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My coverage of the Sustainable Brands New Metrics 14 Thursday afternoon workshop on adding context to sustainability goals.  (First half written by Tamay Kiper.)

A two-part session on Thursday afternoon explored sustainability context through examining the evolution of corporate sustainability goals, and case studies from leading companies proactively applying it to their goal-setting processes.

First, Sustainability Context Group co-founder Bill Baue — moderator of both parts — led a discussion on the state of corporate sustainability goals and equipping companies with practical advice on how to incorporate context.

Baue started by explaining the concept of context — which calls for assessing “the performance of the organization in the context of the limits and demands placed on environmental or social resources at the sector, local, regional or global level” — and raised the question: “Where are we now in sustainability and where are we going?”

Panelist Mark McElroy, founder & Executive Director of Center for Sustainable Organizations, further explained the necessity for Context Based Sustainability (CBS) in environmental goal-setting, as well as the need to turn to climate science for thresholds, to then devise a way to apportion them to organizations. A new CBS method, the MultiCapital Scorecard (MCS), which Ben & Jerry’s has just adopted, puts Trajectory Targets (interim goals) and Triple Bottom Line concerns in scope and assessing performance relative to both final (Sustainability Norms) and interim (Trajectory Targets) goals.

Next, Bob Willard picked up where his morning plenary presentation left off, further explaining The Future-Fit Business Benchmark — which defines the science-based, minimum acceptable levels of environmental and social performance that a company must reach if it is to be truly sustainable and fit for the future — and expanding on the 21 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for businesses. Social KPIs were divided into 5 categories (Employees, Community, Customers, Investors and Suppliers, & Partners) and Environmental KPIs included Energy, GHG, Water, Materials, Products, Waste and Land. A company’s Future-Fit performance on these KPIs ensures its environmental and social impacts do not contribute to the issues.

Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot, engaged the audience with the latest updates from the PivotGoals Data introduced at SB’14 San Diego in June, and emphasized that 75 percent of Fortune 200 companies now publicly share sustainability goals. Echoing McElroy’s and Willard’s insights, Winston divided these goals into two categories: Science-equivalent — what external thresholds would demand for some large part of the business (not the full value chain); and “Future Fit” compatible — moral, ethical, or based on a flourishing model, but not technically ‘science-based.’ Winston encouraged the audience to track companies’ sustainability goals online on PivotGoals.com, and feedback from the audience was to track these goals periodically to see if companies were successful meeting these goals.

Then Cynthia Cummis, Deputy Director of GHG Protocol at the World Resources Institute (WRI) introduced its science-based target-setting framework, which aims to raise the ambition of corporate GHG reduction targets to support a transition to a low-carbon economy and keep the planet below a 2-degree temperature rise. She then explained how WRI’s Sectoral decarbonization approach (SDA). — a sector-specific decarbonization pathway based on the 2ºC carbon budget, expected sector activity and mitigation potential — aims to engage the leading multinational companies to set science-based emissions reduction targets by the end of 2015, and demonstrate to policy-makers the scale of ambition among leading companies to reduce their emissions and act as a positive influence on international climate negotiations.

After a round of audience questions and a short networking break, Baue returned with a fresh set of panelists to delve into case studies from EMC, Cabot Creamery and Autodesk, detailing each company’s experience incorporating sustainability context into their efforts.

“We’re in transition from incremental goals towards more ambitious goal-setting that takes the larger context of ecological limits and social impacts into consideration,” Baue said.

Emma Stewart, Head of Sustainability Solutions for Autodesk, kicked things off the three reasons her company got into science-based goal setting.

“As an environmental scientist, I’d never seen the level of consensus and clear guidance that we have on climate science,” she said. Secondly, she found the current practices around goal-setting to be “ripe for disruption” due to short-term timeframes and guesstimate benchmarking that would “save the climate, but 39 years too late.” And finally, rising regulations expectations beginning to affect Autodesk’s customers opened an opportunity to be more responsive to their needs.

