We Are Far Now From Milton Friedman’s Prevailing View on CSR in 1970 – Companies Are Showing The Way – Here Are 5 Examples

The stage was set in 1970 by Professor Milton Friedman, who wrote in a New York Times Magazine essay: The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. He famously said in conclusion: “here is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

Over the ensuing decades, advocates for greater corporate accountability, responsibility and sustainability pushed back – with great vigor.  Over time, more companies adopted well thought out strategies and tactics to become more socially / societally responsible… leading to today’s fulsome embrace by the corporate sector of CR or CSR.

Forbes magazine commentator Marissa Peretz (writing from California) brings us examples of “environmentally-friendly business endeavors” that demonstrate profit can exist alongside sustainability and the successful corporate business model. Her examples are Fair Harbor (apparel); Nest Bedding; Paladino and Company (consulting); Under the Canopy; and B Corp Natura Brasil.

Highlights: 

(1) Fair Harbor makes sustainable boardshorts and men’s swimwear from 11 recycled plastic bottles (including recycled ocean plastic harvested in Haiti).

(2) Nest Bedding, a family-owned business, creates “sustainable bedding and mattresses for more healthy living.

(3) Paladino and Company’s buildings have a positive environmental impact by helping other companies reduce their carbon footprint (the firm works with architects and developers to design buildings “that make a difference).

(4) Natura Basil is a Brazilian company now operating in the United States; it works with its supplier communities back in the Amazon (not the shopping giant!) to promote preservation of endangered forests.

(5) Under the Canopy uses six (6) types of third party certifications whose metrics include use of harmful substances and other critical practices in its apparel and bedding.

All of these firms, the author tells us, have lessons learned and share that environmentally-friendly business endeavors can still be profitable.  So take that, you remaining Friedman advocates – the corporate world is moving on without you.

Here at G&A Institute, we monitor more than 1,500 corporate responsibility, sustainability, citizenship and similarly-titled reports.  A sizable number are identified as “CR” reports and tell the stories of a wide (and encouraging) range of strategies and tactics of USA, UK and Republic of Ireland corporate entities. The data sets and narratives make clear that senior executives understand well the importance of corporate responsibility in their disclosures.  They make the business case, the supply chain case, the investor case…and more!

The five firms profiled in the Forbes piece below are to be congratulated for their contributions to society – and the dual quest for greater CR and profitability.

Author Peretz is founder of Silicon Beach Talent in LA; she was “recruiting leader” at Tesla Motors.

Our Top Story For You…

5 Companies Who Succeed By Prioritizing Sustainability Over Profits
(Wednesday – December 13, 2017) Source: Forbes – A lot of companies still believe that they should prioritize short term profits above sustainability. However, some of the most successful current executives and employees think differently

You And The 21st Century Company — All About Iteration, Innovation & Disruption!

Theme-setting Comments at the Skytop Strategies’ “21st Century Company” conference, early-November 2017 in New York City. This was my third time opening the conference to set the theme of the day…

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

There are three words that I think define the concept of these 21st Century Company gatherings. The approach was conceived more than three years ago over lunch with Chris Skroupa, my partner Lou Coppola and I.  And the words keep ringing true ever since.

The first word is Iteration — from the ancient Latin: again…and again…and again. Science and Discovery is about iteration — it is the basis of our scientific theory and practical application of scientific advances. We hear these days about “science-based” and “evidence-based” progress being made. At least from most of us.

The second word is Innovation — also from the Old Latin — the new. Something, everything — new. Most of us are interested in the new; some are anxious, others enthusiastic.

The third word is Progress — also from the Latin roots and with us with the same meaning for many centuries — it is the story of humanity — forward! Moving forward.

Interation / Innovation / Progress. Think of the great inventions of the later years of the late 18th and 19th Centuries that made the 20th Century so very different in so many ways in our personal and business lives. In finance — in public and private governance — and other aspects of our lives.

Our lives in Century 20 were very different from the experiences of generations before us. And will be in Century 21 thanks to the great progress of prior decades.

We can see all of this at work in these Inventions.

  • First, Electricity – the “Dynamo” (as it was called) that harnessed the power and changed nighttime dark to daylight at any time!
  • Telegraphy, the Wireless and Telephony….over time leading to the broad-bands of our internet and our cell phone. Everything is powered by electricity.
  • And the internal combustion engine – providing reliable, portable, movable power — today, cars & trucks and airplanes on the move dominate our lives, don’t they? Speaking of the last….

Henry Ford banging on soybean fender in the 1940s.

Henry Ford banging on soybean fender in the 1940s. In the early 20th Century, The Great Tinkerer, Henry Ford brought together many scientific advances in glass, metallurgy and development of materials such as plastics, instrumentation, rubber for tires, the internal combustion engine…and more… to mass produce cars & trucks.

