A sit-down with four sustainability experts, and hearing some innovative practices

Allie Williams
Executive Director, CROA
Corporate Responsibility Officers Association

I recently attended the GreenBiz Forum in Scottsdale, AZ, and had occasion to sit down with a few sustainability and supply chain professionals. The idea was to gain an understanding of how their companies face challenges and opportunities related to a variety of sustainability issues, such as building a better sales team, preserving forests, fostering relationships with unique communities, improving affiliations with vendors, and creating successful projects.

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The Hidden Price of Simplifying Sustainability: Rethinking How We Think about Sustainable Systems

Kevin Lynch, Ph.D.
Leadership Executive-in-Residence
Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University

A few years ago, I lead a strategic initiative for the ownership of a multi-tenant fifty story commercial building. Our goal was to be the first large-scale multi-tenant existing building to achieve LEED platinum status. We quickly learned that we could not achieve our goal without the cooperation of the tenants of the building.

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Three Trends Moving Sustainability from Sea Change to Competitive Advantage

Kevin Lynch, Ph.D.
Leadership Executive-in-Residence
Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University

In a recent blog, John Ehrenfeld’s book, Sustainability by Design, was noted for his seminal definition of sustainability – the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on the Earth forever. But does Ehrenfeld’s bold vision have the possibility of becoming reality? Or will it die as other great dreams have before?

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How Companies Can Think Differently about #GivingTuesday

By Doug Balfour, CEO of Geneva Global

Tuesday, December 3 marks the second annual #GivingTuesday, a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

While much of the day’s focus draws attention to the nonprofit community, it provides an opportunity to reflect on the role that companies can and do play in creating transformational social change.

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Creating Leaders with the Competencies to Make the World a Better Place

Creating Leaders with the Competencies to Make the World a Better Place
By Amanda MacArthur
Vice President for Global Pro Bono & Engagement, PYXERA Global

“In 1970, the top three skills required by the Fortune 500 were the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. In 1999, the top three skills in demand were teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills.” - Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford

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Why should we and our companies participate in the CR 100 Best Corporate Citizens assessment and the CROA?

By Pete Sherrard
Sustainability Manager, Duke Energy

Why should we and our companies participate in the CR 100 Best Corporate Citizens assessment, and the CROA? Cynics might say that participation is just a self-serving pursuit to get recognition. They’re wrong.

Sure, the recognition is nice for our companies, and frankly may be an initial attraction for many. But as companies and their professionals engage, some great things happen.

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Conflict Minerals Company Rankings Compared to CSRHub Ratings

Conflict Minerals Company Rankings Compared to CSRHub Ratings
By Cynthia Figg, COO & C0-Founder, CSR Hub

Companies are under pressure from many stakeholders to report progress towards improved corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has created a new source of pressure. The 2012 final rule from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), requires most companies subject to SEC filing rules to report to the SEC by May 31, 2014, if any of their products produced in calendar year 2013 contain conflict minerals. In July, a federal judge ruled against a challenge to the new conflict mineral rules and upheld the law. Even companies headquartered outside of the United States, and those which do not report to the SEC, may be subjected to conflict minerals requests from customers that report to the SEC. The reporting requirements are intended to eliminate an important stream of funding for armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and surrounding countries where much of the world’s supply of conflict minerals is mined.

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If Sustainability Costs You More, You’re Doing It Wrong

If Sustainability Costs You More, You’re Doing it Wrong: The Do’s and Don’ts of Sustainable Value Chain Management

There is a lot of anecdotal information on what makes a sustainable value chain, but very little data, so we partnered with ASQ and ISM, with the help of Deloitte, earlier this year on a multi-year research study to identify proven management practices and cost-saving approaches, and the initial findings are out!

Since the supply chain is what separates “real” sustainability from “green washing” many businesses and NGOs are looking to this research to help them know the best ways to make their value chain (supply chain, distributors, partner organizations, etc.) more sustainable.  While others have conducted research in this area, there are two unique aspects in this project that distinguish it from any other research available:

  • Beyond focusing mainly on an organization’s suppliers, it encompasses the entire value chain from the moment something comes out of the ground and is put back into the ground, reused, or recycled, encompassing suppliers, distributors, partners, and the internal aspects of the value chain as well.
  • Instead of looking at interest in sustainability and future plans, it looks at which concrete actions are most effective at increasing supply chain sustainability, where the outcomes will help direct organizations on where to put their time, energy, and resources to provide the greatest benefit.

The first phase of this research – a survey with almost 1,000 responses from corporate responsibility leaders and supply chain experts – identified ten management practices that can improve sustainable value chain effectiveness, measuring by just how much an organization saw an increase in this effectiveness:

  • Organizations that engaged with suppliers at any tier saw a 38 percent increase in their sustainable value chain effectiveness
  • Organizations that had sustainability embedded into their culture saw a 24 percent increase in sustainable value chain effectiveness
  • Organizations that had worked with suppliers and others (such as distributors) as part of quality programs in the past experienced a 22 percent increase in effectiveness
  • Organizations that engaged with or talked about sustainability with value chain members saw a 21 percent increase in sustainable value chain effectiveness
  • Organizations that rewarded suppliers for sharing expertise and knowledge around sustainability recorded a 17 percent increase in effectiveness

The survey also identified five management practices that reduce operating costs:

  • Organizations that engaged with suppliers at any tier saw a 46 percent reduction in operating costs
  • Organizations that provided suppliers with monetary rewards for sharing expertise and knowledge around sustainability saw 45 percent reduction in operating costs

Click here to view the full set of findings!

