Ceres: Sustainability Leadership and Responsibility Starts at the Top

7 05 2014

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“In some cases, companies have substantially accelerated and broadened their sustainability efforts. These companies are providing real leadership and demonstrating that sustainability isn’t a luxury, but rather an essential strategy for building long-term shareholder value.”  

 

In a new research tracking the progress of more than 600 corporations worldwide on broad ranging sustainability measures, Ceres and Sustainalytics are reporting that scientific and economic realities have shifted substantially from just a decade ago challenging companies to innovate and transform.

These are new leadership challenges that rise to the top at companies and demand the attention of top-level executives and Boards of Directors.  Among the findings of the report.

  • Boards of Directors are not taking enough responsibility for overseeing sustainability efforts. Thirty-two percent (198) of the 613 companies’ boards of directors formally oversee sustainability performance—up from 28 percent in 2012.
  • A growing number of companies are incorporating sustainability performance into executive compensation packages. Twenty-four percent of companies (146) link executive compensation to sustainability performance—up from 15 percent in 2012. Yet only 3 percent (19 companies) link executive compensation to voluntary sustainability performance targets, such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions.
  • Companies are increasingly engaging investors on sustainability issues. Fifty-two percent (319 companies) are engaging investors on sustainability issues, up from 40 percent in 2012. The three percent (20 companies) in Tier 1 are using multiple tactics to engage investors including the integration of sustainability information into mainstream investor communications, highlighting sustainability performance and innovations at annual meetings, and directly engaging with shareholders on sustainability topics.

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  • Stakeholders are not consistently involved in the sustainability planning process. Only 36 percent of companies (219)—up from 29 percent in 2012—are disclosing information on how they formally engage stakeholders on sustainability issues. The seven percent (45 companies) in Tier 1 engage stakeholders in the materiality assessment process and disclose the insights gained from stakeholders.
  • More companies are actively engaging employees on sustainability issues. Forty percent (248 companies) have some programs in place to engage employees on sustainability issues—an increase from 30 percent in 2012. The six percent (37 companies) in Tier 1 go further by systematically embedding sustainability into company-wide employee engagement.
  • Companies are not doing enough to address water risks, especially in stressed regions.  Of the 103 water-intensive companies evaluated, 50 percent assess water-related business risks, a slight decline from the 55 percent in 2012. Only 26 percent (27 of 103 companies) are prioritizing efforts in water stressed regions.
  • Additional innovation is needed to drive sustainable products and services.  Of the 419 companies evaluated for this expectation, 14 percent (57 companies) have formal programs to invest in and promote sustainability products and services, compared to 10 percent in 2012.

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About the report partners:

Ceres is a non-profit organization advocating for sustainability leadership. We mobilize a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy.

Sustainalytics is an award-winning provider of environmental, social, and governance research and analysis. We support investors around the world with the development and implementation of responsible investment strategies. Sustainalytics also partners with institutional investors that integrate ESG information and assessments into their investment decisions.





WHO: 1 in 8 Global Deaths Linked To Air Pollution

8 04 2014

The World Health Organization reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure.  This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.

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Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.

The new data reveal a strong link between air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases and cancer.  The new estimates are not only based on more knowledge about the diseases caused by air pollution, but also upon better assessment of human exposure to air pollutants through the use of improved measurements and technology. This has enabled scientists to make a more detailed analysis of health risks from a wider demographic spread that now includes rural as well as urban areas.

“Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents non-communicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General Family, Women and Children’s Health. “Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves.”

“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” says Dr Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”

After analysing the risk factors and taking into account revisions in methodology, WHO estimates indoor air pollution was linked to 4.3 million deaths in 2012 in households cooking over coal, wood and biomass stoves. The new estimate is explained by better information about pollution exposures among the estimated 2.9 billion people living in homes using wood, coal or dung as their primary cooking fuel, as well as evidence about air pollution’s role in the development of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and cancers.

