Watch the CSE Corporate Video and find out Who we are!
Watch the CSE Corporate Video and find out Who we are!
Avoid Blacking the Green
Have you ever wondered what the sentence “green is the new black” actually means? Well as black is a color reputed to match almost everything, so does green in today’s business arena, as is a color that no successful business can afford to not “wear”.. as long as you do not wear and tear! Companies being or turning green essentially refers to their internal strategies integrating sustainability principles, and thus, acting responsibly by contributing towards a sustainable development for our common good! This of course has been a result of the awareness raised about the impacts anthropogenic actions are having on our ecosystem accompanied with the just how much corporations are contributing to the “CO2 pie” (emissions). Now, it should come as no surprise that within this equation corporations own up to a large part of the CO2 pie but it should also come as no surprise that corporations simultaneously have the power to make their part of the pie more sustainable in the long run for society and the environment, whilst reaping the benefits of being a good corporate citizen.
Consequently, by taking a peek into how businesses today are communicating to their stakeholders you will quickly come to find that they are falling all over themselves to deliver the message that they are environmentally and ecologically conscious and correct! At present, some businesses are genuinely committed to making the world a better a place to live in, and hence more sustainable, but yet far too many are portraying sustainability efforts as a method of attracting potential customers, as environmentally conscious consumers are expanding tremendously ! This essentially done through corporations trying to pass off as eco-friendly, when what they are in fact doing is hiding behind their not so green footprints! Consider for instance putting an image of a forest on a bottle containing harmful chemicals. Other corporations pass off eco friendly behavior to their stakeholders through exaggerating the truth about the the percentages of their products being beneficial to the environment. Such actions at best has brought a wave of confession to consumers as to which products they can truly trust, and at worst has created the notion of green washing being a major contradiction to the expansion of sustainable development. This of course is not to say that when making an effort towards being more sustainable marketing the action is forbidden, but more acknowledging that true results are found in walking the talk opposed to talking the talk. Besides, in today’s society’s fast growing awareness and interest in Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility married with the expansion of organizations alike corporate watch dog, and Stop Green Wash which in turn keep a close eye on organizations green washing, it would be ludicrous for businesses to not wake up to the economic benefits of environmentally sustainable practices and products.
CSE, being a leader in the CSR field since 2004 and having trained more than 5,000 individuals across North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are implementing the most advanced methodologies for professionals across sectors and industries on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability – strategy, reporting, management and communication. If you are interested in avoiding green washing and investing in the business case of CSR , join our upcoming Certified Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner Trainings delivered worldwide!
It is widely known that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the way that leading companies nowadays do business, not only because it is clearly the right thing to do, but also because it is accompanied with long term benefits. One of the benefits CSR is reputable for is its ability to enchase, if not build, your business’s image and reputation. On this note it is important to emphasis the difference between image and reputation! A business’s reputation is something that is build and developed throughout its establishment, essentially how a company is perceived by its stakeholder. On the other hand a company’s image refers more so to how you want to emerge to your existing and potential customers. More specifically, Bloomberg Business Week states “it’s what you want to convey about yourself, your business, your product, your work ethic, and your professionalism combined with the strategy you’ve developed to reach your target audience”. Consequently, a company’s image is also very important to its success but can be altered in a more flexible manner in comparison to its reputation! Consequently, having and sustaining a good reputation is an absolutely fundamental asset for businesses success, due to the fact that a great part of consumers’ decision making is placed on image and reputation. Consider for instance, the damage done to Nike’s reputation from using child labor in the 90s! So, the lullaby of “sticks and stones might break your bones but words will never hurt me”, does not always apply in the business arena, word of mouth will hurt you!
