Building Success Into The Firm’s Sustainability Efforts – By Making Sustainability Everyone’s Responsibility

Building Success Into The Firm’s Sustainability Efforts – By Making Sustainability Everyone’s Responsibility

Lately, we’ve been participating in conferences where CEOs and other senior managers have been on the lectern describing their companies’ sustainability journeys – the why, how, challenges and positive outcomes.
Most presenters are the leaders in brand marketing who know that the stakes are higher now, in terms of both investor and customer expectations.  They know that the customer-facing company that wants competitive market positioning will demonstrate greater corporate responsibility and strive to be more sustainable.

One of the common threads that we hear in these presentations is the key role that employees play in making corporate “sustainability” or “responsibility” or “citizenship” programs more successful.  There are typically key management metrics applied, ranging from the simple-to-the-sophisticated.  Employee volunteer hours.  Return on these efforts (equivalent to dollar amounts donated in some cases).  Employee retention and customer loyalty rates. Investor response.

And for a few enterprises, the strategic approach of alignment of effort and incentive – building recognition and rewarding of the employee contributions to the positive outcomes (small today but appears to be a growing practice for savvy leaders). 

Encouraging and organizing employee volunteering is often among the core activities when a company sets out on the sustainability journey – it’s a great internal morale builder and positive way to put the brand forward doing something that benefits society.

CB Bhattacharya writing in the Harvard Business Review shares his experiences gained in interviews with CEOs and C-suite execs, middle managers and “shop floor” workers in 25-plus companies to understand “why most companies fail to embed sustainability in their business models and what drives success among the handful that do.” 

Hint:  it is about creating and promoting “ownership” – successful companies create conditions for stakeholders to “own” sustainability. 

Bhattacharya is H.J. Zoffer Chair of Sustainability and Ethics as the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business. He’s developed a three-phase model to help companies understand how to move beyond rhetoric and take ownership of sustainability (walking-the-talk).These are incubation, launching and entrenching.  These steps help to build a feeling of ownership (among employees) and “de-mystify” the internal stakeholders’ contributions to the overall corporate effort.

He offers examples citing such firms as BASF and its “Sustainability Solution Steering”; ING and the “sustainable transitions” and the application in real estate and clean technology; Old Mutual and workshops to show how employees are changing lives through their day jobs.

The advice shared from Unilever is not to create a “little department” for sustainability but to mainstream the efforts into all countries, brands, and divisions.  Example: the Unilever R&D and marketing departments work to create and promote products that serve business and society.

Ringing in our ears as we write this:  BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s recent “CEO-to-CEO” letter calling on corporate leaders in which his company invests to ensure that the company fulfills a “social purpose!”  Almost every one of the corporate honchos we’ve heard embeds the phrase in their story-telling now.  That’s good news, we would say.

There’s very helpful advice for corporate leaders in the HBR article that is our Top Story, whether the enterprise is starting out on the journey, cautiously advancing one foot at a time, or well along in the journey and looking to stay way ahead of its peers.  As CB Bhattacharya (who is writing a book on the subject) observes:  “Establishing [employee] ownership prevents the feeling that that sustainability is someone else’s problem to manage.” 


This Week's Top Story

How to Make Sustainability Every Employee’s Responsibility
(Monday - February 26, 2018) Source: Harvard Business Review - Do you believe that sustainability is important for your company, but that it’s “someone else’s problem”? You aren’t alone: While most organizations talk the talk of sustainability — doing things such as integrating environmental... 

And We Call Your Attention to...

"Does the RobecoSAM CSA Deliver Quantifiable Business Returns?" - Find Out April 6th in NYC at DJSI: How Insights Inspire Action
(March 7, 2018) Source: 3BL Media - As the opening of RobecoSAM's Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) draws nearer we wanted to remind you about our upcoming workshop on April 6th at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City. The workshop will be a very intimate discussion with 30 or fewer people with an opportunity to engage with representatives from RobecoSAM, G&A Institute, and your peers.

Sustainability: Progress Is Being Made
-- We See Forward Momentum!

Sustainability for Improved Performance
(Friday - March 02, 2018) Source: - Automotive manufacturers are faced with increasingly stringent emissions standards, and one of their greatest challenges is how to effectively track and measure life-cycle carbon footprint reductions, and leverage that data as a... 

It's time to rethink sustainability goals and targets  
(Thursday - March 01, 2018) Source: GreenBiz - But have you perused the sustainability sections of your favorite companies’ websites lately and checked out their goals and targets? They all sound the same. By way of example, here’s the wording from the environmental targets... 

Sustainability Supports Business Success  
(Thursday - March 01, 2018) Source: Post and Parcel - DHL Global Forwarding has released a new white paper that argues Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM) can help to increase business success. 

Why Sustainability Efforts Are Good For Business  
(Wednesday - February 28, 2018) Source: - Sustainability efforts and conservation are two concepts you have probably heard a lot in recent years. These concepts relate to everything in business. This includes natural resource depletion to climate change, cost...

Beyond Carbon: Water Risks and Sustainable Investing
(Wednesday - February 28, 2018) Associated Profiles : MSCI Group (NYSE: MDX) Source: CFA Institute Blogs - These measures are critical to making companies more sustainable and resilient and protecting investment ... A recent study of four global investment indices — the S&P 500, Russell 1000, MSCI World, and MSCI Emerging...

