The Climate Change Crisis – “Covering Climate Now” Can Help to Shape The Public Dialogue

Introducing a new series of perspectives from G&A Institute…

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

We are bringing you a series of commentaries on the climate change crisis to share news, research results and perspectives to you in an organized way.

Fact:  We are facing dire outcomes for humanity and planet if we don’t move faster with strategies and actions to address the challenges of climate change.

We’re calling our shared perspectives “About the Climate Change Crisis”.

Global Warming.  Droughts. SuperStorms. Floods.  Rising Seas. Outbreaks of forest fires.  Loss of Species.  Degradation of farmlands.  Food Shortages. 

These should be defined as crisis situations, no?

Despite these dangers, the public dialogue on “climate change” issues in the United States reflects in some ways the divide in public opinion on critical issues facing the American public, government, business, the financial sector.

Climate changing? Yes and No. Human activities  causing the changes? Yes and No.
Should we be worried? Yes and No.

And so it goes.

The United States of America participated in the 2015 Paris (COP 21) meetings and signed on to the Paris Agreement along with almost 200 other nations, with President Barack Obama becoming a signatory in April 2016 and in September 2016 by presidential action presented the necessary documents to the U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon.

The People’s Republic of China also presented the documents, a collaboration negotiated by President Obama. (This step by Barack Obama avoided presenting what amounted to an international treaty agreement to the U.S. Senate for ratification, required by the U.S. Constitution – approval assuredly would not happen in today’s political environment.)

The U.S. also contributed US$3 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

And so also by executive order, his successor in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump in March 2017 with swipe of a pen signaled the start of the complex and lengthy process of removing the U.S. from the historic Paris Agreement to limit the damage of global warming.

By his side: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (since gone from the environmental agency).

The backdrop: scientific reports that 2016 was the warmest year on record to date!

And credible scientists telling us that we have a decade at most to get control of climate change issues!

Prior to becoming president Donald Trump declared among other things that climate change was a Chinese hoax. (One of his positioning comments on the subject: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” – November 6, 2012 tweet.)

But climate change is real – and we face a climate crisis in 2019!

What Did the Current U.S.A. Leader Do?

President Trump on November 4, 2019 officially notified the international community – and specifically the community of the United Nations – that the process of withdrawal was beginning and would be complete one year from now — the day before Election Day 2020.

Note that in November 2018 the government of the United States of America published the fourth climate change assessment by key U.S. government agencies: the “Climate Science Special Report” was prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the Federal government. (We’ve including an overview in this series.)

The contents are of significance if you are an investor, a company executive or board member, an issue advocate, public sector officer holder or civic leader, consumer — or other type of stakeholder.

There are volumes of data and descriptions in the report presenting a range of “high probability” climate change outcomes in this the 21st Century.

Adding credibility to the Federal government’s report to the nation and the world:  11, 258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines (biosciences, ecology, etc.) published a report in the Bioscience Journal (November 2018) – “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency” – setting out a range of policies and actions that could be (adopted, taken) to address the emergency.

Good News About News Media

Good news from the purveyors of news to millions of people: the publishers of Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation created the “Covering Climate Now” (the initiative was launched in April 2019) intended to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate emergency.  The lead media partner is The Guardian.

The founders are now joined by cooperating media that today reaches more than one billion people worldwide. Representatives of 350 newsrooms in 32 countries have joined to ramp up coverage of the climate crisis and possible solutions. The campaign is designed to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate emergency.

Combined, the cooperating media reach more than one billion people worldwide.

Participants in the campaign include Bloomberg, Agence France-Press, The Guardian, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The New Jersey Star Ledger, The Oklahoman, Corporate Knights, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, La Republica (Italy), The Hindustan Times (India), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), La Razon (Spain), Greenbiz.com, Huffpost, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, Scientific American, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, and many many other communications platforms.

Partner organizations in the campaign include wire services, news agencies, newspapers, magazines, digital news sites, journals, radio, podcasters, and institutions like Princeton University and Yale Climate Change & Health Initiative.

Could it be that the press, especially the U.S. press, can turn the tide of public opinion (with the naysayers and public doubters) with increasing and accurate coverage of the climate story?

Is the “media awake”?   That question was posed and answered in September 2019 by Mark Hertsgaard (The Nation) and Kyle Pope (CJR editor) addressing the  initiative.

Their comments are here for you: https://www.cjr.org/covering_climate_now/climate-crisis-new-beginning.php

Is this where you get your news a participant? Check the list here: https://www.coveringclimatenow.org/partners

Participating publisher Corporate Knights points out to us that “climate change” was suggested as a term to use by pollster Frank Luntz to President George W. Bush instead of the more frightening term, “global warming”. Let’s not scare the people. Gently move them forward.

We do need to return to the more accurate and realistic title of global warming. The threats posed by warming of land and sea are visible to us – every day now!

But, OK, if climate change is the popular branding, then let’s talk about the climate change crisis or emergency (so says the media collaboration).

We’re presenting this series of climate change crisis commentaries to help to tell the story of the climate change crisis or emergency.

The title is About the Climate Crisis, following the lead of the collaborating journalists.

The Good News

The good news as background to the above is that cities and states are “still in” and implementing strategies and actions to follow the Paris Accord in their jurisdictions. 

Corporations participated in the Conference of Parties (COP) meetings and especially the Paris COP 21 meetings.

Companies have been launching and reporting on their sustainability journey — actively addressing climate change issues — and investors are building more climate change considerations into their financial analysis and portfolio management. 

Combined these actions are keeping the United States in the game and helping to maintain the nation’s edge in climate change matters. Of course, we can ALL do more!

Let us know how we are doing. And please do suggest to us issues and topics and developments that might be of interest to you and other readers of the G&A Institute’s Sustainability Update blog.