So how are companies utilizing CSR towards their brand image and reputation? Well, by browsing through how companies are communicating to their stakeholders today, you will quickly find that the triple bottom line of Sustainability is transpired in the way brands are communicating and consequently how they want to be by perceived! An international taste of what is going on can be seen through Coca-Cola wishing to contribute positively towards the obesity issue taking place in the United States, as just last week Coca-Cola launched its new anti-obesity campaign. The campaign draws attention to their drink choices having low calories and made with natural sweeteners, in order to get young people active and take obesity seriously. Now, this might seem to some a “common sense” fact, but nonetheless the heart of the campaign is dedicated to help minimize obesity, hence society. The Hershey Company on the other hand, well aware of the calories captured in chocolate and knowing there is nothing you can do but indulge, came up with a different way of contributing positively to society, the company stated to source 100 percent certified cocoa for its global chocolate product lines by 2020, and help eliminate child labor in the cocoa regions of West Africa. On a greener note, P&G (Procter & Gamble) launched a campaign last week to inform its vast amount of stakeholders that they are doing their bit for the environment as they continue to give preference to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, and aims to reach at least 40 per cent of the pulp used in P&G’s tissue-towel products to be FSC-certified. Marks & Spencer’s is also a good example, in 2007 it announced wanting to become the world’s most sustainable major retailer, and since then its business strategy changed to Plan A. So far, their efforts are doing tremendously well, and rank 238 in the Global 500 for 2013.
The above examples are just a small sample of how businesses are communicating their brands today and the image they wish to portray of themselves towards their stakeholders! With Walmart announcing this week that it aims by 2017, to buy 70 percent of the goods it sells in U.S. stores only from suppliers using the Sustainability Index, undoubtedly we will witness an increase in CSR as companies will need to stay in the league with their competitors as well as sustain their corporate image!
Have you intergraded Sustainability into you business strategy yet?
According to the most recent GreenBiz State of Green Business report, an increasing number of environmental performance results will be both reported and explained in the form of an Integrated Report (IR). An IR accounts for the inclusion of absolute environmental costs, which are “tallied by compiling companies’ individual impacts, such as carbon emissions, water consumption and waste, and assigning a cost to each impact.” Very few companies have yet to factor these considerations into their accounting systems, let alone report such information to investors. But GreenBiz notes that as governments begin to regulate carbon and as the climate change causes shifts in the monetary value of resources companies rely on, environmental costs will become a bigger lever for success or failure.
When it comes to addressing environmental costs, the areas of requiring the most attention occur outside the corporate office, in sectors such as operations, facilities, fleets, energy and real estate. The buildings sector is one part of the climate change equation with the greatest potential for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing environmental costs. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that buildings are responsible for more than 40% of energy use internationally, one-third of greenhouse gas emissions and 30% of raw material use. “Greening” corporate real estate can help achieve deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions both rapidly and cost-effectively, while simultaneously allowing companies to better manage and measure their environmental performance.
The recent trend of integrative reporting is already accounting for this component by urging companies to provide a basis for identifying and quantifying the projected benefits from investments in green building, and by fueling interest in integrating building sector reporting standards under the GRI and other frameworks.
Given investor and consumer consciousness of labeling programs, it is no surprise that as sustainability reporting develops to include these factors, many companies also seek certification to better communicate their green building initiatives. Studies show that because of investor and consumer awareness, certified buildings often lead in business activity; for instance, PNC Financial Services Group’s LEED rated facilities opened more than four hundred additional consumer deposit accounts and had more than three million more in consumer deposit balances per facility per year than non-certified properties. Overall, certifying a facility can exponentially improve a company’s financial performance and help to lower its operational costs.
Yet, the green building certification process remains a huge barrier for many businesses seeking to incorporate green building in their sustainability strategies. Programs such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) can add millions to construction costs while promising to cut other expenses. The additional costs of hefty certification fees and the soft costs of consultants and other hires leave little room in the budget for improving a buildings’ sustainability performance post-certification. And because corporations sometimes require various property types (whether owned or leased) to operate their business, there may exist drastically different conditions for each building seeking certification. Frustration over costs, building limitations and impracticalities of requirements consequently causes some businesses to throw their facilities to the wayside with certification.