This analysis led Autodesk to build C-FACT (Corporate Finance Approach to Climate-Stabilizing Targets), a science-driven method for setting GHG emissions reduction targets against real-world limits, which Autodesk has since made freely available to all companies.

EMC’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Kathrin Winkler, spoke next about her company’s role as one of the first to set a carbon-reduction goal with the EPA climate leaders program. They hit that initial goal and then moved on to setting, and achieving, better ones for 2012, 2015, 2020 and 2050. Winkler described how the company has customized its glidepath for achieving its carbon stabilization goals, based on the C-FACT model, and cautioned that flexibility is key to meeting future challenges.

“The thing with absolute goals is that they kind of lock you into a mindset, and depending on what happens with climate science, business might need to do more,” she said.

Up next was Jed Davis, Cabot’s Director of Sustainability, who shared his company’s context-based sustainability journey as a nearly 100-year-old Vermont-based cooperative with 1,200 dairy farm families. He described the company’s sustainability motto — “Living within our means, Ensuring the means to live” — as a “straightforward way of baking in context-based sustainability that implicitly is about respecting some thresholds and limits.”

Baue and the panel then fielded inquiries from the room about how CBS and C-FACT can be applied to resources other than carbon (as Cabot is doing for water), material traceability, and for small businesses and cities. Stewart noted that the City of Palo Alto has just adopted C-FACT as its baseline target, as Autodesk customized the methodology for cities earlier this year.

Winkler shared another example of when context involves a company setting its own thresholds. Most hardware IT companies set goals for materials take-back in terms of tonnage, she said, but a better question to ask is: “How much are we getting back in terms of what we put out? Making e-waste isn’t the goal. The point is to create a closed loop. In this case, you set the threshold.”

The session closed with plenty of questions left to ask about ambitious sustainability targets and practice, but with a clear sense that setting real-world science-based goals is no longer just a possibility, but an imperative.

Here’s #SDGs info: 17 goals & 169 targets to be achieved by 2030. v @guardian @hlovins http://t.co/Nluc0QU8fA

 

Sept. 19 Peoples Climate March “What Are We Marching For” Event (read up from bottom)

–Phil @350 “This march is about getting people to feel part of the wave” Completely agree.

–Whoa. I think Hunter Lovins just said that the US & China are going to do a #carbon deal as G2

–Think #ActOnClimate is impossible? Hunter Lovins: UN approved 17 #SDGs. A year early. Done. http://t.co/Nluc0QU8fA

–Jo Confino talking about our deep connection to each other and the earth and the universe–coming back to ourselves.

–A word I haven’t heard often enough in business: duty “What is our duty to each other?—Jo Confino

–Hunter talking about “a new narrative” for a new way of doing biz that works for all.

–Donna Morton @PRINCIPIUM_imp “We can align money with our hearts and who we want to be”

–Phil @350 “As humans our capacity to connect is our biggest asset”

–Excited to hear @joconfino @350 @hlovins #PeoplesClimate @BardMBA http://t.co/30XuJQfafp

RT @CoryBooker: Grateful. RT @KayakMediaTweet: So proud that my #nj senators signed the #PeoplesClimate support letter!

RT @ForecastFacts: @KayakMediaTweet @SustainBrands @intel @Verizon @Ford @google lots more talking on this next week too. Will they walk?

1st leading brand to do right thing RT @consumerist: Crest Confirms It’s Distancing Itself From Scandalized NFL http://t.co/uB1vgIuwdg

My latest @SustainBrands: The #CVSEffect in Action: ‘Walk the Talk’ Edition with @Intel, @Verizon, @Ford and @Google http://t.co/m80i1d3Oyh

So proud that my #NJ senators signed the #PeoplesClimate support letter! Thx u @SenatorMenendez @CoryBooker #njenviro http://t.co/1Jt6tuLO8c

@ASBCouncil I want the world to #ActOnClimate because I see a fairer, freer, healthier, greener, bluer world for all of us #ClimateSummit

Desmond Tutu’s #climate summit prayer: “May we learn to sustain & renew the life of our Mother Earth” http://t.co/7V6Ob8prXw

MarcGunther: Is traveling to the #climate march worth the carbon footprint? @GernotWagner ponders the question http://t.co/7pW2fwIz0q

@emorwee NICELY DONE. A theoretical physicist walks into a Congressional hearing. You won’t believe what happened next.

