonstrate strong background / keen interest or past work experience in ESG and sustainability-related issues / topics.
  • Having a basic understanding of business and the capital markets is mandatory.
  • Must have strong skillsets and experience in independent online research and analysis.
  • Must be excellent at using Excel / Google Sheets and researching on Google.
  • Have strong technical, communication and organizational skills.
  • Must be self-driven and able to work independently to meet expectations and deadlines.
  • Must be fluent in English, additional languages are a plus.
  • Applicants with good writing and editing abilities will have a preference.

APPLICATION PROCESS
Interested students must send:

  • A cover letter outlining why you would be a good fit for this role.
  • Resume including your education, skill sets, and work experience.
  • A one-to-two page introduction essay on what you would like to learn more about (in terms of your career goals), what your interests are, and anything else you feel may be relevant to the job/our organization.
  • Samples of writing or research on sustainability or other topics are also a plus.

Send application materials to Governance & Accountability Institute at:
lcoppola@ga-institute.com & agallagher@ga-institute.com

ABOUT GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY INSTITUTE
Founded in 2006, Governance & Accountability Institute is a New York City-based company that specializes in research, communications, strategies and other services focused on corporate sustainability and corporate ESG performance (“Environmental, Social, Governance”) issues.

G&A is the data partner for the United States, United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).  The Global Reporting Initiative is a non-profit organization that promotes the use of sustainability reporting as a way for organizations to become more sustainable and contribute to sustainable development.

GRI provides all companies and organizations with a comprehensive set of sustainability reporting standards that are the most widely used and respected around the world.  Currently, thousands of global organizations use the GRI to report on their Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) strategies, impacts, opportunities and engagements (www.globalreporting.org).

As the US, UK and Ireland data partner of the GRI, G&A’s role is to collect, organize, and analyze sustainability reports that are issued by corporations, public entities, not-for-profits and other entities in the United States, United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Send application materials to Governance & Accountability Institute at:
lcoppola@ga-institute.com & agallagher@ga-institute.com

The 21st Century Company: How It Creates Values – And for Whom

Highlights from the strategic “21st Century Company” conference presented annually by Skytop Strategies in November 2017 at the Time Warner Center in New York City.

By  Elizabeth Peterson and Cher Xue, Sustainability Reporting Analysts, G&A Institute

In November, executives in governance, risk, innovation, corporate responsibility, and information technology, and representatives of other functions & disciplines gathered to discuss future trends and share thoughts on the theme of “how to prepare for the risks and opportunities that companies will face in the 21st Century”.

Two prevalent topics of discussion among the executives present were (1) data security and (2) approaching CSR as an opportunity for ROI rather than as an expense.

Hank Boerner, Chairman & CEO at G&A, started the morning off with opening remarks to set the stage for the day’s discussion. He suggested that regardless of the top-notch strategic planning, the 21st Century Company is likely to put forward, disruptions” will always arise.

Using retro props and the evolution of the cell-phone from the early “brick” phone and the revolutionary concept of making a call from anywhere to today’s smartphone (now holding a great deal of our personal information), Hank reminded the audience of the disruptions from the past few decades.

Integration, Innovation, and Progress are what the thriving 21st Century Company will practice to be successful and to thrive, he said. (See his comments here: http://ga-institute.com/Sustainability-Update//2017/12/21/you-and-the-21st-century-company-all-about-iteration-innovation-and-disruption/)

The event was held during the first anniversary of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, which sparked rigorous conversations about what sustainability will look like for the United States over the next three years.

The past year has involved the start of dismantling of some of the country’s most monumental environmental plans and agreements. While this has led to a dim outlook for sustainable’s future for some, others noted that the corporate world is remaining firm in their sustainability strategic plans and targets, due to stakeholders and investors’ increasingly persistent calls for climate change disclosures, even for the non-renewables industry.

This reassurance has allowed many corporate sustainability advocates “to rest easy”. However, as Bennett Freeman, Senior Advisor, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), mentioned during his panel, governance without government doesn’t work. Corporate social responsibility without government responsibility is insufficient — and sustainable development should not be left to solely corporations.

Another trend creeping into CSR/ESG performance indicators is data security, presenting both opportunities and risks for companies.

Louis Coppola, Co-Founder and Executive VP at G&A, moderated the panel The Internet of Things: One Example of How Technology Shapes—and Threatens—Value Delivery with panelists Gene Fredriksen, Chief Information Security Officer, PSCU & Appointee, Global Forum to Advance Cyber Resilience and Jonathan Hill, Dean of the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University.

Key takeaway:  Data is being hailed as the “oil of the 21st century”. The amount of data being collected during your day-to-day activities can be a little unsettling for some.