Please do Stay Tuned to our ongoing blog commentaries.

It’s “Official” Now: The United States of America Is Withdrawing From the Historic Paris Accord on Climate Change With Notice to the UN

The big news of this week:  The USA is now “officially” withdrawing from the Paris Accord on Climate Change.  The one-year countdown to “USA out” is now underway.

In 2015 as the representatives of almost all of the nations of the world gathered in Paris, France for “COP 21” (or “the UN Climate Change Forum, the 21st yearly meeting of the Conference of Parties), an important agreement was reached:  the 196 nations would work together to attempt to limit global warming to below 2-degrees Celsius (3.5-degrees Fahrenheit) – or at least to not above 1.5C (2.7F).

The goals are temperatures above pre-Industrial Age levels; scientists say we have already warmed 1-degreeC (or 1.8F).  The Washington Post in reporting the administration’s now-official action on the Accord says that 1/10th of the globe is already at more than 2-degrees Celsius when you compare the last five years with pre-industrial levels.

That means all of the nations of the world have to work independently and collectively to limit carbon emissions to zero level between years 2030 and 2050. This would be done in part through “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs) enacted in each signatory country. Comparing the year 2030 (intended results) with year emissions levels of a quarter-century ago would mean cutting emissions by at least 40 percent – a Herculean effort for many nations, and especially for the big “emitters” of the industrial world – the USA, China, India and European states. 

The United States of America had representatives at the COP 21 meetings – including members of the corporate community; according to a letter to the White House from US Senators who attended, today, 900 businesses continue to support the Paris Agreement, including 20 of the Fortune 500s. 

President Barack Obama committed the USA to the Paris Agreement / or Accord by executive order and in November 2016 (with other almost 200 other nations) the climate agreement was confirmed by the state representatives in Paris.

In June 2017, six months into the succeeding administration, President Trump announced plans to withdraw from the Accord because “…it disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”  (More recently he described the agreement as a “total disaster” for the U.S.)

And so by various means and executive order, successor President Donald Trump “officially” began the withdrawal of the USA this week with notice to the United Nations. The ending of US participation in the global agreement will be in November 2020 – one day after Election Day next year.  Climate change issues including the status of the USA in the Paris Accord are today political issues in the context of elections at all levels of government including the presidency of the U.S.

Of course, numerous critics sounded alarm and anger at the president’s action (a campaign promise in 2016 and addressed by President Trump since taking office).  Susan Biniaz, lecturer at Yale University, for example, told The Washington Post: “While the world will not be surprised, it’s a sad reminder of where the world’s former leader on climate change now stands…the decision of two years ago [two withdraw] is now even more grotesque…”

Andrew Steer, leader of the World Resources Institute, said the move “…fails people in the United States who will lose out on clean energy jobs as other nations grab the competitive and technological advances that the low-carbon future offers.”

A successor in the White House could begin the process of rejoining the Paris Accord — depending on the election outcome next November.  And the pledge to do so could be “immediate” while the formal rejoining is now a more complex process.  Stay tuned to this important conversation!
Our Top Stories this week bring you several important perspectives on this issue.

Top Stories

Trump Makes It Official:  U.S. Will Withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord
Source: The Washington Post

Withdrawing from Paris Agreement will hurt U.S. economy and communities around the world
Source: Ceres

What U.S. Exit Means for Paris Climate Change Accord: QuickTake
Source: Bloomberg

On the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement
Source:  U.S. Department of State Press Statement

Leaving the Paris Agreement Is a Bad Deal for the United States
Source: Foreign Policy

Where Are U.S. Companies on Climate Change Risk Disclosure? New Survey Results from DFIN Are Available…

Climate Change and Corporate Reporting – the two terms are increasingly coupled now as many more investors and stakeholders are requesting information from publicly-traded companies about their awareness of, and strategies & actions for addressing the many risks posed to the enterprise by climate change.

Important sea change:  many more investors are now asking companies for information about their preparation for climate change and some, demanding a report if none has been issued.

Response:  Many more companies and especially large-cap companies are now disclosing relevant data and information about their climate change / risk management strategies, plans, actions taken, goals set, and results of their efforts to reduce, mitigate and eliminate climate change risks.

The GRI Standards and the SASB Standards are available to provide managers with excellent disclosure guidelines and reporting frameworks for such reporting — and in the dozens of corporate reports that our G&A Institute analyst team examine each week, we are seeing a steady rise in more robust reporting on issues surrounding climate change. 

A new addition to such disclosure and structured reporting are the “TCFD” recommendations for disclosure – these are recommendations of the influential Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure.Briefly, why TCFD is important:  The central bankers and top financial regulators of the G-20 nations created the Financial Stability Board (FSB) after the 2008 financial crisis to explore potential regulations for expanded corporate reporting (to prevent unpleasant surprises, which financial market players dread!).

Michael Bloomberg was appointed to head a task force (with 32 members) to develop specific suggestions for public companies’ disclosures on climate change that are financially-related.  The task force’s report (with recommendations) was made public in 2017.  Companies began responding in their reporting over the following months. At G&A we are seeing the tempo of such reporting increasing as more companies follow the TCFD recommendations.

So where are we?  An important report – “The State of Climate Risk Disclosure: A Survey of US Companies” – was just published by our partners DFIN, in collaboration with the writing team of Richard Mahony and Diance Gargiulo  and research from The Society for Corporate Governance (“The Society”).  The report looks at the evolution of climate-risk disclosure and the state of readiness of corporations to disclose this information.