 

Sept. 18 #GreenBizSummit (read up from bottom)
–Verizon’s Gowen makes great rec to find #sustainability expertise w/new grads & veterans

–Love @jeanawirtenberg’s idea that biz owners can be part of a “Conspiracy for Good”–win-win-win for planet & ppl & profits

–@jeanawirtenberg puts biz success in context of #climate change that affects all of us.

–3rd panel coming up…who’s going to mention #climate change first? Hasn’t come up yet but key for all #nj biz

–@MayorBollwage hears about @newjerseypace as a renewable energy bldg job-creating financing option for municipalities #pace

–@MayorBollwage refreshingly real about urban energy resiliency challenges. 54 languages in his town, to start

–Here’s the lead: #Nj Smallbiz Development Centers offering free business counseling 4 biz owners. Competitive advantage ppl

–Yes. St. Peter Univ President: “#sustainability is about a moral & ethical responsibility to future generations”

–Love that #green team action gets ppl involved in local gov’t & their towns win-win 4 stronger communities

–Glad NJDEP rep con’td w/ #sustainability progress needs mindset change for long-term investment & returns 2/2

–NJDEP rep starts w/ short-term vision that #sustainability is “keep ppl employed & keep biz going” …. 1/2

–+1 Pam Mount defines #sustainability as #njenviro plus local economies & equity issues like fair wages and health insurance

–Terhune Orchards #smallbiz owner Pam Mount talking #sustainability & growing @sj_program as well as food for #nj families #GreenBizSummit

–Vivian Brady-Phillips Deputy Mayor, #JerseyCity-turning brown fields into parks for people

–Tweeting at #NJ #Sustainability & #smallbiz Summit in #jerseycity

 

Great debunking by @thinkprogress @emorwee: Congressman: Don’t trust climate scientists, they’re in it for the money http://t.co/lTnkYc4Rm9

+1 MT @MichaelEMann @sawtoothwave Make your voice heard. Vote, write ltrs to the editor, educate yr friends, colleagues, family. #AskDrMann

Want change? Dig in the dirt. Thx u @robintransition. Pls read @drgrist http://t.co/R5nygSwxno

YES “… of the things they love, of place, of possibility, of things their children love and value. 2/2 http://t.co/R5nygSwxno

READ: “We need to speak to peoples’ values, of community, of family….”1/2 http://t.co/R5nygSwxno @robintransition #susty @buildresilience

Instructive 4 how #NJ gov’t works MT @njdotcom NJ sells controversial pension investment tied to MA gov candidate http://t.co/IVDdm84pNC

RT @NewEconomics: Why the Climate Movement Must Stand with Ferguson http://t.co/s5Rv3r8350

This is imp bc Texas drives the nat’l textbook mkt MT @cgiller TX proposes schl books 2 deny manmade #climate change http://t.co/39SzSmfUjh

@RL_Miller Yeah. And even better–what if we fix #climate change & it’s actually really good for our families http://t.co/I5flx9zhFh

Interesting! Thanks Julie MT @TaigaCompany Illinois Considers GHG Metric for Evaluating Utility Performance – http://t.co/mqwVXbj0FR

How about #NJ gets a coordinated #climate plan? Thx @NJSierraClub’s Jeff Tittel OpEd on shore rebuilding http://t.co/6lpuusxcSq

Watching….Launch of a new Climate Economy Commission report for #climate action http://t.co/8kFxuR2aHF #ncereport

