Do you speak Spanish?

I haven’t been very active on Aequology’s Blog lately. The reason is that I’m also blogging in Spanish everyday at www.negociosostenible.es which is definitely time consuming but totally worth it.

Moreover, there are plenty of excellent bloggers in the English speaking CSR & Sustainability community.That’s why I’ve decided to focus on Negocio Sostenible.

So if you speak Spanish, join me! If you don’t, learn it! It’s a great language that opens the door to a large community in Spain, the Americas and, as a second language, in many countries around the world.

I’d also like to share with you some of my favorite blogs in English:
The CSR Reporting Blog by consultant and author Elaine Cohen
The Valuestream Blog by Supply Chain & sustainability expert Dave Meyer
Taiga Company by Sustainability expert Julie Urlaub,an amazing person and great professional.
For a fresh approach on those topics I also recommend A Touch Of Green by Juan Villamayor a sustainability & CSR consultant who I know personally and lives in Barcelona.

Finally, a great resource for Sustainability topics is Fabian Pattberg’s Blog. Fabian also shared few months ago his list of favorite blogs. Enjoy!

The Plastic Bottle Flashmob

I love this video available on Youtube! It’s a great idea on how to raise awareness for dealing with plastic trash:

The video has been created by a Canadian group called TESTÉ SUR DES HUMAINS (“tests on humans”).

The comments are in French but you don´t need to be fluent to fully understand the intention.

Basically the comments refer to a few facts:

671 Millions Kg of plastic are being produced per year

In Quebec 400 Millions bottles are not being recycled each year

18000 plastic bottles in average floating on each km² of the oceans

91% of people in Quebec worry about the environment

Watch, enjoy and think !

PS: if you’re in Barcelona, Spain, contact me and let’s try to organize a Flashmob some day!

Europe must enhance its climate action now

Europe must significantly enhance its climate action, without any delay, to stay on track toward meeting the “20-20-20 goals” mandated by law under the EU Climate and Energy Package of 2008. In 2007 the EU’s leaders committed Europe to transforming itself into a highly energy-efficient, low-carbon economy, setting a series of demanding climate and energy targets to be met by 2020, known as the “20-20-20” targets:  a 20 percent cut in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020, compared with 1990 levels; a 20 percent increase in the share of renewables in the energy mix; and a 20 percent cut in energy consumption.
Read my full post at Enviance Blog

Brain drain in Spain: interview with one of the young professionals who has left the country.

In an article about “Spain’s lost generation of graduates“, The Guardian recently reported that rising unemployment was leading to an exodus of young Spaniards looking for better opportunities abroad on a scale not seen since the 1960s. This massive departure of educated and professional young people looking for better pay or living conditions is a source of concern for many, although the exact numbers are not easy to figure out according to a recent article in Actualidad Económica (in Spanish).

Experts disagree both on the volume and the consequences of this “brain drain”. They agree on the causes as unemployment among graduates aged 29 or under is running at 19%. Regarding the consequences, some experts are extremely pessimistic, considering that the amount of money spent on the education of those graduates is lost as many will tend to stay abroad, while others believe that those young people will some day come back to Spain with a set of personal, professional and languages skills that will benefit to the economy and to the society.

Sustainability is directly affected by this “exodus” as Human Capital Management is a key element to build a sustainable business. Companies should include in their sustainability strategy the way they plan to get the resources they need in the long-term. Nothing can confirm the prediction that those young professionals will come back to Spain after they’ve developed their skills abroad. At least, a company shouldn’t rely this hope. Instead, a sustainable business should include in their recruitment strategies how they will target Spanish professionals who live abroad.

I’ve interviewed Alex, one of those young professional who recently decided to move to Germany, to understand why he decided to leave Spain and what spanish companies  can learn from this:

Aequology: Hello Alex, can you tell us who you are and where you work?
AM: Hi, my name is Alejandro Martinez, and I am employed by www.misterspex.es, Spanish division of www.misterspex.co.uk ,  German leader in online sales for prescription glasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses. The company, a personal project launched by Dirk Graber with little capital investment, currently has over 140 employees. A successful business story and a new capital injection has led Mister Spex to venture on an international strategy. After launching projects in France and the UK, the company has recently placed its eye on the Spanish market because of its promising future in e-commerce on a mid-term basis. Mister Spex’s headquarters, located in Berlin, host fully autonomous IT, logistics, customer service and marketing departments. I personally work in the marketing department as an SEO specialist, and combine these tasks with website content creation and management.