Henry Ford invented the efficient modern factory with his idea of bringing the work to the worker. His advances in the innovations related to motor cars brought about great progress. He was also a…farmboy at heart.

And thanks to the farmboy in him — Ford Motor Company has been making certain parts out of soybeans. This is both a 20th Century and 21st Century story.

The Industrial Farm of the Future?

Founder Henry Ford planted 6,000 acres of soy on the company farms. In the 1930’s he worked with soybeans to develop early versions of plastics, paints, and other products familiar to us today.

He actually made very sturdy car fenders out of soybeans and was photographed banging on such a fender with a sledgehammer — more than 70 years ago. Those old, collectable brown Ford stick gearshift knobs? Oh, yes — they are a soybean extraction!

One thing he invented in his laboratory for us to use every summer — the charcoal briquette. This came out of his “Industrialized Barn Concept,” his idea that future farmers might use their barn for production in the cold winter months!

And now to 2017 — in mid-October, Ford Motor Company celebrated the 10-year anniversary of using soybean-based-foam in its car seats. That practice saved 228 million pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere — equivalent to CO2 consumed by 4 million trees in sequestering carbon emissions.

William Clay Ford, Jr. – Chair of Ford Motor Company with Mustang in 2015

You can see the soybean seats in Ford Mustangs of the last 10 model years. More than 18 million vehicles produced in North America have soy-derived foam seats, proudly notes Great-Grandson / Ford Chair William Ford – an MIT grad. And he is Great-Grandson as well of Harvey Firestone, the rubber tire innovator. And he drives a Mustang with soy seats. And Firestone tires!
.
Tinkerin’ away:  The Ford Company’s lab tinkers today with such materials as wheat straw; rice hulls; trees; coconut; kenaf; tomato peels; chopped up US dollars; dandelions; algae; agave…you know, the stuff of tequila! The derived materials may be going into tires and gaskets.

That is truly 21st Century Corporate Sustainability in action!

The Spirit of Old Henry-the-Tinkerer & Innovator lives on. As does the Spirit of Thomas Edison. And Alexander Graham Bell. And many other tinkerers.

This is for us clear demonstration of the spirit at the heart of science, of scientific discovery…and of Innovation. And the outcome: the Progress we make!

Another great 19th Century invention I mentioned was the harnessing of Electricity: This new power source drove wired transmissions; think of the telegraph as electrons whizzing through wires to carry dots & dashes. Then telephony evolved with voice-over-wire; then came electrons driving radio waves, then television waves, then wireless telephones. What comes next?

Think about the little and very powerful cell phone, our wire-less telephone that we take for granted — we carry the device around and depend on it for many things every day. The amount of processing power far exceed the capacities available to “tinkerers” like the early space astronauts in their space-borne vehicles.

Radio Shack Advertisement. Electronic miracles of that day.

Speaking of Innovation and Interation…remember Radio Shack? Kids-in-the-garage of Silicon Valley invention fame shopped at Radio Shack for parts — the Steves, Jobs and Wozniak of Apple fame. Radio Shack is gone. Apple thrives.  There is great irony here for us…

The fourth word for us to keep in mind for the 21st Century is very important: Disruption.

Iteration, Innovation, Progress…leads to Disruption.

Economist Joseph Schumpeter described the concept of creative destruction almost 80 years ago.

This is the process in our Capitalistic society of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, destroying the old / creating a new structure.

Applying this to Radio Shack: Technology writer Steve Cichon in Huffington Post in March 2014 mused about the February 1991 Radio Shack ad that highlighted electronic items from the ubiquitous storefront – well-known for several generations as “America’s Technology Store.”

This was before the debut of the World Wide Web (in 1994, by tinkerer Tim Berners-Lee), tiny cellular phones and other goodies in our lives that we take for granted today.

To explore the pace of innovation / and the resulting disruption – and the impact on our everyday lives, please do think about right now:

• The pioneering Tandy 1000 personal computer in the 1980s;
• the little “microthin” calculator;
• home telephones (copper wires!);
• stereo player;
• tape recorder;
• CD player;
• phone answering machine;
• earphones;
• microphone;
• speakers;
• photo camera,
• camcorder/video camera;
• weather station;
• AM-FM clock radio.

All that was listed in an ad at about $3,000 in 1991 dollars. That is $5,400 in 2017 dollars.

And all of those modern electronic miracles of 26 years ago are right here in the 4-oz Apple iPhone! At in one hand, at a fraction of the price, all portable, all in your pocket.

Think about the progress that is made, step-by-step, an iteration or discovery (one at a time), that lead us to miracles in our lifetime. There is such an exciting future ahead for the Millennial Generation, isn’t there.

I’ll leave it here for now. We will be exploring all through our day together the marvels and miracles — and hard work — that leads us to ….