Great explainer MT @njspotlight Sen. Bill Package Cld Fundamentally Change #NJ Power Sector http://t.co/B1pliwzc80 @NewJerseyPACE #njenviro

Way to go @emorwee MT @climateprogress 7 big food co.s say #climate change poses a threat to their products http://t.co/dtAIcLNfga #csr

@NJ_Politics: Resolution aiming to stop Christie keeping N.J. out of emissions pact OKed by Senate panel http://t.co/PV8qF0tBw2

Super interesting that Exxon prices #carbon the highest of energy co.s. Thx for reporting @joconfino @GuardianSustBiz http://t.co/4aZmQXPUq7

Concrete win-win examples by @Jeanawirtenberg: How #NJ big biz are helping #smallbiz #sustainability http://t.co/8irsg1dBYC

Like that 1st pt is positive action to #InvestinClimate 160 Environmentalists’ #Climate Declaration http://t.co/evbEmtYap0 H/T @drgrist

Comments wanted MT @joconfino Who are the top tweeters on #economic transformation? @GuardianSustBiz http://t.co/hFFhLkKwle #susty #socimp Sep 15, 2014

Who speaks for your #smallbiz?Read @ASBCouncil research on what biz owners really want #Sustainability @triplepundit http://t.co/TmYTjHGVLn

#NJ Senate takes up #RGGI re-join today http://t.co/E12Yntx4SY #ACPress @wjmckelvey #njenviro

Here’s my latest for Sustainable Brands.

Seven months ago, this series kicked off with CVS’ surprise announcement that it would no longer carry tobacco products in its retail stores. Fast forward, the company announced Sept. 3 that it had met its goal a month ahead of schedule and had a new name to match its bold, new vision of a tobacco-free America — CVS Health.

In follow-up articles, I’ve talked about leading businesses that have taken big steps for the common good because it’s the right thing to do — even if it costs the company financially in the short term — and the most recent talked-about companies banding together to work on climate and energy issues.

This time I want to point to a trend of businesses being called out publicly to make their “walk match their talk” on climate action commitments, political contributions and trade association memberships. It’s worth noting that pressure from responsible investment and climate action groups factor into all of the examples below, as more proof of the power of collaboration.

By nature I’m more inclined to shine a light on positive examples, but this wave of businesses being exposed for disconnects between their stated values and actions merits a closer look. My hope is that these efforts will spur actions that we can broadly acknowledge as steps in the right direction for leading brands.

I started tracking this issue of talking-versus-walking in January when the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report called Tricks of the Trade: How Companies Influence Climate Policy Through Business and Trade Associations. The report shows that “companies choose not to be transparent about their affiliations with trade and business associations.” One of the key issues that author Gretchen Goldman raises are disconnects between businesses’ positions on climate change versus the positions held by their business and trade groups.

In March, Intel became the first US company to commit to aligning its company policies and political contributions. The decision came after what was described as “fruitful negotiations” with investor group NorthStar Asset Management, Inc. and the filing of a shareholder proposal. In hindsight, this news that didn’t get a lot of ink early in the year looks prescient. What’s notable here is that the commitment goes behind disclosure — “tell us what you’re doing” — to doing things differently in the future.

Then, a much-shared article in June by Climate Progress discussed the US Chamber of Commerce’s preemptive swing at President Obama’s climate plan (the Chamber’s report opposed EPA rules that hadn’t been released yet, saying that they would be bad for jobs and the economy). The quote that grabbed my eye was this: “The Chamber does not speak on behalf of Prudential.” Well then, I wanted to ask, who does?

Then last month, Microsoft announced it had cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of concerns about the lobbying group’s opposition to renewable energy. Pressure from two responsible investment groups — The Sustainability Group and Walden Asset Management — played a role in the decision. And a few weeks later, a Common Cause-led campaign with over 50 organizational co-signers called on Google to drop its ALEC membership as well.

