In Focus: Climate Change Challenges for Financial Sector Players and the Companies They Provide With Capital – Measuring and Managing the Risk

August 2 2020

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

Some encouraging developments for you from the (1) capital markets community and (2) the corporate sector and (3) the combining of forces of each.

To start: Morgan Stanley has become the first major U.S. bank to join the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials and will begin measuring and disclosing the emissions generated by the businesses that it lends to and invests in.

Big deal, we say:  the sources of capital telling the world what the companies they lend to, invest in, are emitting…whether the company discloses that or not. 

PCAF is a global collaboration of financial institutions aiming to standardize carbon accounting for the financial sector.

The work of the partnership could profoundly change the way that financial institutions and their corporate clients address climate change issues (and disclose the result of same).

Morgan Stanley will lend its insights and expertise to help the coalition development global standard that can be used by all financial institutions to measure and reduce their own climate impact.

In addition to measuring its Scope 3 emissions – including financed emissions, defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol as Category 15 emissions.

Morgan Stanley’s announcement comes a year after the institution released a report outlining the financial benefits of decarbonization for businesses — with an earnings potential between US$3-to-$10 billion.

Also involved in the standards project on the Steering Committee: ABN AMRO, Amalgamated Bank, ASN Bank, Tridos Bank, and the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV).

Today there are 66 institutions involve in the partnership, with $US5 trillion-plus in collective AUM. The partnership is planning on releasing the standard at the COP 26 global gathering.

The Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing builds “finance solutions” that seek to deliver competitive financial returns while driving positive “E” and “S” solutions.  Audrey Choi is the bank’s Chief Sustainability Officer and CEO of the Institute.  More information is at: www.morganstanley.com/sustainableinvesting.

And here is the encouraging news from the corporate sector and the investor service provider community:  Microsoft (MSFT) is teaming with MSCI – the global investment community advisor on risk and ESG issues – to “accelerate innovation among the global investment industry”.

MSFT’s cloud and AI technologies along with MSCI’s portfolio of tools will be aligned to “unlock innovations for the industry and enhance the ESG ratings agency’s products, data and services”.

The collaboration begins with migration of MSCI’s products onto the Microsoft Azure cloud platform with Index and Analytics solutions and then on to the MSCI ESG products and ratings.

Going forward MSFT and MSCI will explore possibilities to further drive development of climate risk and ESG solutions for investors and corporates.

Third item:  Microsoft is aiming to become a Zero-Carbon Enterprise.  The company announced a “suite” of  initiatives to wipe out the carbon “debt” acquired  — get ready – over the lifetime of this tech company.  Every bit of carbon “debt” ever generated over several decades!

MSFT is joining forces with Maersk, Danon, M-Benz, Natura, Nike, Starbucks, Unilever and Wipro to create a new coalition – Transform to Net Zero. (Environmental Defense Fund/EDF is a founding member).  MSFT peer/competitor/fellow transformation of society company Apple is aiming to have net-zero impact on every product in the next 10 years.

These Top Stories are of a “fit” – as financial institutions develop new approaches to meeting climate change challenges the Global Carbon Accounting Partnership moves forward to bring a new standard to the financial services community.

And the MSCI / MSFT collaboration will be developing tools and resources that align with the standards effort.  MSFT itself is moving toward to become Zero Carbon tech company.  Do stay tuned!  Some details for you….

Morgan Stanley Becomes First U.S. Bank To Measure Carbon Footprint Of Its Loans (Source: OilPrice) Morgan Stanley has become the first U.S. bank to start measuring the emissions generated by the businesses it lends to and invests in, the bank said in a press release.

The news from Microsoft and MSCI on their collaboration:
https://www.msci.com/documents/10199/b8849622-7a48-1901-123e-29d39cca3814

As we prepared the above perspectives in our weekly newsletter, more related news came in:  Stefanie Spear, our colleague at As You Sow, alerted us that Bank of America and Citi Group joined Morgan Stanley in the commitment to publicly disclosure carbon emissions from loans and investments. (The two institutions are part of the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials, a global framework for financial institutions to measure and disclose the emissions from their lending and investment portfolios.)