Iteration / Innovation / Progress! And the now very familiar… Disruption!

This is what the 21st Century will be all about.

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/

Themes of A New Era of Global Business Leadership: What Was Discussed at the Commit! Forum & the Sustainable Brands Conferences

By Matthew Novak, Sustainability Reports Data Analyst, G&A Institute

I recently attended two incredibly inspiring conferences: the CR Magazine Commit!Forum in Washington, D.C. and the Sustainable Brands New Metrics conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  This is my report on the two meetings.

The backdrop of these two popular, well-attended conferences was about moving passed the idea that businesses can only maximize shareholder profits, and moving into the new era that looks at companies as leaders in our global society, with the ability to move mountains.

With issues on the agenda ranging from climate change impacts to anti-discrimination policies, business leaders are using the tools available to them to make a positive change in the world. And this is more than a desire to do good (though, that is a noble goal, in itself); it’s also a better way to do business.

Combating climate change and taking into account the business risk climate change poses, for example, offers an opportunity for enhanced long-term viability and growth potential.  Here’s my update for you on the themes and conversations at the conferences.

The theme of Commit!Forum was “Brands Taking Stands.”

Being held in Washington, DC in 2017, politics was of course an inevitable part of the discussion. A lumber company with a workforce in large part made up of immigrant populations, discussed the decision to make a pointed pro-immigration Super Bowl 2017 commercial — in stark contrast to the current Presidential Administration’s immigration policies.

Following along with the example of football, the NFL protests, being only a week old at the time of the conference, were also talked about by a number of business leader speakers.

There was also an incredibly inspiring story from the CEO of Leidos, who discussed an email he received from an employee, discussing the employee’s son, who recently died from opioid overdose. That story moved the CEO to work with members of various levels of Maryland’s public sector to address the opioid epidemic.

Growing up, I always saw government, along with the non-profit sector, championing public service and making life better for all people. On the other hand, business “was just a place looking to sell products or services and maximize profits”. That concept has radically changed!

Regardless of the difference in political landscapes, business leaders are now looking at the world around them and thinking that business can be a driver of social and environmental change. Even through a strict business lens, this shift in attitude can help push societal change forward. For example, anti-discrimination policies are not just an ethical accomplishment; they can make employees feel welcome, which means the employees will want to come to work, increasing productivity.

The Sustainable Brands New Metrics conference conversations were equally invigorating. Being a confessed data nerd, the idea that businesses are using environmental and social data to make business decisions is quite inspiring to me.

With growing income inequality, increasing frequency of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and political movements that threaten the future of entire countries, using data and evidence-based thinking to drive change is incredibly important and a smart business move.

A major theme of the New Metrics conversations was not just about accessing data, but about utilizing good, reliable data that adequately both tells a narrative of a company — and paints a realistic portrait of the company’s environmental and social impact on the world.

Throughout New Metrics discussions, certain themes became readily apparent: the contextualization of sustainability goals, the importance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the movement of the financial markets toward incorporating environmental, social, and governance factors into investments.

These themes have a common thread: looking beyond single causes, and into contextualizing the systematic impacts and interconnectedness of the deeper issues.

Addressing these deeper issues, as well as mitigating future impacts, we must have and rely on the accessibility of adequate and relevant data.

But as discussed earlier, it’s not just about addressing these issues for the sake of society; it’s about increasing the long-term viability of the business.

And with that, having tangible end goals is necessary in creating benchmarks to be reached. For example, during New Metrics, there was talk of the 1.5 and 2 degree Celsius scenarios that have been discussed in literature, as well as in the Paris Climate Agreement.

While not ideal, it provides a realistic goal that businesses can utilize in their greenhouse gas reduction goals and renewable energy targets.

The way the business community is taking on these large-scale megatrends —  like climate change, environmental degradation, poverty levels, and social equality — is inspiring. While not combating these issues for purely altruistic desires, that does not mean that the result of moving literally trillions of dollars of capital toward a more sustainable future is any less of a worthwhile goal.

But, to repeat my own belief and that of the speakers at the conference:  behind the lofty aspirations, reliable, accessible, and contextualized data is required to achieve the future we seek to create.

High Water Women’s 2017 Investing For Impact Symposium

By Laura Malo –  Sustainability Reports Data Analyst, G&A Institute

On November 30th the High Water Women organization’s 5th Annual Investing for Impact Symposium in New York City drew a record crowd; I was pleased to attend as a G&A Institute representative (G&A was a sponsor of the event).

Background:  In 2005, High Water Women organization was founded by a group of senior women involved in the funding world and working for investing communities.

The concept was to advance ideas and principles that encouraged women employed in or planning to be part of the financial services sector.

