Climate change is again trending as a topic within corporate citizenship and the larger business community. The release of Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si” (Be Praised), which highlights the impact developed economies are having on our planet and our responsibilities to act, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, and the upcoming COP21—the 21st Session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—are creating a buzz.
For most of us, the days of receiving a report card are behind us, but that doesn’t mean that—as corporate citizenship professionals—our work is no longer evaluated and judged. The acronyms may have changed from GRE and LSAT to DJSI, CDP, GRI, etc.—but the assessments can still represent important achievements as well as reminders of where we need to work harder.
The world of corporate citizenship ratings and rankings can be just as intimidating to a novice as exams are to students, as the options and methods of submitting materials has increased exponentially over the past decade.
So many breakouts, which ones to choose?
As with any good conference, the most difficult decision—other than how full to fill your plate at the buffet line—is typically which sessions to attend. With up to seven sessions happening concurrently, it can be a tough choice. Breakout sessions on Monday at the 2015 International Corporate Citizenship Conference covered such topics as engaging veterans, transparency and governance, and engaging today's multi-generational workforce.
Have you set your environmental footprint goals for 2015 and beyond? Setting emissions targets can be a daunting task, but it is also a very tangible way to demonstrate a strong commitment to corporate citizenship.
More than 4,500 companies begin the process of measuring, managing, and mitigating their contributions to climate change by completing the CDP Climate Change Questionnaire, which is a key standard for environmental emissions reporting.
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.
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.
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
A report released recently by the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Focal Point USA, “Trends in External Assurance of Sustainability Reports: Spotlight on the USA”, found that while sustainability reporting in the United States continues to grow, corporate reporters in the U.S. are less likely to obtain third party assurance as their global peers. In the United States, 10 percent (26 out of 269 reporters) of GRI framework sustainability reports obtained external assurance in 2011. The international percentage is much higher at 38 percent.
In September of 2012, Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, released its 2012 Citizenship Report. Rather than adopt a traditional print or PDF format, the report was released as an interactive microsite designed to engage clients and employees alike. John Edelman, Managing Director, Global Engagement and Corporate Responsibility at Edelman, recently shared some insights about the impetus and process of developing the microsite.
We are in the public consultation period for the fourth iteration of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). We encourage our members to give their feedback on the framework. There are a number of enhancements to the framework that will be welcome to reporters (the abandonment of the application level rubric of assigned letter grades) and some where business stakeholders may want to provide guidance.
In the consultation process to date, one of the best surprises I had from the stakeholder feedback was the number of companies that use the GRI as a management framework even if they choose not to register their reports. Conversely, I was disappointed that so few corporate reporters have provided feedback on the G4. In the coming weeks the Center will be providing more information on the substance of the proposed changes – including proposals on reporting material impacts throughout the value chain, supply chain disclosures, and required disclosures regarding compensation of executives and workers in countries where your firm has significant operations.