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

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

This week we celebrated Earth Day.  That first (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 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 impact of coal-burning, the state of plastics disposal, 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” issues.

The evolvement of ESG as an integrated approach for investor evaluation of companies has complicated life for many corporate managers.  In the 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 in the past 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 issues are measured, managed and 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 seven global trends – and their relevant issues – 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 migration; large parts of the world are becoming less hospitable and more people will try to move to safer places. Mass migrations are ahead.

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.  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…


Sustainability: Continuing Forward Momentum!

The Easiest Way To Practice Sustainable Fashion — And Make Money Doing It
(Monday - April 15, 2019) Source: Forbes - The hallmarks of modern environmentalism may be plastic straw bans and metal water bottles. But a growing awareness of climate change has touched our lives in less obvious ways too, including transforming the way we buy and wear... 

All About Sustainability and Fashion Perspectives
(Monday - April 15, 2019 Source: MENAFN - The Sustainability Consortium • Marianna Milkis, Co-Founder, CPO, StyleHacks (Epytom Inc.) • Anthony Roide, Former Director of Innovation at Intel Our Emcee/Moderator for the panel event is ... 

Environmental Sustainability: How Growers Tell Their Stories
(Monday - April 15, 2019) Source: GreenHouse Grower - Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious every day, making it a prime time for you to share their efforts with the public. What you practice in terms of water conservation, biocontrol use, contributing to less or no...

Redeeming a bad reputation: ‘Sustainable palm oil is the best oil we have’
(Thursday - April 18, 2019) Source: Food Navigator - Unsustainably sourced palm oil deserves its bad name, and requires industry action. Should we eliminate all palm oil from the food supply chain? How can we change consumer perceptions of the commodity when responsibly produced?..

10 Tips to Starting a Career in Sustainability
(Tuesday - April 16, 2019) Source: Business of Fashion - Stella McCartney’s worldwide sustainability and innovation director, Claire Bergkamp, shares her insight on how best to start a career in fashion's growing sustainability sector. 

The Nexus Between E-Commerce, Packaging, & Sustainability
(Tuesday - April 16, 2019) Source: Clean Technica - E-commerce and sustainability may at first seem oxymoronic, and of course there are very substantiated concerns about how this growth is affecting our planet. 

Getting Uncomfortable with Sustainability
(Wednesday - April 17, 2019) Source: Mile High - What does a sustainable building look like? Solar panels, green walls, LED lightbulbs, and plenty of recycling and compost bins probably come to mind. At this point, these strategies are effective and often common practice or..

Hotels and Resorts Ramp Up Sustainability Efforts
(Thursday - April 18, 2019) Source: NY Times - With rising sea levels, higher carbon dioxide levels and plastic bottles glutting landfills and oceans, the issue of sustainability has become a hot topic. Hotels and resorts have started to act by ramping up efforts to reduce or...

Tune in to Corporate Sustainability Activity...

Purpose At Work: How Wrangler Is Creating The Next Generation Of Sustainable Fashion
(Wednesday - April 17, 2019) Source: Forbes - The global fashion industry has a large environmental footprint. In fact, it’s responsible for 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 80 billion metric tons of water per year. There are over 8,000 different chemicals... 

We’re increasing our carbon fee as we double down on sustainability
(Wednesday - April 17, 2019) Source: Microsoft - Since 2009, Microsoft has made and met a series of commitments to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. While we’ve made progress toward our goal of cutting our operational carbon emissions by 75 percent by 2030, the magnitude... 

More Than 6,000 Amazon Employees Sign Letter Urging Company to Increase Sustainability Initiatives
(Tuesday - April 16, 2019) Source: Environmental Leader - More than 6,000 Amazon employees have a signed a letter urging the company to release a company-wide climate plan based on six specific principles. As published on Medium, the letter asks that Amazon’s board and its executive...

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ESG Topics & Issues Headlines

How air pollution is doing more than killing us
(Wednesday - April 17, 2019) Source: BBC

The amount of plastic in the ocean is a lot worse than we thought, study says
(Thursday - April 18, 2019) Source: CNN

Headlines From the Corporate Sector

German prosecutors charge former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn with fraud
(Tuesday - April 16, 2019) Source: CNN - London 

Chevron says Dutch Supreme Court rejects Ecuador's $9.5 billion claim
(Tuesday - April 16, 2019) Source: Reuters

Not just Amazon: 60 big companies paid $0 in taxes under Trump law
(Tuesday - April 16, 2019) Source: Yahoo Finance

Electric cars are finally starting to take off. Congress should keep them affordable.
(Wednesday - April 17, 2019)  Source: The Washington Post

J&J’s first-quarter earnings drop 14% as legal costs soar
(Wednesday - April 17, 2019) Source: CNBC 

Why Ford And Other American Cars Don’t Sell In Japan - video only
(Wednesday - April 17, 2019) Source: CNBC/YouTube

FCC chief seeks to block China Mobile from operating in U.S.
(Thursday - April 18, 2019) Source: Axios

Samsung shares tumble amid concerns its foldable phones are breaking
(Thursday - April 18, 2019) Source: CNBC 

GRI Sector Standards for Oil, Gas Coal Nominations Invited for ParticipantsThe Global Reporting Initiative is the global standard for corporate, institutional and public sector sustainability reporting.  The development of the Standards – and the frameworks that preceded (G3, G4 etc.) is a collaborative process.  With the new standards, in effect for almost two years now, changes can be made to modules, a much faster method to reflect the needs of the report users (investors, companies, governments, NGOs, academics).

GRI is now inviting nominations to the project working group developing the first GRI Sector Standard for oil, gas and coal as part of the new GRI Sector Program.

 In the program, standards will be developed that are specific to certain sectors. The GRI Sector Standards will identify and describe a sector’s impacts and stakeholder concerns from a sustainable development perspective.

 The Sector Standards will be part of the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards. Organizations reporting using the GRI Standards will use the Universal Standards, the Topic-Specific Standards, and the applicable Sector Standard(s).

Sectors will be prioritized by the significance of their impacts – the higher the impact a sector has on sustainable development, the higher its priority. Ultimately, the aim is for the GRI Sector Program to cover allhigh-impact sectors.

The open call for the Oil, Gas, and Coal Project Working Group is now open and will close 4 May 2019. You are invited to nominate yourself by submitting your CV and an application form to oil@globalreporting.org. Through participation in the project (this and other projects), valuable experience and insights can be shared as the Sector guidance is developed.

To find out more about the approach, visit the GRI Sector Program webpage, the Oil, Gas, and Coal Sector Standard webpage, and the Terms of Reference.


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