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Corporate Conscience Distinguishes Trailblazer CEOs

Travelers EDGE, which stands for Empowering Dreams for Graduation and Employment, has provided direct financial assistance to support hundreds of college and university students. (Photo by John Walker)

Travelers EDGE, which stands for Empowering Dreams for Graduation and Employment, has provided direct financial assistance to support hundreds of college and university students. (Photo by John Walker)

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, July 5, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Chief executive officers of hundreds of the world’s largest companies are finding that improving society is the path to energizing and reaching vital stakeholders as well as building more resilient markets.

When surveyed about the role of purpose at their companies, 64 percent of this group of CEOs agree that “purpose is a powerful motivator.”

The companies that have tapped into purpose as inspiration for their workforces are seeing the rewards, according to the survey by the business association CECP, The CEO Force for Good – 58 percent of companies with a clearly articulated and widely understood purpose see financial growth of more than 10 percent, and 85 percent of purpose-led companies increased revenue between 2013 and 2016.

Green Bronx Machine is a grantee of CECP member Newman's Own Foundation. Originally an after-school, alternative program for high school students, Green Bronx Machine has evolved into K-12+ model integrated into core curriculum. Students grow, eat and love their vegetables en route to spectacular academic performance.

Green Bronx Machine is a grantee of CECP member Newman’s Own Foundation. Originally an after-school, alternative program for high school students, Green Bronx Machine has evolved into K-12+ model integrated into core curriculum. Students grow, eat and love their vegetables en route to spectacular academic performance.

CEDP was founded in 1999 by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman (1926-2008) and other business leaders to create a better world through business.

Newman said at the time, “I helped to start CECP with the belief that corporations could be a force for good in society.”

Doing good and doing well proceed in tandem for these companies. Taken together, the more than 200 corporations represent $6.2 trillion in revenues, $18.4 billion in societal investment, 13 million employees, and have $15 trillion in assets under management.

CECP affiliation is by invitation only and is limited to multibillion dollar for-profit companies with a handful of smaller companies that embody the CECP mission.

Now, CECP has delved into its research base to develop insights designed to help guide other companies as they shape their own social strategies.

A new digest of data and insights, “Investing in Society,” is focused on best and most innovative practices drawn from CECP’s coalition.

It examines what actions companies are taking to identify and effectively meet stakeholder needs, and how a unified approach across all business units supports this effort.

Developed from CECP’s original research; findings from the 2017 Giving in Numbers Survey conducted in association with The Conference Board; and drawn from hundreds of monthly discussions with CECP CEOs, and conversations with experts and on-the-ground practitioners.

“CECP’s view is that the world’s leading corporations have emerged as a steadying presence and remain uniquely qualified to continue to drive progress, in spite of unpredictable global circumstances,” said Daryl Brewster, CEO, CECP.

“Investing in society serves as both inspirational and practical as companies seek to strengthen their societal investments and impacts,” Brewster said.

Brewster is far from alone in this belief. According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer,  75 percent of the general population believe that companies can take actions to improve economic and social conditions in their communities, so now, more than ever, business will be expected to stand firm in their commitments.

This 75 percent result comes although the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer also shows the largest-ever drop in trust across the institutions of government, business, media and NGOs.

CEO credibility dropped 12 points globally to an all-time low of 37 percent, plummeting in every country studied, while government leaders remain least credible.

Of the four institutions – government, business, media and NGOs – business is viewed as the only one that can make a difference. Three out of four respondents to the Edelman Trust Barometer survey agree a company can take actions to both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the community where it operates.

Among those who are uncertain about whether the system is working for them, it is business (58 percent) that they trust most.

Appreciation for steadiness appears to be spreading from Main Street to Wall Street. Top CEOs are relying on a long-term approach to set the context for short-term actions by prioritizing company health and value creation for all stakeholders, not just shareholders demanding strong quarterly returns, says CECP in its guidance for CEOs.

To help accelerate this movement, on September 19, CECP will host the second CEO Investor Forum, featuring CEOs presenting their companies’ long-term strategic plans, including operational and financial outlooks ranging three to five years or more.

They will address an audience of 200 long-term oriented institutional investors and pension funds, collectively representing $25 trillion in assets under management.

Cultivating volunteers for good causes among their employees, the most successful companies are allowing flexible schedules so their employees can volunteer based on their business’ skills and passions.

“Our dedication to being a strong corporate citizen and improving the communities where we live and work touches every part of our organization,” said Marlene Ibsen of CECP member Travelers Indemnity Company, vice president of community relations at Travelers and CEO and President of the Travelers Foundation. “We’re working to help our communities succeed, from company-sponsored programs like Travelers EDGE® to our passionate employees who logged nearly 118,000 hours of volunteer time in 2016.”

Finally, in a global take away message, the CECP report shows that despite global unrest no company can operate in isolation. CECP says, “All borders are blurred given supply chains and stakeholders. And all companies and countries need to work together to solve the global challenges at hand.”

In 2016, CECP’s Global Exchange continued to work with like-minded organizations in Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa to connect companies with collaborative opportunities to increase their global impact in solving the world’s most pressing problems, based on each region’s unique needs and cultures.

CECP found six approaches among corporations that give to social causes:

  • Direct Investments: The corporation acquires or merges with a social enterprise
  • Self-managed Funds: An entity is created inside the corporation that invests in business and social enterprise
  • Third-party Funds: Corporate funds are transferred to a fund which then deploys money to social enterprises
  • Strategic Alliances: Partnerships among companies create innovative market-based social benefits
  • Incubators & Accelerators: Companies deploy financial and non-financial assets to spur growth of small social enterprises
  • Corporate Foundations: Foundation funds are deployed to social enterprise, expected to be paid back

Data from the 2017 Giving in Numbers Survey show that, despite an uncertain sociopolitical environment, companies remain committed to increasing societal investments – median total giving increased in 2016.

But getting up in front of an audience is not the most effective practice for sustainable business leadership, said CECP corporate heads; only 17 percent endorsed it.

But companies are not staying silent. Another CECP poll found that 61 percent of companies are sticking to their public advocacy strategy, and more than 20 percent are advancing their support for social issues.

Since 2001, the Giving in Numbers Survey has collected data on corporate social strategy programs globally to provide professionals with the benchmarking and reporting tools to make data-driven decisions about social strategy.

With the release of “Investing in Society,” CECP’s research and data, as well as select reports from industry peers, will now be synthesized in a single presentation available to the public, with an even deeper dive supported by facts and figures available to affiliated companies.


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Fortune 500 Firms Embrace Clean Energy

AlamosaSolar

With over 500 dual-axis, pedestal mounted tracker assemblies, each producing 60 kW, the Alamosa Solar Generating Project is the largest high-concentrating solar photovoltaic power generation system in the world, 2014, Alamosa, Colorado (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, May 2, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – A growing number of Fortune 500 companies are taking ambitious steps to slash their greenhouse gas emissions, buy more renewable energy and shrink their energy bills through energy efficiency, finds a new report from World Wildlife Fund, Ceres , Calvert Research and Management  and CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Findings from the new report, “Power Forward 3.0: How the largest U.S. companies are capturing business value while addressing climate change,” are based on 2016 company disclosures to CDP, which holds the world’s largest collection of self-reported corporate environmental data, and other public sources.

“CDP and the investors we work with, representing over US$100 trillion in assets, engage thousands of the world’s largest companies to measure and manage climate-related risks” said Lance Pierce, president of CDP North America.

“Voluntary corporate disclosure highlights the compelling business case for corporate clean energy procurement and clearly demonstrates the transition underway in the energy markets,” said Pierce. “Companies in turn have benefited, identifying billions of dollars in savings and new opportunities through their disclosures to CDP.”

The numbers tell the story.

Sixty-three percent of the largest companies, the Fortune 100, have set at least one clean energy target.

Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies, 48 percent, have set at least one climate or clean energy target, up five percent from an earlier 2014 report.

A greenhouse gas reduction goal is the most common target, set by 211 companies.

Roughly 80,000 emission-reducing projects by the 190 Fortune 500 companies reporting data showed nearly $3.7 billion in savings in 2016 alone.

Many large companies are setting 100 percent renewable energy goals and science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets that align with the global goal of limiting global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius set by the Paris Climate Agreement.

More than 20 Fortune 500 companies such as industry giants Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Google and Facebook, have committed to powering all corporate operations with 100 percent renewable energy, compared to only a few mega-companies just a few years ago.

Google announced in December that renewable energy will power 100 percent of its global operations in 2017, a year ahead of schedule. Nearly all of this renewable energy will come from wind power.

“American businesses are leading the transition to a clean economy because it’s smart business and it’s what their customers want,” said Marty Spitzer, World Wildlife Fund’s senior director of climate and renewable energy. “Clean energy is fueling economic opportunity from coast to coast without regard for party line. Washington policies may slow this boom, but these companies are making it very clear that a transition to a low-carbon economy is inevitable.”

American corporate giants are taking these steps despite the climate denial policies of President Donald Trump and his cabinet. Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, for which President Barack Obama was a leading voice. Adopted by consensus of 195 world governments in December 2015, the pact has been ratified by 144 countries and took effect on November 4, 2016.

Trump has appointed climate change deniers Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. Pruitt last week ordered removal of all Obama-era climate change data from the EPA website, calling it “outdated.”

On March 28, Trump signed an executive order to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have moved the nation away from burning coal and toward cleaner energy sources such as natural gas and renewables.

More than 200,000 people marched in the streets of Washington, DC on Saturday in protest of these moves and tens of thousands more took part in climate marches across the country.

But the large corporations are not embracing renewables and energy efficiency in response to Trump policies or to public condemnation of them. Instead, they are doing so to benefit their bottom lines.

The report highlights the financial benefits companies are receiving from their clean energy investments. The emission reductions from these efforts are equivalent to taking 45 coal-fired power plants offline every year.

The growth in the number and ambition of renewable energy commitments is mainly the result of recent sharp declines in renewable energy costs, which saves companies money, and of price certainty that comes with renewable energy, the report finds.

Praxair, IBM and Microsoft are among the companies saving tens of millions of dollars annually through their energy efficiency efforts.

“We are encouraged to see significant improvement in both the number of Fortune 500 companies setting climate and clean energy goals and the ambition of those goals – in particular commitments to setting science-based and 100 percent renewable energy targets,” said Anne Kelly, senior director of policy and the BICEP network at Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts.

“But in order to meet our national and global emissions goals, more companies will need to join the champions highlighted in this report, both in setting goals and in becoming vocal advocates for continued federal and state policies in support of climate and clean energy progress,” said Kelly.

Ten percent (53) of companies have set renewable energy targets, and almost half of those (23) have committed to power 100 percent of their operations with renewable energy – among those, Wal-Mart, General Motors, Bank of America, Google, Apple and Facebook.

“Corporate commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy is an accelerating trend that illustrates broader recognition within the business community of the importance of clean energy and the financial benefits it can yield,” said Stu Dalheim, vice president of corporate shareholder engagement for Calvert.

“Many of the largest companies in the U.S. are achieving significant cost savings through clean energy programs and mitigating longer-term risks associated with energy price volatility,” he said.

Some of the strongest efforts are among Fortune 100 companies, with 63 percent adopting or retaining goals.

The report also shows strong improvement among the smallest 100 companies in the Fortune 500, with 44 percent setting goals in one or more categories, up 19 percentage points from the same group’s 2014 report, “Power Forward 2.0: How American Companies Are Setting Clean Energy Targets and Capturing Greater Business Value.

The report shows a spread in target setting among different sectors, with Consumer Staples (72%), Materials (66%), and Utilities (65%) sectors leading in setting clean energy goals and the Energy sector (11%), including oil & gas companies, lagging.

The report includes three key recommendations for companies, policymakers and investors to continue to scale clean energy efforts.

  •  Companies should continue to set, implement and communicate clean energy targets, while supporting local, state and national policies that make it easier to achieve their climate and energy commitments.
  •  Federal and state policymakers should establish clear, long-term low-carbon polices that will help companies meet their clean energy targets while helping the United States meet its carbon-reducing commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Investors should consider allocating their investments to companies well-positioned for the low-carbon economy. Investors should continue to file shareholder resolutions and engage in dialogues with companies to encourage them to set climate and energy efficiency targets and position themselves for a low-carbon future.

Featured image : Wind turbines at the National Renewable Energy Lab facility in Golden, Colorado. (Photo courtesy NREL) Public domain

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Businesses Vow Action at Paris Climate Talks

COP21ClimateBizForum

PARIS, France, December 10, 2015 (ENS) – Corporate actions on key climate issues such as carbon pricing, finance, responsible policy engagement and science-based emissions targets were announced on the 8th December at the Caring for Climate Business Forum, the official avenue for business at COP21 in Paris.

COP21 is shorthand for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At the Paris-Le Bourget conference hall, government negotiators toiled over the language of a legally-binding agreement that would require all nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This target was agreed at the 2009 COP in Copenhagen and made official at the 2010 COP in Cancun.

Meanwhile, during this parallel event, more than 450 CEOs from 65 countries across 30 sectors pledged to set emissions targets, report on progress and work with policymakers through the Caring for Climate initiative.

Participants from business, finance, government, civil society and the United Nations gathered for two days to advance the role of the private sector in combating climate change.

The UN Global Compact, UN Environment Programme and the UNFCCC Secretariat gathered the group under the banner of Caring for Climate, the world’s largest business coalition for climate change.

The event was attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, France’s Minister of Environment, Sustainable Development and Energy Ségolène Royal, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Ban credited the business sector for its work in the global effort to limit damaging climate change. “The collective momentum among the private sector for climate action is growing daily. More companies and investors are leading on climate action than at any time in history,” Ban said.

“But to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees we must go much further and faster,” said the UN leader. “We need 100 percent participation from the business community.”

On the issue of carbon pricing, he indicated that companies have been “instrumental” in ensuring that a price on carbon is recognized as a necessary and effective tool.

According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, more than 1,000 companies now say that they have set an internal price or plan to do so in the future. This compares to 100 companies a year ago – a 10-fold increase.

“The private sector can help to fill the gap between what has been committed by governments through the INDCs [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions] and what is needed to reach a carbon neutral economy by mid-century,” said Lise Kingo, executive director of the UN Global Compact. “The momentum is unstoppable.”

“The new targets announced at COP21, if achieved, will generate an estimated annual emissions savings of 93.6 million metric tons CO2e or more than the annual carbon emissions of Peru,” Kingo said.

Launched in 2000, at the turn of the millenium, the UN Global Compact is a leadership platform for responsible corporate policies and practices. It is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world, with over 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business signatories based in 170 countries.

“Our job coming out of Paris is to mobilize the great majority of companies that are not yet part of this movement,” Kingo said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the support of 154 U.S. companies for action on climate change through their commitment to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

“As you leave Paris, carry a clear message that how we do business today will determine if we do business in the future,” said Kerry. “In the end, it’s business – the choices you make and the products you make – that will make the difference.”

2015SSEpressrelease

CEOs offered commitments to climate solutions:

65 CEOs with a total market capitalization of US$1.9 trillion across 20 sectors have integrated carbon pricing into corporate long-term strategies and investment decisions. They pledged to set an internal carbon price, report publicly, and call for carbon markets through the Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing.

114 companies have committed to set up processes to internally audit all activities that influence climate policy; work to ensure that all of this activity is consistent; and communicate policy positions, actions and outcomes.

114 companies committed to align their emissions reductions targets with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2°C through the Science-Based Targets initiative.

79 chief executives, representing US$2.13 trillion in revenue, announced that their companies would reduce environmental and carbon footprints, set targets to reduce their emissions, and collaborate with supply chains and across sectors.

140 companies with a total market capitalization of over US$100 billion, and nearly 30 institutional investment firms with assets estimated at US$2.5 trillion, committed to producing climate change-related information in their mainstream reports.

39 French companies pledged to combat climate change, committing at least €45 billion over the next five years for investments and financing in renewable energies, energy efficiency and other technologies accelerating the transition to a clean energy, low carbon future.

Global capital market leaders met separately to discuss how stock exchanges, investors and regulators can support the global climate agenda. The gathering of CEOs began with a special opening bell ceremony December 7 at Euronext Paris dedicated to the success of COP21.

Euronext is one of 11 stock exchanges that showed their commitment to sustainable capital markets, and their support for the evolving climate agenda, by becoming a United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Partner Exchange.

The SSE initiative now has participation from 47 stock exchanges across five continents, including four out of the top five largest exchanges in the world.

Addressing the stock exchange CEOs at a luncheon, economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, encouraged them to act boldly on climate, and congratulated them for work already accomplished.

“Capital markets will be the main driver of the transformation,” said Professor Sachs, “and we will be on the right track when stock markets say ‘shame on you,’ punishing those who continue to add stranded assets to their portfolios.”

Many other corporations are promising action and pressing governments to forge a strong global climate pact.

Citing droughts, temperature shifts and other impacts that will make apparel production “more difficult and costly,” the CEOs of seven top global apparel companies December 3 called on government leaders to reach a strong climate change agreement in Paris that will stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions causing damaging global warming.

Top executives at Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc., VF Corporation, H&M, Eileen Fisher, Adidas Group and Burton Snowboards wrote, “We come together … to acknowledge that climate change is harming the world in which we operate. … Therefore, we call on you to reach a global agreement that provides the certainty businesses need and ambition climate science demands.”

Food company CEOs such as the heads of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the Hain Celestial Group Inc., General Mills, Unilever, Kellogg and Hershey’s announced in October that they signed a joint letter to U.S. and world leaders urging a robust international climate agreement in Paris.

The letter cites the growing impacts of drought, flooding and hotter growing conditions on the world’s food supply.

“Combating climate change is not simply about the environment. Promoting clean energy and conserving natural resources today will help create the thriving companies and societies of tomorrow,” said Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo chairman and CEO.

Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, said, “As we face a resource-stressed world with growing global demands on food and water, we must seek solutions that drive mutual benefit for business, communities and nature. Companies who successfully balance social, environmental and economic values will be sustainably successful in the 21st century.”

Both the apparel and the food company statements were coordinated by Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit mobilizing business leadership on global sustainability challenges.

Ceres President Mindy Lubber said, “Increasingly more companies, even long-standing competitors, are uniting at this pivotal moment to urge our political leaders to act swiftly and decisively on global warming.”

Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of more than 110 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $13 trillion.

Throughout the world, investors groups are paying close attention to the COP21 negotiations.

The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, based in London, says an agreement on temperature target of 1.5 degrees is “within reach.”

Big emitters, including China, the United States, Canada, and the European Union, have expressed support for the principle of a 1.5 degree Celsius global temperature target.

While this tightening of the 2 degree Celsius target is a key demand from vulnerable developing countries, small island nations and environmental groups, it is opposed by many big developing countries, which argue it would limit their ability to develop modern economies.

UN Secretary-General Ban, who has criss-crossed the globe tirelessly for years to bring about an effective climate agreement, said today, “Across the world, businesses and investors are standing up for a strong agreement in Paris that sends the right market signals. They are asking for a clear message that the transition to cleaner, low emissions energy sources is necessary, inevitable, irreversible and beneficial.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Human Energy à la Tour Eiffel à Paris by Yann Caradec (Photo courtesy Flickr)
Header image: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry open the Caring for Climate Business Forum, Paris, France, December 8, 2015 (Photo courtesy United Nations)
Image 01: Global capital market leaders gather in Paris to support UN climate talks. The stock market CEOs began their meeting with a special opening bell ceremony December 7 at Euronext Paris dedicated to the success of COP21. (Photo courtesy UN Environment Programme)