In partnership with The Society, DFIN conducted a survey of its members on these issues. The results confirmed many of the observations made by the TCFD in its recent update, while also providing new insights into how companies are addressing the challenges associated with climate risk disclosure. (This builds on the earlier report published by DFIN as the TCFD was released – “Preparing for Climate-Risk Disclosure: Practical Suggestions for Public Companies”.)

The members of The Society for Corporate Governance were surveyed to benchmark what their companies are doing – looking at climate risk, by type; market cap of respondents; frequency of board room discussions on climate risk; use of reporting frameworks; investor queries to the company on climate risk; self assessment of the TCFD (recommendations) implementation; organization structure for climate risk disclosure; and, impediments to TCFD implementation.

The report offers practical steps for companies to take and lessons of the early adopters.  Society members offering value-added perspectives include Val Smith at Citi; Michael Rubio at Chevron; and, Steve Lippman at Microsoft (these sharings are of interest for IROs, corporate secretaries & governance professionals, sustainability leaders at companies, and other professionals involved in the corporate sustainability journey).

Click here to access the survey looking at the evolution of corporate climate-risk disclosure.

The Society for Corporate Governance is comprised of governance professionals and business executives responsible for supporting boards and exec management.  DFIN is a leading global risk and compliance solutions company providing expertise to public companies.  G&A Institute partners with DFIN to serve corporate client needs with a range of sustainability services including climate change disclosure and reporting.

The G&A Institute team developed a Resource Paper about the TCFD and what it means for company managements and investment professionals. Click here to download it.

Click here to view G&A’s published a backgrounder on the TCFD as the recommendations were made public in August 2017 (now on G&A’s Sustainability Update blog).

For more information about the TCFD and related disclosure appropriate for your company, contact us at: info@ga-institute.com.

Top Story

The State of Climate Risk Disclosure: A Survey of US Companies
Source: DFIN Solutions
The State of Climate Risk Disclosure: A Survey of US Companies published by DFIN, in collaboration with the writing team from Gargiulo + Partners and research from the Society for Corporate Governance (Society), looks at the evolution of climate-risk disclosure and the state of readiness of corporations to disclose this information.

Also from Governance & Accountability Institute:
G&A’s Climate-Related Corporate Risk Disclosures Resource Guide
Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures | TCFD Organized by the Financial Stability Board of the G-20

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Capitalism – Needing Reinventing? Is Corporate Sustainability / Responsibility / Citizenship’s Focus on ESG Part of the Mix of Reinvention?

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

There are many voices raised now, joining in the public dialogues on corporate sustainability, corporate citizenship, corporate responsibility, ethics, good governance…and more.

The perspectives offered fit into the commentary stream on the future of capitalism — and how to make it work for everyone.

There are rigorous companion dialogues going on – and rapidly growing in number — related to the role of sustainable investing as more asset owners and their internal and external managers adopt new approaches, many focused on the analysis of corporate ESG performance and related outcomes.  We see this as further reinventing of capitalism. Do you?

On Corporate Purpose – How, What, Why and more – another public dialogue dramatically expanding since the release of The Business Roundtable’s revised mission statement in summer.

There are more voices being added to the expanding public dialogues on all of the above and more, which is what our newsletter’s Top Story focuses on.

A fascinating range of voices will be raised by Fast Company as the publishers spotlight “15 voices” working at the forefront of trying to reinvent our economic system…and together, the pursuit of important structural reforms and ideas to bring about “fairness” (much needed, we can argue, in 2019!).

The first voice “raised” by Fast Company is that of Darren Walker, Ford Foundation president who says in his essay “capitalism is in crisis” and explains why in his essay — “How to Save Capitalism From Itself”. 

As the editors of Fast Company explain, the voices to be raised in the future (that you will want to follow via Fast Company essays) include:

Zeynep Ton, MIT b-school prof who sounded the Good Jobs Institute;

Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy (the artisanal marketplace) whose company’s social-impact initiatives are held to the same standard as financial reporting;

Fashion icon Eileen Fisher (champion of the B Corp movement);

Barry Lynn, founder of Open Markets Institute (who favors more regulation to address today’s monopolies);

Rachel Lauter, ED of Fair Work Center..and others!

Keep in mind Fast Company is a must-read for many GenExers and Millennials – and so you will want to keep up with the publication’s voices no matter what generation you belong to.

The Ford Foundation’s CEO essay is at: https://www.fastcompany.com/90411391/ford-foundations-darren-walker-how-to-save-capitalism-from-itself

Top Stories

Capitalism is dead. Long live capitalism
Source: Fast Company – For capitalism to thrive, the system needs to evolve to be fair, inclusive, and sustainable. Fast Company highlights companies and innovators leading the change.

And of importance, the public dialogue – and action! – on the SDGs:

Protecting Our Future: Moving from Talk to Action on The Sustainable Development Goals
Source: Forbes 

How an Italian Energy Company Revolutionized Sustainable and Impact Investing in Structured Credit
Source: Forbes 

First SDG-linked bond in the European market raises 2.5 billion euros
Source: UN Global Compact 

Feeding the 9 Billion in Year 2050 Is A Great Challenge for Society

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

The United Nations Population Prospects 2019 tells us that there will be nine billion souls to feed on this Good Earth by year 2050 (up from seven billion-plus of us today).

The greatest growth will be in Asian nations (such as India, China) and on the African continent. 

Consider: in just 900 months or 1,560 weeks there will be 4.7 billion people to feed in Asia and 4.3 billion in the nations of Africa.

Latin America, North America and Europe combined will total but 1.8 billion.

The 47 least-developed nations of the world are the fastest-growing (population) and the need to feed the world’s population bumps into the challenges as we work to reduce and eradicate poverty, promote more diversity, address the climate change crisis, improve healthcare and education, and find the money and political will to do all of this.