In the case of outdoor air pollution, WHO estimates there were 3.7 million deaths in 2012 from urban and rural sources worldwide.

Many people are exposed to both indoor and outdoor air pollution. Due to this overlap, mortality attributed to the two sources cannot simply be added together, hence the total estimate of around 7 million deaths in 2012.

“Excessive air pollution is often a by-product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as transport, energy, waste management and industry. In most cases, healthier strategies will also be more economical in the long term due to health-care cost savings as well as climate gains,” says Dr Carlos Dora, WHO Coordinator for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “WHO and health sectors have a unique role in translating scientific evidence on air pollution into policies that can deliver impact and improvements that will save lives.”





Brandkarma: A new Global Reputation System for Brands

7 03 2014

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“Brands often fall short of their potential to do good – reputation without responsibility. Brandkarma will change that.”

Upendra Shardanand, founder Daylife

Welcome Brandkarma.com – the first social community that will rate and review brands ability to do good in the world.

Consumer research has repeatedly demonstrated that people expect businesses to operate responsibly and to contribute to positive change in the world.  Many people say that if brands fail to operate responsibly, they will stop purchasing the products that the brand provides.

Brandkarma.com was launched to empower consumers to better translate those beliefs into action.  Brandkarma.com allows consumers to see brands holistically – not only the quality of their products but the brand behaviors toward their employees, their community and the planet at large.

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visit brand karma.com here





Survey: Most Executives Believe In Sustainability, But Half Fail To Act.

28 01 2014

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In a new survey, nearly two-thirds of respondents rate social and environmental issues, such as pollution or employee health, as “significant” or “very significant” among their sustainability concerns. Yet only about 40% report that their organizations are largely addressing them. Even worse, only 10% say their companies fully tackle these issues.

Interestingly, the survey shows that while 67% of the business leaders surveyed strongly agree with the statement “climate change is real”, only 9% strongly agree that “my company is prepared for client change risk.”

In the 2013 report, new research by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group looks at companies that “walk the talk” in addressing significant sustainability concerns. So-called “Walkers” focus heavily on five fronts: sustainability strategy, business case, measurement, business model innovation and leadership commitment. For them, addressing significant sustainability issues has become a core strategic imperative and a way to mitigate threats and identify new opportunities.

Among the characteristics of “Walkers” in the survey,

  • More than 90% have developed a sustainability strategy, compared to 62% among all respondents.
  • 70% have placed sustainability permanently on their top management agenda, compared to an average of 39%.
  • 69% have developed a sustainability business case, compared to only 37% of all respondents.

Among the approximately 5000+ business leaders worldwide who participated in the research, the vast majority identify environmental and social issues as “very significant: or “significant.”

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Top management support is a very powerful catalyst of sustainability efforts — 68% of respondents say senior management has the greatest influence on sustainability endeavors. Employees are also part of the equation — 24% of respondents cite employees as the most influential. Employees place great value in working for companies with strong sustainability footprints. And they are often at the ready to accelerate progress.

According to the research report, “There is little disagreement that sustainability is necessary to be competitive — 86% of respondents say it is or will be. Sustainability’s next frontier is tackling the significant sustainability issues — or, in the parlance that is gaining currency, “material sustainability issues” — that lie at the heart of competitive advantage and long-term viability. Yet many companies struggle to match their strong level of sustainability concern with equally strong actions. They still wrestle with settling on which actions to pursue and aligning around them.”

Read the research report here.

About the Research

For the fifth consecutive year, MIT Sloan Management Review, in partnership with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), conducted a global survey. The 2013 survey included more than 5,300 executive and manager respondents from 118 countries. This report is based on a smaller sub-sample of 1,847 respondents from commercial enterprises. Respondent organizations are located around the world and represent a wide variety of industries.