Aequology: Why did you decided to move to Germany?
AM: Coming to Germany was both a personal and a professional project. Although I had been in love with Berlin for a few years, I wasn’t strong or brave enough to go for it. The tremendous financial crisis in Spain and the fact that I wasn’t enjoying my personal project as a translator brought me to travel to the only European that enjoyed economic growth in 2010. Besides a promising environment, numerous government aids and an alternative lifestyle that I am extremely attracted to, Berlin hosts numerous start-ups that make the effort of taking risks and train motivated people who are eager to learn and renew themselves. My experience tells me that this kind of approach would be absolutely inconceivable in Spain. Generally, German companies do not focus on short term benefit, but undertake actions believing they will be positive in the long run.

Aequology: How’s the workplace in Germany compared to Spain?
AM: Besides German companies’ predisposition to undertake risks, I have sensed that managers and administration boards are much more open to suggestions. If you have a good idea, they will take it and make the best possible effort to execute it. Besides, I feel lucky because, although I work in the marketing department and Scrum methodology was initially conceived for the IT departments, Mister Spex decided to apply it to the whole company. This method allows projects coming from management to be carried out in a transversal way, communication is 100% open, and, consequently, motivating your peers, feeling integrated in the group, and identifying mistakes becomes much easier. To some extent, this reflects that, indeed, innovating in Germany is much easier than in Spain.
I would also like to highlight that e-commerce, an incredibly attractive field for all countries due to its low investment costs and high profitability, was solidly established in Germany quite some time ago and is now working at full speed. Te constant news informing about the German’s urgent need for technicians and computer engineers are the best indication of this fact. Focusing earlier on this sector has allowed Germany to remain one of most powerful and solid economies, since they have managed to diversify their economy.
Last, I would like to highlight that in Germany it is the companies who assume the biggest risk. In order to have a hired person with a net monthly wage of 1.000 Euro, companies must provide private insurance, pay higher taxes, and provide social benefits, among other things. This does not only allow workers (who, in turn, pay 40% of their salary in taxes) to be aware of the social network supporting them and preventing them from being socially excluded if they become unemployed, but is also a useful tool for the German economy to maneuver because the government always has available funds. In my opinion, the German’s financial system is the key to them being, by large, the strongest country in Europe despite the high immigration rate and tremendous social costs, which would be inconceivable for other countries. I can’t think of a better place to be in Berlin right now!

Aequology: Thanks Alex!

MBA in CSR…I mean MBA.

Catherine Chong,  an MBA candidate specialising in corporate social responsibilities (CSR) in one of the top school with sustainability or ESG (environment, social and governance) curriculum in the UK, shared on her blog a “cri du coeur”.
In her post, Why are you laughing at my MBA?, she explains how a member of the academic staff gave her the advice, in private, to take the general MBA title rather than the MBA in CSR, and how she can observe a general cynicism regarding her career option.

Don’t we ever learn? Aren’t B-Schools able to see their responsibility in the trouble we got in the last years? And take the necessary steps to correct their past mistakes, going back to the original premises of their curriculum?

MBAs were originally designed at the end of the 19th century as a “professionalization” instrument to prepare managers of large corporations to lead those for the public’s good, not for short-term gains. Unfortunately, the dominance of economics by the neoclassical school in the 1980′s imposed the idea that managers are free agents who should continually seek their highest incomes with no loyalty to their employers and no social responsibility.

Ignoring or laughing at the teaching of ethics and values-based leadership is the type of thinking that got us into so much trouble today. Will we ever learn?

CSR, Warriors and Peacekeepers

 

“Every soldier should be a warrior first”…

“The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”…

Norwegian Peacekeeper during the Siege of Sarajevo, 1992 - 1993, photo by Mikhail Evstafiev.

Before the first peacekeeping mission was launched in 1948, a soldier was often regarded as nothing more than a warrior. With 98,582 uniformed peacekeepers deployed in the world at the end 2010 (United Nations), the military role has shifted from warrior to peacekeeper, and soldiers have been given new tasks involving assisting local populations, training police, restoring governments, supporting rescue efforts or reconstruction.

The “Warrior Ethos” still has supporters though. General Peter Schoomaker, the US army chief of staff, expressed alarm in 2003 that soldiers in Iraq “considered themselves to be support troops — cooks, mechanics and supply staff — rather than fighters”. He’s wrong.

As for the second quote – do I really need to mention the author? – although it’s the title of an article that was initially published in The New York Times Magazine on September 13, 1970, this theory still has some strong supporters too. They’re wrong. The same way the military role has evolved to meet the needs of  the last century, the role of business has changed too.

