Putting “Responsible Business” Out of Business — For Good

My latest for EarthPeople Media and the wonderful Anna Clark.


Putting “Responsible Business” Out of Business

Christine Bader’s book The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: Girl Meets Oil offers hope and practical advice for anyone trying to stimulate meaningful change in our multi-stakeholder, shareholder-beholden, profits-focused world. Doing this kind of work is hard, but then again, pretty much anything worthwhile usually is.

The book tells Christine’s story of working with BP before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and then with a United Nations effort to prevent and address human rights abuses linked to business. In addition to her own “Corporate Idealist” story, the book profiles other outsider-insiders who are working for positive change from within major corporations. The book concludes with a must-read Corporate Idealist Manifesto that makes room for morality as well as the business case.

I first met Christine at the 2014 Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego this past June where she was a panel moderator. At lunch one day, we started talking about the role of human rights in the CSR conversation and then continued our conversation later by phone. We started our call by talking about how strange it is that “Responsible Business” is a category at all.

Why do we accept that as the default?” said Christine. “It’s like saying, ‘Some of my money is in socially responsible mutual funds.’ But what does that mean the rest of my money is in? I think the whole mission is actually to make the ‘corporate idealist’ label and ‘responsible business’ redundant.”

From there we talked about collaborations, how human rights can add structure to the CSR conversation, and what’s ahead for the world’s Corporate Idealists:

Claire: I’m interested in the business collaborations that are starting to pop up in our world like We Mean Business, the new Risky Business Report, and everything that BSR is doing. What do you see coming for the CSR world in the near future? Do you believe that business will be able to affect US policy in the next four years?

Christine: Well, I mean business has always impacted policy in the US, and I think that some would argue that business has too much influence over policy in the US. But you’re asking a slightly different question, which is can business influence policy for the better?

In the US, certainly I think it’s clear that business does have the capacity to influence policy. And so, yes, I think that business standing up and saying climate change is important and we need policy can actually spur regulators to act because sometimes they’re reluctant to act because they assume that business wants nothing less than more regulation. But actually that is not the case. What business wants is consistent regulation and predictability. And right now business does not have that on the environment or on corporate responsibility more generally.

So, I’m not at all surprised that there are coalitions of companies calling for legislative action on climate change because they need certainty to be able to invest at the scale that we need them to and want them to.

Claire: Are you aligned with any of these coalitions or collaborations besides BSR?

Christine: I’m part of the Global Network Initiative, which is the voluntary initiative by Google and Microsoft and Yahoo! It was created by them, and a few other companies have joined since working with human rights groups, socially responsible investors, and some academics, which is the capacity that I’m a part of that. And I’ve been involved with others over the years like the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights when I at BP and the Business Leaders’ Initiative on Human Rights when I was working for the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights.

Q: Do you see any shifts happening in the industry for better business practices?

Christine: Yes. I think that these collaborative initiatives are really powerful. And I think they are really a positive trend. I really am heartened to see that companies realize that these are noncompetitive issues. At the beginning of the Global Network Initiative, seeing Google and Microsoft and Yahoo! get into a room with human rights groups was quite astounding. The extractive industries are sort of used to it because that’s part of their business. They’re fierce competitors, but they’re also joint venture partners in a lot of places around the world.

For the tech industry, it’s been interesting to see them on the same journey to build trust and recognize that these issues are noncompetitive, and that it behooves them to work together and to work with human rights groups. I think it was tough because a lot of tech companies are founded on the premise that they are all about free expression and changing the world. For them, it was new to say, “What do you mean we have problems and present risks to users? That’s not our intent.”

And of course it’s not their intent. But there are risks in many of their products and services. And so, to see them come around to collaboration with human rights groups has actually been really heartening. I think that’s really positive. I think companies and everybody else are understanding that these big issues will not be tackled by any company alone, and that collaboration is really the way forward.

Claire: Any predictions about what may be ahead for breakthroughs?

Christine: I think that it will be really interesting to see how the the role of human rights in this conversation evolves in the next few years because the endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011 was a really big milestone. It was the first time that there was multi-stakeholder, global consensus on the human rights responsibilities of corporations.

I think that it’s a really helpful framework for companies to use because there is a universal declaration of human rights that was agreed more than 60 years ago by the international community. It’s helpful because there is no universal declaration of sustainability or CSR. And I think that’s where a lot of the frustration with CSR emanates from because companies have to kind of figure it out for themselves.

Claire: Where do you see openings or possibilities for companies to bring human rights more into the CSR conversation?

Christine: One of the things that I’m doing right now is facilitating a human rights working group for BSR. This is a few dozen member companies across industries who come together every couple of months to talk about how to integrate human rights into their companies. And I don’t think any of them have human rights in their titles. But they know that this is important and that it’s helpful and that the guiding principles are now an expectation of stakeholders.

Claire: How are you getting the message about being a corporate idealist out, in addition to speaking at industry and CSR events?

Christine: One important way is to speak at business schools. And when I go, I’m not just speaking to the Net Impact club or sustainability varsity team. Second is the writing that I’m doing in the general media, that I hope serves some of that purpose as well. The ones for The Atlantic have totally caught fire. And I’ve been a guest a couple of times on a BBC World service show called Business Matters.

Claire: How can we help people move past the blocks of not wanting to think about things like child labor or human rights abuses?

Christine: A couple of the people who I interviewed who work in the supply chains said that there are a couple of different stages to their work. The first one is building awareness of issues like child and forced labor in their supply chains.

The second stage, which is perhaps more important, is getting their colleagues past wanting to say, “Oh my God, there’s a kid there. Cut and run.” It’s their job to try to explain that running from the situation will actually make it worse for the children. I think we’re all trying to figure out how to move into the next phase, which is addressing root causes.

Claire: Well, it’s incredibly helpful because that really diagnoses the problem and gives you a chance to fix it for good.

Christine: I think a lot of people are coming to recognize that having a multinational company in a developing country can help shine a light and help bring good practice.

Claire: What else can Corporate Idealists do to help their companies be better?

Christine: Know that sharing the stories of the people and communities that a company affects is part of your job. So many people that I interviewed talked about how important it was for them to get out in the field, for them not to lose sight of the workers in the factories and in the communities. And then bring those stories back into headquarters. I mean spreadsheets are important, but they only get you so far. Whether it was telling stories or bringing in photos or arranging senior executive trips out to the field, it was so important to bear witness. That’s when people really get it.

This Week’s Reading, Writing, Links

Did you know that Mars (the chocolate company) helped sequence the cocoa genome? Here it is: http://t.co/yQbaCefW0I

And Chinese Pres Xi Jinping too. Obama to Attend Sept UN Climate Event in NY. http://t.co/WwmrpPVYNA

NJ Nessie. This story has legs. Or doesn’t it?: Anaconda Possibly in Lake Hopatcong http://t.co/qefXJ0l7OY

Coffeebreak: Inspiring 15-mi vid w/ Levi’s Paul Dillinger. A Top 10 #SB14sd talk for me. http://t.co/jMCgCSWWz3

+1 for John Friedman’s thoughtful comment on Guardian Sust Biz green rankings piece. http://t.co/s2Oj4zoWXP

Great share! 8 Strategies To Strengthen Quality Of Yr Twitter Comm http://t.co/ZwX0DQdK3V

By me: Run a $100 Million 3BL Company for 5 Yrs, in Just 3 days. http://t.co/ObjM40RNiI @USCCFbiz4good

Read the new NJPACE newsletter: NJ biz & towns can fund conservation & renewables http://t.co/KZwBof1NDR

Millenials who care about #CSR issues, will also drive biz change, says Intel’s #CR head Jacobson. #CSR14

Intel’s Jacobson says B2B having big impact on #CSR right now because people are putting pressure on biz to do more #CSR14

Appreciate Renny Ponvert Management CV offering ethical, fiduciary responsiblity, long-term, & focus on ppl running the biz #CSR14

Renny Ponvert Management CV says his co focuses on good governance as “invisible hand” that drives good #esg & on to good returns #CSR14

AllianceBernstein’s Giuliano noting that E & S impacts can have diff time horizons with investor goals compared w/G. Interesting #CSR14

Surprised so small: #SRI mutual funds acct for 2% of long term assets under mgmt, per panel speaker | 2nd Annual #CSR14

Exclusionary fund design alone give returns at or below benchmark, but integrating #esg boosts average returns | 2nd Annual #CSR14 Summit

Hearing how investor community is integrating & considering #csr &#esg | 2nd Annual CSR Summit @snet_Indexes @thomsonreuters #CSR14

+1 for inspiring sustainable tech solutions from @WayneVisser http://t.co/mHlOSRkSE8

By me: Businesses Standing Up 4 #Climate Policy http://t.co/fk0nwAcdLP

How to track corporate action on #climate change http://t.co/ct9W2ilMOa

Skimp on #csr = leaving value on the table MT @AndreaLearned: @SSIReview The Upside of #CSR http://t.co/TqfLPZxwCY

“Modeling Complex Systems Is Really Hard” Grats for smart ppl like @Katenrg & journo @jeffspross http://t.co/nMx8TsbjJU

“Daring to live the lives we know we could.” Incisive, cutting, acidic insight by @umairh https://t.co/Io93Sn2xCC

By me. Why #sustainability requires #leadership training http://t.co/tHY7dEGIFm

Fascinating science. 1st-of-its-Kind Map Details Extent of #Plastic in 5 #Ocean Gyres http://t.co/B3MKJiwNwh

This matters because #carbon #divest is a morals issue: World Council of Churches #FossilFuels announcement http://t.co/PjAauF0DQX

MT @chadbolick Dusty piece on biz and society feels 10 y/o no mention of #sharedvalue? http://t.co/6L5mIMn8PE

How much do I love that Bittman talks #externalities: The True Cost of a Burger http://t.co/60J4D314nB

Motivating Corporations to Do Good http://t.co/6L5mIMn8PE

Great ending: If you’re not interested in long-term success, maybe you aren’t really a stakeholder. http://t.co/IWSDedD4ho

“Because it’s the right thing to do” +1 MT @AmanSinghCSR Companies & This #Sustainability Thing http://t.co/RnIQeF4PWN

VERY helpful explainer on where NJ gets its power today & future issues http://t.co/1YSM5ZbcnP

Many thanks to NJ Spotlight for covering NJ climate issues! There’s imp. momentum for #RGGI & #GWRA. http://t.co/PExiSEpdK6


Run a $100 Million Triple-Bottom-Line Company for Five Years, in Just 3 days

Happy to share this 3BL piece I wrote for Transitioning to Green and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

What if new technology-enabled, hands-on training programs could help business people gain years of sustainability leadership insight in just days?

Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot, saw a demo of the GlobStrat program recently and here’s what he said about it: “What’s interesting about the GlobStrat game is how it sets up real-world conditions. Players can’t avoid dealing with the hard stuff of debt, balance sheets, global competition and multi-year investment time frames. It forces you to grapple with the financial and business realities that go into achieving a triple-bottom-line result for the long term.”

There’s growing momentum in the business world to respond to the global challenges laid out by Andrew Winston in The Big Pivot.

But actually making it happen — at scale — is still a huge practical challenge. There’s a gap between knowing what to do, and actually doing it. A Dec. 2013 report by MIT SMR neatly defined it as the divide between the “talkers” and “walkers.”*

There is the tried-and-true way to handle this, of course. If you want to get good at running a profitable business that’s also socially responsible, run one. Enter new markets. Develop new products. Invest in sustainable practices. Give yourself 5 years. I bet you’ll win some. You’ll lose some (maybe a lot). But you’ll learn.

The trouble is, the world can’t wait for all the leaders we need to run a $100M triple-bottom-line company for 5 years. Or to shoulder all the risks involved if they fail.

And compounding that inertia is that the scale of the problems we face today means that we need getting more employees — not just senior types — up to speed on what goes into running a profitable, socially and environmentally responsible company.

So the gap isn’t about why businesses should pursue more sustainable outcomes, or even what to do. It’s managing the heavy trade-offs of cash flow and share price and real-world complications. It’s answering the question: What should we do and how are we going to pay for it?

Last year, I took a course that speeds up learning as a solution to this problem. It uses a combination of classroom learning, virtual meetings, intense teamwork, and an online business simulation platform. I came out of it a better business person with a vastly broadened understanding of how every part of a business has to work together if you want to achieve sustainable outcomes.

A compressed 3-day version of the Leadership for Sustainability program is running July 30-Aug. 1 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in Washington, D.C. Here’s a link to learn more.

The course features an online business simulation called GlobStrat where teams compete head-to-head to build and grow a triple-bottom-line company. Each team gets $100m in capital to run their company successfully — or into the ground — over 5 years, completely risk-free.

Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot, saw a demo of the program recently and here’s what he said about it: “What’s interesting about the GlobStrat game is how it sets up real-world conditions. Players can’t avoid dealing with the hard stuff of debt, balance sheets, global competition and multi-year investment time frames. It forces you to grapple with the financial and business realities that go into achieving a triple-bottom-line result for the long term.”

Many non-finance people (including me) in my class reported that this gave them a completely new understanding and appreciation of the CFO’s role in achieving sustainable outcomes.

Each decision gets weighed from a financial perspective by exploring the cost-benefit analysis from a triple-bottom-line perspective. The GlobStrat game bakes in all those choices, so my team could see how a decision changed the balance sheet dashboard, in real time, often for the better.

The course is led by Dr. Jeana Wirtenberg (author of the 2014 book, Building a Culture for Sustainability, with a foreword by Andrew Winston) and her team at Transitioning to Green. A previous class last winter included senior and middle level leaders from BASF, Honeywell, Novartis, Alcoa, Church and Dwight, Sanofi, and Alcatel-Lucent.

And there are two more good reasons why this course might be just what you and your team have been looking for.

I’m encouraged that this course is being hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, right across the street from the White House. The Foundation is a separate nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I personally find this to be a hopeful setting for a sustainability leadership program that addresses environmental issues head-on as one of the major challenges leaders and businesses face today.

Here’s the second. Two years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Jim Hartzfeld, formerly of Interface, speak at a conference. He talked about how he, Ray Anderson and their colleagues never talked about technologies. Rather, they talked about people. Hartzfeld said that our job as sustainability professionals should be about, “Accelerating learning rather than being an expert of knowing.” What he meant by this is that sustainability know-how has to live and breathe beyond senior-level or siloed departments. Knowing how to run a business sustainably—for people, the planet and profit—is a leadership responsibility at all levels and every function.

If you agree with this assessment, then the Jul 30-Aug. 1 Leadership for Sustainability program is worth checking out.

The problems we face are fundamentally beyond the reach and influence of any of us as individuals, employees of a company, or citizens of a country. We need to collaborate, negotiate, take risks, and accept responsibility for the consequences of our decisions and the results and impacts we produce — together. And the faster we learn to do that, the better.

This course is a step in that direction.

The #CVSEffect in Action: Wagon Train Edition — IKEA, GM, Mars Stand Up for Climate Policy

Here’s my latest for Sustainable Brands.

Previous articles in this series talked about leading businesses taking bold steps on their own for the common good — because it’s the right thing to do — even if it costs the company financially in the short term.

This time I want to point to the latest wave of businesses working collaboratively on the urgent, common ground issues of renewable energy and climate policy. In America’s history of westward expansion and exploration, pioneer families came together in wagon trains for mutual support. In the same way, the examples below show that businesses are taking action, together, to ensure a more certain future that’s good for all of us and for business.

To start off, a June 2014 clean energy report by Ceres, WWF and Calvert Investments supports the idea that this trend is gaining momentum. The report makes the case that big US companies are already investing in renewable energy as a basic “business as usual” material issue, including UPS, Cisco Systems, PepsiCo, United Continental and General Motors. These and the other companies in the report have already saved a billion dollars in energy costs and upped their business planning certainty. Far from a fringe or boutique concern, renewable energy investment is about knowing where your energy is going to come from tomorrow, and having some sense of how much it will cost.

It’s worth noting that several cross-sector partnerships and multi-stakeholder groups for climate issues have been working on these issues for years. The UK- and EU-focused Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group first convened in 2007. And the US-focused group BICEP has been advocating for energy and climate legislation since 2008, with its Climate Declaration attracting over 700 corporate signatories to date. (For more examples of creative, effective partnerships on climate-impacting issues, take a look at Sustainable Brands’ collaboration and co-creation channel.)

But just in the past three months, there have been several high-profile announcements, as well as one intriguing low-key entry. These are four groups to watch:

1. March 2014 — Business Alliance for the Future Meets for First Time
The Business Alliance for the Future is a new alliance of alliances that’s being organized and supported by about 40 business affiliations including BSR, B Team, Ceres, World Business Academy, SVN, National Association of Women Business Owners, Young Presidents’ Organization and others to “to connect, magnify and exponentially accelerate, business’ role in building a world where business excels, people thrive and nature flourishes.”

The group first met in March in Santa Barbara, CA and it is scheduled to meet again in October at the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value at Case Western University. The Alliance is formulating its strategy around the intention to dramatically impact existing game-changing projects (to the tune of 5x in 5 years) by fostering action-oriented collaboration.

According to Alliance member Jeana Wirtenberg, co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise, who is heading up one of the working groups, “There are several collaborative action team initiatives already well under way, including: amplifying and spreading a new business narrative; creating 100 percent renewable energy economy; participating, aligning around, and designing a grand economic strategy; and developing and implementing a new corporate scorecard and metrics.”

2. May 2014 — We Mean Business Coalition Launches
While we don’t have specifics yet about what this group will tackle, We Mean Business stated goal on their website is to call for “ambitious climate policy and bold climate action.” The group is like a super-pod of business action leadership, with partners from BSR, CERES, CDP, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Climate Group, and the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, in conjunction with Nike and IKEA.

3. June 2014 — Small Business Poll Shows Support for Market-Stabilizing Rules
In late June, the American Sustainable Business Council released poll results showing that US small business owners support climate rules for market stability and predictability.

The survey found that “clear majorities of small business owners are concerned about how climate change will affect their companies, including its impact on energy costs, health care costs and the infrastructure they depend on. Survey respondents voiced strong support for government action to address climate change, specifically, efforts to limit carbon pollution from power plants which produce a third of all U.S. carbon emissions.”

I find this poll interesting because it shows that leaders from small US businesses are on the same page when it comes to wanting business certainty in the face of climate instability as many of their colleagues at global behemoths.

4. July 2014 — Launch of Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles
And on July 11, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) announced that 12 major companies — spanning communications, manufacturing, consumer goods and tech — are jointly asking utilities and energy suppliers to offer more renewable energy products.

The Buyers’ Principles provide a coordinated starting point for what these companies need in terms of options, financing, contracts and emissions levels. The inaugural signers are Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Procter and Gamble, REI, Sprint, and Walmart. I’m hoping that this will be an unmistakable unmet need signal to the energy market that yes, business wants more renewables and is willing to pay for them.

In my mind, these groups are coming together now for one profound reason. With government paralysis on one side and entrenched lobbying for the fossil fuel status quo on the other, the Cavalry isn’t coming. If renewable energy and climate action are going to be truly become Business as Usual for successful companies — as Ceres’ clean energy report posits — then business has to make it happen.

Together, I see all these efforts leading up to this September’s UN Climate Summit in New York City, where business will be asked to take on larger and more meaningful commitments. Just last week, the UN event’s organizers and partners called for business leaders willing to stand up for carbon pricing “as a necessary and effective measure to tackle climate change.”

And then, it will be time to take all this positive forward momentum to the COP21 meeting in Paris in December 2015. That’s where, once again, the entire world will attempt to agree on climate action and who is going to pay for it. I’m hopeful that, by the time we get there, collaborative efforts like these will have blazed the trail for business to be a major part of the solution.

Why Sustainability Leadership Matters and How to Get It

Happy to share this Greenbiz piece I wrote for Transitioning to Green & the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Why sustainability requires leadership training

Sustainability is now firmly on the radar screen of business. Along with their ongoing focus on economic issues, two-thirds of executives and managers now consider social and environmental issues as significant or very significant concerns. Yet only 10 percent of leaders say they are fully addressing these issues. Those who have been able to embed sustainability into core functions of their companies are reaping significant benefits.

Sustainability is one of those big openings that hold enormous promise. It requires teams to know not only what it means and why it’s important, but also how it can be actualized in a business. And as always, it takes excellent leadership skills to turn good ideas into tangible results.

For every highly-influential leader who may have the clout to put sustainability on the table, it takes a whole team of skillful champions working together to make sustainability a reality.

Throughout my career, and in my role at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, I’ve witnessed what’s possible when business leaders set a powerful agenda and then pull together the teams that get it done. Those game-changing initiatives take commitment, talent, hard work and time.

One problem we face as leaders today is that we developed our leadership talents, and gained business success, in environments that were much more predictable than those our businesses face now. The business challenges surrounding resource constraints, erratic markets, extreme weather, economic volatility and social change have become the new normal described by Andrew Winston in The Big Pivot. These conditions, along with innovations in technology that have interconnected our world, have infused the business landscape with a never-before-seen radical level of transparency. All this has left business leaders with much less control than they would ideally want.

Making sustainability happen — at scale — and with the speed required to reap returns on investment under these conditions, requires business leadership to rethink and remix their skill sets to develop the versatility and agility they need.

Sustainability leadership training

The value to leaders of developing collaborative relationships that are cross-functional and inter-industry cannot be emphasized enough in regard to sustainability. The USCCF and other forward-thinking business-focused organizations have a critically important role to play in moving sustainability forward by providing venues where business leaders can learn what they need to be highly effective in a complex, rapidly changing world. The recent Sustainable Brands Conference is one example of how this can be done. GreenBiz VERGE events are another.

We also see a huge opportunity for a new kind of leadership training: one that gets at the hands-on, nuts-and-bolts of actually running a profitable, socially responsible company, and ensures that business leaders at all levels and key job functions — including operations and production, R&D, marketing and sales, human resources and finance — are equipped with both the “why” and the “how” of sustainability.

We believe that to be successful, leadership must engage enough people so that sustainability practices permeate the organization. That’s the reason our LeaderShip for Sustainability three-day training program aims at causing such breakthroughs as garnering C-suite support for integrating sustainability throughout the entire organization and in every function, or implementing sustainability employee-resource groups and green teams throughout the organization to engage employees at every level and make sustainability goals their own.

We’ve been watching the rise of gamification in business that helps employees discover, learn and practice hard-core business skills (while including the human side) in a low-risk environment, as DeloitteGartner, and others have noted. While it’s still an emerging arena, gamification has huge potential to help people learn and gain insights about making sustainability real in their business. And doing it in days, rather than years.

That’s why we apply a learning model that integrates sustainability concepts and best practices with hands-on experience through gamification that simulates an actual business. We believe this approach models for companies what they can do internally to accelerate learning and to have their leaders gain relevant experience with minimal risk.

We believe that each of us has a role to play in responsibly managing our planet’s resources and making a positive contribution to society, while generating business opportunities and results that benefit many people both locally and across the globe. Many of you have your own experiences to share. Now that you know what we’ve been up to, we’d love to hear what you are doing to champion sustainability.

3 Takeaways from “Building a Sustainable Brand

I got three terrific takeaways from the July 9 Do Sustainability webinar “Building a Sustainable Brand” with Edelman’s Henk Campher (@AngryAfrican) and Marks and Spencer’s Mike Barry (@planamikebarry).

1. “Is it relevant to ME?” is the KEY consumer question for creating sustainable products, which are the bedrock of a sustainable brand.

2. A cigarette is still a harmful product, no matter how sustainably it’s made. This is a great insight for remembering to consider how you make something–the process–as well as what you make–the product.

3. Henk showed a great slide for illustrate where your company is on the sustainability continuum.

One one end is Marlboro, which does not consider sustainability at all as part of its core value proposition.

And on the other end, Method, which has sustainability built in to the company’s DNA.









I loved how Henk used real examples of companies that everyone knows to make his point.

This week’s Reading, Writing and Links

Kudos to my colleague Jeana Wirtenberg for her Stanford Social Innovation Review piece on 3 transformative business sustainability trends http://t.co/oIzOWPfIx1

Three takeaways from the July 9 Do Sustainability webinar “Creating a Sustainable Brand” with Henk Campher @AngryAfrican and Mike Berry @planamikebarry

1. “Is it relevant to ME?” is the KEY consumer question for creating sustainable products, which are the bedrock of a sustainable brand

2. A cigarette is still a harmful product, no matter how sustainably it’s made. Great @AngryAfrican insight regarding product vs. process.

3. Henk Campfer lays out how companies embed sustainability as a value proposition journey, from Marlboro to Method:









Because money. NJspotlight Opinion: Why Doesn’t the NJDEP Believe in Global #Climate Change? http://t.co/01Zo7E4cSe

Helpful level-setting: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Private Equity’s Sustainability Progress http://t.co/cqEt28DOF4

Breaking the “Isn’t it tacky?” taboo re foodwaste. Nope. Waste is tacky. http://t.co/XIGXfE5Oeg

Let’s hope so. Can thousands of environmental and social justice groups in US join forces to challenge the economic status quo?

Carbonbrief asked energy companies if climate action could lead to ‘stranded assets’. Their response: http://t.co/yODRaFS6GR

Nicely done. “In Truth There Is Beauty” http://t.co/6HWVx0ezbC

Can Quirky model serve corporate sustainability behavior change as well as making more things? http://t.co/KhuZU2Ozlm

Restraint as a value for greater good. @timoreilly “Orgs should actively resist winner-takes-all strategies” http://t.co/o2cz7D13e8

Cogent thinking on Resilience as a strategic frame. The End of #Sustainability http://t.co/Gs6rc9fgRQ

Rubber meet road. Andrew Winston’s free ebook on setting context/science-based metrics & targets. http://t.co/QtDYGVIDab

June 2014 Reading, Writing and Links

Food & flowers: ‘People’s Garden’ Will Bring #Sustainability Showcase to DC’s National Mall http://t.co/hNV4YeoBgW

Read @ReachScale’s take on where corporate sustainability stretch goals are reaching w/collaboration & partnerships http://t.co/ZzhP0XTiK2

Especially in NJ! American Sustainable Business Council says 87% of #smallbiz say climate change could affect their business http://t.co/TiscW5720t

Check the last graf–there’s meat on that bone. #RiskyBusiness fostering importan climate convos http://t.co/tA9Jsv94ji

Thks to NJ Climate Alliance for new science-based policy recs for our citizens’ safety & prosperity #NJenviro http://t.co/XdK4L7nmVV

Insight from my colleague @JeanaWirtenberg: @Starbucks ‘s degree program signals a value shift to good http://t.co/xoKSZIWo9Z

(Ghostwrote) My latest blog on our sustainability leadership training Jul 30-Aug 1 in DC http://t.co/386VxhPeSG

Give it away. “We don’t want a competitive edge in sustainability,we will share” M Bolland CEO @marksandspencer #PlanA2020

My latest for Sustainable Brands: The #CVSEffect in Action: SAP, Starbucks, Tesla Show How to Lead by Sharing Information http://t.co/OQVwairz6V

Inspired: A pastor’s climate leadership call to care for family & flock http://t.co/7c5y5Z2HKU

And show CSR leadership. It’s Time Climate Change Believers in Business Came Out of the Closet http://t.co/qQ2yKZ5vtL

Here’s a garden-sized conversation that’s useful for scaling up big-picture #sustainability convos. Food 4 thought. http://t.co/BApLe8vBSE

Climate positivity: 6 Student-Led Tech Projects That Battle Climate Change http://t.co/agbdIQ5BB8

Strong smart op-ed info here: Top 10 Reasons Why Business Should Love a Carbon Price http://t.co/r3AQLISnyV

Help coming for all biz, all sectors for science-based absolute carbon targets from CDP, WorldResources and WWF http://t.co/LmJbdUfoYM

Good read: Why NJ isn’t winning on global #innovation. It can. Ideas include sustainability leadership http://t.co/o8k… Jun 20, 2014

Not “largely unnoticed shift” here. Gratitude for smart ppl working for climate action. http://t.co/MkNlNfBbbB

“But with microbeads apparently on their way out, ban supporters say the lesson is that public pressure can pay off” http://t.co/32uTyKADYu

What we say–and how–matters for CSR results, says @HBSWK. So let’s say what we mean and then do it. http://t.co/axUj6NNHbO

Put equity first: Why sustainability is not a stool or a pretzel, but a Möbius strip http://t.co/DQge76E6VP

“If you aren’t telling your #sustainability story, you’re not having that conversation with your customers.” Barry Dambach, @Alcatel_Lucent

Good riddance for better biz: Cut TLAs in NEO (new employee orientation). Common sense when you see it #thewritertalks @TheWriter

Fascinating research & event updates from #Rutgers #Climate Institute #actonclimate http://t.co/ZCcxQScJLl #NJenviro #NJ Jun 16, 2014

Check these great #smallbiz #susty tips! 1) Use cloud 2) Buy #green 3) Reduce #ewaste #waste http://t.co/PSoEQWSjdr

Thoughtful read on real-world carbon solutions: The costs of losing social license http://t.co/57WH6bovEz

EPA Too Fixated on the ‘Global’ in Global Warming, Says U.S. Chamber http://t.co/X7l0n2c97j

Interested in #WeMeanBusiness & #BICEP? This @GuardianSustBiz gives history & examples of biz lobbying for good #CSR http://t.co/G8pai8fpEs

GOOD advice for #susty #social #CSR convos from @TheWriter’s Anelia Vareles. Manage your convos, don’t control http://t.co/XGsnm5ST9t

1st rule of Climate Change Club is, don’t talk about #Climate Change (if you’re a conservative) @vox http://t.co/xTJ94w95js

For #SB14sd ‘ers who enjoyed @joconfino on mindfulness in biz, see his Mar2014 @GuardianSustBiz piece http://t.co/JNjtRwv0Tj

One to watch: New climate #WeMeanBusiness grp: “getting politically unstuck to #ActOnClimate http://t.co/rn3ss6Zyqs

Power of intention: “Developing ourselves and reconnecting is how we’re going to change the world.”

By me. Getting to Zero: Multiple Sectors Convene Around #Deforestation #SB14sd http://t.co/74TiHKhbaH

Left brain, by me: How Postmodernism Can Help Yr Company’s #Sustainability #Metrics. Really. @SustainBrands http://t.co/DrTtcFeF3C

Read, pls. “You should never have expectations for other people. Just be kind to them.” http://t.co/0YiR8W8N5t

Just in time for #SB14sd, my review of @JeanaWirtenberg ‘s “Building a Culture for Sustainability” http://t.co/sC1mpbBybE

3 better-than-microbead choices http://t.co/9A8OZcT2Hs With a nice h/t to my piece http://t.co/OWTCekhncI


The ‘CVS Effect’ in Action: SAP, Starbucks, Tesla Show How to Lead by Sharing Information

Here’s my latest for Sustainable Brands.

Here are three new examples of the CVS Effect in action that show how brands can change how business operates — for the better (the “CVS Effect” is shorthand for recognizing brands that are doing the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do). In these cases, the “right thing” is choosing to share information and resources, even when there’s a risk of losing market dominance or taking a financial hit.

In the past few years, we’ve seen a surge in businesses coming together to work on sustainability issues that span entire supply chains, affect sectors as a whole and transcend location. It’s been called collaborative competition, co-opetition, and the Collaboration Economy.

A well-known example is the three-year-old Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

Another is what Sustainable Brands ’14 attendees experienced inside the conference’s Activation Hub tent. This convivial, shared physical space showed how collaborative conversations and sharing knowledge can work in the real world, in real time.

And just last week, the open innovation platform LAUNCH announced its newest System Challenge for breakthrough ideas in Green Chemistry.

But while these examples are important, they’re about strength in numbers. What I’d like to highlight in the examples below are these leaders’ willingness to stick their necks out beyond a short-term horizon to a possibility of radically transformed marketplaces

On June 12, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk announced he’s making the electric car company’s secret, patented information available to everyone, in order to turbocharge the rollout of electric vehicles (EVs).

The potential risk, of course, is that competitors that have lagged in the EV space might now leapfrog ahead of Tesla in the marketplace. This could be a real-life Innovator’s Dilemma, if you will, where the person who initially creates a new product, service or market gets crushed by the ones who follow.

But as a long play, it’s a good bet. Tesla can’t roll out electric cars if there’s nowhere to charge them and no one interested in buying them. Giving away the company’s patents raises the floor for all players — it’s like the ultimate golf handicap — for faster, broader EV innovation and adoption that good for everyone (Only a week later, Nissan & BMW are reportedly discussing how to work together on charging networks).

Then on June 16, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced that the coffee giant wants to help its 135,000 workers go to college — for free. The reasons he gave for this move are to help close the inequality gap and help more Americans graduate from college without debt.

My first thought about the potential risks is that Starbucks stands to lose trained workers once they have a college degree in hand and are better qualified for jobs outside of Starbucks.

But that’s not what’s likely to happen. PwC’s 2013 NextGen research shows that millennial workers want to work for companies that care about more than the bottom line. So this “goodwill” benefit may wind up making Starbucks’ people — now better educated, college-degree holding — even more loyal.

This move is also notable because it blows the traditional tuition reimbursement benefit out of the water in terms of breadth and scope. A partnership with digital learning giant ASU offers Starbucks more opportunities to more workers companywide than would be economically feasible with the old reimburse-money-for-grades model.

And finally, on June 17, SAP’s 6-week MOOC course “Sustainability and Business Innovation” ended, having attracted over 16,000 students (including me).

Course instructor and SAP CSO Dr. Peter Graf was a knowledgeable, personable guide to how SAP approaches sustainability innovation. His weekly videos made the course feel like a personal experience, even though I was one of thousands in a global virtual classroom.

The potential risks here are the same as Tesla’s, albeit at a much lower wattage. By pulling the curtain back on how SAP innovates for its clients, there’s the chance that others will do just that.

Obviously, the course brought the company good press. But I believe the real reason is about leadership. Since SAP is in the business of helping companies manage their resources more effectively, it has knowledge and experience to share that can help jump-start sustainability innovation and progress across industries and sectors.

When it comes to sustainable innovation and sustainable supply chains, I believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. And that it’s the leaders from forward-looking brands — such as Musk, Schultz and Graf — who are turning that tide and can be examples for others to follow.

As Schultz told host Jon Stewart, “We can’t wait for Washington. We’ve got to step up as we have done in the past and demonstrate true leadership.”

What Schultz is saying is backed up by strategist Alice Korngold’s compelling conclusion that corporations are the only thing that can save the world. But she’s not suggesting that companies go it alone. Her research shows that companies need to work with others, especially NGOs and other businesses, and “engage effectively with stakeholders; recognize that sustainability is a matter for board governance; and commit to accountability and transparency.”

By stepping up and proactively sharing their resources, these leaders will help us move us faster to the tipping points we need for adopting sustainable business practices everywhere.

My bet is that these moves will pay off in a stronger, more robust marketplace where there’s room for everyone to grow and thrive.

Spend 3 Days with Us—And Run a $100M Sustainable Business for 5 Years


What if I told you that you could lead a fictional, $100M, triple-bottom-line company for five years—in just three days? You’d have the experience of running a sustainable business successfully—or into the ground—risk free.

As a leader, you’d strategize and negotiate with heads of marketing, finance, HR, production, sustainability, and sales, then put the business plan you’ve developed into action. You’d get to try out different market approaches and operational strategies. See what works best for your company and compete against other companies to achieve profits while improving conditions for both people and the planet. And you’d gain all the insights that come from learning by doing, with your leadership team, and the support of expert instructors.

That’s what our July 30-Aug. 1 program is all about: “LeaderShip for Sustainability: People, Planet, and Profits in a New Green Economy.”

“We are pleased to offer this program to deliver important lessons on leading a profitable business while also making a positive contribution to our society,” said the Honorable John McKernan, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “This type of expert instruction is an essential part of our efforts to strengthen America’s long-term competitiveness.”

We’re hosting this program to respond to the challenges that our supporters and the wider business community tell us they’re facing. Whether your business is micro-sized or enterprise, we’re all dealing with the new normal described by Andrew Winston in The Big Pivot: resource constraints, weather challenges, changeable markets, and our connected world’s radical transparency. We all want to take care of people and the planet for tomorrow, as well as achieving profits today.

But actually making sustainability happen—at scale—and with the speed required—poses huge practical leadership challenges.

Which is why LeaderShip for Sustainability is a great choice. This course teaches not only established—but also emerging and high-potential people—how to be sustainability leaders in every part of the company.

No matter what your job title, as leaders and sustainability champions in our companies each of us has to understand the bigger picture for triple-bottom-line success that engages people to responsibly manage planet resources while generating profits. That means not only operations expertise, but also marketing, finance, human resources, IT and supply chain management skills.

Here are some of the ways that this course is different:

Gamification: Participants play an online business simulation where teams compete head-to-head to build and grow a triple-bottom-line company. Each team starts with $28M total assets to run their company over 5 years, completely risk-free.

Financials and metrics: The game forces players to wrangle with balance sheets, weigh debt decisions, and balance competing priorities. Many non-finance program alums report that this gave them a completely new understanding and appreciation of the CFO’s role in achieving sustainable outcomes.

Networking and support:The course continues after the three days in Washington, D.C. with in-depth follow-up calls to help you apply what you learned to your company’s goals and challenges. And you’ll join a community of fellow program alums that include senior and middle level leaders from BASF, Honeywell, Novartis, Alcoa, Church and Dwight, Sanofi, and Alcatel-Lucent.

The course is led by Dr. Jeana Wirtenberg (author of the new 2014 book Building a Culture for Sustainability, with a foreword by Andrew Winston) and her team from Transitioning to Green.

Please take a look at the program description and register today. The Early Bird discount ends June 30. Registration. CCC supporters receive a discount off registration.

Questions? Please reach out to me at jgerholdt@USChamber.comor Jeana Wirtenberg, Ph.D. at 973-335-6299 or jwirtenberg@transitioningtogreen.com.

Hope to see you at the end of July.