As more investors demand more sustainability information from companies, more businesses are disclosing sustainability data. In 2014, 75 percent of S&P 500 companies produced a CSR or sustainability report, compared to 20 percent in 2011. In response to this trend, nearly 75 percent of portfolio managers and analysts now include ESG factors in their investment decisions.
From the Editor
CR Magazine has published its fifth annual list of the Top 10 Best Corporate Citizens. You might ask, what’s with all the lists (and rankings, ratings, and awards), each with their own methodology, context, and agenda? A quick response is that they grab readers’ attention in this ADD age.
I’ve been working my way through Green Giants, E. Freya Williams' fact-packed book of 288 pages about how nine large corporations are finding profits in sustainability. Williams chose subjects that each had $1 billion or more in annual U.S. revenues of products and/or services that included sustainability in their basic strategy. The nine are GE, Nike, Chipotle, Whole Foods, Tesla, IKEA, Unilever, Natura Brasil, and Toyota.
Two German car manufacturers are making major progress in the use of renewable energy. BMW is powering its plant in South Africa with biogas, a fuel created from dung and organic waste. According to Bloomberg, the facility will provide 25 to 30 percent of the electricity for the plant.
At a time of many questions about youth failure to complete education and consequent youth unemployment, an equally obvious solution may have been overlooked: mentoring. Some 16 million American youth reach the age of 19 without ever having had a mentor of any kind, according to a study that EY co-authored with MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. By taking a more proactive role in mentoring youth, businesses can support education while also creating a sustainable workforce for the future.
In the run-up to December’s climate change conference in Paris, CEOs and chairmen of 11 companies that generate one-third of the world’s electricity have signed a letter requesting “secure, stable, clear, consistent, and long-term policies” to support low-carbon energies.
$4.7 trillion: that’s the total of assets in the U.S. invested using ESG standards, an amount that grew eight times between 2012 and 2014. With this exponential growth has come a question about transparency. Financial Advisor reports on a recent study by US SIF, a nonprofit organization that represents U.S.
In all the increasing talk about income inequality and what to do about it, a very basic solution to poverty with on-the-ground evidence to back up its premise has emerged: give cash to the poor.
The debate in the investment sector between maximizing returns versus consideration of ethics has taken an historic turn—as in eliminating “versus” and inserting “and,” according to Global Capital. That’s the summary of a report by the UN's Principles for Responsible Investment, based on 50 interviews with investors, lawyers, and regulators.
Coca-Cola and Pepsico are taking action to address climate change. Both companies have committed to reducing their dependence on high-carbon fuels, to increasing fuel efficiency in their vehicle fleets, and to becoming more transparent in reporting on progress. Their commitments join those from nineteen major companies to reduce or eliminate high-carbon fuels from their supply chains and/or environmental footprints.
New research shows that Millennials are big supporters of CSR, more so than the overall U.S. population. That’s the conclusion of the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study. The numbers are emphatic. For example, more than nine in ten Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91% vs. 85% U.S. average).
Large companies have made more progress in reporting on environmental issues than on social responsibility. That’s the key finding of a three-year study by the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council. The study reviewed 150 reports from large companies in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and other countries.
Two “expert” voices have just spoken up favorably about the future of solar power. Both statements come from very unexpected places. Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said, “I have no hesitation to predict in years to come solar will be the dominant backbone of our energy system, certainly of the electricity system.” Van Beurden went on to suggest that solar power is approaching a “crossover point” where it makes sense to invest in solar over coal, oil, and gas.
The London School of Economics Business Review launched a new blog last week to “improve knowledge-exchange activities connecting academics with the business community.” Posts are contributed by all LSE departments, alums, business leaders, think tanks, and academics outside LSE, across the U.K., Europe, and U.S.
The mainstream media still struggles with the concept of CSR as a business proposition.
Big changes in policies for new parents are being made by companies to meet the expectations of a millennial workforce, reports the New York Times. Microsoft has doubled its paid leave for women who have given birth to 20 weeks, tripled paid leave for all other new parents, and offers a half-time option to transition back into work. Netflix is offering fully paid leave for a year to new parents. Goldman Sachs has doubled its paid paternity leave to four weeks.
Gender diversity in the workplace took a step forward last week. The upper house of the Japanese parliament passed legislation requiring companies with more than 300 employees to set targets for female hires and managerial positions. The initiative was pushed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to help deal with an aging work force, a shrinking population, and a stagnating economy. A Goldman Sachs report projects that closing the gender-employment gap could lift Japan’s GDP by 13 percent.
The question comes up often: “Does CSR add to the bottom line?” A new report says definitely, and in ways that can be quantified. “Project ROI: Defining the Competitive and Financial Advantages of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability,” initiated by Verizon and Campbell Soup Company to measure the benefits of their ESG programs, was carried out by IO Sustainability and Babson College.
Wind power accounted for 4.4 percent of U.S. electricity production in 2014, according to the Energy Information Administration. That production was subsidized by production tax credits of about $4.2 billion annually. But now, private equity is getting into wind energy with larger sums, according to Slate. The focus is on the transmission lines needed to carry the electricity produced by wind power to customers.
“Fintech”—the category of financial-technology firms that are innovating in the loan business—just got a winner. Online lender Social Finance has raised $1 billion from investors, setting its market valuation at $4 billion. That puts the four-year-old company in the top 30 of U.S. banks in market capitalization. The large investment, led by SoftBank Group, is the latest evidence that disruptive innovation in the consumer finance sector is attracting big bets.