And one more for you – Polly Ghazi of Triple Pundit (part of 3BL Media) prepared an excellent roundup of recent news that includes Morgan Stanley, BlackRock and Boston Consulting.  (And thank you to her for the mention of the G&A Institute’s S&P 500 research results on corporate reporting.)

We present 3BL media roundups in the weekly G&A newsletter, Sustainability Highlights — here is Polly’s post: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2020/sustainability-reporting-new-highs/121006

Proof of Concept: In Time of Crisis, Sustainable Investing Stays Strong and in Favor With Investment Professionals

For almost a decade in this newsletter we’ve brought to you a steady stream of news, research and experts’ perspectives that focus on two related subject areas:  (1) the escalating interest in the investment community in corporate ESG factors and adoption of sustainable investing approaches and (2) the corporate response, clearly in recognition of the intensifying competition for capital and so exerting efforts to excel in ESG strategy-setting, operational performance and disclosure.

It has taken some time for sustainable investing trends to capture wider investor attention and to persuade asset managers of the importance of ESG performance factors in normal times, with skepticism expressed (at first) quite frequently and then over time, less so.

Few mainstream asset managers are expressing doubts these days – and two powerhouse asset management firms (BlackRock and State Street) are very prominent champions of sustainable investing approaches.
We’ve seen the annual survey by the U.S. Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing (US SIF) survey of professionals managing assets starting out in the first survey with finding just US$639 billion in 1996 — with respondents indicating they were using sustainable investing policies.

That moved to the level of $3 trillion AUM in 2010 and on to $13 trillion in the 2018 survey.  That’s $1-in $4 of professionally-managed AUM for the assets they manage. (The next survey results will be announced later in 2020.)

Investors and corporate managers are usually looking for proof-of-concept for emerging trends and that has been the case for “SRI” / sustainable investing.  The Covid-19 crisis is providing some of that for sustainable investing — and making the case for corporate sustainability and embrace of the concept of ESG’s importance.

For example, the experts at HIS Markit have been offering perspectives on a range of issues and topics and recently shared the results of in-depth conversations with investors and analysts…during this time of market volatility and economic uncertain.  What are the findings in terms of investor embrace of sustainable investing strategies?

Top lines:  ESG criteria have been more important in the investment process in the coronavirus crisis. Issues in focus inside companies and by investors include such things as employee health & safety, corporate governance, and society-at-large.

Note this from the report:  “Some investors and analysts value ESG now more than ever.  They observe that the companies which have historically exhibited strong governance and the commitment to ESG are more effectively managed through this volatile period.” (Guess which companies may be more successful at attracting and retaining capital.)

The chief investment officer of a U.S. asset management firm told interviewers that the virus crisis has impacted how corporate governance is viewed …companies all over the world need to be thinking more broadly about who they want to be in the world aside from being rich.”

In a period characterized by the virus crisis and social unrest, a United Kingdom analyst interviewed said that “ESG was extremely important throughout last year and start of this year…there is a big demand for sustainable investments…and it’s there no matter if the global economy is weak or if there is a global pandemic…”

To be sure, there has been considerable good news for sustainable investment professionals and corporate sustainability managers in recent weeks, as investment professionals describe the resilience of companies with strong sustainability performance.  There is still skepticism expressed (such as in the IHS survey) and convincing needed on the part of holdout asset owners and managers.

We’ll keep sharing the research results as experts look at the capital markets and the impact of the pandemic and widespread social unrest and protest on sustainability – positive and negative.

There is much more for you in the Top Story this week, in the HIS Markit Perspectives about the firm’s survey of investment professionals.

COMING SOON
Our team is putting the finishing touches on the signature research effort of Governance & Accountability Institute – our annual look at the S&P 500® Index companies and their sustainability / responsibility / citizenship reporting.  Watch for this in July, followed after by the team’s look at the second 500 large-caps in the Russell 1000® Index.  We think you’ll find this year’s research effort very informative and useful in your own business – whether that be managing corporate sustainability and sustainable investment.

