Harvard Business Review – Increased Focus on Corporate Sustainability, Convening CEOs for Critical Conversations on the Theme




Harvard Business Review – Increased Focus on Corporate Sustainability, Convening CEOs for Critical Conversations on the Theme

Harvard Business Review is one of the most powerful of external influences for the corporate C-suite.  Ideas, concepts and themes appearing in the pages (digital and print) of HBR create important initiatives in American companies. HBR editors are focusing these days on corporate sustainability in various dimensions.

Remember the debut of the “Shared Value” by Professor Michael Porter? Many first saw that concept introduced in the HBR pages.  A current project of HBR is the “Future Economy Project,” looking at business sustainability agendas and engaging CEOs for discussion on the theme.

A “virtual” roundtable with CEO’s was conducted to identify major themes of interest or concern to the business leaders.  Participants in the dialogue included Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical Company; Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever; Doug McMillon, CEO, Wal-Mart; Henry Paulson, former Secretary of the Treasury and Chair, Paulson Institute; Marne Levine, COO, Instagram/Facebook; Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Co.

The discussion was led by three leading academics and an industry expert; highlights are presented for you in the Top Story in this issue.  Here are a few top lines for you:

Paul Polman/Unilever saw the challenge of corporate sustainability as more clearly defining the “tactical” and “systemic” issues. And defining the terminology.  On tactics: labeling claims need to be clear about what standards to develop, and disclosure and materiality.  Systemic: system change, moving from short-term focus in politics and finance, and changing consumer preferences & habits.  These need to change at the systems level; the first step is identifying the problem.

Several of the CEOs said that companies are “becoming gradually more sustainable,” not at the speed needed, or the scale needed in the view of the session conveners. 

Climate change is seen by CEOs in the context of minimizing risk; when more CEOs see this as an opportunity to drive innovations that are both financially and socially beneficial, “that will be interesting”.  CEO Andrew Liveris of Dow talked about his firm’s design of new and more sustainable product lines.

A shared observation:  Looking through the risk lens, if more companies did that, more product innovation and investment in more-resilient operations and supply chains would result. This can happen in different ways, such as value added by mitigation of 10% of carbon footprint.

An interesting part of the discussion was around the “ah-hah” moment that often occurs.  The transformation begins when there is a “spark” and things are seen in different ways.  The former CEO of Rainforest Alliance described that when corporate managers went into the field to see sustainability forestry, or sustainable farming, they are no longer “far removed” from it.  They see sustainability can be life-changing.

The Millennial generation has a different view of business in society; more senior managers have to take their views into consideration.  Along these lines, getting “others’” point of view is important. There has been a “sea change” in company-NGO engagement.  Company and NGO goals, expectations and parameters can be better aligned. A common language can evolve.

And investors’ points-of-view are important to the CEOs.  Unilever’s Polman and McKinsey CEO Dominic Barton talked about shifting their investor base to attract more investors who really care about long-term value creation.  But, the current emphasis on short-term in the investor universe is a challenge to address.

On long-term value:  One-in-five dollars in the USA is in ESG investments. Investors are interested in sustainability.  This creates an opportunity for companies. One of the focal points for companies could be the Sustainable Development Goals as roadmap for companies – leveraging the SDGs could help to create more systemic change.

A theme of the HBR: “We believe in climate change and we’re taking action.”  This was in part stimulated by the U.S. government’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.  “The upside of the sustainability agenda is clear,” the project managers say. The pursuit of sustainable processes up and down the supply chain can translate into immediate savings (one example).  So, too, reducing energy use and embracing renewable energy.  There’s more information for you at: https://hbr.org/2017/08/future-economy

The academics convening the discussion above were:  Michael Toffel and Rebecca Henderson at Harvard Business School; Tensie Whelan, NYU Stern School of Business; and, Andrew Winston of Winston Eco-Strategies.

 

Top Stories This Week...

FUTURE THINKING   
(Wednesday - December 06, 2017) 
Source: Harvard Business Review - Harvard Business Review interviewed the CEOs and other business leaders who signed up to the Future Economy Project, our initiative spotlighting businesses’ sustainability agendas. We then virtually convened the project’s….

 

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

Joseph Mariathasan: Sustainability presents an opportunity for investors   
(Tuesday - December 05, 2017) Source: IPE - For both fund managers and corporations, there are both opportunities and pitfalls. Michael Porter, in a 2011 Harvard Business Review article titled Creating Shared Value, argues that the concept of shared value – i.e. the idea... 

The Impact of Trust on Financial Returns: Special Report   
(Thursday - December 07, 2017) Source: Trust Across America - For the past six years, America’s most trustworthy public companies continue to “beat the Street” since we began our annual reporting. Since 2013, every “Top Ten” list selected by Trust Across America has also outperformed the... 

Beyond Bonn: Eco-Social Policies For Social Justice And Environmental Sustainability   
(Monday - December 04, 2017) Source: Ian Gough, Social Europe - I propose a raft of ‘eco-social’ policies that pursue simultaneously the goals of social justice and environmental sustainability. 

Consumption is the bottleneck for sustainable development   
(Monday - December 04, 2017) Source: Science Daily - From ending poverty to improving wellbeing, gender equality, cities' resilience or climate action -- while synergies among most of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) foster progress in sustainable...

Sustainable Reporting: Lessons From the Fortune 500   
(Tuesday - December 05, 2017) Source: Forbes - Many companies extol their positive environmental performance, their social causes and exemplary governance (ESG). How do investors and other stakeholders verify those claims? 

