12
December

Major Consumer Brands Improve Climate Scores 54%

 

Major consumer brands continued to make strong progress in corporate climate responsibility (CCR) in the past year, according to the latest review by Climate Counts.

The 2011 assessment results show Climate Counts’ average scores have improved 54% since 2007, while nearly two-thirds of companies improved their standing from 2010. Climate Counts assessed 136 companies in 16 industry sectors for their 5th annual scorecard.

“We’re witnessing a remarkable shift across the corporate community,” says Mike Bellamente, Climate Counts Project Director. “As business risks associated with climate change continue to grow, sustainability is becoming intertwined with long-term strategy at the highest levels of business. Our optimism is tempered by the reality that global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, but corporate leaders appear to be on the right track.”

Climate Counts is most encouraged by the movement at the top end of the rankings this year, with 13 companies scoring 80 points or higher (out of a maximum 100 points), representing more than triple the number of companies to achieve that threshold in 2010.

“Leading edge companies are demonstrating how climate leadership enhances their bottom line,” said Bellamente. “Of the 20 largest companies scored, 17 are scoring at the highest level.”

Unilever emerged as the top company for the first time ever, supplanting Nike, which held the top spot for three consecutive years. Unilever exemplifies the integrated approach to CCR that Climate Counts is seeing from industry leaders. Their “Sustainable Living Plan” enables Unilever to identify every opportunity across their operations to increase efficiency and reduce emissions.

Climate Counts scores the largest companies (by revenue) in 16 industry sectors on their actions to address climate change. The companies are assessed on a 100-point scale based on 22 criteria. The criteria measure a company’s efforts to assess their climate footprint, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support progress on climate legislation, and communicate their efforts clearly and comprehensively to consumers.

This year’s Climate Counts sector leaders are as follows:

  • Airlines: Southwest Airlines (55)
  • Apparel/Accessories: Nike (85)
  • Beverages – Beer: Anheuser-Busch (57)
  • Commercial Banks: Bank of America (82)
  • Consumer Shipping: UPS (80)
  • Electronics: Hewlett-Packard (83)
  • Food Products: Unilever (88)
  • Food Services: Starbucks (70)
  • Home and Office Furnishings: Herman Miller and Masco (63)
  • Hotels: Marriott (73)
  • Household Products: L’Oreal (78)
  • Internet/Software: Microsoft (68)
  • Large Appliances: AB Electrolux (80)
  • Media: General Electric (77)
  • Pharmaceuticals: AstraZeneca (86)
  • Toys & Children’s Equipment: Hasbro (52)

A report and the full 2011 Climate Counts review are available at www.climatecounts.org. The non-profit organization also has a voluntary scoring and benchmarking program called Climate Counts Industry Innovators (i2).

Bart King is a PR consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications, and a regular contributor to Sustainable Life Media.

No comments yet

30
November

‘The power is in the hands of the consumers’

Unilever CEO Paul Polman, talks about why consumers will no longer tolerate businesses that behave in unjust or unfair ways.

Who would have thought even a few years ago that one of the world’s most powerful chief executives would be advocating a transformation in society far more radical than any mainstream politician.

Paul Polman, the CEO of Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever, whose brands include Dove, Persil, Bertolli, Flora and PG Tips, says the political and economic systems are failing and that capitalism needs to be reframed to work for the common good.

He says too many companies have prospered at the expense of society and nature, and that business now has to learn to be successful while contributing to society and supporting ecosystems and biodiversity.

“We do not have to win at the expense of others to be successful,” he says. “Winning alone is not enough it’s about winning with purpose.”

He acknowledges the Occupy Wall Street movement for exposing the inequalities in society, warning that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that companies that fail to respond to the social and environmental challenges of our age, are at risk of being put out of business.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement sends out a very clear signal,” says Polman. “If you look out five or 10 years, which is my job, the power is in the hands of the consumers and they will not give us a sense of legitimacy if they believe the system is unfair or unjust. Some companies that miss the standards of acceptable behaviour to consumers will be selected out.

“I am not advocating communism or trying to turn the world into a kibbutz. Some people sometimes accuse me of being a socialist but I am a capitalist at heart. But what I want is a sustainable and equitable capitalism. Why can’t we have that as a model?”

Polman is acknowledged as one of the leaders of a small but growing band of progressive companies that believe humanity is heading for disaster unless politicians, companies and civil society join forces to respond to the challenges of social injustice, climate change, resource scarcity, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss.

