While the big-ticket items—Tesla EVs, LED bulbs, solar power panels—may get the most mainstream press coverage, less sexy but even more transformative subjects such as recyclable packaging and healthier food ingredients are making progress in ways that touch many more people in everyday life. Cosmetics are another sector where, almost unnoticed, significant advances are being made. Major players such as L’Oreal, Croda, IFF, and Unilever have moved sustainability to the top of their agendas.
From the Editor
Climate change has been almost completely absent from discussion by major party candidates in the current political cycle . But almost unnoticed, renewable energy that will make a difference in controlling rising global temperatures has been growing quickly. Solar power in the US is expected to almost triple by 2017, according to the US Department of Energy.
I read two different kinds of articles about renewable energy these days. In one variety, technological advances are touted (battery storage, new equipment, more sophisticated control networks). In the other, anecdotal stories about this or that company installing and/or sourcing solar or wind power are described. The EPA brings these two strands of reporting together once a year when it announces its Green Power Leadership Awards.
Partnering seems like an obvious way to make more progress faster on the very big problems we’re facing. Combining resources and expertise makes a lot of sense when addressing such large issues as climate change, human rights, and water scarcity. But matching up the practices and strategies of corporate, NGO, and governmental entities is a daunting challenge. Fortunately, there are those taking on this mission, and making progress on making joint efforts.
There’s a headline that catches the eye: $2.3 trillion is a very large number.
Here’s some good news in the energy department: the world’s economies did better at energy efficiency last year, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. Energy intensity—the amount of energy used per unit of GDP—improved by 1.8% in 2015, more than the 1.5% gain in 2014, and triple the average rate seen over the past decade. Global efficiency standards now cover 30% of energy use, up from 11% in 2000.
Every day, I scan the mainstream press for my daily dose of financial and business news that defines the state of the economy. I see a lot of bad news, and some good news. Striking examples of each landed in my inbox today (Thursday, 10/6). The WSJ’s story could not have piled on more doom and gloom: “Worries Deepen that Globalization is Hitting the Skids” (italics mine).The article lays out multiple problems but not one possible solution.
A startup called Grow has been launched to target investments in socially responsible companies. One of a rapidly expanding category of fintech apps called “robo-investors” that make it easier for new investors to build portfolios, Grow points to investments in companies that have sustainable strategies and good governance.
The latest data on spending on CSR by companies in India show a substantial increase, according to the “India CSR Outlook Report.” Figures for 2015-16 total 92 percent of actual CSR spend to the prescribed CSR, compared to 79 percent in 2014-15. The report, an analysis of 250 companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, shows that most of the funding was directed to education, health-care, skill development and sanitation.
Palm oil is a very versatile material. In just a few years, it has become a key ingredient in many foods, cosmetics, soaps, and detergents, and is also developing into a stock for biofuel, reports Blue & Green Tomorrow. The stuff is so in demand that its production has, unfortunately, resulted in widespread deforestation and destruction of species habitat, especially in Southeast Asia where many palm plantations are located.
Do the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its 169 targets seem vital to life in the future? Does the list of ideas and proposed actions also seem overwhelming? The answers are yes and yes. DNV GL, an international certification body and classification society, has assembled a detailed forecast that breaks down the SDG Big Picture into manageable pieces. Its key finding: good progress will be made in some (but not all) world regions, and progress will not be fast enough and will face unacceptable environmental costs.
What’s the deal with the US economy? Factually speaking, slow growth seems to be the new normal.
As more and more of the world’s population moves into urban areas, the sustainability of such rapidly growing human environments is becoming an increasingly significant issue. Arcadis, a global design and consultancy firm for natural and built assets, has published a Sustainable Cities Index that ranks the performance of cities around the world. It explores three pillars of sustainability – social (people), environmental (planet) and economic (profit), using 32 indicators to arrive at a ranking for 100 of the world’s leading cities.
A new study shows that women workers ask for raises just as often as men, but that men were more likely to get a pay boost. Research found that men got a raise 20 percent of the time, compared with 16 percent for women. Can anyone spell “discrimination?" The study looked at 4,600 employees at 840 workplaces in Australia, so while extrapolated comparisons with US and UK practices aren’t exact, they’re close, reports the NY Times.
Unilever has launched an ad campaign to showcase the purpose behind its brands, reports Forbes. Its ‘So Long Old World’ video shows people who have benefited from the company's many initiatives. Commenting on Unilever's effort, Forbes notes: “CSR is no longer a part of what brands represent, but often the core of it . . . . These brands . . .
Some days, it seems that the mainstream business media headlines are all about scandals, fraud, hoaxes, and just plain bad corporate behavior. Much less often, there are stories about what companies do to recover from the financial, operational, and reputational damage caused by poor CR practices.
Scotland has been in the news for the past couple of years for one main topic: the question of independence from the UK. Almost lost in the hubbub have been the country’s pioneering efforts to harness its tides, some of the most powerful in Europe, to produce electricity from wave action.
As companies continue to advance their sustainability strategies and practices, the question of “to what standard” is becoming more urgent. The International Organization for Standardization is close to an answer. A new standard, ISO 20400, Sustainable Procurement - Guidance, provides a framework for organizations that integrate sustainability into their procurement process.
Starting up a new business is a daunting task, one that requires a big investment of resources, both financial and human, to pull off successfully. Mission-driven startups often assume that their core message “covers” the CSR component of a new business, and that the work staff can then focus on the basic nuts and bolts of organizing a new company. Not so, says Tiffany Apczynski, VP of Public Policy and Social Impact at Zendesk, in a blog on StartupSmart.
“More and more corporate leaders are . . . integrating societal needs into their corporate strategy, aligning their companies’ business missions with their impact on their communities and the environment.” That’s the thesis of Mark Kramer and Michael Porter, co-authors of an essay that describes Fortune’s just-published “Change the World” list.