Cornell Presents the 2017 Center for Hospitality Research Sustainability Roundtable Summary  
 (Wednesday - December 06, 2017) Source: Hospitality.Net - 2017 CHR Sustainability Roundtable Summary Sustainability remains top of mind for many global hospitality industry corporations. This was evidenced by the robust engagements of participants that attended the 2017 Cornell... 

How to maximize the impact of corporate sustainability goals   
(Wednesday - December 06, 2017) Source: GreenBiz - While there has been a substantial improvement in high-impact sustainability goal-setting by companies over the past decade, this activity has been limited to a small block of leading companies. Even those leaders have more...

Looking to Hire Millennials? Sustainability Commitment Is Key   
(Thursday - December 07, 2017) Source: Sustainable Brands - The face of the U.S.’s workforce is undergoing a vast and rapid change as an estimated 10,000 baby boomers retire each day. With nearly 4 million people calling it quits each year, this silver tsunami is creating a personnel gap...

Does Sustainable Investing Help or Hurt Returns?   
(Friday - December 08, 2017) Source: Morningstar - It's complicated, but sustainable funds more than hold their own on a risk-adjusted basis.

This Was the Year Sustainable Fashion Got Sexy—Read the Highlights Here   
(Friday - December 08, 2017) Source: Vogue - 2017 also became a stage for certain causes to shine, including sustainability in fashion, which is the second-most polluting industry in the world. 

How to design sustainability into an architectural practice   
(Friday - December 08, 2017) Source: Living Building - In most cases, it’s clients who drive the ambitions of deep-green buildings. But how can architectural firms lay the groundwork for more projects that push the boundaries of sustainability? 

There is Always Focus on Sustainability in Food & Ag

France dominates this year’s Food and Farming Sustainability Index   
(Wednesday - December 06, 2017) Source: Climate Action Programme - France has topped the 2017edition of the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) exhibiting the best performance across food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges.

Commitment to sustainability: Nothing new for ranchers   
(Friday - December 08, 2017) Source: Beef Magazine - it would be foolish in the extreme to close our eyes to the fact that the intensity of the demand for food by our future population will exceed anything we have yet known.” Sounds familiar, right?  

Our Focus This Week on A Range of ESG Topics & Issues -- Things to Think About...

ESG funds boosted by women and millennial investors?    
(Monday - December 04, 2017) Source: Investment News - Women and millennials are responsible for the doubling of ESG assets to $8.1 trillion worldwide since 2014 — and you can expect that trend to continue. 

What's The Difference Between Business Etiquette And Business Ethics?    
(Tuesday - December 05, 2017) Source: Forbes - The rules of both business ethics and business etiquette are the foundations of strong, productive professional relationships. You wouldn’t want to do business with people who worked for an organization that had little regard for... 

Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank   
(Wednesday - December 06, 2017) Source: The Hill - The Senate Banking Committee approved by a 16 to 7 vote a sweeping bill that would exempt dozens of banks from Dodd-Frank and loosen the rules imposed after the financial crisis on smaller firms. 
 
The Impact of Trust on Financial Returns: Special Report   
(Thursday - December 07, 2017) Source: Trust Across America - For the past six years, America’s most trustworthy public companies continue to “beat the Street” since we began our annual reporting. Since 2013, every “Top Ten” list selected by Trust Across America has also outperformed the... 


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

Allstate Enhances Sustainability Reporting   
(Wednesday - December 06, 2017) Source: PR NewsWire - The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) released an enhanced annual Sustainability Report to highlight its progress in fulfilling its role in society. This is the 15th consecutive annual report on the company's... 

Mars to boost $1bn sustainability plan with ‘sense of urgency’   
(Thursday - December 07, 2017) Source: Eco-Business - The chocolate giant in September launched an ambitious sustainability plan in September and last month hosted its first ever stakeholder engagement workshop to seek partnerships from government, NGOs and even competitors to help... 

Pfizer denies fumes from Viagra factory are having an arousing effect on locals in Cork village   
(Tuesday - December 05, 2017) Source: Joe.ie 
 
VW aims at ride-pooling market with all-electric minibus   
(Wednesday - December 06, 2017) Source: Reuters

Google wants more humans to help solve the problem of child exploitation on YouTube   
(Wednesday - December 06, 2017) Source: Washington Post

 Senior Volkswagen Executive Sentenced In Diesel-Emissions Scandal  
(Thursday - December 07, 2017) Source: NPR

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

First tax havens blacklist published by EU   
(Wednesday - December 06, 2017) Source: BBC - The European Union has published its first blacklist of tax havens, naming 17 territories including Saint Lucia, Barbados and South Korea. 

US calls Malaysia’s 1MDB corruption scandal ‘kleptocracy at its worst’  
(Tuesday - December 05, 2017) Associated Profiles : 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB, formerly known as Terengganu Investment Authority) Source: Asian Correspondent - During his speech at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery in Washington DC on Monday, Sessions said that action was related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad sovereign wealth fund. SEE ALSO: 1MDB: Justice Dept probes US rap star... 

Public Pension Funds' Anti-Fossil Fuel Activism Raises Risks For Beneficiaries  
(Wednesday - December 06, 2017) Associated Profiles : New York State Common Retirement Fund Source: Forbes - and the New York State Common Retirement Fund. Helping that cause, 2017 marked the first year that three giant passive investment funds, BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard, joined with CalPERS in several proxy votes. Taken..

 

Trump Administration News / Affecting Directions on Governance and ESG

Consumer Bureau’s New Leader Steers a Sudden Reversal   
(Thursday - December 07, 2017) Source: NY Times - The defanging of a federal consumer watchdog agency began last week in a federal courthouse in San Francisco. 

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