Top Stories

The Importance Of ESG During A Global Pandemic
(Source: IHS Markit Perspectives V) Some investors and analysts value ESG now more than ever. They observe that the companies which have historically exhibited strong governance and commitment to ESG are more effectively managing through this volatile period.

We’re also sharing ideas for corporate managers on how to make their company more sustainable, with advice from Earth 911. And from the influential World Economic Forum (WEF) – the Davos folks – we have views of the state of sustainability for 180 WEF-ranked countries and the vitality of their ecosystems.  The virus crisis is placing great pressure on retail brands – how are the companies reacting… what is ahead for brand marketers in the “next normal”?  We have the views of Retail Dive for you in the fourth of our Top Stories this week.

It’s Time to Pay it Forward

Guest post by Larry Checco – Sharing Perspectives

Would my wife and I like to have the federal government drop $2,400 in our laps? Sure, who wouldn’t.

Would we miss a meal or a mortgage payment if it didn’t happen? No.

But many of our fellow Americans will.

So, we’ve decided, after making sure that we and our grown kids would remain financially sound during this crisis, that we would donate our windfall to the common good—namely to those who need it far more than we.

Then we got to thinking: What if we could convince those who are in the same financial position as we are to do the same? Think of the difference it would make!

What if we created a “giving circle” where just 10 others joined us? That’s $24,000!

Then we could identify families, friends or neighbors who need help paying their rent or mortgage. Or buying food. Or, a small business in need of a bridge loan. Or a local health care clinic in need of medical supplies. Or nurses and doctors in need of childcare while they go about the heroic business of saving others.

Use your imagination!

If 100 people did the same, we’re talking $240,000. Real money.

What if this could turn into a grassroots nationwide movement. WOW!

It’s estimated that before the coronavirus rocked the stock market there were nearly 15 million millionaires in the United States. Many of these people won’t qualify for the government’s $2,400 largesse because they earn too much. Many already give generously.

But imagine if, along with the rest of us, they all kicked in an extra $2,400.

Let’s do the math!

My wife and I are not wealthy people. We have what we have because we always lived slightly below our means. Now it’s time to give slightly above our means.

The needs are great. More than 16 million Americans have already lost their jobs. Economists tell us many million more job losses are yet to come.

It’s obvious the government can’t do it on its own. It’s up to We the People, to determine what kind of country we want to live in.

What we’re proposing is not a bailout for large banks and corporations, or for the government, for that matter. Regardless of how good or bad you believe the government has handled this crisis, we’re talking about something else entirely.

We’re talking about people helping people directly—no middleman needed.

Helping people who, through no fault of their own, have lost jobs, their health, or even a loved one, and are going through extraordinary tough times.

If you’re part of the business community—especially a large corporation—it’s to your advantage to help ensure that most of us get through this crisis, not only physically healthy, but financially sound.

Companies need to do their part, as well—from extending additional benefits to your employees, including health care, cash bonuses or advances, as well as temporarily lowering your prices on essential goods and services, or providing in-kind-donations to local nonprofits.

Whatever it takes.

If in fact 70 percent of our economy is consumer-driven, then when we finally exit this dark tunnel, consumers are going to need the confidence and resources to jumpstart the economy and help it snap back.

By all of us helping each other get through this crisis, it might just do the trick—and save us ALL a great deal of lingering economic pain in the long run.

It might also help bring us together as a nation, help heal our glaring and disabling political divide and make us proud to call ourselves Americans.

It will encourage us to feel good about ourselves as we wrestle with the isolation and the feelings of hopelessness and despair many of us are currently experiencing. It would be a way to reach out to others.

We’re the wealthiest nation ever. If not us, who? It not now, when?

Let’s think about it when that government check gets deposited in our mailbox or bank account.

Let’s don’t talk about wanting to make a difference. We can MAKE the difference!

Contents Copyright (C) 2020 by Larry Checco – All Rights Reserved

We Must Accept the New Reality – a Personal Perspective

Personal perspectives shared by Ken Cynar – Executive VP, Editor-in-Chief – G&A Institute

The initial pandemic panic seems to have subsided, those that needed to hoard have apparently reached their limits and now is the time for calm.