In the aftermath of the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Akhila Vijayaraghavan, a Justmeans staff writer for CSR and ethical consumption wrote an amazing article: “Beyond Business, CSR: Help Pouring in for Japan From Companies.”

UPS, Bayer, Abbott Laboratory, Walt Disney, Microsoft, VISA… the big names, the multinational corporations, the very ones that should be applying without mercy “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” mantra, “are opening out their hearts and their wallets” wrote Akhila.

“Even small businesses are pitching in” she added, writing that “The Extreme Pita restaurant in Riverside (sister city to Sendai) is donating a portion of sales. The Takami Sushi Restaurant in downtown LA is donating 100% of all restaurant profits. In Phoenix, Stingray Sushi has created a Recovery Sushi Roll for $12, all of which will be donated to the American Red Cross.”

Akhila Vijayaraghavan´s article reminds me how wrong my 2 opening quotes are.

 Support the Red Cross.

 

Sustainability information & purchasing decisions.

Here’s an interesting conversation about brands, sustainability and consumers behaviours in this 14 min video provided by Environment Leader.

As their concerns about the environment are growing, consumers require more information about the products they purchase. Relying on buying habits is not a strategy. Companies that proactively provide information about their products, through advertising, detailed labels, sustainability goals and reporting etc. will do better in the long run that others. Transparency is the right way to go.

Brand itself is an essential piece of information. If customers don’t get the information they need to make responsible buying decisions, about, for example, the carbon footprint of products all along the supply chain, they will use the company’s reputation as a purchasing criteria. Companies that perform well in sustainability will have a competitive advantage.

Most of SMBs however can’t rely on the power of their brand or reputation, but still, they should aim to create success by ensuring long-term sustainability and communicate about it. That’s one of the reasons why I believe that SMBs should be encouraged to produce sustainability reports and learn how to strategically engage their stakeholders and particularly their customers. They need support for that.

Instead of dedicating more resources to control and validate the larger corporations sustainability reports, as established in the recent law for a sustainable economy, the Government in Spain – and the EU for that matter – should rather support financially small and medium businesses sustainability planning and sustainability reporting initiatives.

CSR: does size matter?

The BBC reported on Thursday a massive misleading sales in the UK. Nearly 15,000 people who registered with Groupola , a group buying website, to purchase an iPhone 4, “were not told that only eight phones were on sale at the discount price of £99″.

Most people were left disappointed, but the business consequently had thousands more people’s details available to it when sending out daily e-mail alerts. The good news is that the company, run by Marcko Media, has been censured by the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT), and consequently had to apologise and said those responsible no longer worked there. The same investigation also revealed that an employee of the group, pretending to be a consumer, had posted on social media positive feedback and comments about the “bargain”.

Markco Media, created in 2006, is a startup company, that apparently doesn’t have the skills, the experience, the idea or more likely the strategic objective to develop responsible business practices. I’ve met many similar companies, especially startup companies. To be fair with them, the problem was not necessarily that they didn’t want to engage in responsible business practices but they simply didn’t know “how to” or failed to see the importance or ROI to do so. Most of them didn’t consider Corporate Social Responsibility a strategic priority, seeing it as a domain reserved to large companies only, that seem to be more under public scrutiny anyway. The recent CSR law in Spain, that makes CSR reporting “mandatory” for companies with more than 1000 employees, sends unfortunately the wrong message. In my opinion, CSR is not just for large corporations. Developing responsible business practices and taking in consideration stakeholder concerns and interests in the overall strategy is essential to any business.

So, what do you think? When it comes about CSR, does size matter?

The Benefits of Sustainability Employee Engagement

Why should you engage your employees in sustainability? Employees are a company’s essential stakeholders, its “most valuable assets” as often stated in mission statements. John Drummond, the CEO of Corporate Culture who will be speaking on employee engagement at  the Economist Sustainable Business Summit on March 17 in London considers that “an organization is its employees“, and therefore, a natural component of its sustainability strategy.

In a recent blog post, CSR Consultant Celesa Horvath offers an interesting insight into the benefits of employee engagement in sustainability.

She writes that in her experience,” early employee engagement enables the development of a bespoke approach to CR and sustainability that is relevant and sensitive to the realities of each specific organization, and which enjoys a high degree of support and buy-in from the outset.”

Engaging employees in sustainability is a perfect opportunity, especially for SMBs, to initially define – or measure the efficiency of - a company’s sustainability strategy.

