An action plan for ESG integration across the U.S. financial services sector has been released in a report by the Principles for Responsible Investment.
From the Editor
These days, CSR is not only the common practice of large corporations with considerable resources. Small and mid-size businesses are getting in on the action as well. It makes sense that local companies, which depend on their local communities for customers, would embrace social responsibility as a matter of basic brand strategy. In small markets, transparency is a given; businesses known for treating their employees well, producing quality products, and investing in community development do well. But how do small and mid-size businesses know which CSR initiatives have sustainable impact?
The southern states are a prime location for solar power. More sunlight hits the South than anywhere in the country except the desert Southwest. At a time of Federal and state tax credits for solar power, utilities across the region are building large, utility-scale projects. But the South lags far behind in residential solar power. The reason is protectionism by monopoly utilities. Just seven states in the U.S., all in the South, ban third-party solar power purchase agreements, the business model that has led to an exponential growth in solar power for homes and small businesses.
“The first innovative thing we’ve seen in a long time,” says one health care professional. That “thing” is Intermountain Healthcare, a nonprofit health system in Salt Lake City that has set up a business model to cut health care costs—“sharply”—rather than pass them along in higher premiums. Its new health plan, SelectHealthShare, guarantees that it will keep yearly rate increases to one-third to one-half of the average, according to the New York Times.
In a first, energy ministers from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have agreed to share clean energy innovations. It’s a big step toward a comprehensive North American energy strategy that addresses energy security and reducing emissions.
In the same week that the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of the EPA’s Clean Power Act, the Administration advanced its plans to increase solar use across the government by signing a deal to install solar panels on 18 federal buildings.
The numbers keep coming, in report after report, adding up to show that Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) tracking socially responsible indices have outperformed those that track the parent indices. The latest evidence comes via UBS Global Asset Management. It finds that outperformance by socially responsible investment has been a fact on a global scale over the last five years, according to Financial Times Advisor.
An energy bill to update the country’s power grid and oil and gas transportation systems is before the U.S. Senate—and it has support from both Democrats and Republicans. If you’re keeping count, it’s been 11 years (2007) since the last major energy law, according to the New York Times. The proposed bill has “wins” for both parties. It would require electrical grid operators to install new, large-scale storage systems for renewable power.
If you thought “innovation” was worn out as a business concept, think again. A new study finds that 91% of business leaders say innovation is a strategic priority. Most (66%) view innovation as a way to develop entirely new products or services. And a majority (52%) now look to innovation as key to the development of new business models. This study, the third annual such survey conducted by StrategyOne for GE, draws on interviews with 3,100 senior business executives in 25 markets.
As sustainability reporting is integrated into mainstream reporting, more demands have been made upon the once-subsidiary activity to become as available and credible as traditional reports. Now, the distribution and benchmarking of sustainability reports are getting a big boost from a new partnership.
From stock exchanges to investors to consumers, the pressure coming at companies from all quarters to provide substantial sustainability reporting. Whether the starting point is risk management, requirements and regulations, or profit opportunity, these once-supplementary reports are now essential documents—and required reading. It’s no wonder that the volume and quality has stepped up markedly in the last few years. So have insights on how to producing better ones.
Hovering over the $3 trillion US health marketplace is the American Medical Association. Terms used to describe this largest association of physicians in the country range from “staid” to “monopolist.” Now the historically conservative organization is taking a big leap forward into the digital future by investing $15 million in a for-profit company, Health2047, according to US News & World Report.
Tech innovation doesn’t always involve brand-new devices, software, or apps. Take Thunderclap. The tool that allows multiple users to send the same Tweet simultaneously launched in 2012, but was shut down by Twitter a day later as violating that platform’s terms of service. What a difference a few years make! Twitter has been on wobbly reputational grounds lately, from complaints about its use by terrorists to concerns by Wall Street about its profit outlook.
Mention the Internet of Things (IoT) and healthcare applications, and you’re probably aware of such gadgets as smart watches, Fitbits and Jawbones.
This year, the Institute of Business Ethics marks its 30th anniversary. The organization was set up in 1986, when the “Big Bang” introduced deregulation into the City, London's financial center, changing the London Stock Exchange's operations by internationalizing the U.K.’s markets.
The past year was a busy time for business in making mass commitments to sustainability. A list in Forbes’ “Top 5 Corporate Sustainability Stories of 2015” gives a good summary. 1) Over 150 U.S. companies—including Target, Kellogg’s, Goldman Sachs, PG&E, and Cargill—signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. 2) 114 companies—including Sony, Proctor & Gamble, and NRG Energy—signed a commitment to set science-based targets.
After a year of major global progress on the Big Issues (carbon emissions control, renewable power sourcing, water and energy use reduction), the CSR and sustainability community deserves to savor a job well done. But those of us who spend our working hours in an office should remember that the “little things” can add up to big changes, too.
The holidays are a good time to take stock of work and its place in life. Some new research finds what might be obvious, but is well worth stating: the performance of employees increases when a supervisor cares about their family lives. A survey of 512 employees by a research team led by Kedge Business School, published in the Journal of Management, looked at the positive effects on employees generated by working with a manager who was supportive of family-related issues.
It’s that end-of-the-year time when predictions are made for next year about every subject imaginable, and CSR is no exception. The year’s first list, “Five CSR Trends to Watch For 2016” by Maeve Miccio, VP for Corporate Responsibility at Silicon Valley Community Foundation, has been published, and it’s a good one.
The health care industry continues to innovate with new business models, driven by the Affordable Care Act, which requires providers to take on insurance risk. In one notable example, Kaiser Permanente is opening its own national school of medicine.