Please see below selected pre-2016 intelligence about sustainability. Please contact Dominic Kelleher with any questions.
- Sustainability-focused startups are entering established companies’ market space, bringing both new threats and new opportunities. Employees want to work for them, customers are willing to pay more for their products and investors are eager to become shareholders. “Hybrid social ventures” like Whole Foods, Patagonia, and Honest Tea that combine commerce with sustainability missions are leading the movement for sustainability-oriented innovation in business. For established companies that were not necessarily built with sustainability in mind, these new entrants are competing for their most attractive customers and talent.
- It took about $150bn in today’s money to put a man on the moon in the 1960s, and now it is said we need to come up with the same amount to save the world from climate change. That is the message from Sir David King, UK Foreign Office climate envoy, and six other prominent British scientists, business people and civil servants behind a climate plan modelled on the US Apollo space programme. They want large countries to spend an average of 0.02% of gross domestic product a year for the next decade to encourage the technical breakthroughs needed to make renewable electricity cheaper than coal by 2025.
- INSEAD warned that companies get stuck in box-checking when it comes to sustainability. But there is substantial value to be found in making sustainability a strategy.To capture the full value potential from the issues that impact one’s stakeholders, more is needed than the stereotypical checking of boxes in a sustainability report. Companies that exclusively use their materiality matrix (which is used for deciding which CSR initiatives to invest in) for reporting purposes fall into the “reporting trap” where basic environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting apparently fulfils the entire sustainability requirements of the Board and the company’s shareholders. Failing to transpose materialities into a well executed sustainability strategy will lead to missed opportunities for innovation and engagement of stakeholders.
- The World Resources Institute and its partners in the Access Initiative launched the Environmental Democracy Index (EDI), the first publicly available, online platform to track countries’ progress in enacting national laws to promote transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement in environmental decision making. The index evaluates environmental democracy in 70 countries, including 75 legal and 24 practice indicators, based on recognised international standards.The top 10 countries based on national laws are: Lithuania (EDI rank #1), Latvia (2), Russia (3), United States (4), South Africa (5), United Kingdom (6), Hungary (7), Bulgaria (8), Panama (9) and Colombia (10).
- Apple continues to set the bar among technology companies for its commitment to running its worldwide operations on renewable energy, topping Amazon, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Yahoo and other large corporations in Greenpeace's Clean Energy Index included as part of its 2015 Click Clean Report. The annual report is based on energy transparency, renewable energy commitment and policy, energy efficiency and mitigation, and renewable energy deployment and advocacy.
- According to Women at the top is better for business and the environment, research shows that female leadership is characterised by vision and the ability to convey it to others, but senior sustainability jobs are more likely to held by men.
- Ethical Corporation's State of Sustainability 2015 report, based on the responses of nearly 1,500 sustainability and CSR professionals from all over the globe, analysed the significance of sustainability, asking what does it mean for different organisations and how seriously is it taken at the highest levels of management? It also asked whether silo thinking about sustainability still prevails, or whether the topic is becoming embedded throughout organisations, before examining how sustainability may evolve in the year ahead, and what will the situation be in five years’ time.
- Working with PwC industry and water specialists, PwC's Global Sustainability team has just launched new thought leadership material on water, the challenges and risks it represents to business, and the right way to collaborate on water issues. The PwC report is Collaboration: Preserving water through partnering that works. To aid with the launch, there are infographics here: Water - a challenge for your business and social media messages here: join in the campaign with suggested tweets and posts. Please contact Rebecca Pratley with any questions.
- Deloitte has a new global leader for sustainability services – Eric Dugelay, a former partner in Deloitte France and the firm’s EMEA regional leader for sustainability. He is taking over from Dave Pearson who is moving to take on the role of chief sustainability officer for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Dugelay, who has an MBA from INSEAD and two degrees - one in engineering and the other in Chinese, brings 13 years’ experience of working on sustainability issues. His most recent project was negotiating Deloitte France’s acquisition of Bio Intelligence Services, one of Europe’s leading environmental consulting firms.
