Back in 1991, the tense “Cold War” environment of the post-WWII era was coming to an end. President George H.W. Bush, a veteran fighter pilot in WWII and “Cold War Warrior,” addressed the U.S. Congress (January 19th) to deliver his State of the Union address.
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So often we hear that “investors don’t ask” or “no one inside seems to care” or “our finance folks don’t believe in” when we talk with corporate connections about corporate sustainability at their firm. And, inside the company, skepticism can typically be found in the finance offices.
We are just past one month into the year 2018 and there have already been significant advances that directly affect the lives of professionals and organizations in the fields of corporate sustainability and sustainable investing – the two vital halves of the capital markets – and in related fields.
Does Wall Street finally care about sustainability? A noted sustainability author (Andrew Winston) muses about this in the pages of the influential journal for the C-suite – the Harvard Business Review. Yes, we think – more and more asset owners and managers are getting aboard the train...but there is work to do. And what about corporate boards and CEOs...”
Huffington Post writer Lauren DeMates has her “Top 10” list up for the 2017 forces that shaped (in her opinion) sustainability. Guiding her choice: “…many of 2017’s activities were prompted by the unprecedented attack on science and environmental protection by the Trump administration. However, efforts to counteract the anti-environmental agenda and work towards a more sustainable society have been unprecedented as well...”
And in that context, she identifies the following:
A significant new player is now entering the mix of the growing number of organizations providing institutional investors with ESG rankings and data. At G&A Institute, we've been tracking the growth of these organizations (such as MSCI, Sustainalytics, RobecoSAM, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, and others) and work with our clients to help managements understand, optimize and utilize these important intelligence points coming from the rapidly-growing number of investors considering ESG.
Once again, the authoritative Harvard Business Review weighs in on corporate sustainability with a commentary piece on the top trends of 2017 – with “big leaps both forward and backward” in the year just concluded. And there was some predictability, writes author Andrew Winston in his commentary, as he says he predicted: “…the context for sustainable business in 2017 may center on the competition between two stories, the election of Donald Trump and significant action on climate change…”
The S&P 500 (R) universe of large-cap companies is the most widely used gauge for investors of large-cap U.S. corporate entities. There is more than US$7 trillion investments benchmarked to the S&P 500, with index assets of almost $2 trillion represented. The index captures more than 80 percent of available market capitalization, notes owner S&P Dow Jones Indexes / McGraw Hill Financial.
The GRI framework for corporate, institutional and organizational sustainability reporting has been in place since 1999-2000. Since those early days (when a handful of organizations published sustainability reports), the framework has been through four iterations ("G1" to "G4") and in October 2016 GRI launched the world's first global standards for sustainability reporting. More than 40,000 reports are now in the GRI Sustainability Disclosure Database (database.globalreporting.org). GRI is headquartered in Amsterdam, The