“We have increasing income disparity within the developed world. We have a political system that barely functions after the economic and financial crisis. So continuing the way we are going is simply not a solution and increasingly consumers are asking for a different way of doing business and building society for the long term together.”

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan

Polman believes in walking his talk and last year launched the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, which covers all brands and 180 countries where Unilever operates, as well as its total supply chain, including the impacts of its consumers.

Unlike many other companies that concentrate on their environmental footprint, Unilever’s plan also incorporates the other two pillars of sustainability; social, and economic.

The plan seeks to double sales and halve the environmental impact of its products over the next 10 years. There is also a commitment to improve the nutritional quality of its food products – with cuts in salt, saturated fats, sugar and calories – and link more than 500,000 smallholder farmers and small scale distributors in developing countries to its supply chain.

At the heart of Polman’s thinking is the desire to show the Sustainable Living Plan is not just about doing good but about good business. By providing a concrete example of the business case for sustainability, he hopes it will convince other companies to follow suit and help convince the investment community to move away from their obsession with short-termism.

“If we hit all our targets on this plan, but no-one else follows suit, we will have failed miserably,” says Polman. “We are trying to show that you can be successful as a business and at the same time show the financial community this should be one of the better drivers for their investments.

“We are growing and our share price is doing well. So we will gain credibility. The more we can reinforce that link and show it to others, the more we can be a galvaniser in this world for good. That is what success will look like.”

Reconnecting business to a sense of purpose

At the root of his philosophy, and what drives him, is a recognition of the importance of reconnecting business to a sense of purpose beyond just making money and getting bigger.

“If you believe in something you have to fight for that and have the courage to take the tougher decisions that come with it,” he says “Having a deeper purpose to what we do as people makes our lives more complete, which is a tremendous force and motivator.

“What people want in life is to be recognised, to be part of, to grow and to have made a difference. That difference can come in many forms; by touching someone, by helping others, by creating something that was not there before.

“To work for an organisation where you can leverage this and be seen to be making a difference; that is rewarding.”

The importance of collaboration

Polman has a missionary zeal about the potential to create a better world and often works 15 plus hours a day to not only embed sustainability at the heart of Unilever’s business but also to encourage a more collaborative approach with companies, NGOs and institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations: “I only do things I am passionate about otherwise I am wasting my time,” he says the development of coalitions is essential, he believes, because change needs to come at a systemic level, which needs all major players in society to commit to change.

He cites as examples his work with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to see how business can work more effectively with the global institution, and the creation of the Consumer Goods Forum, which has agreed amongst other things to stop buying palm oil, paper, soya or beef from illegally forested areas by 2020.

Part of his thinking behind the Sustainable Living Plan was to set such ambitious targets that the company would be forced to work in partnership with others if it were to have a hope of meeting them.

“We cannot do it alone,” he says. “We have to work together. People felt uncomfortable about this inside the company, and to some extent also my board. People were concerned about what would happen if we miss the targets and saying to me that I will not be here anyway in 10 years time.

“I got all that stuff but the response overall was positive as this is the response of a human company. We do not know all the answers, we cannot do it all on our own.

“We have to play at a different level of co-operation. I think one of the main reasons is that people are understanding that international institutions and governments are not designed for all the answers.

“By making sustainability a strategy and operating model it opens doors that are beyond peoples’ imagination. We have a unique opportunity because people are realising the world is inter-dependent. In the past we might not have talked to Greenpeace or WWF, but now we are now on the phone with them every week.

“Who will refuse that journey, who will refuse to jump on the train for a better world. I ask people what is the alternative? Why would I distrust anyone who wants to work with us to achieve that, including the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

Why are so few companies embedding sustainability?

So why is it that so few other business leaders are taking the issue of sustainability into the heart of their organisations?

Polman points out that the average tenure of a CEO is only three years so there is often little motivation to take on the challenge and that most business leaders are fixated at the moment with getting through the current economic turmoil.

He also highlights the increasing complexity of the world which creates a feeling of disempowerment.

Polman says: “I use the term VUCA to describe the world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It is very difficult for people to get a total picture. The food, water, energy nexus is so inter-related that it is for most people too difficult to know where to start and where to end.”

Another concern for Polman is the motivation of the financial community. In fact Polman famously stopped quarterly reporting and drew a line in the sand by making it clear he wanted investors who were interested only in supporting the long-term health of the company.

The role of government

He believes government has a role to play here and argues for a progressive taxation system for share ownership, pointing out that equities in FTSE100 companies are held for on average just eight months.

“Most of the trading is done in nano seconds by people that you call my shareholders but who would move anywhere if they can make a quick return,” he says.

“Governments can think about frameworks to encourage longer term thinking. There could be different share structures where dividends attract a higher tax rate depending on how long you hold shares. There are options if you really want to address that issue.

“The quarterly cycles and reporting requirements, we really have to challenge those. This is the right time to do that.”

Polman says CEOs on their own cannot significantly influence the financial markets, and given that Unilever is a consumer goods company, it makes more sense to focus the company’s attention on changing the behaviour of its two billion customers, who account for the majority of the company’s environmental footprint.

“For a CEO to move the investment community is a tall order,” he says. “We are a company focussed on the consumer so we have a lot to do there.”

The role of consumers

One aspect is to encourage customers to use resources more efficiently, such as taking shorter showers and washing clothes in lower temperatures. The other is encouraging them to switch to more sustainable products.

Polman says some clear lessons have already been learnt, such as consumers will not buy ‘green’ products unless their performance is as good and they do not have to pay a premium: “If our sustainable Lipton tea does not taste good or is too expensive, they will not buy,” says Polman.

But he believes we are now entering a new era when consumers will stop buying products from companies they see are not behaving responsibly.

“Are consumers prepared to pay for sustainable tea or not – we have gone past that at 100mph,” says Polman. “The question now is are they prepared to buy from companies that are not being responsible. Consumers recognise they can drop a company instantly.

“Companies should use this knowledge to act as a force for good, become part of the responsible movement. This is not utopia, it is enlightened self interest.”

The role of progressive regulation

Polman, like other business leaders, is frustrated by the lack of clear incentives to support the transition to a sustainable society, and is a firm believer in progressive regulation that is based on incentives.

“To move things forward like carbon reduction, it would help for governments in Europe to be clear on whether they support a 30% or 40% reduction goal – and we have made it clear we don’t mind the 40% goal – but if there is not a clear framework, companies won’t invest because capital decisions take a long time.

“Business needs frameworks. I am a free enterprise person but that is not the only solution. A system where you can have positive reinforcement for the long term is more effective than rules and regulations. If I had to run my company with bibles of guidelines I would not be in business long term.

“The financial crisis of 2008 was as much a crisis as ethics and a unique opportunity to develop frameworks for the longer term.”

Polman acknowledges there is a new generation of CEOs, brought up in the 1960s, who have a more rounded view of the role of business in society.

But he believes previous generations would also have responded to the challenges facing the world “because the clarity of the issues we are facing now are so transparent. When we went into the Second World War, the business leaders combined took a decision for the greater good of the UK to fight for freedom and when they came out, to get the economy back on track. When the challenges are big enough people respond in a responsible way.”

How Unilever is embedding sustainability

It’s one thing a CEO putting his weight behind a leading-edge sustainability strategy, but how is Unilever embedding this across a company with nearly 170,000 employees operating in 180 countries, owning hundreds of brands and directly touching the lives of 5-6 million people across its supply chain.

Polman points to the importance of preparing the groundwork before going public, Cancelling quarterly reporting and changing the way employees are incentivised were two key ways of moving the company away from concentrating on the short-term. Measurement of impacts has also been critical in understanding where the company’s key impacts are and being able to set intelligent targets for improvement.

“In any company, you have to go back to what drives people. Making more money or being bigger means less and less,” he says.

“Brands with a purpose and that are values-led over time are going to be by definition more successful.

“We embed the three pillars of sustainability into our strategy, our key performance indicators, how we reward people. Our buying people have KPIs on the percentage of sustainable sourcing, we measure how many small-holder farmers we employ, we measure the full impact of water, carbon, packaging, waste, of all of our products and reward our people for moving in the right direction.”

Polman is delighted by the way staff have responded, although more work needs to be done to push change down into the middle management layers.

The engagement score in the regular staff survey leaped by 10 percentage points after the Sustainable Living Plan was launched. Polman says this shocked the survey company because they had never seen this level of change before.

“The real breakthrough is feeling it not just in the head but also in the heart and we do a lot of storytelling around that. Every country I visit I go to consumers and retailers to look at the impact of our products, the contribution our products make to society.

“People rally to this – some more than others – but it is at a critical mass.”

Reasons to be optimistic

While some people worry that the pace of change is far too slow to address the scale of problems the world is facing, Polman cautions against pessimism and suggests that the foundations for transformation are being put in place.

In the corporate world, he points to the growing number of companies reporting on their impacts and disclosing their carbon emissions and he points to the rapid growth of socially responsible investment funds in the financial markets. Beyond that he says investment banks are coming together to help halt illegal deforestation and that they are starting to think about their business models, although he recognises they are doing this under pressure from critics rather than voluntarily.

Within the field of corporate responsibility, Polman is considered to be the most influential advocate for challenging the status quo and showing that business as usual is not an option.

But he brushes aside this reputation and points out he could not have taken the position he does if the values of responsibility were not already embedded in the company’s culture.

“Don’t personalise this because this company has been a force for good,” he says. “I have the benefit of having the size of this company but there are lots of unsung heroes who do not have the resources of Unilever.

“What we are trying to do is nothing special. We are seeking to stay close to society to guarantee our future.”

Article as written in The Guardian, U.K., November 21, 2011

No comments yet

23
November

HP And Dell Earn Top Marks from Greenpeace for Greener Electronics

 

HP scored top marks in the latest version of Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics, followed by computer maker Dell. The Guide ranks 15 companies across three areas; Energy, Greener Products and Sustainable Operations. For the first time, it also sets criteria challenging companies to reduce their carbon footprint in manufacturing as well as their supply chain and through to the end-of-life phase of company products.

The latest version of the guide also features new criteria for the sourcing of paper, conflict minerals and product life cycle.

“After many of the world’s leading electronics companies rose to the challenge of phasing out the worst hazardous substances, we are now challenging them to improve their sourcing of minerals and better managing the energy use throughout the supply chain”, said Greenpeace International campaigner Tom Dowdall.

“Right now, HP takes the top spot because it is scoring strongly by measuring and reducing carbon emissions from its supply chain, reducing its own emissions and advocating for strong climate legislation. However all companies we included in the Guide have an opportunity to show more leadership in reducing their climate impact”, Dowdall added.

Computer manufacturer Dell takes second position in the Guide after jumping from tenth position in the previous version. Dell scores well for having the most ambitious climate target, with plans to reduce its emissions by 40 percent by 2020, and a strong policy on sustainable paper sourcing.

The new criteria added to this edition of the Guide are based on the creation of truly sustainable electronics industry, Greenpeace said, and include a holistic examination of key supply chain issues.

Blackberry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) is ranked for the first time and scored well on conflict minerals and sustainable paper policy. But the company ranked bottom of the table because it needs to improve reporting and disclosure of its environmental performance, Greenpeace said.

Bart King is a PR consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications, and regular contributor to Sustainable Life Media

No comments yet

7
November

Walmart, Coke, Sysco & Whole Foods Lead Fuel Cell Adoption in North America

November 1, 2011—Walmart, Coca-Cola, Sysco and Whole Foods are the leading adopters of fuel cell technology among U.S. corporations, according to a new report highlighting the strength of the U.S. fuel cell industry.

In a little more than a year, 34 corporate customers have installed, deployed or purchased more than 250 fuel cell power systems and hundreds of backup power units, totaling more than 30 megawatts (MW) of power, plus more than 1,000 fuel cell-powered forklifts.

“Companies are collectively saving millions of dollars in electricity costs while reducing carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of metric tons per year using fuel cell forklifts and power systems,” says Jennifer Gangi, program director, Fuel Cells 2000, the non-profit organization that released the report, titled “The Business Case for Fuel Cells 2011: Energizing America’s Top Companies.”

“The U.S. is the world leader in both fuel cell-forklift deployments and combined heat and power installations, with both markets dominated by American fuel cell manufacturers, helping provide jobs and opportunities for export. All the companies profiled in this report are using fuel cells from suppliers with headquarters in the U.S.,” Gangi adds.

In 2010, Fuel Cells 2000 profiled 38 companies that collectively ordered, deployed or installed 15 MW of stationary power, 1,000 forklifts and 600 backup power units. This new 2011 report includes 24 new customers and 10 companies previously profiled that purchased additional units. Companies leading the charge with fuel cell deployment include:

  • Walmart – 6.8 MW at 17 stores; 70+ forklifts
  • Coca-Cola – 2.1 MW at four locations; 72 forklifts at two bottling facilities
  • Sysco – 500+ forklifts at several locations, hundreds more on order
  • Whole Foods – 1.2 MW at four grocery stores, 60+ forklifts

“Fuel cells are not only helping businesses boost their environmental and economic bottom lines, they are also providing a much-needed assist to American manufacturing,” says Gangi. “Newcomers like NBCUniversal, Kroger, and Kaiser Permanente and repeat customers such as Coca-Cola, Walmart and AT&T are helping keep the U.S. at the head of the pack in the clean technology game.”

Bart King is frequent contributor to Sustainable Life Media and  PR consultant at Cleantech Communications

No comments yet

28
October

The New Metrics of Sustainable Business: In With The Old, In With The New . . .

October 20, 2011—Many companies that closely follow market trends make the mistake of deciding they need a “sustainability strategy.” Yes, sustainability is a transformative market trend and, yes, a strategy is always advisable. However, businesses would be much better served if they instead create a “business strategy that is sustainable.” This is a subtle yet incredibly important distinction.

Not surprisingly, under this viewpoint the “new” metrics of sustainable business look a lot like the “old” metrics of business. Financial and social indicators – such as revenue, profitability, margin, customer satisfaction, employee engagement – all continue to matter. In addition, environmental indicators have become much more prominent in both corporate disclosures as well as corporate decision-making. So, what is so different about the “new” metrics and why should you care? In this article I highlight three trends that are becoming best practice around the “new” metrics and identify three areas where “next” practices are still emerging.

Best Practices for a Business Strategy that is Sustainable

1)      Materiality

The first issue that companies need to address is that sustainability can mean many things, or even everything, to different stakeholders (see the 6-paragraph, 24-citation definition on Wikipedia if you haven’t experienced it yourself). A business strategy that is sustainable needs to clearly define what is material to each of a company’s stakeholders and provide a mechanism for remaining relevant over time. As a practical matter, this means that material issues may differ greatly for different companies, but should begin to converge at the industry/sector level.

SAP has addressed this issue by creating an interactive materiality matrix as part of our online sustainability report (Figure 1). This matrix allows stakeholders to easily provide comments using any web 2.0 log-in (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, etc.) and allows us to track and document evolutions in stakeholder views over time. Incorporating stakeholder engagements such as this, SAP has chosen to transparently report and track goals on eleven material sustainability indicators, a relevant, yet manageable number for our business.

Figure 1

2)      Radical Transparency and Real-time Engagement

Technology has completely changed the way businesses must interact with their stakeholders. Brand risk has risen significantly as the world gets more unwired and connected. There are now more wireless devices in the U.S. (>320 million) than there are people, more than 800 million active Facebook users, and over 1.1 trillion text messages sent in the U.S. alone. This allows nearly instantaneous feedback from stakeholders, both good and bad, to a large global audience.

SAP has addressed this issue by providing radical transparency and real-time engagement around our sustainability report. We have chosen to publicly provide a green arrow/red arrow dashboard around our material indicators (Figure 2) and devote 1/3 of each page to real-time stakeholder comment.

Figure 2

As one speaker at the WRI value chain launch in NYC noted, customers have a much greater trust in businesses that are transparent in their disclosures. There is a strong sense in this age of connectivity that even if one customer doesn’t independently confirm the information provided, someone has likely reviewed it.

This is not only becoming a best-practice in the corporate world, but in government as well. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 required creation of a website “to foster greater accountability and transparency in the use of funds made available in this Act.” This site includes not only a massive repository of data to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse – it also allows users to analyze the data on spending and jobs across 15 different categories at the state, congressional, county, or even city level through Recovery Explorer, including providing this transparency on a platform where users are increasingly likely to consume it – as free apps for the iPhone and iPad.

3)      Turning Data into Business-Relevant, Actionable Information

Analytics applications, such as Recovery Explorer, allow users an unprecedented view into correlations between different data sets and the ability to identify trends that were previously unapparent. Last year SAP worked with the U.S. EPA to provide similar capabilities for the public around emissions data for the electricity sector through the Clean Energy Experience site [Figure 3]. These tools allow easy visualization and analysis of the data and allow identification of trends such as how technology improvements, corporate policy, and state policy affect emissions across different regions.

Figure 3

 

The key to creating value from sustainability data is the transition from data to business-relevant actionable information. For example, at SAP we load our carbon and energy data into analytics tools and are easily able to globally benchmark data centers, identify those that are underperforming, and introduce and track corrective actions. An increased focus on energy use and identification of these types of opportunities has provided us savings of approximately a quarter billion dollars from business-as-usual trends over the past four years.

Many global companies are not only using this data to improve their corporate bottom lines, but to identify new business opportunities for their customers. As a business process software company, our largest opportunity is through helping our customer base become more efficient within their operations. This is beginning to lead to a significant global impact. Other companies, such as GE (>$85B in ecomagination revenues over past five years), and Proctor & Gamble ($26.5B in sustainable innovation product revenues) have found material improvements to revenue from new customer opportunities as well.

“Next” Practices for a Business Strategy that is Sustainable: What Areas Remain to Explore?

1)      Correlation/Causation of Environmental, Social and Financial Performance

Additional data is becoming available every year that sustainable companies outperform the market. Recently the Carbon Disclosure Project and Bloomberg released data in the Global 500 Report that show companies on the CDP Leadership Indices significantly outperformed the index. (Figure 4)

Figure 4

This adds to data released by EPA a few years ago showing correlation around energy performance leaders in various sectors and stock price. There is also an interesting Wharton study around how employee satisfaction relates to improved market performance. The recent distinction of SAP as a “Bay Area Top Workplace provides some additional correlation for our own operations.

Reasonable questions remain around whether environmental and social performance is just strongly correlated to returns (i.e. well-managed companies manage energy use well, along with other material risks and opportunities) or whether it is a root cause of this performance (i.e. implementation of best and next practices leads to new business opportunities that would not have otherwise been identified). My personal view is the latter; however, more studies in this area are certainly needed.

2)      Holistic Look at Supply/Value Chain

Another area that leading companies are beginning to address is a much more holistic view of risk and opportunity across the supply chain. Many of the same factors relevant to corporate efforts apply in the broader value chain: managing business and reputational risk, increasing efficiencies to lower costs, and innovation around safer and more sustainable products that can lead to new revenue streams.

A number of companies have created supplier “codes of conduct” to manage expectations, either voluntarily or under pressure from investors. Regulatory efforts such as the European Commission’s REACH program around chemicals of concern has been a major business driver and managing recall concerns has more companies looking at full product and batch traceability in their supply chains. For “next” practices, SAP recently piloted the WRI/WBCSD value chain protocol and now has a more holistic view of carbon/energy use across our entire value chain.

There remain many challenges around a holistic view of value chains, from standardization of data/reporting to willingness to share potentially confidential business information with customers, and the potentially vast amounts of datapoints required from continuously evolving supplier and customer relationships. There are many organizations working to create consensus around multi-stakeholder engagements, such as The Sustainability Consortium, WRI/WBCSD, Sustainable Apparel Coalition , and Carbon Disclosure Project , however, there is still a great need for harmonization of this work around different industry sectors, inclusion of multiple impact factors (from human rights, to chemicals, to calculated impacts around embedded energy/climate effects, etc.), and minimizing impact on small business.

3)      Accounting for Non-Financial Indicators: Integrating Financial and Non-Financial Reporting

A final issue of vital importance to the “mainstreaming” of sustainability is the relationship between traditional financial and non-financial indicators, or “what belongs on the balance sheet?” Investor interest in the issue has increased immensely over the past decade with investors representing over $71 trillion requesting data through the Carbon Disclosure Project  and investors representing over $20 trillion calling for policy action to stimulate private-sector investment in climate change solutions.

SAP provides an online sustainability report that goes into significant depth around our sustainability performance based on the GRI Reporting Framework at the A+ level (including third-party financial auditor assurance of the data). We have also chosen to include sustainability data in our Annual Report as “non-financial key performance indicators” and to discuss these topics on financial analyst calls since our quarter-billion dollar savings is significant to our business. However, much work remains around accounting for non-financial indicators let alone exploration of moving towards a more integrated report.

There is a lot of interest in additional research and developing frameworks for this topic. The International Integrated Reporting Committee is moving forward with piloting an overall framework for integrated reporting. The Dow Chemical Company and the Nature Conservancy have announced a partnershipon developing valuation for “Eco-System Services”, and groups such as HIP Investor are moving forward with pilots on “Human Resource Valuation.”

Next Steps

Great work has been done in many of these areas and much hard work remains to be done as we continue our journey towards a more sustainable business and more sustainable economy. In-depth discussions around many of these next practices will take place at Wharton next Monday during “Redefining Value: The New Metrics of Sustainable Business” and I look forward to continuing our progress there.


Jim Sullivan brings over 19 years of experience to his role as Vice President, Sustainability Management & Strategy at SAP.

No comments yet