- Water is fundamental to business – to heat, cool, clean and as an ingredient. Having too little or too much, or water that’s too dirty or too expensive can have devastating effects. Yet, water is the most problematic of resources – think about the reliability and quality of the supply; the impact of drought and flooding; having to manage it on the way out as well as the way in; and having to share it with other users. It’s a challenge for a business in its direct operations and its supply chain, and is often an unquantified risk in its portfolio. PwC therefore launched the Water Hub, where you’ll find everything you need here to engage your clients in a conversation about water. And the right SMEs to introduce to your clients when they want to discuss their water challenges in more detail. Please see Global water network.
- In Sustainability: From the Back Room to the Board Room, INSEAD claimed that creating a sustainable future takes more than good intentions. Boards of directors have an obligation to help drive a strategic approach to corporate sustainability.
- Five years ago Sir John Beddington, Senior Adviser at the Oxford Martin School, raised the concept of 'The Perfect Storm' in which the issues of food, water and energy security needed to be addressed at the same time as mitigating and adapting to climate change. In this seminar he highlights changes that have occurred since then and the progress made and challenges that are currently faced.
- In 2015, the millennium development goals (MDGs) – launched in 2000 to make global progress on poverty, education, health, hunger and the environment – expire. UN member states are finalising the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that will replace them, so the Guardian analysed what the SDGs aim to achieve, how they differ from the MDGs and assessed whether the MDGs made much progress.
- As national governments flounder to resolve pressing global challenges, corporations are positioning themselves within the United Nations framework as efficient players and indispensable partners in international policy debates. The Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2014: Governing for Sustainability explained the need for accountability and transparency as corporations join the development discussion.
- New research by MIT Sloan Management Review, The Boston Consulting Group and the UN Global Compact, showed that a growing number of companies are turning to collaborations - with suppliers, NGOs, industry alliances, governments, even competitors – to become more sustainable.
- Sustainia, a Scandinavian think tank, and the International Alliance of Research Universities partnered to produce the Green Guide for Universities, offering tangible solutions to address environmental sustainability from some of the top universities in the world. The guide contains 23 case studies in sustainability from universities as diverse as Yale, Cambridge, Peking and Copenhagen.
- Project Syndicate warned that the use of plastic must be reined in. Since the 1950s, worldwide production has increased by a factor of one hundred. Every year, more than 280 million tons of plastic is produced, with vast quantities making their way into groundwater, rivers, and oceans – and onward up the food chain. Though plastic is not biodegradable, not a single country has pledged to prevent it from entering our environment.
- The world will need more and better targeted financing to meet the challenges of global development post-2015, argued the OECD. This means taking important decisions not only on what qualifies as official development assistance, but also on how those flows can be most strategically used. An important objective is to provide a better picture of the total resources available for global sustainable development, including for action on climate change, as it is now widely understood that climate change and development are intrinsically linked.
- Old laptop batteries still have enough life in them to power homes in slums, researchers have said. An IBM study analysed a sample of discarded batteries and found 70% had enough power to keep an LED light on more than four hours a day for a year. Researchers said using discarded batteries is cheaper than existing power options, and also helps deal with the mounting e-waste problem.
- Technology is at the cutting edge of efforts to make growth more sustainable. As the global population swells and more people move into higher consumption classes, the demand for food, for energy, for water, will all increase. But the resources our planet offers will not. Clearly the status quo is not sustainable. So the question is, how do we use these scarce resources more efficiently? How do we allow everyone to benefit from economic growth, without impinging on opportunities for future generations? The answer for Grant Thornton, is through technology.
- The Big Four continue to win the most mind share among leaders of sustainability worldwide when compared to other services firms, according to a new global survey. The survey by independent research firm Verdantix finds that Deloitte ranks first worldwide in brand preference for both sustainability consulting and sustainability assurance.
- Encouraging customers to make sustainable choices is the biggest environmental challenge companies face. Design, psychology and technology can all help, according to the Carbon Trust. Many companies have achieved energy and resource efficiency gains within their own operations, and are now eyeing the next prize: improving efficiency outside their organisational boundaries.