Other benefits of employees engagement are:

  • Identify and promote internal talent and drive loyalty
  • Inspire staff and impact individual and collective behaviors within or outside the workplace
  • Find solutions to specific sustainability issues
  • Help achieve specific business targets
  • Impact employees motivation
  •  Help attract and retain talent
  •  Make your employees your most valuable “sustainability ambassadors”

Both John and Celesa, acknowledge the fact that the first step towards a successful employee engagement in sustainability is to ensure a clear commitment at the  Board level and a consistent message across the company in case of a “top-down” initial approach. I’ve written in a previous post how important, and under-estimated, is the role of middle management in this process. 

In a recent round-table about employee engagement, participants highlighted the interest of  “an integrated approach, blending top-down & bottom-up ideas” in order to improve sustainability management across departments, employee communications and to inspire the change.

The main idea here is that top management should define the strategic roadmap and then involve employees in defining the ‘how to’, a topic that I will address in a next post.

 Top-down roll out may also be appropriate to meet specific ‘efficiency’ goals. Expert Glennon Franklin, Director of Strategic GreenSource, writes in a recent blog post that “in this stagnant economy, everyone is focused on cutting costs to drive higher profitability” and that  “getting your employees engaged in sustainable business practices is a quick and efficient way to achieve those savings.”

I usually find it hard  to engage employees & change behaviour around “dry goals” such as ‘cost-saving’, rules or restrictions (‘don’t; ‘use less’…).

 What do you think?

Is road safety a relevant CSR issue?

Photo: José Cuervo Elorza @Flickr

The Commission on Road Safety, a Non-Standing Committee of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, has approved unanimously a motion urging the Government to include road safety as part of  Corporate Social Responsibility, in an effort to involve companies in the prevention of work-related traffic accidents. The initiative calls for the Executive to make appropriate amendments in the Law on Prevention of Occupational Risks to include the assessment and the prevention of traffic accidents that occur as a result of work activity or commuting. According to the Committee’s recommendations, companies would have to report on their progresses on the prevention of work-related accidents and carry out studies and evaluations to identify – and fight – their causes. The Committee also calls for the registration of work-related traffic accidents, a better coordination between the private and public entities involved, and security improvements in work-related travel. Finally, it asks for the creation of a “quality label”, awarded by the competent institutions and agencies, which would support the company’s commitment in preventing accidents among their employees. As an incentive for the employer,  the Committee recommends the creation of an annual prize that would reward best practices in the field of occupational health and the quality of the inclusion of road safety plans in the Corporate Social Responsibility strategy of the companies.

This news has been received with mixed feelings in Spain, both by companies and the CSR community alike. One of the reasons, as stated by Professor Antonio Argandoña in his blog , is that this type of initiatives is a distraction from the “really important” CSR topics and that an “award” won’t change anything. According to other comments, it is the role of the Government to deal with road safety. I don’t agree at all with those points of view. I do believe that road safety is a valid material issue for businesses, a clear area of concern for their internal and external stakeholders and has potentially a huge impact, economic, social and environmental on the companies themselves and the society in general. In Spain, businesses lose thousands of working hours each year due to medical leaves of absence related to road accidents, that also cost thousands of lives. Industry research shows that typically workplace injury costs are met 40% by the employee, 30% by the employer and 30% by the community as a whole. The human cost is high, the financial cost as well. Corporate reputation is also affected by employees driving behaviour. Did it ever happen to you to observe a dangerous driver in a company car, or truck, bearing the logo of their employer? What was your reaction? The impact on environment is high too, not only due to bad driving behaviours, generating huge amounts of CO2, but also because of accidents involving dangerous goods or substances. 

In a recent post, CSR expert and author Elaine Cohen, writes that she believes that, in the next generation of GRI indicators, “G4″, “other issues that are not specifically covered in G3, should be considered, such as the issue of road safety and how companies manage employees who spend a lot of time on the road for work purposes, a significant source of fatalities and other accidents which endanger not only employees but the general public“. I couldn’t agree more. Many companies already include road safety in their CSR plans and strategy. Some of them because they are directly or indirectly, related to the transportation industry, or vehicle manufacturers such as Ashok Leyland. Others, because they realize that there’s an opportunity for them to improve their workers well-being while impacting positively other areas such as the environment and public safety. It is much better for an organisation to be promoting a good news safety story such as winning an award, than it is to have to react to and suppress the outcomes of a major incident. Those companies also realize that their initiatives directly impact their bottom line and that they can gain a competitive advantage by being ahead of more reactive organisations.

World Health Organisation data suggests that approximately 1.2 of the 5 million global injury deaths each year are road crashes. It’s clear that road safety is a major social issue. I believe that it is also a business issue. What do you think?