Over the years since, HWW members have working at the mission and have achieving very encouraging results throughout different components of the capital markets.

Today, there are more than 3,500 members working in the financial services sector as well as in allied firms and organizations (such as non-profits and in public sector agencies).  This provides the organization with a large volunteer network collaborating to achieve justice and equity for women across both the investing and business communities.

The 2017 Symposium

At the symposium, a really complete and quite interesting agenda assembled by HWW brought together outstanding experts participating in panels and workshop sessions; I thought the speakers were highly qualified and outstanding thought leaders in their fields.

The day began with Valerie Rockefeller, board member of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund being interviewed by Debra Schwartz, Managing Director of Impact Investments, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Ms. Rockefeller presented powerful arguments about the role of females in investing activities.

This was followed by two plenary sessions, focused on “Taking Action: Removing Obstacles to Change,” and, “Fighting for a Better World: Women in Impact Investing.” These sessions brought into focus the crucial question:  Why should it be necessary to democratize the access to the impact investment field.

Investor/board member  Valerie Rockefeller and interviewer Debra Schwartz at HWW NYC Symposium 2017

Another session was focused on “Taking action — the key challenges that companies need to focus on:

  • Transparency
  • Risk reward
  • Insufficient diversity
  • Investing washing

…and how companies need to evolve to face the new challenges, such as adopting and using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in strategy and tactics.

Taking Action session: “Removing Obstacles to Change” with Susan Hammel, President, Cogent Consulting as session moderator.

For a breakout session I chose “Environmental and Climate,” where the discussion was focused on the environmental opportunity and climate risk into investment portfolios. The conversation  among participants was about the role of the corporation; the need for more specific standards and metrics for women;  the importance of creating non-biased investment portfolios; the specific of ESG approaches for analysis; and, the consequences of having the portfolio companies which don’t advocate for the environment protection.

Also discussed: the challenge of developing business models which contemplate climate change risk as one of the important considerations for company managements.

There were four afternoon breakout sessions and plenary sessions.

One featured Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, who was interviewed by Imogen Rose Smith, Investment Fellow, University of California. We also had two very informative panel sessions:: “Impact Investing in the New Age of Social Activism”; and, “Go Big or Go Home”, which was about the bold ideas driving impact investing today.

Fireside Chat with Governor Deval Patrick being interviewed by Imogen Rose-Smith

High Water Women is an organization for activists and thought leaders; they advocate for greater impact philanthropy.  The symposium attracts individuals, organizations and companies already involved in, or, seeking to explore the field of values-based investing.  This creates an ideal atmosphere for the networking all through the day. (Be sure to attend next year!)

The HWW grand ambitions made even more sense to me after attending the panel presented by Sara Brand, General Partner, True Wealth Ventures.

She shared critical data which makes for more understanding of the necessity in encouraging more women’s participation in financial issues in a more productive way — from the household unit to the board rooms in companies.

The data demonstrated that:

  • Women make 85% of the consumer purchasing decisions;
  • and 85% of healthcare decisions
  • We learned that companies with a female founder work 63% better than companies with an all-male founding board.

However, the current environment in the workplaces leaves women in second place in the business world.

  • Today, only a 1% of partners at firms making investment decisions are women;
  • and less than a 3% of the CEOs in USA are women.

These quantitative data sets are enough proof from the fact that markets should be assessed from a different perspective in which women play a more significant role.

Ms. Brand also talked about the problem and exposed solutions to fix it based on the endorsement of:

  • Women Entrepreneurs
  • Women General Partners
  • Women Limited Partners

Spotlight: Women Investors are the solution to the World’s problem, Sara Brand

The line up of brand name sponsors for the HWW event included: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, BlackRock, Deutsche Asset Management, KKR, Treehouse Investments, Trillium Asset Management, Calvert Investments, Columbia Threadneedle, Community Investment Management, Dalberg Global Development Advisors, Impax Asset Management, Microvest, oekom research, Tara Health Foundation, and Tideline.

For me as a first-time attendee, it was really inspiring to listen to achievers who are working at important foundations, investment firms and other organizations to develop more interest in impact investment programs – and to push companies forward for greater, faster change.

I heard about creating new business models leveraging the ESG approach to address challenges and opportunities and to support of diversity and gender empowerment that were breaking new ground..

Thanks to the current rise in the CSR strategies performance and the well-established networking of connectors, sustainers and factors, HWW provides women with the education needed and support required to overcome the societal obstacles — and to be able to strengthen the leadership of women in driving the emerging field of Impact Investment.

This brought to mind for me the words of the Mexican folk painter, Frida Kahio:  “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

Harvard Business Review – Increased Focus on Corporate Sustainability, Convening CEOs for Critical Conversations on the Theme

Harvard Business Review is one of the most powerful of external influences for the corporate C-suite.  Ideas, concepts and themes appearing in the pages (digital and print) of HBR create important initiatives in American companies. HBR editors are focusing these days on corporate sustainability in various dimensions.