- PwC published its latest corporate sustainability update. In this year’s report PwC continues to pioneer new ways of describing corporate performance in order to provide better quality information to our stakeholders. If you have the time, please share your thoughts on it by completing the short survey at the end of this article.
- KPMG launched a guide meant to help companies pinpoint issues that matter most to investors in a bid to improve sustainability reporting. Sustainable insight: the essentials of materiality assessment, breaks down assessment of materiality in sustainability into seven phases and seeks to link key issues in sustainability with processes such as enterprise risk management. KPMG says the guide seeks to fill a growing need for materiality assessment amid a growing international focus on sustainability reporting with new reporting frameworks and accounting standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative G4 Guidelines, the International Integrated Reporting Framework and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board.
- While almost all companies today advocate sustainability, their practices and attitudes vary greatly. In a series of articles,IMD explored the origins of the sustainability movement, including debates regarding long-term survival and technology (stage 1 of sustainability) and the environmental movement (stage 2), and then assessed the third and fourth stages - those that move beyond the environmental domain to address broader, societal aspects of sustainability.
- An unexpected move by the US and China to jointly set out their plans to tackle global warming prompted a lukewarm response in Europe and hostility in Washington in a sign that sealing a global climate treaty next year still faces big hurdles.
- An EIU report Sustainable at every level? Reaching new heights through good values found that for asset managers and other institutional investors, what is required is a fundamental shift away from short-term incentives and reporting and toward more long-term strategies. A deep change in attitudes across the whole investor community is required to ensure businesses are confident their sustainability initiatives will boost, not damage, their attractiveness to investors.
- Dow Jones published its annual Sustainability World Index. The ever widening assessment criteria included tax strategy (to address the growing risks associated with tax optimisation schemes); social and environmental reporting factors, including materiality; human capital development policies; and performance scoring related to occupational health and safety, and talent recruitment and retention.
- The Economist cautioned that most corporate sustainability plans rarely amount to more than cost-saving measures and compliance with regulations, plus a few projects with a public- relations punch, but fall well short of putting sustainability at the heart of what firms do. For some companies, though, that is changing. It added that, while the first wave of sustainability rewarded itself",the new wave will not do that. It is more akin to investing now to have a licence to operate in future, with consumers, lobbyists and regulators ever more demanding about the way firms behave.
- Meanwhile, Deloitte’s new whitepaper, CFOs and Sustainability: Shaping their roles in an evolving environment, revealed numerous trends in the environmental, health, safety, and social impacts of the enterprise, found that CFOs are becoming more involved in setting and executing sustainability strategy, the impact of sustainability on key financial decisions has increased in M&A, and capital allocation, and capital raising and compliance with new energy efficiency and carbon regulations remain areas of high concern.
- The UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study claimed to be the largest CEO study on sustainability ever conducted, with insights from more than 1,000 CEOs across 103 countries and 27 industries. Included are industry insight reports (e.g. for mining - see below), intended as companion pieces, to be read alongside the global study to give a more in-depth perspective on business leaders' views in key industry sectors.
- According to a new McKinsey survey, executives at all levels see an important business role for sustainability, but when it comes to mastering the reputation, execution, and accountability of their sustainability programmes, many companies have far to go. Company leaders are rallying behind sustainability, and executives overall believe the issue is increasingly important to their companies’ strategy. But as it continues to grow into a core business issue, challenges to capturing its full value lie ahead.
- Access to water has become one of the most significant business risks for miners, said a report that also highlights the threat to the sector from rising energy costs in some resource rich areas. EY said affordable water and energy should now be viewed as one of the 10 biggest problems for miners. The threat was particularly acute in South America and Africa, it said. These continents are significant in the global supply of many metals, particularly copper.
- The fifth edition of the Newsweek Green Rankings was released. The 2014 winners were: 1. Vivendi 2. Allergan 3. Adobe Systems 4. Kering 5. NTT DoCoMo 6. Ecolab 7. Atlas Copco 8. Biogen Idec 9. Compass Group and 10. Schneider Electric.
