A Special Message From the G&A Institute Team – To Our Valued Colleagues

From all of us on the G&A Institute team, our greetings to you wherever you are working today.  From conversations, we know many of you are sheltered in place, and preparing for this period of uncertainty and anxiety. 

We hope this communication finds you safe and well today, and able to continue to be engaged and connected.

We wish for the same for your family and colleagues (your business family). These are the times of many unknowns and adjustments as we quickly move away from our usual daily “normal” to find the way forward through the crisis and on to post-emergency recovery.

This is a time of great uncertainty as society “closes down” in terms of the many things we do every day and take for granted.  We work at home today, not the office.  We have food delivered and don’t go to stores or restaurants. We don’t take public transportation to work or drive the car to the facility parking lot.  Our colleagues are now voices on the phone, not the co-worker in the room next door in the office.

In summer 2019, The Business Roundtable (the association of leading CEOs in the U.S.) re-defined its “Purpose of a Corporation” statement to pledge to promote an economy that serves all Americans. Jamie Dimon, Chair/CEO of JPMorgan Chase, was then the chair.  His comments in 2019 apply many times over in March 2020:

“The American dream is alive but fraying.
Major employers are investing in their workers and communities
because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term.
These modernized principles [of the BRT] reflect the business community’s
unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy
that serves all Americans.” 

Today, the almost 200 CEOs of major companies signing on to the updated principles are challenged to keep the promise. Millions of us are counting on the corporate sector to help us through the crisis, many now partnering with federal, state and local communities to address the challenges.

From our team’s crisis management work over many years, we know that the “unknown” is the important fear factor – for many people, what “if” quickly comes to mind.  We can talk instead about “what is”, what is the known and what we can do about it, even in some small way to help reassure.  And, we can give other people something to do.

Staying at home – that is doing something positive to do on the personal level.  What we can do in and from the home – that is our contribution to addressing the emergency affecting all of society.

Today, we are using this communication with you to share this from our team:

We are writing to say that we are here for you, continuing our communications with you and sharing information, as best we can, given the circumstances.  We are able to report that all of our team members are doing OK and connected and working remotely to keep things on track.  (Of course, like some of you with young children at home, it’s an interesting juggling act!)

As some of you may know, our G&A team members have been working together for several decades (depending on when the team member joined).  Our prior firm, where many of the founding members were a dedicated team, was a premier crisis management consultancy, serving the Fortune 500(R) companies. 

Our experience includes having all hands on deck during the September 11th attacks in 2001 to support our clients.  And, helping clients with strategies and support and communication in the aftermath and recovery period as the nation got back to business.

We applied that crisis & issue management, strategic communication legacy, experience and knowledge base in the emerging field of corporate ESG / sustainability / citizenship and sustainable investing when we founded the company in 2006-07.

We will continue to communicate with you via our usual channels to help to keep you informed and updated.  We want to continue “the normal” as much as we can and our weekly newsletter will be part of that effort.

The global emergency presents risk to us, yes, but also opportunity for all of us individually and collectively, as teams working together, to be strengthened.  Our organization’s reputation and brand to be enhanced, and the demonstration of “sustainability” in the traditional use of the term  – to be viable, resilient and here for the long-term for all stakeholders. 

The Wei Ji, the ancient Chinese symbol for risk and opportunity, presents the two sides of today’s crisis environment. On the opportunity side of the risk equation, we think that excellence in corporate citizenship will be on full display these days, visible to all of our stakeholders.

What the company does, its mission stated clearly, the actions taken, the protection of stakeholders, the protection of brand and products, the caring for Human Capital, the actions that benefit society…all of this will demonstrate the character, purpose, and culture of the corporate entity.

The old saying today is something to consider — now is the time for all good companies to come to the aid of their countrymen.

The ESG / sustainability / responsibility work underway by you and your organization during these challenging times is a strong foundation of all of this. It’s what sustainability leadership and excellence is corporate citizenship is all about – continue on with the good work!  Continue on the path is our advice today.

Let us know if we can help in any way.  We are all in this together – and we will enter the post-emergency period together, to be stronger than ever.

Do keep safe and secure and healthy. We’ll keep communicating with you. Keeping as much as we can “normal” in the new normal is important.

The team at Governance & Accountability Institute.