Little Things: Big Impact

I had a great week. As the sun is back in Barcelona today, and the week-end is so close, there are plenty of explanations behind my good mood. One of those explanations is definitely my lunch with Guy Bigwood, MCI Sustainability Director on Tuesday. Although my favourite soccer team has had a tough time on Wednesday, I had a fantastic evening with my friends on Thursday. Then, this morning, I read two very interesting articles that I’d like to share with you:

Can Green Building Save the Planet?

“That’s the question experts sought to answer at The Economist’s Intelligent Infrastructure conference held at Pace University, where principals of major architecture firms gathered to define green building and how it relates to their own urban designs.”

In the article, some of the architects share their vision of how we can build a more sustainable planet through green architecture. Among many great contributions, I particularly liked Llewelyn Davies Yeang chairman Ken Yeang’s idea that true green building is “a seamless integration of four eco-infrastructures”:

  • Gray” — engineering infrastructure. Energy, smart grid, IT, recycling, waste, transport.
  • Blue” — water infrastructure: “We need to close the loop as much as possible.”
  • Red” — human infrastructure. “We have to change as people. Our lifestyle has to change.”
  • Green” — green infrastructure. “We cannot see this because it’s invisible.” Nature’s utilities, habitats, biodiversity, ecological corridors.
  • I like this approach. It also reminds me how important it is to choose, not only the colours, but more importantly, the words carefully. Specially when talking about sustainability.

    This aspect  is particularly clear in the other article that I wanted to share:

    How to get your Board engaged in sustainability?

    Written by Sally Uren, a “Deputy person @forum4thefuture. On a mission to create a sustainable future” as mentioned on her Twitter account, this brilliant article gives very smart pieces of advice to sustainability practitioners. Among them, Sally mentions the importance of “Using the right language.” She writes:

    “Tailor your language to make the case as compelling as possible – use the language of business. So it’s ecosystem asset, not rainforest; it’s supply chain security, not running low on resources, for example.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Using the language of business and, even more importantly, adapting your vocabulary and style to the personality of your interlocutor is fundamental, specially when presenting sustainability to political and rational decision-makers, as described by Sally in her post. Those two types of personality styles are more likely to be found in a Board room than the emotional one. The ideal situation would be to have a good balance of those three styles in a Board room, individually or as a team. That’s why diversity is so important as discussed in a previous post.

    Well, in case you have to present some day a sustainability project in a Board room full of “emotional decision-makers” I can recommend the following video sent by my friend Gaelle, a brilliant manager at SAP. She has the right balance between emotional, rational and political decision-making styles, and she’s passionate about sustainability.

    Enjoy and have a wonderful (green or multicoloured) week-end!

    CSR conversations: Guy Bigwood, Sustainability Director

    On my quest to the definition of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, I had lunch yesterday in Barcelona with Guy Bigwood, a Global CSR Professional dedicated to increasing the sustainability of the Meetings and Events Industry, Corporate Sustainability Director with MCI and current President of GMIC, the Green Meeting Industry Council. Guy was busy writing MCI’s 2010 CSR report and preparing GMIC next week conference where he will deliver a series of keynotes, so I really appreciate the time he spent with me discussing their 2009 Corporate Social Responsibility report, sustainability in the meeting industry and CSR in general.

    MCI’s journey to sustainability started few years ago, with the company becoming in 2007 the first in its industry to join the United Nations Global CompactMCI is a globally integrated association, communication and events management company with offices in 20 countries and about 900 employees worldwide. Its 2009 Corporate Social Report  describe the initiatives led by Guy Bigwood and his team through 5 majors area: leadership in the industry, employee development and well-being, environmental impact reduction, customer focused initiatives and impact on local communities. What is clear in the report is the involvement of the company’s leadership in the sustainability strategy, something particularly interesting as this topic was quite new to the top management team, but also the leading position of MCI in its industry.Finally,  the initiatives related to the  environment are definitely a major aspect of MCI sustainability strategy. Something I found really great in the report was that it also mentions the key learning points and improvement areas. Guy confirmed for example that there’s a need for key metrics in future reports. Although the 2010 report, due to be released in April, will still be published as a separate report, integrated reporting remaining the ultimate goal, it will contain more KPIs and measurements of the impact of the company’s sustainability initiatives. The specific GRI guidelines for the event industry, which draft was published yesterday, will help.  HR is  also an area where specific indicators, such as employee satisfaction, talent retention, or employee turnover, could be useful too. Guy confirmed that the HR department is definitely supporting the group’s CSR initiatives, something essential as discussed in a previous blog post, with proven results in many of their regions. The MCI Dublin Office, for example, won in 2009 the Irish Independent Great Places to work award. My guess is that the great job done there has something to do with the local employees perception of their work environment. Measuring this through specific indicators, as well as sharing best practices, could help working on employee engagement in the other regions. Guy and I also share the idea that middle-management is a key element of a successful sustainability strategy as discussed in a previous post.

