According to a 2011 MIT Sloan School of Management study, 67 percent of global executives say that sustainability strategies are necessary to be competitive. As a global leader in the sporting goods industry, the adidas Group recently redesigned its sustainability journey into a “4Ps” model emphasizing people, product, planet, and partnership. Now, as part of its mature chemical management program, the company will screen and manage chemical input at the supplier level through a recent partnership with bluesign technologies, a company dedicated to sustainable movement within textile industries.
While I was on the road for Center business a couple of weeks ago, I caught BlackRock CEO Larry Fink on Squawk Box. Fink is bullish on U.S. equities. With $4.4 trillion under management, he is someone who a lot of investors listen to, whether they agree with him or not. The panel of Squawk Box interlocutors was discussing with Fink how our dovish Fed is dampening volatility (and trading volume) in the markets, reducing the opportunity to make quick money. Fink’s position in this conversation caught my attention. “Lack of volatility is not an investor problem,” he said, “It is a trader problem.” During the 20 minutes or so I watched, Fink talked about a longer-term perspective as being important to the future of our national and global economy—promoting longer-term corporate governance, public and private capital investments, and public policy. He and others have noted that many large corporations are sitting on a lot of cash that can be put to work to create more business value and more social good.
As we start 2014, we have taken some time to reflect on the work of the last year and where we see the field headed. The Center has had the privilege to work with companies in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Africa this year and our membership reflects this diversity. While the individual issues being addressed by companies may differ across global regions, the questions are essentially the same at their core:
Are we helping to create the type of world we want to do business in?
Even more importantly, are we helping to create the kind of world we want to live in?
Corporate citizenship, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and corporate responsibility (CR). These are the most frequently used terms by companies to describe the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) dimensions of business, according to the most recent Profile of the Practice study.
Sustainability reporting is here to stay. A full 95% of the Global 250 issue sustainability reports.
These are among the findings of the Value of Sustainability Reporting study from the Center for Corporate Citizenship and Ernst & Young LLP. Sustainability reporting provides results that:
- Increase the reputation of the company
- Increase employee loyalty and public company reputation
- Aid in refining corporate vision and strategy
- Provide transparency
- Stimulate dialogue with stakeholders
Based on these stated benefits, sustainability reporting has quickly become a best practice standard performed by many major companies worldwide. The Global Reporting Initiative, the world’s most widely accepted framework, announced the fourth generation (G4) guidelines of on May 24, 2013.
During our most recent webinar, Environmental impacts and innovation: Corporate practices with green intentions, we learned from three corporate professionals who lead successful sustainability programs within their companies. As demonstrated through this webinar and our recent signature research report, The State of Corporate Citizenship, environmental issues are top of mind for leading companies. Representatives from Waste Management, Brown-Forman, and TD Bank demonstrated that leadership support, employee engagement,and even revenue generation are possible when the company values environmental sustainability. Creative solutions and meaningful investments of time, resources, and employee ingenuity enable these companies to improve the environment and their bottom line.
Environmental issues are top of mind for many companies and their stakeholders. With public awareness of environmental issues on the rise, companies have started to respond in meaningful ways through their investment decisions, environmental goals, and impact reduction. In the past few years, several major disruptive weather events have interrupted business as usual, underlining the need to address environmental issues as a serious risk to business. The United States public spent approximately $100 billion responding to extreme weather events in the last year (NRDC.org 2012) and companies are not immune to such high costs. The benefits of managing environmental impacts are both tangible and intangible, often resulting in cost savings and even revenue generation (see this research brief for more information.)
June 5, is World Environment Day, an annual event aimed at increasing worldwide awareness of positive environmental action. This year’s theme focuses on creating awareness of food waste and encourages people to Think-Eat-Save. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, every year 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted. This is equivalent to the amount of food produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has issued a call to action by people from around the globe to do something that will positively affect the environment, whether at home or in the office. World Environment Day is all about working together to take action in support of the Earth, and everyone can make a difference. If you are wondering how you can contribute to this effort here are 10 things you can do today to be a change agent for tomorrow:
The sustainability community gathered in Amsterdam last week for the GRI global conference and the rollout of the G4 version of the reporting framework. Notable sustainability thinkers from around the world convened. Among those represented, members of ISO, IIRC, CDP, OECD, and many other international NGOs and policy organizations came together to debate the future of sustainable business and to discuss the implications of the latest evolution of reporting. While the debates made clear that we have a lot more work to do to get international agreement on how to