We must be ready for the long haul….the very long haul!

There are some people who have been focused on immediate gratification so often that [gratification] becomes the only solution; for those people and all the rest of us — I think that this period in our lives should be teaching us patience.  Patience and forbearance.

Social isolation will test our relationships, reach into our inner being and unfortunately in some cases release inner anger and frustration.

This is not the time to point the fingers, get angry at whomever or scream to the heavens that the gods are at fault.

“The fault… is not in the stars… but in ourselves.” There is plenty of blame to go around for the situation we find ourselves in today.  

The time is at hand for us to accept that it will be months, not weeks before there will be return to some normalcy.

Meantime, children will be home schooled; those of us that can, will work from home, all of us will become somewhat disconnected from friends and family, money problems will challenge many, and our focus will be on basics…food, water, health and safety, shelter.

Hopefully many will take the opportunity to look inward and readjust and improve the things they should value. New sneakers or clothes and that new car will become less and less important. A new set of real values can replace the old.  That will change many aspects of 21st Century living.

And those changes will require us to adjust to the new normal of the day.

Accept it or not, I believe that we are now returning to the values of a simpler time…like it or not, depending on your point-of-view.

You can embrace change, work with it and yourself or continue to howl at the moon in anger and frustration…which believe me is pointless.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back to living. Get on the phone to your friends and neighbors…help them adjust…offer your counsel…your comfort…seek the humanity in all…and live your life according to the new rules.

Get on Facebook or other social media with good news, humor, stories… not ranting at the whomever or whatever. Connect and stay connected.

We can get through this by helping each other. See who might need a call on your block…maybe you can pick up some needed food for them the next time you go to the store.

If you don’t have it in your heart to reach out now…then when?

Acts of kindness are for now!

In this all please don’t lose your faith…it is a time for prayer. For God is there, always listening.

That’s the way I see it. Comments to share?

Relief For IRA Account Holders – Minimum Distribution Changes

April 2 2020

By Daniel P. DoyleFellow, G&A Institute

Information that individuals can use if they are in the age bracket where they are required to make withdrawals from their IRA accounts, or if they are approaching the age for minimum withdrawals. The coronavirus crisis has resulted in rule change.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) was signed into law on 27 March. Section 2203 of that Act suspends the Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) that would otherwise be required of owners of IRAs and of certain defined contribution plans.

Individual owners of such plans who were born before 1 July 1949 are normally required to initiate distributions starting for calendar year in which they reach 70 ½.

Under recent legislation — the Secure Act — individuals who were born after 30 June 1949 would normally be required to initiate distributions at age 72.

Distributions are taxed as ordinary income. If a taxpayer does not need all or part of his or her RMD for current income, it can be beneficial to let the funds remain invested until future years.

There is no provision in the CARES Act for a taxpayer to reverse distributions that may already have been taken in 2020.
Congress passed a similar suspension for 2009.

Daniel P. Doyle – Bayside, New York – Fellow, Governance & Accountability Institute – https://www.ga-institute.com/about-the-institute/fellows-of-the-institute/daniel-p-doyle/daniel-p-doyle-career-information.html

Estée Lauder Companies Actions in the Crisis

Continuing the Series – Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Coronavirus Crisis – Actions Taken By the Corporate Sector Leaders – #5 in the series

March 25, 2020
by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute and the G&A team — continuing the conversation about corporate and investor response to the coronavirus crisis.  From this post on, we are going to share news about the corporate sectors’ actions for ease of reference for our readers.  We’re sharing these posts through our social media and suggest you might do the same to help get the news around.

See the first post in the queue for details about this series – scan down to see that for information.

* * * * * * * * * * *

“Guided by its family values and spirit of giving,” The Estée Lauder Companies and The Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation (ELCCF) “stand with the global community” and are adjusting the traditional giving programs to provide aid to help limit the spread of the virus and help to ease economic hardships. Just announced:

The company and foundation are supporting the work of Doctors Without Borders/Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) with a financial grant of US$2 million. Among the many projects of MSF, the international medical humanitarian assistance has been lending aid to people in distress.