The numerous challenges implied in these projections include finding the available farmland & ranchland to grow the food that will be needed by the 9 billion; to do this even as cities expand and farmland shrinks as a result of urbanization; to assure that the farmers, especially in less developed countries, are able to survive economically; to replace today’s farmers as the population of such workers ages; to increase protein sources as the middle classes continue to rise in many countries in Asia and Africa in rising the economies of local nations…and more!

Oh, and we must consider that agriculture is a major factor in climate change with its array of carbon emissions, as well of use of (and often) because of bad practices the degradation of ever-more land for growing crops. 

Today’s example is burning the old growth Amazon forests (the “lungs of the Earth”) to make room for more cattle ranches (more protein!) and palm oil plantations. More cattle — all those people moving into middle class want meat!

There have been encouraging developments related to farming — some welcomed and some controversial. 

Hydro-farming and rooftop farming in urban areas are considered a plus; advances in genetically-modified crops are both welcomed and condemned, depending on your geography or business interests or public policy point-of-view. 

Fake meat is cheered in some quarters, condemned in others — even as leading meat producing companies and related purveyors explore the breakthroughs to consider both risks and opportunities. 

The National Geographic Society has offered up a five-step plan to feed the world. Step One is to freeze agriculture’s footprint (ag is one of the major contributors to GhGs); Step Two, grow more on today’s farms; Step Three, use our resources more efficiently; Step Four, shift diets (meat in focus); And Five, reduce waste. 

NatGeo experts say these five steps could help to double the world’s food supplies while cutting the environmental impact of agriculture.  Click here to read more.

This issue of our Sustainability Highlights newsletter we’ve aggregated food & agriculture-related content for your reading.  The three Top Stories are of interest, we think you’ll agree. 

Top Stories

The future of food is mobile, plant-based, and sustainable, experts say
Source: Geek Wire 

Farming Ain’t For Sissies, & Sustainable Farming Is Especially Tough
Source: Clean Technica 

How sustainable is tuna? New global catch database exposes dangerous fishing trends
Source: Science Daily 

Fashion, Style, Brand and Sustainability Are Today’s Coupling Terms Now for a Growing Number of Consumers…

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

We’re all consumers of one type or another.

We buy a variety of food and beverages, the latest electronic products, and an assortment of apparel and footwear products as needed — or desired!. 

So the questions come to mind…

What are you wearing?  Is it fashionable?  Stylish? And sustainable (as a product you want or need)?  Sustainably and responsibly produced?  In a global (mostly invisible) supply chain that you could say with certainty is “well supervised and responsibly managed”?

Do you identify yourself with the brand’s culture, ethos and sustainability and the praiseworthy efforts of the maker or the retailer in their declarations to the marketplace? 

Do you make sustainability a conscious buying decision?

A growing number of apparel & footwear brand producers/marketers are counting on “yes” answers to these questions.

In our monitoring of news and feature content from around the world and many prominent and not-so-prominent sources, we have been seeing a significant amount of content related to “fashion” and “sustainability” being coupled (as it, taken together as a given, like human nature (human + nature – a natural coupling).

The big bold industry and brand marketing names are part of the conversation: Victoria Beckham, Stella McCartney, Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, and H&M are focused on sustainability and delivering the fashion + sustainability sales message in the coupling efforts (details in our story selections).

We’re presenting our “capture” of fashion and consumer-buying content this week in our Top Stories in the newsletter. 

In our constant monitoring we are seeing the trend in other consumer-facing areas of industry – in autos, toys, and a variety of food products and ingredients (palm oil, coffee beans, seafood/harvests of the seas).

The good news for society is that many more corporate leaders recognize the timely opportunity for their company to demonstrate that their company’s strategies and processes, and products & services offered in both consumer and B-to-B markets are “sustainable & responsible” … as now more frequently explained in the company’s sustainability report, in the 10-k, proxy statement, on its web pages…and on their products’ labeling. 

In this week’s Highlights newsletter we bring you a selection of the many news and feature stories focused on consumer marketing with a sustainability theme.

The range of coupled content (our product + sustainability) is growing by leaps and bounds and we try to select the most topical and informative content for you.

On coupling:  the best-selling author Malcolm Gladwells’s newest book is “Talking to Strangers”, a great read, we recommend. 

He explains why we are so overwhelmingly trusting of others (the strangers) as a basic human default and the concept of “coupling” — certain circumstances that can make certain assumptions, assertions and claims ring true for us.  

This comes to mind the acceptance of apparel, footwear and other brand marketers’ claims about “sustainability” in product and/or production. 

We are eager to invest belief in the claims. But do the facts support the claim?

Gladwell’s insights are terrific to contemplate as we receive the messages about sustainability from some brand marketers.

Top Stories

Fashion Brands Take Sustainability Further for Spring 2020
Source: Forbes 

Exclusive Q&A: Why Retailers Should Embrace Sustainable Supply Chains
Source: Retail Touch Points 

Why Sustainability Should Be Top of Mind for Retailers This Holiday Season
Source: Yahoo

Consumers want to buy sustainably—they just don’t know how
Source: Fast Company 

How Sustainability Became the Future of Retail
Source: Footwear News

Consumers Want to Buy Sustainably, but They Often Don’t
Source: Architectural Digest 

The Best 11 Brands for Sustainable Vegan Sneakers
Source: Love Kindly 

How can shoppers make sense of sustainable fish labels?
Source: The Guardian 

The Young People Move to the Streets to Protest Slow or Lack of Action on Climate Change Challenges…

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

When our young people take to the streets in significant number, there is usually a revolution of some type in store, history tells us.  Revolutions belong to the young, we can say with some certainty if history is our guide. 

Think: Young “Minutemen” in the American Revolution, youngsters on the barricades in the French Revolution, counter-sitters and marchers in the Civil Rights protests in the American South. 