- More policy levers need to be introduced before a broader swathe of industry can be persuaded to embrace clean technologies, according to the FT's Sustainable Business: Clean Economy report. The FT noted that consumers are buying sustainable products again, after the global economic downturn reduced demand. “Sustainable, welfare and ethical buying is a re-emerging trend,” according to the chief retail and consumer goods analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit. It also found that repurposing, through a "circular" approach, shows potential for high added value.
- With a global climate deal due in 2015, carbon pricing will play a key role in controlling emissions. This has implications for clients with carbon-intensive assets or investments. The 9th IETA GHG Market Sentiment Survey, that PwC produced, analyses private sector views on carbon pricing. In it, carbon market participants suggest China may put a price on emissions, with a carbon market or similar mechanism expected in the coming years. For a copy of the report, click here.
- 82% of investors are dissatisfied with the financial quantification of risks and opportunities and find sustainability information can provide important insight, according to PwC's Investor Resource Institute report, Sustainability goes Mainstream.
- A UN panel released the most comprehensive assessment yet of the effects of climate change on our planet. Members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the "summary for policymakers" provides overwhelming evidence of the scale of these impacts.
- According to Oliver Wyman, companies today are finding themselves at a crossroads with global implications, as increasingly, they are being required to reconcile business growth with the three pillars of sustainability: economic efficiency, ecological integrity, and social equity. If they fail to do so, they could face existential risks, such as runaway resource costs, consumer desertion, or exorbitant fines. Many companies, however, are uncertain as to how best to go about improving their sustainability profile and deriving value from the process. Oliver Wyman’s research suggests that companies that take an active leadership position to harness the trends driving sustainability – rather than reactively implementing sustainability in response to regulation and public pressure – will reap the benefits of a new source of competitive advantage and long-term growth.
- Advances in technology mean the amount of digital information we collectively possess is growing exponentially. Estimates suggest that by 2020 there will be 300 times more information in the world than there was in 2005. Big Data has the power to transform the way corporations understand the impact of their business on the environment, and prompt them to take action on sustainability. But storing and gathering this data is costly in itself, with large data servers located across the world consuming huge amounts of energy and adding to carbon emissions. In a new podcast a panel of experts discuss how big data can help business to tackle questions of sustainability, and ask whether the barriers to using data sustainably can be overcome.
- Two thirds of CEOs of Indian companies say that sustainability is very important to the future success of their business, but less than half (44 percent) think business is making sufficient efforts to address global sustainability challenges, according to a new report published by Global Compact Network India (GCNI) and Accenture .
- Accenture argued that while many CEOs of leading companies are now setting ambitious sustainability strategies and targets for their businesses, they are often unclear about how to organise for success. Inevitably, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Businesses have different drivers for sustainability and will need to structure themselves accordingly: the challenge is to organise the sustainability function for an optimal fit with the company’s strategy and existing business model.
- New research by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group looked at companies that “walk the talk” in addressing significant sustainability concerns. So-called “Walkers” focus heavily on five fronts: sustainability strategy, business case, measurement, business model innovation and leadership commitment. For them, addressing significant sustainability issues has become a core strategic imperative and a way to mitigate threats and identify new opportunities.
- Harvard Business Review listed the 10 sustainable business stories from 2013 that it considered too important to miss.
- BCG found that organisations that manage physical resources effectively will start to realise how sustainability can make sense and actually work on the ground - not just to lower costs and risk but also to provide an edge over less aggressive competitors. Managing resources efficiently means setting targets and KPIs to boost efficiency in current operations, and applies to every kind of major resource - from energy to minerals to water.
- Natural gas will overtake coal as a global energy source in the middle of the next decade, in part because of the environmental benefits it offers, according to ExxonMobil. In its annual forecasts of the energy outlook for the next three decades, Exxon says that around 2025 gas will become the world’s second most-used fuel on an energy-equivalent basis, behind oil.
- Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, argued that, in 2014, we must turn what he considers the greatest collective challenge facing humankind today - climate change - into the greatest opportunity for common progress towards a sustainable future, so he has announced next year to be the "year for climate action".
- The FT claimed that in November 2013 it was Warsaw’s turn to host a disappointing meeting on climate change. Over the past two decades, many other cities have had this pleasure. This time, 195 countries painfully agreed to make a “contribution” to combating climate change, in place of a more robust “commitment”. The aim is still to reach a strong agreement in Paris in 2015. The chances of success must be negligible, noted the FT.
- PwC published its latest Global Green Policy Insights. Highlights of this edition:China elevates environmental protection to a 'pillar industry'; UK focuses on shale gas, consulting on a proposed tax regime and announcing community benefits; Spain introduces energy market reforms further cutting renewable support and South Korea proposes carbon tax on fossil fuels and electricity and CDP Global 500 Climate Change Report 2013 - What's driving climate change action in the world's largest companies?
- The sixth annual release of Maplecroft’s Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas revealed that 31% of global economic output will be based in countries facing ‘high’ or ‘extreme risks’ from climate change by 2025 — a 50% increase on current levels and more than double since the company began researching the issue in 2008.
- PwC published Spotlight on: Creating and measuring sustainable value. As the concept of what makes business sustainable continues to evolve, we've gathered insights and perspectives from around the firm focusing on what organisations are doing to create and measure sustainable value. (See also this related Spark post.)
- Sustainability Practices: 2013 Edition analysed a total of 76 environmental and social practices- including, among others, atmospheric emissions, water consumption, biodiversity policies, labour standards, human rights practices, and charitable and political contributions.
- To assist policymakers and the energy industry with pressing forward sustainable energy systems, the World Energy Council, in collaboration with Oliver Wyman, prepared the report World Energy Trilemma: Time to get real – the case for sustainable energy investment. This second of a two-part series of reports examines the drivers and risks preventing the development of sustainable energy systems. It then recommends an Agenda for Change to address these risks and to accelerate a global transition to more diversified, and therefore sustainable, energy systems that will present opportunities for economic growth.
- The Arctic’s summer sea ice is set to nearly vanish in less than 40 years, according to the final draft of a sweeping UN climate change report that sharply revised past estimates of how fast the icy north is melting. “A nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in September before mid-century is likely,” said the draft of the first large-scale study in six years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The retreating ice is encouraging for Arctic nations such as Russia, which is trying to boost shipping traffic along its icy Northern Sea Route. But it is worrying for scientists because of what was described in a recent study as an “economic time bomb” that could explode if the melting Arctic permafrost releases vast plumes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and drives significant climate change.
- Dow argued that although the evolution to a sustainable world will require commitment and support from each of us, corporations operate at the intersections of society, which gives them unique leverage to drive positive change. In a world where profitability is no longer enough, society also expects companies to serve as active stewards of the planet and support the social fabric that has served them well and sustained their operations, and successful investors eventually will align with companies that meet those expectations. Just as leaders can be easily identified by their actions,corporations can exhibit a series of recognisable “habits” that maximise both their individual talents and their ability to collaborate in support of the common goal of sustainability.
- Oliver Wyman launched a new blog as a platform for senior management and practitioners as well as researchers and consultants, exchanging relevant experience and latest knowledge nuggets about sustainability to enrich understanding and facilitate implementation. Its experts and guest bloggers track developments and innovations in the field of sustainability in a dialogue with readers. One recent focus was on the growth of urban agriculture.
- KPMG named the US, Japan, the UK, France, South Korea and China as the most active during Q2 2013 in using tax policy to drive sustainable corporate behaviour and achieve green policy goals. The finding is part of the first ‘KPMG Green Tax Index,’ which explores how governments use tax systems to meet global challenges such as energy security, water and resource scarcity, pollution and climate change.
- In On Good Management, Roland Berger asked: how do companies manage to stay in business for decades, reinventing themselves again and again? How do they deal with the growing uncertainty and complexity in the world around us? And what are the implications for good management? For Burkhard Schwenker, CEO of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, striking the right balance between conflicting forces is the key.