The information obtained by third parties can support significant business decisions and product/service development. Data can hold unmeasurable value for a company’s future to make informed decisions.

However, the question for debate is how responsible do we expect companies to be with our data?

Elizabeth Peterson, GRI Reports Analyst at G&A Institute, Masters Candidate in Sustainability at Hofstra University focusing on ESG Reporting

A spike in recent data breaches has left consumers feeling a little less secure, but it’s also left corporations feelingn uneasy about their brand reputation and the future of their data security plans.

In 2017 alone, we have learned of significant data breaches at Yahoo, Equifax, Uber, Gmail, and many more companies.

Currently, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides a voluntary reporting indicator (G4-PR8) asking companies to disclose the number of breaches of customer privacy had occurred during that reporting year.

However, with the risk of significant cybersecurity breaches increasing, it’ll become more prevalent for the 21st Century Company to become much more proactive in protecting customer privacy; and, simultaneously, provide more detailed disclosure on a company’s data security efforts – this will be expected by shareholders.

For more information on whether you’ve been affected by the recent Equifax breach, click here.

As consumers, we expect the companies we interact with to take our personal information and data security seriously. However, we cannot place all the responsibility on businesses. With holiday shopping well underway there are plenty of individual tactics to put in place to make sure data is safe while online shopping.. (Link for bullet point source).  These include:

  • Before surfing the Internet, secure your personal computers by updating your security software. Everyone’s computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall installed.
  • Keep your personal information private and your password secure. Do not respond to requests to “verify” your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner.
  • Choose a password by combining different numbers, letters, and symbols. The longer the password, the better.
  • Beware of “bargains” from companies with whom you are unfamiliar — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.
  • Shop with companies you know and trust. Check for background information if you plan to buy from a new or unfamiliar company.
  • Act immediately if you suspect identity theft. Contact your credit card company, your bank, all three credit reporting agencies.

About Corporate Responsibility in the 21st Century

Cher Xue, GRI Reports Analyst at G&A Institute, Master in Environmental Management from Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment.

One very interesting presentation was entitled: The Arrow Electronics Story: How Innovation Can Drive Profits While Addressing Social ChallengesThe presenter was Joe Verrengia, Global Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Arrow Electronics, Inc.

Arrow Electronics is a global provider of products, services, and solutions to industrial and commercial users of electronic components and enterprise computing solutions. And humanitarian technology projects serve as a metaphor for what Arrow does every day in business.

The presentation addressed some bias that has been expressed —  such as there is no real ROI on CSR.

As examples, some critics have said these things:  Personal values don’t always translate to work values. People within the organization have no idea what it is and where to start to work. The CSR budget is the first one to cut because, for some business, CSR is not an investment, but an expense.

Joe Verrengia addressed these negative projections and explained how Arrow Electronics sees ROI on CSR – starting with the Company’s brand itself — and to think about who we are as a foundation.

His company’s lessons were a valuable sharing for the conference participants:

  • Besides have ROI clearly demonstrated by direct numbers of additional revenue, for Arrow, ROI is generated through employee recruitment and retention, in that CSR can lead to greater employee pride.
  • Today, for example, 80% of millennial choose work for a purpose-driven company. And 99% of Arrow’s interns decide to come back to work. ROI also comes from customers’ loyalty — 223 of Arrow’s customers now expect Arrow to be a good corporate citizen and demand annual proof of CSR through questionnaires.
  • Because of Arrow’s work on humanitarian technology solutions, the firm also has attracted new customers who have seen the Company’s work on these projects and recognized that Arrow not only has the solutions expertise they need, but also shares the same values as well.
  • Then there is ROI from “Brand”, which is reputational ROI. Arrow’s CSR technology projects have generated nearly two billion media impressions and more than 600 news stories in just a few years. The earned media value and the calculated brand value of these projects far exceeded what they cost.
  • Arrow’s CSR program has a focus on guiding innovation that improves lives and provides opportunity. The CSR program is demonstrated through humanitarian projects, community investment, employee engagement and corporate reporting.

For the purpose of measuring CSR program and score progress, Arrow has developed an engagement rating system by which the Company evaluates CSR partners and projects. The 10 categories of engagement include Innovation; CSR category alignment; Brand elevation; Social impact; Business development potential; Executive support; Arrow locations; Stature; Arrow V alignment; and, Employee Engagement.

Arrow believes “Five Years Out” is the tangible future, and the Company’s innovations can make the world a better place for us all – now and five years out, which is exactly a 21st Century Corporation approach.

Note:  this commentary featured just two of the event’s panels.  An agenda for the day can be found here.  Follow Skytop Strategies meetings calendar for the 2018 conference with the 21st Company thematic: https://skytopstrategies.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

 

 

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

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

February 23, 2017
Forward Momentum! – Sustainability 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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