Dramatic change followed these protests. And now, we watch the young men and women in the streets of Hong Kong.

So what to make now of at least four million young men and women flooding into the streets and plazas of large cities and local communities around the world to “protest” their views of “inaction on climate change challenges” by those adults in charge (government and business, especially).

In New York City, Rome, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Madrid & Barcelona, Montreal, Berlin, Vienna, and many other of the world’s cities, on September 20th hundreds of thousands of young people rallied in protest and called on leaders to protect our planet. 

There were marches, music, signs of all sorts, speeches, and other public expressions intended to draw attention to the dangers posed by climate change.

A real crisis in our time and a dangerous threat to the young men and women and their younger peers in the decades ahead!

As symbol of the moment, climate activist Greta Thunberg (at age 16) boldly sailed over the seas from her home in Sweden (rather than take a jet airplane) to get to New York City for the celebration of Climate Week and the gathering of leaders at the United Nations General Assembly).

In interviews she commented that she does not understand why world leaders — including the President of the United States — would mock children and teenagers for acting on science that advances evidence that climate change is real – and dangerous for humanity and our planet.

But business is responding – and investors and the public sector, too. 

In one of the focus features we bring you this week, in the Harvard Business Review author Andrew Winston tells us what 1,000 CEOs really think about climate change and inequality. (We know Winston from his best-seller, “Green to Gold”.) 

He reminds us that nearly 200 CEOs working through the Business Roundtable (BRT) declared that business is no longer just about maximizing shareholder profit.

Many more hundreds of CEOs are in agreement and many are focused on climate change.  Are we moving fast enough? 

A report from UN Global Compact and Accenture (“The Decade to Deliver: A Call to Business Action”) presents the views of more than 1,000 global executives on their views of sustainability.

All of the large-cap company CEOs interviewed believe that sustainability issues are important to the future success of their enterprises.  The biggest challenge is climate change. 

This week our Top Stories (plural) are presented as snapshots of where we are as consumers, investors, government leaders and yes, business leaders, focus on sustainability and especially climate change matters.

An appropriate footnote:  in rural Southwest Montana, a participant in the local rally by mostly young people had this to say in a letter to the editor of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in response to criticism of the young peoples’ rallies:  

“Climate change is not a political issue. It is a life or death issue. Our children are asking in what way school matters when our future is disintegrating before our eyes. 

“Children have as much right and reason to march anyone.  They march because they can still see possibility, opportunity and reasons to fight four just futures. 

“Next time, maybe you should join us to understand what our kids are marching for.”

Our offerings for you this week:

After strikes, youth climate activists keep pressure on leaders
Source: Reuters 

What 1,000 CEOs Really Think About Climate Change and Inequality
Source: Harvard Business Review

Business leaders join the UN Global Compact Leaders Week to address climate crisis and advance the SDGs
Source: UN Global Contract

Banks worth $47 trillion adopt new UN-backed climate, sustainability principles
Source: UN News 

Markets face major risks over lax climate forecasts, top investors warn
Source: Reuters 

The second-largest gift to a US university was pledged to Caltech. It’s being used for climate research
Source: CNN 

Climate Activism Requires More Than Just Sustainability Statements From Brands
Source: Ad Week 

Most of world’s biggest firms ‘unlikely’ to meet Paris climate targets
Source: The Guardian 

Lead on global climate change and sustainability
Source: St. Peter Herald 

Editorial: Climate Week 2019
Source: Advanced Science News 

Climate crisis seen as ‘most important issue’ by public, poll shows
Source: The Guardian 

The DJSI – Pioneer in ESG/Sustainable Investing Indexes, Celebrating 20 Years of Industry Leadership and Partnership of RobecoSAM and S&P Global Dow Jones

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

ESG equity indexes are certainly all the buzz these days as many more institutional and retail investors are embracing sustainable investing and directing their investment dollars toward existing and new index families that qualify (or purport to qualify) as a suitable ESG/sustainable investment.

Of note, Morgan Stanley Institute reports that its surveys reveal that are there very strong signals in asset management circles for growth and opportunity as sustainable investing has definitely gone mainstream. 

Three-quarters of asset managers report they are adopting sustainable investing (up from a modest 10 percent in 2016).  Those surveyed for Morgan Stanley said they believe they can maximize financial returns while investing sustainably (62% said so); and 89% of respondents say their firm is devoting additional resources to the approach over the next year or two.

It was not always this way. The he pioneers (asset owners and their internal and external managers) focused on the early forms of sustainable investing back 40, 30, 20 years did not have a wide range of indexes/indices to choose from as they embraced a new approach in equity analysis and portfolio management. 

They believed that sustainable investing methods could help them do well by doing good, as the early adopters proclaimed.

To meet investor demand, in 1999, the early days in sustainable investing as we know it today, S&P Dow Jones and SAM (one of the first asset managers focused on sustainability) developed the pioneering approaches to sustainable indexing with a family of funds that have over the two decades worked to shape global sustainable investing practices. Today, SAM is known as RobecoSAM, based in Switzerland.

Over time, inclusion in “the DJSI” (family of indexes/benchmarks) became a distinct badge of honor and pride for a public company board and management.

Here at G&A Institute we hear that from a wide range of company managers in various sectors and industry categories. “The CEO wants to be in…”  Part of our service offerings is helping corporate managers understand and respond effectively to the annual Corporate Sustainability Assessment – the CSA.

Today with literally thousands of sustainable indexes and benchmarks and ESG investable products available to investors and more coming every day (it seems to us in our monitoring) the DJSI choices remain king-of-the-hill for sustainable investment professionals.

RobecoSAM and S&P Dow Jones Indexes continue to set the pace for this ever-more important class of benchmarks.

