Long-term sustainability has taken a backseat to short-term profitability since the 1970s when the quarterly earnings report became standard operating procedure and the horizon of return was shortened to that period. Today, however, the global community is shouldering collectively the burden of looming and interconnected universal challenges, such as climate change, food security, humanitarian crises, and inequality. Because of their scale and complexity, these issues cannot be solved by one government or one company or even one industry or one sector. Instead, they demand a concerted effort that harnesses the best resources and talents of governments, NGOs, the private sector, and civil society.
Since President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, we have witnessed an unprecedented response from local, state, and corporate actors. In the subsequent 24 hours, dozens of companies—including Disney, General Motors, and Apple—and scores of state and local officials pledged continued commitment to the plan. Bloomberg founder and CEO Michael Bloomberg offered to contribute the $15 million dollars that the United States otherwise would have to the operating budget of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In California, Governor Jerry Brown committed to continue talks with China to connect the country to the state’s cap and trade program, which is already linked to Quebec.
“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.
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
The following is excerpted from Issue 17 of The Corporate Citizen. To learn more about how you can create programs that prioritize the corporate citizenship issues that are most important to your stakeholders and business context—and make the best use of your resources—consider joining online from October 2-November 22, 2017 for our Materiality: How to Determine what Matters to Corporate Citizenship Strategy and Reporting course.
Around the world, leaders are coming together to address social and environmental issues, and the role for business has never been greater.
In 2015, corporate citizenship took unprecedented steps forward. Multiple stakeholders—including business leaders—worked to develop multilateral agreements to combat climate change and ensure sustainable progress. The Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent years of work and hope. With 17 new objectives and 169 specific targets that address issues ranging from education and inequality to economic growth and the environment, the SDGs are encompassing.
In the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that the efforts of the public and private sectors are inextricably linked. To meet ambitious social and environmental targets like those outlined in the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), progress must be tracked and evaluated by all the estates and actors of society.
It is clear in contemporary society that most stakeholders see companies as the actors that have the resources, know-how, and efficiency to achieve the social and environmental improvements necessary to realize the SDGs and goals of the Paris Agreement.
The following is excerpted from Issue 16 of The Corporate Citizen. To learn more about how sustainability reporting can help inform and advance your efforts, joining us for our GRI and CDP courses. As a certified training partner for both GRI and CDP, we’ll help you understand and utilize two of the leading sustainability frameworks to drive both social and environmental progress—and business results.
In 2015, world leaders came together to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate, and the UN unveiled 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—complete with 169 targets—that aim to eradicate poverty and hunger, foster safe and inclusive societies, and halt global warming by 2030. Here, a group of top business and sustainability leaders discuss business practices that will assure progress toward these gamechanging sustainability targets.
The first full day of the 2016 International Corporate Citizenship Conference was just that—full. Full of the insights and connections that will make future social, environmental, and economic progress possible. During four general sessions, 12 breakout panels, case studies, workshops, and numerous networking opportunities, CSR leaders from around the world discussed the programs that will address global problems—and their local impacts.
“We should not only use the brains we have but all that we can borrow.”-Woodrow Wilson
As corporate citizenship professionals, you have a uniquely important job. You are required to create, operate, and communicate in ways to differentiate your company from its competitors, and often expected to work with them—as well as with many other partners—to help address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
Issues like climate change, global poverty and hunger, and future workforce preparation cannot be addressed by one program or organization alone—no matter how innovative or dedicated. Tackling these problems, and many others, requires the collaborative effort of many.
“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.