    MCI defines CSR as a business strategy which strives for financial viability, in harmony with the planet and its people“.

     Guy and I discussed the current debate around the terminology and the efforts that CSR practitioners are undertaking to come up with a more consistent definition of those concepts. Regarding the debate, I share Alberto Andreu’s idea that the concept of CSR “is broken and that it’s urgent to fix it“. Alberto Andreu, who is Managing Director of Corporate Reputation and CSR at Telefónica and Professor of Organizational Behaviour at IE Business School, also considers that there’s a cultural bias that makes it difficult to get to a consistent definition of CSR on both sides of the Atlantic. I couldn’t agree more. In the US the legal perspective prevails and CSR initiatives are often reduced to the minimum compliance requirements, anything beyond that being “illegal or insincere”, or are only acceptable when they are synonym for philanthropy or charity, while Europe, which seems to be moving towards mandatory CSR reporting, has a broader perspective that involves the development of responsible business practices and a strong focus on the companies impact on their “ecosystem”.

     Alberto Andreu writes that “the line of progress, is in the definition made by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI): “Corporate Sustainability – it states – is a business approach that creates long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risks deriving from economic, environmental and social developments”.

    This definition is close to another one that I mentioned in a previous post: SAP’s definition for sustainability: “holistically manage economic, environmental and social risks and opportunities“. As you can see, it seems quite complicated to avoid  “buzzwords” and this is exactly what anti-CSR advocates argue: CSR and sustainability are nothing but buzzwords. Note that their speech is usually not exempt of jargon.

    Buzzword or not, what matters is execution. There’s a business case for sustainability, an urgent need for sustainable development, in a world with limited resources, and that requires more than words: strategic, powerful, comprehensive and measurable CSR initiatives.

    CSR in one word: Opportunity

    It seems quite challenging to describe what CSR is in 140 words or less. But it’s a great exercise. Leon KayeGreenGoPost.com‘s Founder, Features Editor & Lead Writer at Triple Pundit , Business Consultant and Balkans Advocate recently asked the CSR crowd on Twitter to give it a try :  #CSR and #Corpgov in Tweet-Speak: Express Yourself in 140 Characters (or Less!)

    I decided not to use one of the many definitions written by others that I’ve read about the topic in last few years. Instead I tried to define it with my own words and came up with the following definition:

    CSR= an opportunity for companies to ensure a sustainable growth while meeting the needs & concerns of their stakeholders

    I wanted to avoid buzzwords but, in my opinion, the objective of Social Responsibility, including Corporate SR, is to contribute to sustainable development, so I couldn’t leave this word apart. Stakeholders? Well, employees, shareholders, customers, partners, providers, as Todays’ business world is far more interconnected than it was when Milton Friedman expressed its now infamous idea that the only responsibility a business has is towards its shareholders, nobody can deny that the value demanded by customers, employees, job seekers has created a profound market shift that companies can’t ignore. As SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Peter Graf, put it recently, “sustainability is a trend as important as Internet or the globalization itself” and, “it’s here to say”, creating a world of “new winners and losers”.

    That’s the reason why I’m using the word “opportunity“. Compliance is not a strategy, going beyond business is,  and it’s also a fantastic opportunity for companies to manage successfully the new market shifts around value creation: value demanded by stakeholders as previously said, value delivered by the company through its products and its supply chain and the value graded by financial markets, governments and NGOs. Companies that fail to see CSR as an opportunity simply won’t survive.

    The business case for CSR: the financial impact of social commitments & initiatives.

    This weekend, as reported by JustMeans, US President Obama’s sent a clear message to the Private Sector: CSR Is Your Obligation (and It’s Good for the Economy, Too), prompting Stephen M. Bainbridge,  a Law professor at UCLA, to produce yet another “piece of evidence” in the case against CSR. According to the Author, President Obama, who preaches the false religion of Corporate Social Responsibility, is “wrong” because the “obligation of business is to sustainably maximize long-term profits for shareholder”.  Like many CSR opponents his claim is that a company engaging in CSR actions can only have two motives: being illegal or being insincere.  