Remember the debut of the “Shared Value” by Professor Michael Porter? Many first saw that concept introduced in the HBR pages.  A current project of HBR is the “Future Economy Project,” looking at business sustainability agendas and engaging CEOs for discussion on the theme.

A “virtual” roundtable with CEO’s was conducted to identify major themes of interest or concern to the business leaders.  Participants in the dialogue included Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical Company; Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever; Doug McMillon, CEO, Wal-Mart; Henry Paulson, former Secretary of the Treasury and Chair, Paulson Institute; Marne Levine, COO, Instagram/Facebook; Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Co.

The discussion was led by three leading academics and an industry expert; highlights are presented for you in the Top Story in this issue.  Here are a few top lines for you:

Paul Polman/Unilever saw the challenge of corporate sustainability as more clearly defining the “tactical” and “systemic” issues. And defining the terminology.  On tactics: labeling claims need to be clear about what standards to develop, and disclosure and materiality.  Systemic: system change, moving from short-term focus in politics and finance, and changing consumer preferences & habits.  These need to change at the systems level; the first step is identifying the problem.

Several of the CEOs said that companies are “becoming gradually more sustainable,” not at the speed needed, or the scale needed in the view of the session conveners.

Climate change is seen by CEOs in the context of minimizing risk; when more CEOs see this as an opportunity to drive innovations that are both financially and socially beneficial, “that will be interesting”.  CEO Andrew Liveris of Dow talked about his firm’s design of new and more sustainable product lines.

A shared observation:  Looking through the risk lens, if more companies did that, more product innovation and investment in more-resilient operations and supply chains would result. This can happen in different ways, such as value added by mitigation of 10% of carbon footprint.

An interesting part of the discussion was around the “ah-hah” moment that often occurs.  The transformation begins when there is a “spark” and things are seen in different ways.  The former CEO of Rainforest Alliance described that when corporate managers went into the field to see sustainability forestry, or sustainable farming, they are no longer “far removed” from it.  They see sustainability can be life-changing.

The Millennial generation has a different view of business in society; more senior managers have to take their views into consideration.  Along these lines, getting “others’” point of view is important. There has been a “sea change” in company-NGO engagement.  Company and NGO goals, expectations and parameters can be better aligned. A common language can evolve.

And investors’ points-of-view are important to the CEOs.  Unilever’s Polman and McKinsey CEO Dominic Barton talked about shifting their investor base to attract more investors who really care about long-term value creation.  But, the current emphasis on short-term in the investor universe is a challenge to address.

On long-term value:  One-in-five dollars in the USA is in ESG investments. Investors are interested in sustainability.  This creates an opportunity for companies. One of the focal points for companies could be the Sustainable Development Goals as roadmap for companies – leveraging the SDGs could help to create more systemic change.

A theme of the HBR: “We believe in climate change and we’re taking action.”  This was in part stimulated by the U.S. government’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.  “The upside of the sustainability agenda is clear,” the project managers say. The pursuit of sustainable processes up and down the supply chain can translate into immediate savings (one example).  So, too, reducing energy use and embracing renewable energy.  There’s more information for you at:https://hbr.org/2017/08/future-economy

The academics convening the discussion above were:  Michael Toffel and Rebecca Henderson at Harvard Business School; Tensie Whelan, NYU Stern School of Business; and, Andrew Winston of Winston Eco-Strategies.

 

Top Stories This Week…

FUTURE THINKING
(Wednesday – December 06, 2017)
Source: Harvard Business Review – Harvard Business Review interviewed the CEOs and other business leaders who signed up to the Future Economy Project, our initiative spotlighting businesses’ sustainability agendas. We then virtually convened the project’s….

North Sea Oil & Gas – Fueling Great Accumulations of Wealth for the Long-Term Benefit of Norway’s Future Generations

The foundation for the significant progress made in so many spheres of society in the 20th Century was…Oil!  The oil-producing nations of the world amassed great wealth with the marketing of oil and petroleum-derived products; those products enabled fantastic progress to be made in industry, government, agriculture, the consumer sector…throughout our modern society.

A number of formerly categorized as “still developing nations” of the early 20th Century years became quite wealthy when oil deposits were discovered or exploited on their lands — especially countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates, and Kuwait and Iran and Iraq.

North Sea oil and gas exploration would bring great wealth to certain western nations in the second half of the Century.  One of these was Norway, with significant reserves identified (and exploited) beneath the often storm North Sea waters.

A strategic decision was reached internally in 1990 — a stream of “surplus” revenues would be directed toward the country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), officially “the Government Pension Fund” – this inflow began in 1996 and since, the SWF has become the largest Sovereign Wealth Fund in the world. (There is a separate internal fund also receiving funds for domestic investment.)