Such as in wartorn Syria, with one million people uprooted in the midst of war, suffering food shortages, lack of medical aid, and now the virus crisis. The MSF organization has to date provided specialized burn units, surgery, physiotherapy and psychological support in Syria and other regions of the world.

The Estée Lauder financial assistance will help Doctors Without Borders/Medicin Sans Frontieres in highly-impacted countries.

The company’s Melville, New York manufacturing plant (on the Nassau-Suffolk counties border) re-opens now to produce hand sanitizer for high-need organizations and populations – especially including front-line medical staff.

Note: compensated employee volunteers are doing the vital work here, as both counties are covered by the New York State “stay at home” guidance.

In New York City, where the company is headquartered, a grant was provided to support “The NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund”. This is administered by the New York Community Trust which manages hundreds of family and organizational trusts and makes targeted grants to worthy causes.

The new fund will (with at least US$75 million raised to date) support NYC’s vital social services and cultural community organizations.

The 90-year old NY Community Trust helps donors “make smart grantmaking solutions” that address the quality of life issues that align with the donors’ values. (The Trust staff is continuing their work remotely as New York City is mostly shut down.)

The various donors (individual and organizational) are typically investing in such buckets as those addressing poverty, justice, education, health, arts, environment, LGBTQ, elderly, and children and teens. More information is at: https://www.nycommunitytrust.org/

In China, over $800,000 was awarded by Estée Lauder to relief efforts – including the Red Cross Society of China, Shanghai Charity Foundation, and Give2Asia. $1.4 million was provided with in-kind donations to the China Women’s Development Foundation to support front line medical staff.

As the crisis evolves, ELC and the ELCCF will continue to align philanthropic resources based on needs – prioritizing food, medical and emergency assistance. The foundation focuses effort on health, education and the environment and makes annual grants to organizations that align with these.

* * * * * * * *

Congratulations to the global Estée Lauder team (in the USA and other nations, wherever you are working today).  These efforts reflect the values instilled early on in the firm from those earliest day by founder Estée Lauder and husband, Joseph, in New York City in 1946.  They created cleansers, oils, skin lotions, creams. Today grandson William P. Lauder is executive chairman of the global firm that makes fragrances, hair and skin makeup products, make up, and other products.   Founder Estée Lauder was named by Time magazine in 1998 as one of the 20 most influential business leaders of the 20th Century.

* * * * * * * *

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

The new items are posted (beginning with this one) at the top of the blog post and the items then will move down the queue.

We created the tag “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis” for this continuing series – and the hashtag #WeRise2FightCOVID-19 for our Twitter posts. Join the conversation and contribute your views and news — email info@ga-institute.com. Keep up the good fight!

G&A Institute Now Accepting Applications for Spring & Summer 2020 Sustainability Reports Research Analyst Internship

G&A’s non-compensated remote 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 during their remote internship learn and master important elements about the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards for sustainability reporting, along with other common reporting frameworks used by investors, such as, CDP, RobecoSAM CSA (DJSI), SASB, IIRC, the UN SDGs, and other frameworks. An example of topics and issues of discussion and research during this internship include the concepts of materiality, stakeholder engagement, external assurance, reporting balance, comparability, and many others. All of which is valuable knowledge and experience that can be applied in your studies and future careers

The work will support G&A’s pro-bono (uncompensated) relationship as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) data partner for the USA, UK, and Ireland, along with contributing to associated research on sustainability reporting trends made available to the public with recognition of the intern’s contributions to the research.

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 2019, G&A interns contributed to G&A’s annual research publication tracking sustainability reporting trends and found that 86% of S&P 500 companies were publishing sustainability reports, up from 20% in 2011! Additionally, G&A 2019 interns team contributed to G&A’s inaugural research tracking sustainability reporting trends of the Russell 1000, finding 60% of Russell 1000 companies are publishing sustainability reports.

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 Identification:  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 Spring 2020 through Summer 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 learning 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 made public and 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

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.