That first year, public companies were invited to provide ESG information to the partners – 280 did and 228 were included in the first versions of the DJSI. Today, 1,200 companies actively participate in the annual “CSA” exercise, providing critical ESG data and information to RobecoSAM comprehensive analysts.

The invitations go out from RobecoSAM to companies in the spring of the year and the new formulations for the family of DJSI indexes are announced in the fall (companies included and excluded). 

The period between the September announcement and the preparation for the next spring’s CSA response is critical for examining the results of (say, the 2019 response and results) and the preparation of the 2020 CSA response by the company.  In our experience, it can take a full six months of preparation to increase scores by providing updated data and information – which the competing peers are doing as well!

The more you know about the DSJI and related process, the better as you prepare for the 2020 CSA response when/if your company is invited by RobecoSAM.

There’s a complete history of the DJSI and a wealth of useful current information in this week’s Top Story for you.

SPECIAL BY INVITATION WORKSHOP FOR UNDERSTANDING THE DJSI AND RESPONDING TO THE CSA…


SPECIAL EVENT FEATURING ROBECOSAM

G&A Institute and Donnelley Financial Solutions (DFIN) have partnered to host an invitation only event featuring RobecoSAM to help corporate managers whose companies are responding – or plan to respond – to the annual Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA).  Our next program is scheduled for October 15, 2019 at Baruch College’s Vertical Campus in New York City.

This by-invitation program is specifically designed for qualified corporate managers (such as corporate IROs, corporate governance managers, and sustainability managers and others in the corporation charged with responsibility to respond to the CSA) to help workshop participants understand the process.

And, to hear first-hand from experts involved in the CSA process, including ESG investment professionals utilizing the data for scores and index creation (DJSI, S&P ESG Indexes for example).

To request an invitation to participate submit your info here:
https://www.ga-institute.com/index.php?id=502

The one-day event will feature speakers from RobecoSAM, S&P Dow Jones Indices, State Street, Abbott and Owens Corning, and valuable peer-to-peer conversations for corporate sustainability and IR managers. 

The event is sponsored by G&A Institute and Donnelley Financial Solutions, Inc., (DFIN) the leader in risk and compliance solutions, providing insightful technology, industry expertise and data insights to corporate clients around the world.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Dow Jones Sustainability Indices Review Results 2019
Source: Yahoo Finance – The three largest (by free-float market capitalization) additions to and deletions from the DJSI World this year are:

And also of interest…

State Street to Battle BlackRock, DWS With New Sustainable Funds
Source: Yahoo Finance – State Street Corp. is almost doubling its line-up of socially-responsible exchange-traded funds as it looks to compete with the likes of BlackRock Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG’s DWS Group in the burgeoning market for values-oriented…

3 Myths About Sustainable Funds
Source: MorningStar – In a 2017 Nuveen survey of investors, four out of five said they want their investments to make a positive impact on society and on environmental sustainability. And in an Allianz Life survey released in April, two thirds of…

Fidelity International launches ‘Sustainable Family of Funds’ ESG range
Source: International Investments – Fidelity International today announced the launch of its Sustainable Family of Funds (the Sustainable Family), a new cross-asset class fund range with a focused environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework.

Climate Change-Related Disclosure: The TCFD Is Here — the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures

Original Document: August 2017 – published in G&A’s “To the Point” Management Briefing Platform

Republished on  Sustainability UpdateOctober 2, 2019

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

The Work of the TCFD Will Affect Your Company’s Important Financial Disclosure & Filings.

And Your Relationship With Investors, Lenders, Asset Managers, Insurers, Public Sector Entities…

More climate-related disclosure in store for your company’s income statement/cash flow statement/balance sheet.

How will your company be affected by the FSB TFCD guidelines for your company’s ESG disclosure?

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) is a global, multi-stakeholder organization that brings together senior policy makers from the G20** nations plus leaders from the European Union (with 28 individual states), Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, and Switzerland.

The Board’s gatherings include representatives of the G-20’s central bankers, regulatory leadership, bank and financial sector oversight leaders, and others.

The deliberate and work to create “financial stability” policies for countries to follow — these are not mandates, not replacements for existing sovereign authorities — that those at the table as thought leaders and influencers can also take home and implement in various ways.

There are six regional “consultative groups” that help coordinate activities in an additional 70-plus countries, including in developing economies & emerging markets.

In this way as financial sector policies are being formulated there is help available from more experienced professional (such as professional colleagues in developed nations, the G20 plus four group),

The work of the FSB (formed after the 2008 global financial crisis) is all about addressing risk in the financial services sector – the important tasks of identifying risk, addressing risk, avoiding risk, developing protective risk management approaches for underwriters (insurance companies); lenders (banks); investors (asset managers and asset owners).

And in “risk” for all of these entities and their activities there is the looming question of the possible impacts on all kinds of assets in a rapidly-changing global and in regional climate conditions.

The Finance Ministers and Central Bankers of the nations in the G-20 asked the FSB to address this evolving challenge and to review and make recommendations on how the financial sector can take account of climate-related issues. Think: The Federal Reserve and the Securities & Exchange Commission in the U.S.A. — the Bank of England in the U.K.

And the focus is on “risk” for all these entities and their activities.

Therefore, there is the looming questions about possible impacts of a changing climate on both corporate and fiduciary assets.

The FSB leaders convened a “Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures — the FSB TCFD*.

The task force is headed by Chair Michael Bloomberg (he’s former mayor of New York City, principal of Bloomberg LP, UN Envoy to Cities, chair of the SASB, etc.).  Mr. Bloomberg leads the 32-member task force; the work began in December 2015.

There were numerous invitations to stakeholders to submit suggestions (such as the American Bar Association); public meetings were held; industry input was solicited — and at year-end 2016 the recommendations were being drafted for public release in late-June 2017.

