The evolution of CSR in developed economies from philanthropic grants to programs more integrally tied to core strategies is impacting business in emerging economies. From cost cutting to reputation building, companies in developing markets are aligning sustainability activities with their missions and values. And they are doing so in distinctive ways.
From the Editor
There’s a new term for one of the most studied segments of US consumers: the “longevity market” describes the 75 million, over-50 baby boomers. Even bigger than the population size is the demographic’s annual spending: $7.6 trillion. These huge numbers, combined with the boomers’ changes in attitudes and lifestyles toward aging, are proving to be a magnet for entrepreneurs, VCs, and investors.
Food manufacturers and retailers are changing formulas and recipes in response to increasing consumer demand for healthier, more natural ingredients. From General Mills to Taco Bell, food makers are removing ingredients linked to obesity and diabetes, reports the Wall Street Journal. The latest player in the “clean label” movement is McDonald’s, which has announced the replacement of high fructose corn syrup with sugar in its sandwich buns.
Despite some spectacular bankruptcies, startup-challenged technologies, opposition by traditional utilities, and uncertain governmental policies, renewable energy continues on its upward trend. Consider these facts, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. Global investment in renewables now beats that in fossil fuels two to one. Batteries to store power sourced from renewables are becoming cheaper, bigger in capacity, and more reliable. More EV models are being introduced by more automakers.
It looks to be a record year for green bonds. From January 1 through July of this year, issuance of the purpose-driven financial products totaled $44.2 billion, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative. The total for all of 2015 was $41.8 billion, Green bonds target qualified green building and sustainable design projects, and —here’s the bottom line attraction—are tax exempt.
For U.S. utilities, the present is becoming the future. In Illinois, electric power companies are shutting down coal and nuclear facilities that account for more than 10 percent of that state’s power-generating capacity. The drivers are cheap wind power and low-cost natural gas burning plants, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. In the Midwest, the average annual wholesale electricity price has fallen 43 percent since 2008, according to Bloomberg data.
Healthcare reform that controls costs remains elusive, despite the radical changes of the Affordable Care Act. Last year, health care costs rose 5.5% over 2014. That increase follows a rise of 5.3% recorded in 2014. Projections are that national health spending will grow by 5.8% each year on average over the next decade, reports Modern Healthcare.
Call it another example of the law of unintended consequences. The sustainability officer role is projected to diminish and spending on consulting by sustainability officers to shrink over the next five years, according to a study from Verdantix.
When the “food with integrity” chain Chipotle had 60 cases of illness in two separate E.coli outbreaks last winter, a re-branding strategy went into overdrive. There is a classic canon of such corporate reputational recovery cases to study and learn from, from Nike to VW. Now Chipotle, the healthy food chain that made some of its customers sick, is on the list. The company is working hard to regain customers’ trust, says Ad Age.
New innovations in the grocery sector are re-shaping the food shopping experience. The initial revolution, pioneered by Whole Foods, has hit a profit wall: the industry leader has recorded three quarters of sales declines, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. One issue is increased competition. The smaller stores, lower prices, and frequent introduction of new products by Trader Joe’s and Aldi are challenging the Whole Foods model to evolve.
Add a new acronym to your glossary: EaaS. That’s “energy-as-a-service,” an innovation driven by radical change in the energy industry. Today’s energy landscape is fast-moving, increasingly more complex, and isn’t governed by a consistent set of commonly accepted rules. Issues of climate change, new technology, increasing regulations, and cost concerns are adding to the need for big change.
An explosive growth in socially responsible investment is driving requests from investors, financial advisors, and asset managers for more and better environmental, social and governance data for use in their investment decision-making. ESG data in the asset management industry has grown by 45% over the last four years, affecting $59 trillion of assets under management.
I often write about the Big Issues in this space: climate change, national health and energy policies, socially responsible investment, and so on. But every now and then, I’m reminded that it's the less grandiose, less visible work going on that is driving progress, too. That was my thought when I read about Gridpoint’s award for building energy management solutions.
Green bonds—bonds with a socially responsible investment aspect baked into their definition—are on an explosive growth curve. Global green bond issuance so far this year totals $21.7 billion, up 78% from the $12.1 billion issued last year in the same time period, reports Business Insider.
“We believe capitalism can and should be a force for good,” says Business Insider, introducing its first list of leaders who embody that spirit. The Business Insider 100: the Creators ranks those leaders creating “value” for shareholders, employees, consumers, and society.
In the third year since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies are struggling to create new business models to support a radically changed market. The Geisinger Health Plan, one of the country’s top-rated health care organizations, is a case in point, reports the New York Times. Praised as providing “high-quality care at costs well below average,” the 100 year-old company has embraced the “pay for performance” strategy of the ACA.
Financial advisors who provide options for socially responsible investing are increasingly the choice of clients, according to a survey by TIAA Global Asset Management. The poll of 1,100 US investors found that 74 percent would prefer to work with a financial advisor who can provide both good returns and social impact.
While mainstream media headlines about energy seem preoccupied with the price of oil, interrupted Canadian oil sands production, falling oil output in Iraq, and so on, the unexciting but significant energy storage industry continues to quietly grow. In Q1 2016, the US deployed 18.3 megawatts of energy storage, according to GTM Research and ESA, reports Greentech Media.
At a time of unprecedented upheaval in the political area, it’s hardly surprising that a parallel mood is evident in the CSR field. Multiple models that offer radical, disruptive strategies to make more positive change more quickly are competing to be the dominant idea of next generation CSR.