    Interestingly, on the other side of the bench, I came across the results of a study led by Alan Fustec, professor at the School of Economic and Social Development (ESDES) in Lyon, France, measuring the financial impact of the French Railways Company SNCF’s CSR social commitments and initiatives, more specifically the initiatives targeting the local community and the general public in the community.

     “While these programs are often considered as a cost only, the study shows a net gain for the company and the community,” says Professor Fustec. “5 million euro for the company, and 6.4 million for the community,” adds Vincent Bouznad, from the Department for Sustainable Development at SNCF.

    Five major initiatives, conducted in the past two years, have been studied: the use of social enterprises for maintenance works and services, the presence of social mediators in trains, school presentations to teach young people the consequences of their acts (pull the alarm unnecessarily, vandalism …), the fight against exclusion of homeless people and the responsible purchasing of goods and services.

    For each action, we  measured the cost (grants to associations, wages, working hours that are spent by employees of the company …), the gain for SNCF (cost-benefit analysis, reduced vandalism, impact on train delays …) and the gain for the community (lower unemployment or subsidies, impact of train delays on passengers, savings in terms of days in prison, greater security. ..), “said Alan Fustec.

    A big surprise came from those results: they clearly demonstrated that the initiatives had a positive financial impact both on the company and the society. Besides strengthening SNCF’s public service mission and role in promoting social cohesion, the study, according to Vincent Bouznad also had a positive impact on the operations of the company itself: it contributed to raise managers’ awareness and encouraged them to identify new ways of doing business, therefore creating a “virtuous circle”.

    Professor Bainbridge, just like many anti-CSR advocates, tend to forget that there are companies out there that are being sincere in their commitments towards the local communities in which they operate. If a company like SNCF, independently of its legal status and country can achieve positive financial outcomes through its social initiatives why wouldn’t it be the case for US companies? And who says that those actions don’t contribute to “sustainably maximize long-term profits for shareholders” as well?

    Originally posted on Químicas Thái, S.L.:

    The European chemical industry is determined to play a key role in ensuring that by 2050 over 9 billion people live well, within the resources of the planet, according to Cefic’s first-ever sustainabilityreport released on May 8, 2012.

    The report presents a vision for how the chemical industry will help meet future challenges and was unveiled at a special event at the European Parliament in Brussels hosted by European members of parliament Karl-Heinz Florenz and Vittorio Prodi. It also provides 17 key performance indicators that serve as a benchmark of industry sustainability efforts to date that the sector plans to measure itself against in future. The 70-page document details all three “pillars” of sustainability – planet, people and profit. It serves as a starting point in developing a sustainability framework for the European chemical industry, a project the Cefic board tasked its Sustainability Strategy Group to…

    View original 340 more words

    Originally posted on :

    George Curiel and Elena Cavagnaro

    On 10th April 2012, The Three Levels of Sustainability, by Elena Cavagnaro and George Curiel, was officially launched. The book launch was hosted by the Stenden University of Applied Sciences.

    Prof. Frans Stokman

    In his address, Professor Frans Stokman, from the University of Groningen, insisted on the necessity of approaching sustainability as a multidimensional and multilevel concept. He complimented the authors for having been able to offer a clear framework to their readers. In his own words: “The Three Levels of Sustainability figure is the best summary I have ever seen in the contents of a book.” He then insisted on the need to convert people from consumers to co-producers of, for example, sustainable energy. Professor Stokman has recently co-founded a co-operative for the production of solar energy, Grunneger Power. The co-operative, launched in 2011, now has more than 1,000 members and will start selling their greener energy…

    View original 391 more words

    Originally posted on terrabluteams:

    The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on December 22, 1992, declaring March 22 to be the World Day for Water each year.

    The World Water Day in 2012 is intended to draw the international attention on the relationships between water & food security. “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” and water is one of the fundamental input factors to food production.

    Did you know that an 0.5 liter Coca-Cola in a PET bottle produced in the Netherlands has a green water footprint of 15 liters, a blue water footprint of 1 liter and a grey water footprint of 12 liters. Your 1 pound steak requires 1,799 while 1 pound of chicken only requires 468 gallons.

    The WHAT:

    Find your water…

    View original 185 more words

    Originally posted on Grist:

    Humans are naturally playful. So why shouldn't we make sustainability more fun? (Photo by Norma Desmond.)

    Cross-posted from Sightline Daily.

    On some level, most of us are in the business of behavior change — whether we’re trying to lose a few pounds ourselves or whether we’re promoting energy efficiency. It goes without saying that habits are hard to break, even when someone has gone out of their way to make the better choice fairly easy.