Quick Review
The primary aims of the task force work were:

  • To develop climate-related disclosures that could promote more informed investment, credit, and insurance underwriting decisions;
  • This, in turn, would enable stakeholders to understand the carbon-related assets in the financial sector and the financial system’s exposure to climate-related risks.

The recent release of the task force’s draft report is an important heads up to boards and managers in many sectors — the carbon-related risk / the climate change risk is likely to be a very important consideration for the financial sector players going forward, in the ways they do business with your company.

It is important to note that the FSB task force focused on the financial impact of climate change on a corporation, especially in the financial services sector — not the impact of the corporation on the environment.

These are the four top-line thematic areas for corporate disclosure on climate change matters across sectors and industries; these are to be disclosed in either the regular public filings or in supplemental reports on a voluntary basis (so far):

Corporate Governance Factors
The organization’s governance structure around climate change risk and opportunities (in the USA, the SEC has reminded public company boards of directors of their responsibility to oversee this more than six years ago).

Strategies / Strategy Setting
The current and potential impacts of climate risks on the company’s strategies, and, operations, business, and financial planning.

Risk Management
The company should identify, assess and manage climate-change risks and disclose the processes used to do this.

Metrics / Targets To Be Set
Determining the appropriate metrics used and targets set by the organization to assess and manage climate-related risks and opportunities? These should be explained to stakeholders.

Think about the approach of the FSB TCFD guidelines and the impact on your organization in this way:

  • There are transition risks for a company which will include: policy, legal; technology; markets; corporate reputation issues.
  • Transition opportunities for companies will include: enhancements in resource efficiency; varied energy/sources; innovative products & services; corporate resilience.
  • All of the above could and do have an impact on the company’s financials — its revenues and expenditures.
  • The impacts should be reflected in key corporate disclosures: the 10K, the proxy statement, the income statements; cash flow statements; balance sheets.
  • Which then impacts: corporate assets and liabilities; capital and financing.
  • And all of this is the province of the board of directors and the C-Suite of the public company. The responsibility is clearly at the top of the organization in the Task Force work.

Ask yourself as you evaluate these developments:  What business is your company in?  How resilient to climate-related risk is your company? Are you taking advantage of climate change opportunities?

There is [Task Force] Guidance for Financial and Non-Financial companies in certain sectors. 

  1. For the Financial Sector: Banks:  Insurance Companies; Asset Managers; Asset Owners.
  2. For Non-Financial Industry Categories: [Initially] Energy; Transport; Materials & Buildings; Forest Products.  These industries are identified as accounting for the largest proportion of GHG emissions, energy usage, and water usage.

The task force suggests that companies in these sectors with more than US$1 billion in annual revenues should consider disclosing strategy and metrics and targets information in other reports when the information is not considered to be material and therefore included in the required financial filings.

It is expected that the adoption/uptake of the FSB task force recommendations by companies in the financial sector and in targeted industries will evolve over time, as companies disclose important information and [especially] as financial sector firms utilize the information in some way.

The task force adopted a five-year time frame for development of quality and consistency of reporting as suggested by the recommendations.

The ultimate goal: Broad understanding of the concentration of carbon-related assets in the financial system and the financial system’s exposure to climate-related risks (such as in the industries in focus).

The task force will be monitoring implementation of the recommendations beginning later in 2017 and into 2018 and will engage with stakeholders going forward.

Corporate Community Reaction

How did the corporate community react to these recommendations?
The FSB says more 100 companies with combined market caps of US$3.3 trillion and financial community firms with more than $24 trillion in AUM provided statements of support, encouraging the embrace of the TFCD recommendations.

The FSB task force recommendations closely align with other public disclosure standards and frameworks. Adoption would move a company in the direction of an integrated reporting structure.

The SASB recommendations for sustainability disclosure such as in the 10-k is closely aligned with material information (and materiality is addressed by the task force).

It’s important to keep in mind: The GRI Standards, taking effect in January 2018, replaces the current G4 framework for all corporate reporting; the GRI Standards will definitely move companies in the direction of reporting against the FSB TFCD recommendations.

If you have questions about the task force recommendations and the impact on your company, or the opportunities presented for enhanced disclosure for investors and stakeholders, the G&A Institute team is available for a conversation.

We are monitoring the uptake of the important climate change disclosure recommendations by U.S. and global companies going forward.

RESOURCES:

# # #

Notes:

The TCFD:
* The Task Force Vice Chairs include Graeme Pitkethly, CFO Unilever; Denise Pavarina, Managing Officer Banco Bradesco; Christian Thimann, Group Head, Strategy, Sustainability and Public Affairs, AXA; and Yeo Lian Sim, Special Advisor, Singapore Stock Exchange.

Task Force Members include leaders at KPMG; BlackRock; Generation Investment Management; JP MorganChase; UBS Asset Management; Moody’s; Tata Group; Ernst & Young; Barclays; Bank of China; Deloitte; PGGM; Swiss Re; BHP Billiton; HSBC; Storebrand; Aviva Investors; ENI; S&P Global Ratings; Tokio Marine Holdings; Canada Pension Plan Investment Board; Daimler; Air Liquide Group; Dow Chemical; EnBW; PGGM. 

Keep in mind these important organizations are members of the Financial Stability Board:

  • USA:  U.S. Department of the Treasury; US Securities & Exchange Commission; Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Canada:  Bank of Canada; Office of Superintendent of Financial Institutions; Department of Finance
  • China:  People’s Bank of Chain; China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission; Ministry of Finance
  • United Kingdom: Bank of England; Financial Conduct Authority; HM Treasury
  • Germany:  Deutsche Bundesbank; BAFIN; Bundesministerium der Finanzen 

The complete list is here: https://www.fsb.org/about/fsb-members/

The G-20

** The Group of Twenty (“G20”) nations comprise an international forum for discussing economic, financial and related issues. The Group of 20 account for more than 80% of the world Gross Domestic Product and almost the same amount of world population.

