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.

Environmental Threats to Us and Mother Earth – Seven Trends to Consider…and Develop Solutions From the Forum for the Future

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

This week we are celebrating Earth Day.  The first (in 1970) observance became a catalyst for action – soon after the first of a series of environmental-focused Federal legislation began to change dirty air to cleaner and then clean, and more laws to address a very unhealthy state of affairs in the U.S.A. (The Environmental Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, RCRA, etc.). 

But…the challenges for society have not gone away. The list of “hot ESG issues” grows by the week. 

Once an ESG issue emerges and people begin to dive into the details, a range of sub-issues arises.  In this corporate proxy season we are seeing top-line issues in focus and the underlying questions that investors have as they bring their resolutions to the companies for inclusion in the broader shareholder-base voting.

Example: Where “political spending” began as a broad issue the investors moved on to ask from where the company money was being spent directly(corporate donations to political party or candidate or PAC) to now, indirectly (is the company’s money going to business industry groups that lobby against shareholder interest – which ones, addressing what issues, how much money?) 

Some environmental challenges of the 1970s are still with us (consider the continuing impact of coal-burning, the state of global plastics disposal, and questions about water treatment such as in animal husbandry and fracking). And more issues are in focus under the huge bundle we refer to as “climate change”.

The evolvement of ESG as an integrated approach for investor evaluation of companies has complicated life for many corporate managers. 

In the recent past, a large-cap would assemble the “top 10” issues list for the management team and their direct reports to address.  For 3M, as example, “highway safety” and related issues under the heading would be high on the list (the company’s important product offerings would be directly impacted by changes). 

Today, that Top 10 list is all about the materiality of the issue(s) for many investors and companies — and how those issues are being measured, managed, how risk is being addressed and opportunities seized — and then reported to stakeholders.

In many large-cap companies a broader-based team will be busily shaping ESG strategy, policy, sustainability team practices and addressing issues-associated risk management on a much wider range of topics and subtopics. 

Timothy McClimon, head of the American Express Foundation, brings us his views on seven global trends – and their relevant issues – that are impacting the sustainability movement today. (You can think about how the seven impact your organization through the 2020s, the focus of the research and perspectives shared.)

He reviews the Forum for the Future’s report in a Forbes commentary.  The report is “Driving Systems Change in Turbulent Times” – with major implications for “how” or even “if” we will be able to address current global “E” challenges.  (Are patterns of behavior, structures or mindsets shifting toward or away from sustainability?)  Consider:

First – the plastics kickback; we continue to produce and then dispose of eight million tons each year with no real change in sight. (We are adding tons of material that will go “somewhere” and have an impact on society.)

Second – Climate change and the impact on mass migration; large parts of the world are becoming less hospitable and more people will try to move to safer places. Mass migrations are ahead. Perhaps as many as 2 billion persons will be affected by climate change and migrating away from their homes.

Third – around the world, Nationalism Marches Again; this is leading to fragmentation, intolerance, competition for fewer resources… complicated by growing inequality and a range of old and new “S” issues.

Fourth – We Live in the “On-Life” – by the end of this year, half of the world’s 7-billion-plus will be online, with issues arising (mental health, social cohesion, personal interaction, privacy and security, and more).

Fifth – The Rise of Participatory Democracy; cities and states lead the way in combating rising levels of protectionism and nationalism, which may usher in a new era of more local decision-making and civic participation.

Sixth – Asia’s Changing Consumerism; China leads the way with India, Japan, South Korea and Thailand close behind in moving more people into middle class status.  But, we are losing our global capacity to sustain them as the pursue the good life.  Millennials may slow the trend in Asia (they’re more conscious consumers).

Seventh – Biodiversity is Now in Freefall; scientists see mass extinction of some plant and animal species and one-fifth of the valuable Amazon rainforest has disappeared. (Something has to give to make room for growing food to meet the needs of the growing Earth population.) Little is being done about this, say the report authors.

How can we meet these global environmental challenges – what principles can be adopted to preserve the good life so many of the citizens of Earth enjoy today?  Some are spelled out in the Top Story for you.

Author Timothy J. McClimon is president of the American Express Foundation and serves on not-for-profit boards. He also teaches at New York University and at Johns Hopkins University.

Click here for more on the Forum for the Future (not for profit).

Each of the 7 trends has a chapter devoted to the issues. 
Click here for the full report.


This Week’s Top Stories

7 Global Trends Impacting The Sustainability Movement   
(Tuesday – April 16, 2019) Source: Forbes – the Forum for the Future advances seven trends that have major implications for how (or if) we will be able to address current global environmental challenges…