But if the operation and management of corporate real estate plays a significant negative or positive factor in a company’s social responsibility, citizenship, or sustainability actions, then this shouldn’t be the case. Some may find that they can no longer afford to ignore the certification procedure – through certification they can more effectively address the critical role of their real estate assets.
One way that CSE is helping companies to achieve this in a less costly manner is through SERF, or the Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities. SERF was designed in an effort to avoid many of the issues encountered with green building certification – mainly that it can be cost-prohibitive, timely, and oftentimes inaccessible. With SERF, integrity no longer trumps applicability – users avoid settling for a single trophy building by applying one rating system along an entire building portfolio at a much lower cost.
SERF offers an approachable method for certifying all facility types, whether that is a leased office or a warehouse, a small urban building or a large rural one. The process itself saves time and money by moving away from reliance on third-party consultants and commissioning agents for documentation (although all SERF documentation is verified by a licensed architect or engineer before certification is granted). Better yet, it’s flexible. Users can better address their sustainability goals by choosing to certify a building through a prescriptive pathway or a performance-based pathway. A dynamic scoring system also offers criteria that are considerate of building environment and limitations. The result? There’s no need to beat your head against the wall to achieve simple, streamlined results – you can have your green building and flaunt it too.
Sustainability is about longevity, but it is also about transformation. “How do we respond to challenges and evolve for the better”, is always a question central to any leadership strategy. But being able to effectively communicate that question, connect it to a larger movement, inspire higher performance, find innovative solutions and influence traditional thinking are all characteristics that pertain to only a certain kind of leader. Given the recent flurry of climate change scares, there is no doubt that it is this concept of a “transformative leader” that will be leading the year’s discussion.
What is transformative leadership? Simply put, transformative leaders focus on their followers: they motivate followers to achieve higher levels of performance, listen and respond to their needs, challenge them to be innovative and creative, and in the process help them to develop their own leadership potential.
A recent report by The Climate Group spells out five traits that need to be embraced by business and government in order to create transformative leaders and achieve long-lasting, low-carbon results. The first step? Embrace change.
Many political and business leaders already acknowledge change, but only in recent years have we seen these leaders begin to embrace change as an instrumental part of longevity. For instance, in his second Inaugural Address, President Obama announced a renewed commitment to clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction. In doing so he warned America of the need to change with changing times: “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.” World Bank President Kim Jong Kim has also recently promised to make tackling climate change a top priority during his term. These leaders are beginning to embrace carbon reduction – not as a goal, but as a long-term and integral strategy for profitability, economic growth, and security. Their brute regulation is not only imminent, but also reflective of a new style of leadership: one that is strategic, determined, and receptive to the possibilities of change.
With decisive leadership also comes disruptive leadership. Transformative leaders create controversial strategies that challenge the way sectors and state interact. According to Senate climate guru Barbara Boxer, we can expect to see this approach in upcoming U.S. policy, whether in the form of a revenue-generating carbon tax or re-energized EPA regulatory schemes aiming to drive businesses to compete in energy markets and pave the path for clean energy.
We’ll also witness this as an increasingly common business strategy for success. According to The Carbon Disclosure Project, more than two-thirds of business already put climate change at the heart of their business strategies. Most of these companies are reporting their emissions at the company level. However, many more are challenging the status quo by learning how to extend emission reporting from the confines of their own operations to the wider effects of their products – re-defining the scope of reporting to include categories such as product use phase, end of life phase, and carbon abatement of products and services.