Sustainability, Change Leadership, and Collaboration: From The Why To The How
(Wednesday - February 28, 2018) Source: GreenBiz - BSR and others long have called for companies to stop treating sustainability as a niche area, as philanthropy or as an incremental "nice to have." Ultimately, we agree that we need to move beyond debates over whether...

Our Focus This Week on A Range of ESG Topics & Issues – More Things to Think About…

Fracking Has Its Costs And Benefits -- The Trick Is Balancing Them
(Tuesday - February 27, 2018) Source: Forbes - Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is perhaps the most important energy discovery in the last half century. As a result of fracking, U.S. production of oil and natural gas has increased dramatically. This increase has abruptly... 

The IRS is on to Crypto
(Tuesday - February 27, 2018) Source: JD Supra - The IRS Chief of Criminal Investigation, Don Fort, recently stated: “It’s possible to use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the same fashion as foreign bank accounts to facilitate tax evasion.”

SEC Investigates Cryptocurrency Offerings
(Friday - March 02, 2018) Source: NPR - The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a broad investigation into the companies and financial professionals behind many recent initial coin offerings, or ICOs...

New Study Upends Conventional Thinking About What’s Driving Down Carbon Emissions
(Thursday - March 01, 2018) Associated Profiles : Bloomberg New Energy Finance 
Source: ThinkProgress - The study, “Factoring in the Forgotten Role of Renewables in CO2 Emission Trends Using Decomposition Analysis,” comes on the heels of the release of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report, which found that in 2017... 


News for You From the Corporate Sector -Both Positive & Negative - Headlines 

100 Most Overpaid CEOs Report from As You Sow Shows Fund Managers Reluctant to Vote Against Exorbitant CEO Pay Packages
(Friday - March 02, 2018) Associated Profiles : As You Sow Source: The Business Journals - Today's release of The 100 Most Overpaid CEOs: Are Fund Managers Asleep at the Wheel' from shareholder advocacy group As You Sow revealed that the largest fund managers displayed a...

First Corporate Sustainability Bond in Asia Issued by TLFF for a Natural Rubber Company in Indonesia
(Tuesday - February 27, 2018) Associated Profiles : Eiris Source: CSRwire - This transaction is the first corporate sustainability bond in Asia and the first sustainability bond in ASEAN. Vigeo Eiris, the Environmental, Social Governance (ESG) research agency, has confirmed that the Notes are...

Crypto Startup Blockchain Partners With UN on Sustainability Goals  
(Friday - March 02, 2018) Source: Coindesk - Cryptocurrency wallet startup Blockchain is partnering with the United Nations to explore applications of blockchain in a range of areas, from natural resource conservation to the protection of democratic systems. 

Remember the “Diesel Emissions Scandal?  Still In The News:

Volkswagen Profit Jumps as Diesel Scandal Costs Fade
(Monday - February 26, 2018) Source: The Moyley Fool 

Report: Fiat Chrysler to end diesel production in passenger cars by 2022
(Tuesday - February 27, 2018) Source: Detroit Free Press

And The Uproar About “Guns” and Who Invests in Gun Companies:

Guns and More Guns: Will Wall Street Ever Let Go of Firearms?
(Monday - February 26, 2018) Source: Fortune

Warren Buffett: I don't think Berkshire should avoid doing business with people who own guns
(Wednesday - February 28, 2018) Source: CNBC

Walmart, Dick’s expand corporate rift with gun lobby
(Thursday - March 01, 2018) Source: 

 And…Pollution Issues in the 21st Century:

Uber, Lyft worsen city traffic, studies show: report
(Tuesday - February 27, 2018) Source: Times Picayune

British retailers linked to polluting supplier factories
(Thursday - March 01, 2018)  Source: Edie 

News & Opinion: Asset Managers, Sovereign Wealth Funds, Pension Funds

Use These 10 ESG Factors to Avoid Riskiest Investments in 2018
(Wednesday - February 28, 2018) Associated Profiles : Jantzi-SustainalyticsSustainalytics 
Source: ThinkAdvisor - It’s the latter approach that Sustainalytics uses in its report “10 for 2018” focusing on “10 ESG risks that could have a significant impact on shareholder value” in 2018 and the industries that are... 

Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS) 
Source: Seeking Alpha - The term “complex investments” is used here to describe any departure ... the Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement Board seeks a return of 8.5%, and the Minnesota State Retirement System seeks 8.14%. The only system... 

G&A's To The Point! is a businesss intelligence web-platform resource. This management briefing service offers timely insights and perspectives on Corporate Sustainability, Responsibility & Citizenship. Click here to request a trial subscription. Below are links to a sampling of three recent briefs:

ABOUT THOSE CORPORATE EMPLOYEE PENSION PLANS –The Focus is Increasing on the Shortfalls…and Remedies

McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts: Poly Coffee & Beverage Cups In Investor Focus

ISS Unveils New Corporate “E” and “S” QualityScores For 1,500 Companies



G&A Institute Sustainability Update
Informative, insightful, thought provoking
Governance & Accountability Institute's blog focusing on the sustainable world evolving daily before our eyes. Read it, absorb it, question it and challenge.

Supply Chain Responsibility – A Signal of Excellence in Corporate Accountability? Stakeholders Are Increasingly Thinking That Way…in the “New World Order”

Remembering Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Her Rich Sustainability Legacy

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