The Media – And Sustainability & CR Thought Leadership, For Both Topic-Focused and Mainstream Media Coverage

by Hank Boerner – Chair, G&A Institute

The “media” that we choose to get our news, commentary, research results, even crossword puzzles, movie reviews, the latest scientific papers and maybe information about what our friends are up to (such as “social media”) are usually self-selected.  

We tune in to what we want to read or watch or listen to…for information / education / entertainment…and it also helps to define us in many ways.

So here at G&A Institute as we broadly monitor for content related to both our day-to-day and long-term focus areas (the list of topics and issues is long), when we see these things pop up in “not-the-usual places,” we are cheered.

This weekend, for example, we picked up on the following, which were encouraging in that senior management publications are read beyond the folks involved in sustainable investing and corporate sustainability or ESG issues and topics.

In Focus:   MIT Sloan Management Review

This is the publication of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MIT Sloan School of Management.  “Share Your Long-Term Thinking” was one feature article. Companies need to be more forthcoming about their strategies for long-term value creation when they communicate with investors — especially about ESG issues, write authors Tim Youmans and Brian Tomlinson.

Their observation is that over the past five years, CEOs have faced mounting pressure to produce short-term profits. CEOs do think about the long-term, have long-term plans (detailed and extensive) and these typically are closely held.  Result: corporate strategy and practice are not captured in investor communications.

They then offer six reasons why long-term plans should be disclose and how to do that.  One of these is to help investors understand ESG issues through the eyes of management — because a majority of investors see ESG factors as financially material and expect sound management of material ESG factors to deliver better performance over the long-term. 

Tim Youmans is engagement director for Hermes Equity Ownership Services and Brian Tomlinson is research director for the Strategic Investor Initiative at CECP.

They conclude for the magazine’s audience (aimed at corporate executives and senior managements in the main): “The long-term plan is a new tool in the regular sequence of periodic corporate-shareholder communications and represents an unprecedented opportunity for leading companies and investor together to drive sustainable value creation and help to clarify the role of the corporation in a sustainable society.”

That is not all for the MIT Sloan Management Review audience in the Spring 2008 issue.

“Why Companies Should Report Financial Risks From Climate Change” is another feature — this from Robert Eccles and Michael Krzus.  They  focused on the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Disclosures [recommendations].

“Investors and the rest of the world is watching to see how companies will respond to the TFCD recommendations” — the ask here is that company managements will expand their disclosure to report on the risks and opportunities inherent in climate change in such documents as the 10-k.

Boston Common Asset Management LLC and ShareAction organized a campaign with institutions representing US$1.5 trillion in AUM participating to pressure financial institutions (especially banks) to implement the recommendations.

Companies should follow the recommendations, authors Eccles and Krzus argue, because this could lead to evolving better strategies to adapt to climate change — and be able to explain these strategic moves to the their investors.

They focus on the oil and gas industry, looking at disclosures in 2016 by 15 of the largest industry firms listed on the NYSE.  A few have made good progress in adhering to the TCFD recommendations (so there is not a “blank slate”); there is work to be done by all of the companies in enhancing their disclosures to meet the four top recommendations (in governance, strategy, risk management and metrics and targets areas).

Their article is an excellent summation of the challenges and opportunities presented for such companies as BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Sinopec, Statoil, Total, and others in oil & gas.

Bob Eccles is a well-known expert in corporate sustainability and sustainable investing and is visiting professor at Said Business School at the University of Oxford. Mike Krzus is an independent consultant and researcher and was a Fellow of G&A Institute.

Wait, there’s more!

The magazine’s columnists had important things to say as well.

Kimberly Whitler and Deborah Henretta penned “Why the Influence of Women on Boards Still Lags,” applauding the rise of the number of women on boards and offering two important criticisms — the growth rate is slowing and boards do that do have female members often limit their influence.

Although there are measurable positive results of female board inclusion — they cite Return on Equity averaging 53% higher in the top quartile than in the bottom — women still are not making more rapid inroads with fewer reaching the most influential board leadership positions, even with more women on boards than 10 years ago.

The authors set out ways for making more progress in board rooms.  And they advise: “For real, lasting change that wins companies the full benefits of gender-diverse decision-making, boards need to look beyond inclusion — and toward influence.”

Kimberly Whitler is assistant professor of business adminstration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business; Deborah Henretta is an independent board director on the boards of Dow Corning, Meritage Homes Corp, NiScource Inc and Staples (she was a Proctor & Gamble executive).

There is much more for executives and board members in the issue, which has the overall theme of: “In Search of Strategic Agility – discover a better way to turn strategy into results.”

The content we outlined here is powerful stuff (our own technical term) to crank into corporate strategy-setting, and savvy execs are doing just that, as we see here at G&A as we pour through the more than 1,500 corporate reports we analyze each year with titles such as Corporate Sustainability, Corporate Responsibility, Corporate Citizenship, Corporate Environmental Sustainability, and more.