The business Case is evident in the following graph where organizations that join the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI) have much better financial performance overtime that all the others in the Global 500 Index. The CDLI includes Siemens, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and many other industry leaders
At the Centre for Sustainability & Excellence, we observe these progressing trends with a growing number of professionals attending our global Sustainability and Carbon Strategy Practitioner training programs in all major cities including NY, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Toronto, Tokyo ,Dubai and Brussels . Our registrants hail from forward-thinking companies like United Airlines, Walmart, Unilever and ABM. Their backgrounds are diverse – comprised of Sustainability and CSR Officers, Communications and Marketing Directors, Investor Relations and even Media Relations departments. What unites these individuals is a growing demand to learn: how to be radical, how to be transformative, and how to create impactful, enduring value. Our upcoming training held in Chicago on March 7-8 is was designed in response to this maturing mentality; the training includes all scopes of GHG emission reporting, as well as incorporates hot topics such as water footprint, Life Cycle Analysis, and carbon reduction via green building. As many more begin to follow these trends and pursue such knowledge, simple policies and reporting will no longer be enough. Investors and stakeholders alike will be looking for radical strategies that aim to create long-lasting impact – those professionals without the right amount of know-how might as well fold their cards to this new era of transformative leadership.
2012 introduced several significant developments in sustainability, most notably around the issues of climate change, risk management, and supply chain ethics.
June’s Rio+20 United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development dominated the year’s discussion, reinforcing the need for corporations to play a larger role in attaining sustainable development goals. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Low Carbon Economy Index publication supports this sentiment, showing only minor improvements in global carbon intensity reduction. As climate change regulation escalates in response to these numbers, we can expect to see more investors and consumers paying attention to corporate sustainable development strategies.
Companies anticipate these changes. More than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies now issue sustainability reports, with many also investing in sophisticated methods of tracking and reporting emission data. The Carbon Disclosure Project reports that in 2012 alone top firms integrating climate change into their business strategies reduced their emissions by nearly 14%. In 2013 we can expect to see even stronger corporate leadership in sustainable development as more corporations begin to report their carbon and water footprints, use methods of assurance to confirm data, and develop long-term carbon management strategies throughout the supply chain.
Social and environmental risk management will also be at the forefront of 2013. 2012 was filled with corporate behavior scandals. Companies like Barclays and Walmart found themselves in the spotlight amid global concern over lack of corporate and supply chain ethics. Superstorm Sandy and other natural disasters raised further questions about the ability of companies to adapt and become resilient to social and environmental challenges. Greater investment in supply chain management, stakeholder engagement and financial-environmental reporting will develop as business leaders seek to address these reputation and environmental risks. Expect one popular management strategy – “social license to operate” to lead the year’s discourse.
As sustainability become more mainstream, one trend also continues to hold promise: companies will continue to expand their investments in sustainability, and intensify their focus on pressing issues like energy efficiency, natural resource management, and health & safety. A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that greater numbers of companies view corporate environmental and social responsibility as a profit boost. 2013 will see increased corporate spending on sustainability issues like clean technology, sustainability reporting assurance, and corporate sustainability programs. In 2012 this was already made evident with evermore additions of chief sustainability officers to corporate boards; Unilever was one among many to expand its sustainability teams. 2013 will continue this trend with individuals being recruited internally from supply chain management, communications, marketing, and other units, to develop sustainability initiatives.
Sustainability (CSR) directives will become more coordinated across departments, causing a big shift in corporate structure and thinking. Corporate heads will look to leaders that can demonstrate the drive and flexibility needed to collaborate across business units and influence decision makers. Sustainability and CSR officers will adopt different roles in marketing, communications, management or project coordination. A recent article by Ethical Corporation argues that renewed emphasis on strategic planning will bring about more pragmatic programs and effective communication of the value of sustainability throughout company sectors. In short, these efforts 2013 will invoke a much broader understanding of sustainability, with greater opportunities for collaboration internally.
Externally, we will also begin to see a shift in thinking, as corporate marketers, communication managers, and sustainability directors direct their attention to consumer behavior. Stricter carbon regulations will encourage companies to identify more effective methods of consumer engagement Additionally companies they will also understand that Sustainability Reporting in not enough and that they need further stakeholder engagement with their employees, community and investors for increase stakeholder value
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a concept that has been defined differently and falls under many umbrellas, yet its concept to an extent remain the same world, being that corporations can no longer grow economically if their growth is not shared with society. This in other words means that businesses accountability has shifted away from the singular of shareholders and investors to a wider picture bringing in a wide range of stakeholders. Therefore businesses responsibilities have shifted away from simply making profits and moved towards making sure that any profits made address environmental protection, the wellbeing of employees, the community and civil society as a whole, both now and in the future.
