Today’s companies face substantial pressure from stakeholders—both internal and external—to monitor and report on a variety of environmental metrics. The benefits to the company are clear, as research shows that successfully managing a company’s environmental footprint can strengthen a firm’s financial performance[i], help them maintain that performance over the long term[ii], improve the company’s image,[iii] and identify and mitigate potential risks to operations.[iv]
The following is excerpted from a recent issue of The Corporate Citizen. To learn more about how you can connect with essential partners to make the most of the risks and opportunities present throughout your value chain, consider joining online from February 20-April 17, 2017 for our Integrating Corporate Citizenship Through Your Supply Chain course.
At EILEEN FISHER, the vision for fashion’s future is an industry where human rights and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative, but the measure of a business well run. To achieve this mission, the women’s clothing company has created an ambitious new model, entitled “Vision2020,” to guide the way in which their products are sourced and produced—and has ensured that its tenets are embraced at every level of its supply chain.
“To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.”—Winston Churchill
Investment in a stable and prosperous society is an investment in future business performance. We’ve seen corporate commitment to this ideal in action during the development and ratification of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in the fight for U.S. marriage equality. More and more, companies are vocalizing their support of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues—and are executing strategic plans to create the change they know is required to achieve a sustainable economy.
The emerging U.S. policy agenda could make the work even more challenging than it has been for the last decade. Especially if it is in conflict with the policies of global market economies in which your company likely operates. So what is to be done? Cling tightly to your coffee mug that reads, “stay calm and carry on” and do just that. There is overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and human induced and socio-economic research that underscores the social ills that accompany inequality. The companies that have the courage to be among the first to make real commitments to improving the environmental and social conditions in their operating environments are the ones that have the opportunity to use those commitments as positive differentiators with institutional investors, customers, and the general public.
Last month, leaders from around the world gathered in Marrakesh, Morocco to build on the tremendous achievement of the 2015 Paris Agreement during COP22. There, they recommitted to a collaborative target-driven effort to limit climate change. During the conference, 11 countries—including Italy, Japan, Malaysia, and Pakistan—ratified the Paris Agreement, bringing the total number up to 111, far more than the 55 countries covering 55 percent of global GHG emissions required to elevate the accord to international law. The United States, Canada, Mexico, and Germany released strategies for radically cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury. The U.S. report outlines plans to meet an 80 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2050, referencing an ambitious transition to a low-carbon energy system and innovative carbon storage and removal tactics.
In 2015, corporate citizenship took unprecedented steps forward. Multiple stakeholders—including business leaders—came together to commit to combating climate change and ensuring sustainable progress. The resulting United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent years of work and hope. With 17 objectives and 169 specific targets that address issues ranging from education and inequality to economic growth and the environment, the SDGs are encompassing.
Watch: 'We The People' for The Global Goals
Corporate citizenship is one of the most dynamic and exciting fields in business today – the urgency of global issues, the evolving expectations of stakeholders, and the improvements in our ability to track and communicate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) activity are trends that have created a vibrant, challenging, and ever-changing business ecosystem.
In response to this complex environment, companies have called on organizations like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to create a uniform and structured way to report credibly on the ESG issues that matter to their company and its stakeholders. GRI has responded.
On October 19, GRI issued their updated Sustainability Reporting Standards after nearly a year spent collecting comments, suggestions, and feedback from a variety of stakeholders.
Just a few weeks ago, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship held our annual International Corporate Citizenship Conference. More than 500 CSR experts joined us in Atlanta for nearly three days of insights, information, and sharing.
A company’s corporate citizenship impact extends well beyond the four walls of the corporate headquarters. A significant amount of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impact occurs within supply chains, whether it is greenhouse gas emissions, vendor performance, labor conditions within a supplier’s factory, or the sourcing of materials.
“As an old ecologist I am also getting impatient. It’s been a long time. If we don’t convert all of this heat into light and all of this excitement into work, we will, I am afraid, be badly frustrated… Excitement cannot be sustained unless there are results... What I am concerned with is not what is wrong with the world, but what do we have to do to put it right.” - Peter Drucker, 1971
In 2015, we saw major advances in the way that world leaders, businesses, and the general public perceive and prioritize environmental, social, and governance issues. In September, leaders from around the world agreed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—complete with 169 targets—to eradicate poverty and hunger, foster safe and inclusive societies, and combat global warming by 2030. In December, representatives from 195 nations adopted the Paris Climate Agreement, with the vital aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to halt global temperature increases and maintain life as we know it.
Effective corporate citizenship professionals are always looking ahead, analyzing the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues that are emerging, and modifying their own efforts to plan and account for them. This is a complex task that only becomes more challenging as the global business context becomes more integrated.