And so it is very encouraging when we wander beyond the beaten path of reading the reliable staple of sustainability-oriented and CSR-oriented media to see what the senior management thought leadership media are doing!

We recommend that you read through the Spring 2018 Strategy magazine from MIT Sloan.  Link: https://sloanreview.mit.edu/

The Most Trustworthy Business and Professional Leaders – the Rosters Are Out Today From Trust Across America / Trust Around the World

January 30, 2018
by Hank Boerner – Chair& Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Trust!  For many of us, when a critical incident or crisis occurs, one of the first words that come to mind is “trust,” as in “they really broke the trust with us” or “the organization can’t be trusted” (as in the statements made) or “the leaders can’t be trusted.”

Apply this to now-familiar settings:  Wells Fargo bankers and the security of your personal bank accounts.  BP and deepwater ocean drilling or Alaska drilling.  Equifax and your personal financial information.  Valeant pharma and drug pricing – and alleged gouging.

In a world of those little swirling computer screen circles, and IT dominating our business & persona lives…threats can now be everywhere — internet hacking and phishing abounds – and we think:  who can we trust with your information?  That becomes a conscious and subconscious thought process on both a business and personal basis for many of us.

In business and professional life, trust is a valuable and precious commodity.  Warren Buffett has observed, “…it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it…if you think about that, you will do things differently…”

“Trustworthy” is a very valuable characteristic, we would say!

And so does an organization that has been identifying the “Top Thought Leaders in Trust” think that way:  the Trust Across America / Trust Around the World (TAA/TAW, owned by Next Decade, Inc.)

The founder and guiding spirit is CEO Barbara Brooks Kimmel, who 10 years ago created the program and its proprietary FACTS® Framework (used to measure the trustworthiness of more than 1,500 U.S. public companies). FACTS incorporates five indicators of trust and integrity – Financial stability, Accounting conservativeness, Corporate governance, Transparency and Sustainability.

Barbara is also the editor of the Trust INC. book series and runs the global Trust Alliance.

Every year since 2008, TAA/TAW assembles judges and conducts a survey and analysis to select a small universe of the Top Thought Leaders in Trust.  After five continuous years on the annual list, a small number of awardees receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.  This year’s lifetime roster additions include:

  • John Baldoni – President, the Baldoni Consulting organization.
  • Donna Boehme – Principal of Compliance Strategists LLC.
  • Doug Conant – former CEO of Campbell Soup and founder, Conant Leadership.
  • Robert Easton – Chairman and Senior Manager of Accenture Australia and New Zealand.
  • Mark S. Fernandes – CEO of Capitalism 2.0, Inc.
  • Barbara Brooks Kimmel – CEO of Trust Across America.
  • Holly Latty-Mann – Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Cofounder, and President of The Leadership Trust.
  • David Reiling – CEO of Sunrise Banks and social entrepreneur.

TAA / TAW is the leading global program devoted to researching and building tools to elevate organizational trust. A Google search will return over 1300 entries.

In 2015, the organization added the “Lifetime Honorees” designation to 12 professionals.  I was honored to be one of the original twelve, after five years of being the awardee for the annual award.  In 2016 and in 2017, seven more professionals were added to the roster (each year), and now in 2018, there are eight professionals added.

Ninety-one individuals were named to the 2017 individual award, including for the second year in a row, G&A Institute Co-founder and Executive Vice President Louis D. Coppola.

You can see the full list in the latest TRUST! Magazine here:  http://trustacrossamerica.com/magazine.shtml

 

Of course, Lou and I are humbled and proud to receive such honors.

TAA / TAW points to the organization’s core values and principles, which are excellent “north stars” for professionals’ and their organizations’ guidance:

Integrity – Quality – Community – Objectivity – Credibility – Success. 

You can learn more about these and the organization at: http://www.trustacrossamerica.com/about-words.shtml

Do you have a nominee for the Top Thought Leaders 2019 award?  The nominations are now open – there’s information at: http://www.trustacrossamerica.com/cgi-bin/nominations.cgi

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Adding my thoughts….

Trust – this apparently comes down to us for common understanding and use from ancient languages.  There are derivations from the Old Norse – the language of the wandering Vikings (“traust” and “trow”).  From the Old Dutch (“troosten”).  And the German or Teutonic tongue (“trosten”).  And more from the Gothic English-the Anglo Saxon roots of spoken English today (“trausti”).

These ancient and current tongues convey to us:  

Truth.  Comfort. Trustworthy.
An agreement or covenant – to be true to one’s words and deeds.
To be believed.

And therefore – to be trusted and trustworthy.  Worth striving for, we would say in these often chaotic days of the 21st Century!

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There’s information on the 2017 awards in the news from TAA:  https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/announcing-2018-top-thought-leaders-in-trust-300589490.html