The Norway SWF invests in 77 countries; the portfolio allocation is in equities (62%), fixed-income (34%) and real estate (3%). The return on investment in 2016 was almost 7%.

The Fund states that it is a “Responsible Investor,” with a mandate to integrate responsible investment activities into the management of the fund.

Sign of the times:  In the flow of news reports and commentaries about the trend to minimize or dis-invest shares of fossil-fuel companies in investment portfolios, comes news from the Nordic nation [the advice] that the Norway SWF should scale back or drop investments in oil & gas stocks.

The Norges Bank, which manages the SWF’s US$1 trillion in AUM, advised that such a step would make Norway less vulnerable to a permanent slide in Oil & Gas prices.  About 6% of the AUM is now in the sector (in such companies as Shell, BP, ExxonMobil). Shell contributed the most to the fund’s return in 2016.

Important note:  There were holdings in about 9,000 public companies in 2016; the average holding in the world’s listed companies was about 1.3% to 2%, and up to 5% in 28 companies. (Nestle is the largest holding in a single issuer.)

In North America, holdings are in 2,268 companies; 2,107 bonds from 582 issuers; and in 400 (office & retail) properties. Oil and Gas performed best in 2016, Norges Bank reported (29%).  One investment of note is Florida-based NextEra Energy, a U.S. company “driving the transition from coal-based power to clean electricity.”

All of this is sort of inside baseball; the SWF is owned by the central government for the benefit of future generations; the Norges Bank operations are part of the government; the Finance Ministry will review the suggestions.  We will likely see important decisions taken by June 2019, according to the BBC.

It will be interesting to watch as the world’s largest Sovereign Wealth Fund and one of the world’s key responsible investors — all integral parts of one of the world’s important oil & gas countries — make decisions on fossil fuel investments going forward.

BBC highlights of the latest developments are in our Top Story this issue. And there is more detailed information for you in the Norges Bank Annual Report for 2016.

Story This Week…

Norway’s state fund ‘needs to drop oil and gas investments’
(Friday – November 17, 2017) Source: BBC – Norway’s government has been told its state-run fund should drop its investments in oil and gas stocks.

 

AT THE NET IMPACT CONFERENCE 2017 – PATH TO PURPOSE

Guest Post by Laura Maio Yague, Sustainability Report Analyst, Governance & Accountability Institute

The Annual Net Impact Conference in the City of Atlanta, Georgia was held on October 26th, 27th and 28th of October and I was one of the fortunate ones to attend. This year was an exceptional event as the organization was celebrating its 25th anniversary under the banner of “Path to Purpose”.

Atlanta live tour

Atlanta welcomed us with an amazing tour “Atlanta Alive: Street Art & Social Justice Tour” during which we discovered the city art scene through its different neighborhoods.

At the same time, we learned and deepen more about its history, social movements and remarkable local figures of the Human Rights like The Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The city history of self-improvement of the city, dealing with racism and diverse social injustices made the tour the perfect starting point to get us ready for the immersion into the incredible experience that Net Impact 2017 had to offer.

“PATH TO PURPOSE” That was the main topic of this year’s annual gathering of Net Impact professionals and guest attendees.  The organizers wanted to make the audience think about what their purpose in life is, where to address the efforts and how to define our career.

The powerful idea of this year’s event was to bring together a large group of passionate students and young professionals from around the world to seek an innovative thinking to find solutions for the most pressing challenges of our time.

An intense and variety of sessions, panels, round-table discussions and activities were programmed for these three days to talk and address different issues about sustainability, environment, governance, social responsibility and social impact.

The sessions embraced topics from different fields and perspectives, ranging from technical to social aspects.   An example: Global Development, Corporate Impact, Food or Startups & Tech. The various panels targeted topics of interest for students and professionals alike. Students could participate in panels such as ‘Building Equity and Inclusion on Campus’ or sessions for One-on-One Coaching, with mentors and experimented professionals.

For those whose careers are taking off and were looking for encouragement, information on specific fields and advise, there were interesting panels which provided personal and professional guidance, such as Careers with Purpose: Building skills-based Volunteering into Any Organization, or ‘How to align Who You Are with What You Do.

The offer was very extensive, and I was really excited for attending many of the sessions.  Facing difficult choices, I finally decided to participate in the following panels:

  • Leading with the Triple Bottom line: Creating Shared Value Through Business’; this panel presented interesting stories and personal experiences of people driving CSR and sustainability forward in their companies.
  • The next wave of strategic Philanthropy and Impact investment’ analyzed the current solutions for companies to get the right financial support.