SOGB: Business Sustainability Progress Has Stalled

27 01 2014
According to the 2014 State of Green Business report published by GreenBiz Group in partnership with Trucost plc., companies around the world are struggling to make progress on climate change, resource efficiency and natural capital dependency.
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“While more and more companies are undertaking a growing number of initiatives to reduce their environmental impacts, there’s very little progress to show for it. Company initiatives are not having an impact at the scale needed to address such challenges as climate change and the availability of water and natural resources,” said Joel Makower, GreenBiz Group executive editor and the report’s principal author.
The seventh annual edition of the report, which measures the global progress of large, publicly traded companies in addressing a myriad of environmental challenges, reveals little meaningful progress across most metrics, including greenhouse gas emissions, water use, waste disposal and other pollutant impacts.
“The environmental impacts of business – air pollution, biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and water scarcity – are threatening the ability of our finite stock of natural capital to deliver sustainable growth,” said Richard Mattison, CEO of Trucost. “The challenge for business is to identify growth models that result in reduced environmental impact.
”The report also names the 10 sustainable business trends for 2014. Among them are the growth of collaboration among big corporations to solve mutual sustainability challenges, the growth of chemical transparency for consumer products, the emergence of “shadow pricing” as a means for companies to assess their environmental risks and net-positive buildings.
The 2014 report includes the launch of the Natural Capital Leaders Index, a new methodology for identifying companies that are growing their revenue while reducing their environmental impacts. The 2014 Index found 34 companies from 10 countries that met Trucost’s criteria, which include increasing revenue between 2008 and 2012, disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions and a decrease in environmental impacts during that same period.Among the 34 “decoupling leaders” are Carnival Corp., CSX, Intel, Kimberly-Clark, National Australia Bank, Pearson, Tata Power and Verizon.The Index further identifies US and Global “efficiency leaders” that use the least natural capital to generate revenue compared to sector peers – the more traditional sustainability leaders – which include Adobe Systems, AMEC, BMW, Ford, Manpower, McGraw Hill Financial, Pepco Holdings and Sprint Corp.The metrics from the report were drawn from Trucost’s assessment of 4,600 of the world’s largest companies representing 93% of global markets by market capitalization.The State of Green Business report will be the centrepiece of the upcoming GreenBiz Forum (Feb 18-20), taking place in Phoenix, AZ, where speakers will address many of these trends and metrics.The free report can be downloaded from GreenBiz.com.





CCC: Enhanced Reputation Key Goal of CSR Efforts.

17 01 2014

CSRNew reports cites increased funding, senior leadership appointments, management engagement and reputation enhancement goals for corporate citizenship.  The Center for Corporate Citizenship has released its The Profile of the Practice 2013.  The report explores how the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) dimensions of business—corporate citizenship—are managed in today’s business world, and how these practices have evolved since the last report in 2010.

“Corporate citizenship is managed at higher levels, corporate citizenship leaders are better compensated, and more companies establish both board committees and official budgeted departments to manage their programs,” said Katherine Smith, Executive Director, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship said in a statement. “These are all signs that CSR continues to be more deeply embedded in business as more executives realize that positive environmental, social and governance measures correlate to positive financial performance, improved reputation, and solid risk management.”

Among the key findings in the survey:

  • More than 70% of companies cited enhanced reputation among the top three business goals they are trying to achieve through their corporate citizenship efforts. The next most frequently cited goals are improving employee retention (45%), improving employee recruitment (41%), attracting new customers (33%), and improving risk management (22%).
  • The chief executive is more involved in developing strategy, setting goals, and communicating corporate citizenship than reported in both 2008 and 2010. More than 25% indicate that their chief executive is highly involved in corporate citizenship program evaluation.
  • Almost 100% of companies have a corporate citizenship budget today, while just 81% reported being budgeted in 2010.
  • Almost 60% of companies have an executive leading corporate citizenship. This is a 74% increase over what was reported in 2010. Close to one-third of corporate citizenship leaders are within one level of the chief executive.

