Through corporate citizenship, we can improve our companies—and our world. But how do others know what we are doing?
We can create a healthier planet through more sustainable operations and green innovations. We can foster a society that welcomes the contributions of all of its members and works to ensure the health and safety of its communities. We can drive financial performance. How do we know we’re getting to “better”? We set goals and report on progress towards them.
"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone else planted a tree long time ago" - Warren Buffett
Last week I was reading a whitepaper from MFS Investment Management about the benefits of investing on a longer horizon.
Corporate citizenship leaders, take note. There is more and more being written about the need for investors to take a longer view. This perspective presents a potential opportunity for companies that are willing to make longer-term investments in environmental, social, and governance dimensions of their businesses to improve their operating environments so that they can sustain positive returns for the longer term.
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.
West Africa grows about two-thirds of the world’s supply of cocoa beans. More than two million cocoa farmers in West Africa and more than 10 million West Africans depend on cocoa for a significant portion of their livelihoods. Both climate change and shifts in demand have gravely impacted the industry in this region, creating the need for companies with operations in the region to invest in the long-term sustainability of local cocoa farmers. According to Andy McCormick, Senior Director of Cocoa Sustainability at The Hershey Company, projects designed to improve farmer production and raise incomes need to be at sufficient scale.
The definition of what it means to be a good corporate citizen has evolved over the years. It varies according to a company’s resources, giving priorities, corporate culture, and even with time. Natixis Global Asset Management (NGAM) underwent a period of internal reflection as it sought to develop a more strategic corporate citizenship program that produced greater impact on the local community.