A few sessions related to food:

  • Farm to trash: Disrupting the Food Waste Epidemic
  • A Dialogue with Monsanto: Our Perspective on Food System For the Future.

Both of these sessions included activities bringing to our table a real case for which the audience was encouraged to find a sustainable solution.

  • NI17 Pitch Competition. I think this session reflected the real meaning and spirit of the conference. Young students presented ideas of either models or real businesses with a social impact. They upheld their work to convince the audience for a vote in order to get some economic resources to turn their dream into a real startup. It was a hopeful and vibrant moment.

In addition, each of the Keynote sessions united the whole audience in the big Auditorium with exceptional speakers sharing their personal experiences and stories.

Speakers shared with us how they built their impact projects related to fair trade, climate change solutions, human rights advocacy, all of them under the idea of following a purpose. They were very driven and motivating.

Derreck Kayongo presenting ‘The Global Soap Project’

I would like to make a special mention for Paul Hawken, Executive Director, Project Drawdown and Derreck Kayongo, CEO, National Center for Civil and Human Rights, for their encouraging and inspiring speeches. It is also remarkable a common point of all the speakers: their positive and resilience attitude to undertake challenges and problems in life.

Paul Hawken, presenting Project Drawdown

World of Coca-Cola Art Gallery

There was also free time to enjoy the city and its tourist attractions, such as the welcome party at the World of Coca-Cola and the Aquarium Sips Under the Sea Party.  Those were enjoyable and  really fun places which provided a cordial and relaxed climate for networking and continue meeting interesting people with common concerns and similar objectives.

Georgia Aquarium

There was a special atmosphere around the whole conference. Net Impact is the right place to elevate and bolster your career. This opportunity to share experiences with a multidisciplinary group of people with similar goals is really motivating.

Through the sessions you are able to do networking, acquire knowledge and discover new fields. It is a very enriching and fulfilling experience. I would highly recommend to anyone whose purpose is to build a society that is sustainable, equitable and fair for all. This is a good place to start to take action.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the Net Impact Conference:  Governance & Accountability Research Analysts Laura at Left Mola Yague (left) and Cher Xue (right).

Laura Malo Yague was graduated from Escuela de Ingenieria y Arquitectura de la Universad de Zaragoza in Industrial Technical Engineering, Industrial Electronics with Diploma in Business Management from IE (Spain).  She recently finished an Advanced Diploma at New York University, in Monitoring and Evaluation (project management for the United Nations, governments and not-for-profits).  Laura is a Corporate Reporting Analyst with G&A Institute.

Seven Important Trends From Textile Exchange Conference Summed Up: The Industry Gets It on Sustainability

“Sustainability is front and center in the apparel sector” — so writes Tara Donaldson in the November 5th feature story in the Sourcing Journal in covering the Textile Sustainability Conference in October. Seven major trends were discussed at the meeting of industry execs.

Considering such things as reducing microfibers polluting our oceans or using more materials with less environmental impact or other factors, the industry focus on sustainability is creating a new vision for the apparel industry, including for brands that had not yet been on board.  Because: the consumer and industry now demand this.

And there are seven trends that illustrate the paradigm shift in the industry, with details set out by the Journal for each:

Embrace of Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) – more companies are taking a close look at how their businesses align with these, and the October conference in Washington, DC focused on exploring what SDGs mean to the apparel sector. The SDGs provide a common vocabulary for the industry.  And the manufacturing centers are taking a closer look — like China, India, Bangladesh and El Salvador.

Better raw materials in products – slowly but steadily, brands are building products with sustainable materials; the trend is up for the year, according to the 2017 Preferred Fiber & Materials Report.

Circularity/Circularity/Circularity – companies are gearing up for more circularity (circular value chains that is!), with about one-quarter of firms developing such a strategy and more than half with a strategy being implemented.  For example, making a silk-like fiber out of orange peels.

Actions on Climate – for many firms, climate change is a major issue and more than 200 companies have set carbon reduction targets. Luxury products marketer Kering Group plans to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2020, for example.

Leveraging Technology for Sustainability – DNA tech is one of the “big things” with the ability to provide greater transparency and traceability for fiber (the technique is using DNA-based tags embedded in raw materials such as organic cotton).

Water — Being Better Stewards – apparel companies are “water guzzlers,” with 14-plus liters to make one cotton suit (as example).  Companies are figuring out how to go “waterless” or really cut their water usage over time in the production of apparel.

Investors and Long-Term Viability – and yes, the industry leaders acknowledge that investors “are paying heed” to sustainability and long-term business viability. A Bloomberg LP analyst laid out the importance of sustainability to the conference attendees.

There’s more for you in the Top Story on the above seven major trends.  And we include in our wrap up this week another report — about investors now paying greater attention to sustainability efforts in the apparel industry.