Throughout the years there have been many drivers pushing forward CSR and expanding the urgency worldwide. To date the most important drivers of CSR have been:
1. Demands for disclosure
Stakeholders nowadays, being customers, suppliers, employees, communities, investors, and NGO’s demand for corporate disclosure!
2. The ever changing role of governments
In the past, governments have relied on legislation and regulation to deliver social and environmental objectives in the business sector. Governments have been puzzled with how to tackle CSR and generally if it an area that they can indeed influence, thus, this confusion has led to the discovery of voluntary and non-regulatory initiatives instead.
3. Increase in ethical consumption
Countless of surveys prove everyday that ethical consumption is on the raise, showing how more and more conscious consumers are either rewarding or punishing companies based on their Corporate Social performance.
4. Rising investor pressure
Investors are changing the way they assess companies’ performance, and are making decisions based on criteria that include ethical concerns as investors reputation is at stake also if it invests in companies who do not consider the triple bottom line in their decision making!
5. Retaining and attracting employees
In today’s business market, employees not only place importance upon their paycheck but also upon the company’s philosophies and principles, in order to find a perfect match! This shift in employee principles has brought as a result to improve working conditions.
6. Supply chain
Nowadays suppliers expect business to be corporately responsible and take into consideration among others issues related to labor practices, working conditions, fair payment across the supply chain and through the life cycle of the product/service. In order to protect the quality of services as well as reputation, suppliers and businesses as a first step, have moved into developing and complying codes of conduct.
Positively, the concept of CSR has been integrated within businesses agenda, yet for some it still remains a theory which needs to become visible action. Two things businesses need to acknowledge is that transparency and dialogue can help to make a business appear more trustworthy, whilst at the same time brings up and all organizations standards (which is the ultimate goal). To help businesses improve their CSR efforts there is increasing recognition of the importance of public-private partnerships in CSR. For instance, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) ultimate mission is to improve the comparability and credibility of sustainability reporting worldwide. For this reason the GRI created a common framework for reporting on economic, environmental and social impacts. CSE, organizational stakeholder and approved training provider of GRI, can provide you with a number of tailor made services which will meet your specific needs and expectations.
So, we have now said goodbye to the year 2012 and we are already embracing the New Year of 2013! The question now is what happened last year in the world of CSR and what can be transmitted into 2013? Looking back in a glance, it is apparent that companies realize that climate change is no longer a debate but an on-going threat which is becoming, nothing but bigger and bigger! In response the year 2012 indeed showed an increase in companies acting upon this significant matter and embedded sustainability within their business strategies to reduce their personal impact on the environment! This was seen through 78% of businesses reporting that climate change is being integrated into their corporate strategies, which is up 68% from last year according to the 2012 CDP !
All companies who devoted time and recourses to sustainable strategies and continue implementing methodologies of minimizing the risk of climate change deserve a big applause! These companies lead the way and portray the message that businesses have the will and power to be good corporate citizens!
Positively, 2013 is now here and has been predicted to be a good fiscal year, thus, we should be looking ahead and aiming at even better results than last year! In the arena of CSR Business Green article reported that almost half of the 250 senior sustainability executives indeed expect spending to increase in 2013 and they anticipate a robust growth in:
Though this might come as no surprise for some, for others, these areas are key areas to place in the 2013 list of resolutions as they hold the key of gaining competitive advantages simply by acting responsibly and most importantly responding to stakeholders 2013 needs! Therefore, the tip of the year 2013 is that there are essentially no secrets when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility, only transparency in products and services!
Happy New Year