    As communications guru Andy Goodman points out in his “free-range thinking” column [PDF] this month, most of us opt for the escalator instead of the stairway. Highway speed trap cameras do little to reduce speeding. And handy garbage cans in public places haven’t stopped littering.

    View original 712 more words

    e-Waste Academy: a pioneering initiative to encourage multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaboration on e-waste policy and management

    United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP), Operating Unit SCYCLE, announced recently that the “Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative” will be organizing the first installment of the E-waste Academy (EWA) for policymakers and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

    The approach for the first E-waste Academy will be a regional one, with policymakers and SME operators in Western Africa as the target group and target region with some participants from other regions of the world to establish vital South-South cooperation. This will enable a more concentrated approach to stimulate fruitful discussion among policymakers and SME operators while also facilitating exchange of best practices and expert feedback, taking into account regional disparities.

    The overarching idea will be to replicate the E-waste Academy in different regions of the world, ultimately weaving together academy results and thereby guiding and facilitating effective and coherent dialogue and action on e-waste management and system design at the international level.

    The first E-waste Academy is being co-sponsored and co-organized by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI). Further funding is currently being acquired with pledged financial support by other UN organizations, NGOs and various national governments.

    The call for applications is set to go live on 15 November 2011 and will close on 15 January 2012. The first E-waste Academy will take place on 25-29 June 2012 at the UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) in Accra, Ghana.

    For further information on the EWA vision and concept as well as more information about the project sponsors, you may also visit the E-waste Academy website at www.ewasteacademy.org, on Facebook or Twitter.

    You can also download the presentation of the EWA concept at the following link.

    On the EWA website the Call for Application and Application Form can be downloaded as well, or filled in online.

    For more information please contact the EWA Organizing Team at ewa@unu.edu.

    Businesses See Climate Change Adaptation as an Opportunity

    3BL reports that Climate Change adaptation offers competitive advantages to businesses worldwide, according to the new report, Adapting for a Green Economy: Companies, Communities and Climate Change, jointly released today by the UN Global Compact, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Oxfam and the World Resources Institute. In response to a survey of global businesses, 86 percent described responding to climate risks or investing in adaptation as a business opportunity.

    “Business can only thrive in stable and enabling environments,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. “Climate adaptation offers a pathway to help communities that are already feeling the devastating impacts of climate change. At the same time, it creates a wealth of new opportunities for the private sector.”
     
    Drawing on the results of a 2010 survey among companies engaged in Caring for Climate, the joint climate action platform of the UN Global Compact and UNEP, the study makes the business case for private sector adaptation to climate change in ways that build the resilience of vulnerable communities in developing countries. Already, businesses worldwide are beginning to see the risks and economic impacts of more frequent and intense storms, water scarcity, declining agricultural productivity and poor health.
     
    Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “We live in a world where extreme weather events on one day can move food and fuel prices the next, impacting vulnerable and poor communities and a company’s supply chain. We also live in a world where infrastructure established decades ago will become increasingly at risk to events such as storm surges and high winds, that in turn threaten the viability of the business-as-usual models of the past, and the profits or losses of firms for the future.”
     
    “There are multiple reasons why the world urgently needs a transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient Green Economy, including climate change and adapting to its impacts. This report underlines that climate-proofing is not just a responsibility of governments, but should be at the centre of more and more companies’ business models and forward-looking corporate strategies,” he added.
     
    The study suggests actions that companies and policymakers can pursue to catalyze and scale up private sector engagement. Confirming the notion that the climate threats many communities face are also business risks, 83 percent of companies surveyed responded that climate change impacts pose a risk to their products and service.
     
    “Businesses are facing increasing challenges from the rise in extreme weather events— such as droughts, heat waves and floods,” said Manish Bapna, Managing Director, World Resources Institute. “In this changing environment, companies that move first to address the risks and develop innovative strategies to adapt to climate change are likely to be the winners and gain a competitive advantage moving forward.”
     
    The study recommends, among others, that businesses integrate climate adaptation into core strategic planning and build a portfolio of climate-resilient goods and services. Addressing policy makers, the authors call for stronger policy and finance commitments to adaptation, financial and risk-reduction incentives to stimulate the market, and for new forms of public-private partnerships.
     
    “Communities around the world are already dealing with the impacts of climate change,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. “Since companies depend on community members as suppliers, customers and employees, and need to count on local services and infrastructure to be able to operate efficiently, the well-being of communities on the frontlines of climate change and the viability of companies are intricately intertwined.”
     
    The report can be found at
    http://unglobalcompact.org/docs/issues_doc/Environment/climate/C4C_Report_Adapting_for_Green_Economy.pdf.

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