Note:  for the Sourcing Journal – a subscription is required — a “Free” registration will allow you access to this story, with a limit of 5 articles per month.

Top Stories This Week…

The Top 7 Sustainability Trends Coming Out of Textile Exchange
(Monday – November 06, 2017) Source: Sourcing Journal – Whether it’s circularity, reducing microfibers polluting the world’s oceans or using more materials with less environmental impact, sustainability is front and center in the apparel sector, and brands that hadn’t been on board…

The 2017 Net Impact Conference – Finding Your Path to Purpose

Guest Post by Cher Xue, Sustainability Report Analyst, Governance & Accountability Institute

The 2017 Net Impact Conference was held in Atlanta, GA, from October 26-28, 2017. The conference gathered about 2,000 students and young professionals who are committed to making a positive and lasting social and environmental impact throughout their careers.

Net Impact, headquartered in Oakland, California, is a leading global nonprofit, a global community with over 100,000 strong leaders and 300 chapters. Members are well equipped with the vital skills, experience and connections to people that will allow them to have the greatest impact — and turn their passions into a lifetime of world-changing action.

This year’s conference theme was “Path to Purpose” — and this resonated well in every session of the conference. To meet attendees’ different needs and interests, the conference offered more than 60 breakout sessions for professionals, students and faculties; these sessions are in the form of boot camps, panels and workshops.

The conference content covered a variety of different topics, including civic engagement, corporate impact, environment, equity, food, global development, social entrepreneurship, and startups & Tech. The conference also featured career advancement opportunities by organizing the on-site Expo, group mentoring and one-on-one career coaching.

One panel entitled, Leading with the Triple Bottom Line: Creating Shared Value Through Business, brought together people driving CSR and sustainability forward in their companies.

The panelists were:

  • Michael Oxman, the Managing Director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainability Business at Scheller College of Business, Georgia Tech;
  • Suzanne Fallender, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Intel;
  • Jami Buck-Vance, Director of Corporate Responsibility & Community Partnerships at Cox Enterprises; and,
  • Bruce Karas, V.P. of Environment & Sustainability at Coca-Cola North America Group.

This panel discussed details of both the challenges and solutions for corporate in social and environmental impact. The panelists shared their experience in what it takes to integrate impact metrics and values across the company. Young professionals, students, and people who would like to contribute to sustainability in their own companies found great advice for them to carry their work in the future.

Another panel –  Navigating the Clean Energy Transition  — featured:

  • Marilyn Brown, Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology;
  • Lee Ballin, Head of Sustainable Business Programs at Bloomberg;
  • John Federovitch, Senior Director of Renewable Energy & Efficiency at Walmart; and
  • Jim Hanna, Director of Datacenter Sustainability at Microsoft.

The panelists talked about how we could change the energy landscape from dependency on fossil fuels to cleaner options in an economically feasible and environmentally conscious way.

As the private sector plays a leading role in energy consumption, John Federovitch and Jim Hanna (from Walmart and Microsoft) shared their views on navigating the clean energy transition, the challenges, and future trends in Clean Energy.

Opening party at the World of Coca-Cola

In addition to panels and workshops, this year, in honor of the Net Impact’s 25th anniversary, the conference added more local networking events and excursions throughout the weekend for attendees to explore Atlanta. These included an opening party at the World of Coca-Cola, a visit to the Civil & Human Rights Museum, the panda enclosure at Atlanta Zoo, and a tour of the city’s “living walls project”.

The Atlanta city tour of street art and social justice allowed attendees to be immersed in its vibrant culture, socially conscious communities and southern charm.

Reception at the Georgia Aquarium

Atlanta is a thriving city with a history of social movements, and is the birthplace for one of the greatest Civil Rights icons, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The history of this southern city and national events influenced artists who create art in public space throughout the city with over 100 outdoor murals. The 4-hour long bus tour experience not only added welcome fun to the conference, but also allowed attendees to explore sections of town that use art as an identifier of their community, and examine how art was used to present powerful and thought-provoking messages.

Atlanta Alive: Street Art & Social Justice Tour

I found the three-day Net Impact conference in Atlanta to be a really wonderful gathering of the brightest, most enthusiastic and innovative change agents from all over the world. My participation allowed me to gain rich experience in all aspects, as well as tangible skills and actionable insights.  I am sure that participants came away feeling that the conference helped them to map out their Path to Purpose — to turn their passion into a purposeful career!

Qier “Cher” Xue is a recent graduate of Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment.  She majored in Environmental Management with concentration in Energy.  She also earned a Certificate in Sustainable System Analysis, and worked as student consultant at Lenovo.  Her interests are in renewable energy, supply chain management and sustainability.  She’s a grad of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with Distinction Cum Laude Honors in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management (B.S.).  G&A Institute is proud to have her working as Sustainable Reporting Analyst.