3rd in Series: The Electric Utilities & Power Generators Industry – GRI & SASB Standards In Focus – Perspectives on Alignments & Differences

By Jess Peete – G&A Institute Sustainability Report Analyst Intern

It is often the case that many us may not give our monthly energy utility company a second thought — unless there is an issue with the power going out or the bill is too high.

However, for those of us working in the sustainability field, the Energy Utilities Industry is one of the most important industries to consider, regardless of where we live or do business.

This industry’s companies power our homes, power our businesses, and in so many ways power our modern lives.

Traditionally, the energy utilities & power generators industry relied on oil and coal to generate supply for the power grid. This historic reliance on fossil fuels has more recently become a major issue in focus for investors, and society, as the effects of climate change continue to grow and the impact of burning fossil fuels for energy become more apparent.

Because of these effects on the environment and atmosphere, the Energy Utilities and Power Generators sector is today considered “high impact”.

Key sustainability reporting frameworks – including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) — have sector-specific reporting standards (GRI has supplemental guidance that goes beyond their regular reporting requirements in order to more accurately measure the societal impact of the industry.)

Similarities and Differences in Standards

I’ve found that there is a great deal of similarity in the GRI Sector Supplements and SASB Industry standards for the Energy Utilities and Power Generation industry — but there are distinct differences as well.

The sector supplements only exist for GRI-G4, however, it is still advised for reporting organizations to now use the GRI Standards and incorporate the sector-specific disclosures from the GRI-G4 energy sector supplement to establish a more thorough industry-specific review of the total impact of the energy utilities sector.

The SASB Standards

SASB defines the materiality for the Energy Utilities sector reporting to include the following topics:

ENVIRONMENT

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions & Energy Resource Planning
  • Air Quality
  • Water Management
  • Coal Ash Management

SOCIAL CAPITAL

  • Community Impacts of Project Siting

HUMAN CAPITAL

  • Workforce Health & Safety

BUSINESS MODEL AND INNOVATION

  • End-Use Efficiency & Demand

LEADERSHIP AND GOVERNANCE

  • Nuclear Safety & Emergency Management
  • Grid Resiliency
  • Management of the Legal & Regulatory Environment

Overall, the SASB standards appear to me to be quite comprehensive for a company to follow for their reporting — and would require reporting for many aspects of the electric power grid, including overall energy supply chain impacts.

For instance, SASB requires a calculation of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emitted related to operations — but also requires a qualitative reporting of management-level planning to reduce the GHG emissions (emitted both from the company and its customers).

SASB addresses this in terms of recommending corporate reporting on negative environmental impacts — such things as coal ash and potential hazards such as posed by nuclear plants.

The GRI Standards

There appears to be little to no mention of coal ash storage in the GRI Standards — unless a company chooses to include coal ash as effluence.

This type of reporting could also be included in a company’s disclosure of their management approach (DMA) in the GRI Standards Report.

One area where the GRI standards seems to have a stronger “urging” for corporate reporting is the Sector impact on water, which is incredibly important because the energy utilities sector is one of the biggest users of water (usually required for cooling).

GRI Standards, in this case, appear to take a more holistic approach to water consumption (measuring total stress) while SASB only requires reporting the water impact from high stress areas.

Conclusion:

Because of the high impact that energy production and distribution have on climate, local communities, and the economy, companies in the Sector using both the GRI Standards and GRI G4 Energy Supplement alongside the SASB Energy Utilities Sector Supplement will be able to create a sustainability report that measures the true impact and costs of operations.

Measuring and managing these material E&S issues can help to provide both companies and investors in the sector a better understanding of their businesses, and a clear pathway to keeping consumer costs low while shifting to an energy portfolio that is one more based on sustainable energy.

Note:  This commentary is part of a series sharing the perspectives of G&A Institute’s Analyst-Interns as they examine literally thousands of corporate sustainability / responsibility reports.  Click the links below to read the first post in the series which includes explanations and the series introduction as well as the other posts in the series:

1st in Series: The Software / IT Services Industry – GRI & SASB Standards In Focus – Perspectives on Alignments & Differences

2nd in Series: The Agriculture Products Industry — GRI & SASB Standards In Focus – Perspectives on Alignments & Differences

4th in Series: The Food Industry – GRI & SASB Standards In Focus – Perspectives on Alignments & Differences