One of the most astonishing finds is that the return on investment (ROI) for sustainable value chain initiatives is in the triple digits!

The next phases of the research involve interviews, case studies, and secondary research; let us know if you are interested in participating.  And make plans to join us at the COMMIT!Forum taking place October 2-3 in New York City for a deep dive into the research results.  Register by August 31st and receive 25% off your registration!

A Gold Medal for Corporate Philanthropy

Elliot Clark, Contributor

Hershey Foods Teams with Former Olympian Carl Lewis to Teach Kids Fitness and Moderation

I wrote a column a few weeks ago about corporate fitness and wellness programs. I decried the lack of planning “responsible” companies were directing at the health of their employees in the area of wellness. Shortly after the article ran I received a call from a Hershey’s representative about programs they were running to instill healthy values in kids. The spokesperson for the program was none other than Carl Lewis, the great Olympian who was voted the “Olympian of the Century” for the Twentieth Century by none other than the International Olympic Committee.

I arranged the interview because I wanted to hear about the Hershey’s Track and Field Program which just concluded this past weekend.  I also wanted to ask  Lewis about why he partnered with Hershey’s.  I wanted to ask Andy McCormick, VP of Corporate Communications to reconcile the epidemic of childhood obesity and my mental image of candy chomping kids with Hershey’s commitment to teaching children healthy living.

Long before there was Michael Phelps, Carl Lewis was the hero of the Baby Boomer generation.  Born in 1961 in Wilingboro, N.J., he competed in four Olympics from 1984 to 1996 and won 10 Olympic medals, nine of them gold.  He is one of two athletes to win that many medals (you can guess who the other is). He got involved in athletics as a child when his parents started a track and field program in his home town in the 1970’s.   Through that program he had the thrill of meeting Jesse Owens, another great Olympian and arguably America’s first warrior in the battle against Nazi Germany (my opinion). When he was young, Lewis also competed in the Jesse Owens. I asked him how he got involved in this program.  He has been involved for seven years.  He hopes that by supporting the Hershey’s Track and Field program he can inspire other young people to get involved and get moving and find fitness and competition fun. (Point of fact: Hershey’s Track and Field alumni include the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist in the Women’s 100 Meter Hurdles, Joanna Hayes.)

Andy McCormick explained the program and it is impressive.  Founded as a community-based program by Dr. Donald Cohen in 1975,  Hershey’s became the sponsor in 1976.  It has a number of partners, including the National Parks and Recreation Service.  This year’s competition cycle included groups throughout the United States and Canada and started in February. Initially more  than 130,000 children competed this year, which was winnowed down to the several hundred who were in the finals this past weekend.

I asked Andy about the epidemic of childhood obesity and how Hershey’s as a candy manufacturer reconciled supporting lifestyle-based programs. Andy said that fitness and lifestyle are keys to the mission of the Hershey “Moderation Nation” program.  He pointed out that as a confectionary manufacturer they believe that candy is a “treat,” not a dietary staple.  Consumption of candy is 2% of the American dietetic caloric intake and has not risen in the last 30 years.  Lewis pointed out that a treat, when in moderation as a part of a healthy and balanced diet, is perfectly acceptable for kids.

Lewis explained that he believes part of the secret of the success of this or any other program is family involvement.  He said that you have to get outside and do things with your kids.  Family 5K runs, biking programs and other activities are much more likely to motivate kids and they are great for the parents who often complain they don’t have time to work out.  The secret of the incentive is the family festival environment of the meets.  He enjoys the opportunity to interact with the kids, to give back to the community and “feeling like a big kid” while he is there.

I asked Lewis what he would recommend to companies seeking to promote wellness among their employees given what he had learned from the organizing success of the Hershey’s Track and Field Program.  He sees the error of most corporate programs.  Gym activities alone are not fun.  He believes people like to compete and most people really compete against themselves.  He believes companies should have a program of year round activities for which employees can train and that are inclusive in nature.  He thinks that this will create more focus and excitement than telling people to just get in the gym three times a week. He also believes that if people learn fitness and healthy competition when they are young through programs such as the Hershey’s Track and Field Program it will become a lifelong habit.

Andy McCormick reiterated that personal fitness and community fitness are part of the corporate mission for sustainability.  The Hershey’s Track and Field Program has grown by 18% in the last year so the company knows the program is important and needed.  The support from the Parks and Recreation Department has been invaluable, but budgets for Physical Education programming at the national level have been cut. The work of private corporate sponsors like Hershey’s are critical for these kinds of programs to survive in the current fiscal environment.  Hershey’s is committed to this philanthropic endeavor.

Building Our Body of CR knowledge

What makes a corporate responsibility (CR) program successful? Do an organization’s structure, staffing, budget impact success in achieving goals? What’s the effect of executive engagement in CR?

These are just a few of the questions CR Magazine and NYSE-Euronext have sought to answer over the past couple of years of research into CR practices.Thanks to strong response from the CR community, we’ve learned a few things about the state of corporate citizenship...

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