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The survey was conducted in the Fall of 2013 of 231 companies  and their corporate citizenship strategies, operational structures, and business practices were analyzed. 

About the Center for Corporate Citizenship

The Carroll School of Management Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College is a membership-based knowledge center. Founded in 1985, the Center has a history of leadership in corporate citizenship research and education. The Center engages more than 400 member companies and more than 10,000 individuals annually to share knowledge and expertise about the practice of corporate citizenship through the Center’s professional development programs, online community, regional programs, and annual conference. The Center is a GRI-Certified Training Partner. For more information, visit the Center’s website at www.BCCorporateCitizenship.org.

 

 

 





National Research Council: Abrupt, near-term impacts to rival dinosaur extinction

10 12 2013

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With little fanfare and a noticeable lack of press coverage, the National Research Council released its report:  Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises last week.  The 200 page report suggests that a wave of species extinctions rivaling the dinosaurs’ demise might well be coming within the century — and that the time has come to set up early warning systems to detect this and other imminent climate catastrophes.

One of the authors, Anthony Barnosky, made this comment on the report:  “Our report focuses on abrupt change, that is, things that happen within a few years to decades: basically, over short enough time scales that young people living today would see the societal impacts brought on by faster-than-normal planetary changes.”

The study was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, U.S. intelligence community and the National Academies, which is made up of The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council.

Abrupt Changes Already Underway

Some of the abrupt changes are already taking place, according to the report.

  • The disappearance of late-summer sea ice in the Arctic, with predictions that it may be gone entirely within decades, which “would have potentially large and irreversible effects of various components of the Arctic East Coast system including disruptions in the marine food web, shifts and habitats of summary mammals, and erosion of vulnerable coastlines.”

Because the Arctic region interacts with a large-scale circulation systems of the ocean and atmosphere, changes in the extent of sea ice could cause shifts in climate and weather around the northern hemisphere. The Arctic is also region of increasing economic importance for diverse range of stakeholders, and reductions in Arctic sea ice will bring new legal and political challenges this navigation routes for commercial shipping open and marine access to the region increases for offshore oil and gas development, tourism, fishing and other activities.

  • Rapidly increasing extinction of plant and animal species at a rate already “probably as fast as any warming event in the past 65 million years, and it is projected that its pace over the next 30 to 80 years will continue to be faster and more intense.”   The report cites the following scenarios for species extinction.

If unchecked, habitat destruction, fragmentation, and over-exploitation, even without climate change, could result in a mass extinction within the next few centuries equivalent in magnitude to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. With the ongoing pressures of climate change, comparable levels of extinction conceivably could occur before the year 2100; indeed, some models show a crash of coral reefs from climate change alone as early as 2060 under certain scenarios.

  • Destabilization of the west Antarctic ice sheet, an “abrupt change of unknown probability,” carries the threat of sea-level rise “at a rate several times faster than those observed today. “

Early Warning System 

In the face of these threats, the report urges development of an Abrupt Change Early Warning System (ACEWS) to closely monitor signals of tipping points drawing near, digest the data and feed it into the best predictive models that can be developed.   “We watch our streets, we watch our banks,” the report’s chief author, climatologist James White of the University of Colorado at Boulder, told the Los Angeles Times. “But we do not watch our environment with the same amount of care and zeal.”  In a press statement releasing the report, Mr. White said “The time has come for us to quit talking and take action.  Right now we don’t know what many of these thresholds are.  But with better information, we will be able to anticipate some major changes before they occur and help reduce the potential consequences.”

The executive summary of the report concludes with this rather dire warning:

“Although there is much to learn about climate change and abrupt impacts, to willingly ignore the threat of abrupt change could lead to more costs, loss of life, suffering and environmental degradation.  The time is here to be serious about the threat of the tipping points so as to better anticipate and prepare ourselves for the inevitable surprises.”








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