The first meeting of the Group was in Berlin in late-1999; there have been almost two dozen meetings since then; attendees include heads of state. (The initial participants were finance ministers and central bank leaders — the same players who asked for the Task Force to go to work on expanding corporate disclosure on climate change issues.) 

The G-20 nations are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudia Arabia, the Republic of South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America – plus the European Union; plus the European Central Bank; plus The Netherlands and Spain, “non-members” that attends leader summits.

Also participating and invited to conferences: Chair, ASEAN Association of Southeast Asian Nations; African Union; New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); World Health Organization (WHO); International Monetary Fund (IMF); United Nations; World Bank; International Labour Organization (ILO); Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); World Trade Organization (WTO); Chile, representing the APEC nations; Asian Development Bank (ADB).  The invite list can vary. 

The G7 is a smaller group: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States of America.

This was originally the G8; Russia was added (the eighth state) was suspended after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The G7 governments’ focus is on issues in the more developed industrial economies.

Generation M – the “Millennials” – Making a Difference in Many Spheres of Society

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

For many years, our references to “generation” usually meant that we were speaking about the people living (and able to act) at the time. 

For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936 on accepting his party’s nomination to a campaign for second term (in the depths of the Great Depression), ended his remarks with this: “There is a mysterious cycle in human events.  To some generations much is given.  Of other generations much is expected.  This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny…” 

President Roosevelt was a progressive and liberal leader who worked to save our democracy and in fact, capitalism. He was cautioning the nation about the need to be on guard to protect our freedoms as European fascist leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini came to power (and addressed internal U.S. terrorist threats as well).

The “generation” hearing his words would go on to fight for the nation and the free democracies of the “united nations” standing with the U.S.A., England, France and other countries in World War Two.

Some 28 years later, actor-politician Ronald Reagan (who would soon become Governor of California and then President of the United States) in “The Speech” in October 1964 in a call-to-action for political conservatives to move away from Roosevelt’s New Deal policies of the 1930s and 1940s told listeners:  You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.

Again, speaking across the spectrum of the audience to “the generation” of the time. And especially to voters in all age cohorts.

But with the coming of the “Baby Boomers” — those men and women born in the postwar, 1946 to 1964 and 77 million strong in total number — came a departure in the use of the general term and the characterizing of a specific cohort of men and women with defining tastes and cultural leanings (it is presumed).  They got a name — Baby Boomers. (The birth rates were high 3 million to 4 million during their 18 years’ of coming into the world.)

And so they were two-and-a-half again in total number in size than their parents’ generation — those to be known later as the “Silent Generation” and also as “the Greatest Generation” of WW II, as profiled by author Tom Brokaw (the former NBC-TV Network news anchor).

In the years after WW II each age and demographic cohort has been characterized and given a catchy title in this way.  Baby Bust (the children of the early wave of Boomers).  Gen X (born 1965-1980), Gen Y, the Millennials (coming of age in the 21st Century/Third Millennia).  Gen Z is a current fascination – they are the next wave of 21st Century leaders.

Generally, today’s Millennials were considered to be born after 1980/81 to 1996 — they are thus 23 to 38 years of age.  Larger than the GenXers, (today ages 38 to 53/54), the Millennials now outnumber the trendsetting Baby Boomers (especially the Boomers still in the workforce) and are busily shaping political, financial, business, cultural, investing, and other spheres of our society.

The buzz about Millennials goes along the lines of (what Morgan Stanley describes): Millennials and their younger cohort (teens and younger) will re-shape the financial industry (especially banking) in their tech-savvy, mobile-first image, which has ramifications for all consumers, companies and investors.  (GenX presented the last opportunistic “pocket of growth” coming of age during the 2008 crisis.)

Each week our team led by Editor-in-Chief Ken Cynar captures the essence of sustainability / responsibility news, perspectives and research results that we think you might be interested in. 

This week’s Top Story is by Junaid Wahedna, founder and CEO of Wahed Investments via MENAFN, providers of Middle East and North Africa tech networks and related services (the comments were published in its newsletter).

Topic: The impact of the Millennials on the tech industry — and on investing.  The members of the “M generation”, the author tells us, are focused on ethical issues, making a difference, and steadily shifting to sustainable & responsible investing approaches. 

They are making careful, conscious decisions and achieving results through positive impacts and bringing about real change.

Author Wahedna cites Morgan Stanley and Ernst & Young research of late (focused on the Millennials) and adds his own experience (his firm has State of Delaware and Amman, Jordan offices).  He concludes:  As long as young investors continue to express a need for social good, and the idea gains traction and familiarity, these ethical investment options remain entirely sustainable alternatives to the traditional confines of the wealth management landscape.

What are your views on the Millennial Generation – are you a member of “the cohort” that will be managing businesses, government and social sector organizations in the years ahead, or running your own business? 

If you would like to share your thoughts as a guest writer in how Millennials are shaping today’s society, do send us a note (to hboerner@ga-institute.com).

Meantime, for all our readers, everywhere (and of all ages and generations!), tune in to our Top Story this week, with focus on the wondrous generation that will run things in the 21st Century.

Top Stories

Millennials are changing the investing landscape, one ethical choice at a time   
Source: MENAFN – With the growing consciousness regarding ethical and sustainable investment choices, particularly from the millennial generation, we expect this sector to continue to grow in the coming years

For more on this fascinating topic, take a look at some of Morgan Stanley’s research at: