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  • Flickr image by Dennis Wilkinson

    Reporting on an unsustainable business model

    As I was reviewing the selections for “best report” for Corporate Register’s 2015 Reporting Awards I found myself thinking, enough is enough. The most recent round of finalists includes British American Tobacco (BAT). It is true that the company is doing progressive things and has long been used as an example of a highly transparent company in a challenging industry. But if we want to create a sustainable future, can we continue to give plaudits to companies that lead in transparency and disclosure yet have fundamentally unsustainable business models? …

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  • Flickr image by NAMU-Cube

    Between traditional news channels, blogs, and social media, it can be hard to keep up with what’s making waves in the field of sustainable development. In this roundup we aim to cut through the noise with a handful of highlights that have caught our eye.

    In his 2014 State of the Union address Barack Obama underscored the urgent action required on climate change but made no mention of controversial and divisive energy policy matters such as approving the TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. Environmental groups and energy experts question how long it is possible to sustain an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, which backs investment in clean energy alternatives on one hand but also promotes rampant drilling and mining of fossil fuels on the other.

    The Obama administration is not the only one finding itself at this energy crossroads. The uncomfortable transition from fossil fuels to renewables is playing out in a tug of war between the high-carbon lobby and more progressive companies placing their bets on the transition to a low-carbon economy. …

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  • We are pleased to publish the results of The 2013 Ratings Survey: Polling the Experts, the latest expert survey on sustainability ratings and rankings from the GlobeScan / SustainAbility Survey series. As with the surveys preceding it, we took the pulse of experts from around the world (see report below for details) on topics including rating credibility, drivers of such credibility and the importance of ratings in driving improved corporate performance. The survey comes at a good time, as we’ve recently seen a burst of activity around existing ratings (e.g. the Global 100, CDP’s Supply Chain Report) and new ones (e.g. Natural Capital Leaders Index)….

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  • Many companies are waking up this morning to find out their sustainability scores, but could the scoring systems themselves be improved?

    Today, two heavyweights of the ratings world – the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) and CDP – released their 2013 results. DJSI and CDP, according to polled sustainability experts in SustainAbility’s Rate the Raters research, are the 1st and 2nd most familiar ratings respectively in the corporate sustainability field, and are among the top three in terms of credibility.

    The annual release of these ratings generates a considerable amount of attention, including praise from companies that have done well (Siemens has again been ranked the world’s leading industrial company in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index) as well as critique. (Congrats to Bank of America on their inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index … wait, hang on, WHAT?!)….

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  • The GRI Global Conference was a three day event with a mix of plenery, panel and round table sessions

    The GRI Global Conference held in Amsterdam last week brought together sustainability practitioners, finance professionals, consultants, and academics for what many had been eagerly awaiting – the unveiling of the new G4 reporting framework. Beyond discussions of the new reporting requirements, all present were keen to share ideas about how companies, governments, and investors need to act collectively on urgent issues such as climate change, supply chain accountability, and labor rights. After three days of debate the message was clear – there is a need for all actors who are a part of the sustainability puzzle to move beyond disjointed incrementalism towards enabling systemic, transformational change worldwide….

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  • When we wrapped up phase four of Rate the Raters in July 2011, we expressed our desire to further understand how ratings were creating value for and being used by companies, investors and other key stakeholders. Throughout our research, we’ve heard a good deal from companies about the pain caused by ratings, and so we were keen to ascertain how much (if any) of this pain is worth it. We thus set off in phase five to explore this question of value, and spoke with individuals responsible for ratings at nearly 30 companies in the process….

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  • One of the perks of being a graduate student at the University of Michigan was access to football season tickets. With this, I learned the various rituals undertaken by the student section on game day, including chanting, “who cares?” when opposing team players’ names are announced before each game.

    This ritual still makes me smile for some reason, and is also a question many of us in the sustainability field ask during ratings and rankings season, which kicked off last week with the release of the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes. These results, like those in previous years, sparked a flurry of press releases by proud companies, angst in companies who fell short, blogs debating the merits and shortcomings of ratings, and consultancies offering their services to improve company performance….

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  • Over the last decade, there has been an extraordinary growth in the number of ratings and award schemes designed to measure corporate sustainability performance. While these rankings play an important role in improving corporate performance, companies are struggling to keep up, and many question the time and effort required to respond to raters’ requests for information.

    Is it all worth it? Which ratings, if any, do people pay attention to? How much does a company’s score …

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  • SustainAbility is thrilled to be on the cusp of launching our latest research report, Signed, Sealed…Delivered? In addition to the global public release online and in print November 16th, we will host in-person launch events in Washington, DC and London on November 16th and 18th, respectively, where our findings will be debated and dissected in workshop format with representatives from certification and labeling initiatives, engaged businesses and other stakeholders.

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  • While in London in late September, I attended the release of Coca-Cola Enterprises’ (CCE) Sustainability Plan. Titled Deliver for Today: Inspire for Tomorrow, the plan represents a major step forward for the company. The launch was silky smooth – an in-studio event filmed at The Hospital Club in London’s Covent Garden, kicked off by CCE’s CEO John Brock, featuring a panel of accomplished business and NGO leaders assembled to assess the plan that was moderated by Catherine Cameron of the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, and all unfolding in front of an expert audience containing the likes of Marks & Spencer Chairman Robert Swannell and Two Tomorrows Executive Chairman Mark Line.

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  • I’ve just returned from a visit to Philadelphia and New York last week where I had the opportunity for in-depth conversation with students and faculty at Wharton Graduate School of Business, as well as business and thought leaders from Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, SAP, Unilever, Interbrand, Ogilvy, GRI, Corporate Responsibility, SustainAbility, The Economist and many others. All of these conversations touched on how we are unfolding our thinking about, and finding ways to measure, new forms of value that business might deliver to its customers and other stakeholders in the future. Underpinning these rich and varied conversations was the growing drumbeat, launched in New York, of #occupywallstreet. This growing movement is yet another indicator of the pressure on business to demonstrate its ability to extend its focus beyond profit to other forms of value creation for broader swaths of society.

    The fact that the focus of #occupywallstreet seems to center on “corporate greed” as the target of its aggregated angst is just one sign of disconnect between business and the stakeholders to whom business is supposed to be delivering value.

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  • A question and answer with Wood Turner and Mike Bellamente of Climate Counts, one of the ratings profiled in SustainAbility’s Rate the Raters research series.

    1) Looking at the Phase Four paper of Rate the Raters, what resonates most with you?

    Now that corporate sustainability ratings have been around awhile, SustainAbility’s Rate the Raters project helps us gauge what the future holds. The phase four paper establishes that rating standards will require greater differentiation moving forward, and that raters will need to distance themselves from the overly saturated data compilation side of the business in order to remain competitive. We at Climate Counts certainly believe this to be true; indeed, if our goal is to point the business community in the direction of climate change awareness and leadership, it should be done with clarity and efficiency, not complexity and duplication.

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  • Moving Towards Investor-Friendly Ratings

    22 Jul 2011 – Cécile Churet

    As Rate the Raters pointed out, we are indeed witnessing a proliferation of “sustainability-related“ ratings, but these come in many different sizes and flavours, making comparison difficult. While some are directed towards consumers, others are akin to corporate reputation barometers, others are issue-specific, and still others are largely driven by ethical considerations. Only a handful seek to provide investors with a comprehensive view on a company’s performance and its ability to address long-term challenges compared to its peers, and can therefore be considered truly “mainstream” from an investor’s perspective.

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  • Rate the Raters Phase Four: Where do we go from here?

    21 Jul 2011 – Suzanne Fallender

    I’ve spent most of my career working on some aspect of company evaluations or ratings, and all I can say is that if there was an easy single answer to “which is the best company?”, I could be retired on a lovely beach somewhere.

    In my own view, the current discussion of the usefulness and quality of sustainability ratings and rankings is more hopeful than discouraging. If I look back over the past decade, many ratings and rankings have greatly improved their quality and methodology. Companies are more transparent and more managers and corporate executives are asking questions about how to drive value through corporate responsibility (driven in part by the attention and competition generated by ratings).

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  • Sustainability challenges are enormous. Ratings can help drive attention and capital (financial, human, consumer) to those companies best positioned to address these challenges. Rate the Raters is a project that aims to make sense of the expanding universe of corporate sustainability ratings and rankings and to improve the quality and transparency of such ratings.

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  • Effective employee engagement is more essential than ever, both for sustainability and core business success.

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  • Highlights of feedback and reactions we’ve received so far, and a call for your opinions as we turn to phase four.

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  • We kicked off our 2010 Engaging Stakeholders members workshops with a discussion on sustainability leadership.

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  • All or Nothing

    29 Dec 2010Mark Lee

    2011 needs to be the year, and the start of a decade, of absolutes.

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  • Reflections, observations and trends (in no way exhaustive) from 2010.

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