Which brings us up to earlier this month, when Forecast the Facts released its new “Disrupt Denial” report and social media campaign. The group says that “companies like eBay, Ford, Google, Microsoft, and UPS also contributed to the $641 million climate deniers in Congress have received from US businesses since 2008.” It’s too soon to say if this campaign will be successful, but if it is, then Intel’s example provides a path for other companies to follow.

As the year has progressed, I’ve felt increasing optimism from examples in the business world, op-eds and mainstream media that climate reality is winning out. The World Bank released a statement in August showing business leader support for carbon pricing and China just announced it will have a carbon market up and running by 2016. More companies are stepping up to talk about climate change as a material business risk and sharing their energy plans with investors and shareholders. And many of those companies have signed on as supporters for the Sept. 21 People’s Climate March in New York City that kicks off Climate Week and the Sept. 23 UN Climate Summit.

At the same time, there are plenty of people ready to write off the Summit’s chances for a treaty in 2015 or if it’s even possible to stave off climate catastrophe. But what’s different this time is that the business world has been asked to take on larger and more meaningful commitments. The We Mean Business coalition announced it will launch on Sept. 22 with a new report on the business case for moving swiftly to a low-carbon economy and the opportunities available to those companies who take action now.

The science is clearer than ever that our globe is heading towards “irreversible” climate impacts. So there’s not a day to waste — as individuals, business owners and citizens — to make sure future generations have a world fit to live in.


A friend’s slithery, spiny ceramic chainmail piece. It clinks, it moves, it’s astonishing. http://t.co/1cWeJoRTkS ruthborgenicht.com

#NJ #Green champion @TerraCycle has a new reality show on @Pivot_TV called Human Resources Fri 10pm ET http://t.co/xTBxpuBJVa #njenviro Sep 11, 2014

Capturing Hearts & Minds w/Green Teams from @earthpeopleco’s Anna Clark http://t.co/y58dojMdON

Hey @NewJerseyPACE #PACE is one of the ingredients MT @drgrist The State Clean Energy Cookbook: https://t.co/ObNA89G2bp

@GovernorVA launches #climate change commission & Dr. @MichaelEMann was there http://t.co/dXb0LL2GiR Wish #NJ was as cool.

Strong endorsement for #NJ to rejoin #RGGI from Star-Ledger EB w/ Christie cast as Nero http://t.co/WJsoEIsrcW

Thanks Sen. Bob Smith–#NJ Draft Leg Would Bump Up New Jersey’s Renewable-Energy Goals http://t.co/weKKD2NZJl

Univ of California Task Force says they won’t #divest $10B in carbon funds from $91B endowment, but will invest $1B & add #solar http://t.co/O52IenrnA5

Solutions not excuses–Look at what @NewJerseyPACE is working on for #NJ #susty #climate clean #energy jobs http://t.co/6Xe0Vwi3dk

Hey @KevinIMoss, congrats on great BT teleconferencing #sustainability piece. Practical & replicable biz advice http://t.co/xC1TvoDFr9

Sane sensible #sustainability! MT @GuardianSustBiz Cut emissions, save money w/teleconferencing http://t.co/xC1TvoDFr9

Next in #NJ #RGGI fight that’s cost $114M so far: Mon 10AM Sen Enviro & Energy Cmttee H/T @EnviroPolitics #njenviro http://t.co/9tllSJwD6J

Great piece by @earthpeopleco’s @AnnaClark on Making & Doing: The Joy of DIY http://t.co/ihhAd9cnzd

Sigh, but kudos 4 progress in tough places MT Cities Preparing For #Climate Change, Just Won’t Say So http://t.co/ZrNxasFgZo

Note this: Would have been 1st “necessity defense” for #climate MT @KuffnerAlex Plea deal 4 #climatetrial protesters http://t.co/pWeMYj8O1c

“This time around, the case for renewables was based on economics” Austin, Texas big new #Solar law http://t.co/5HPDLkuMCd

Another #NJ #climate OpEd from a nun who’s also an investment fund director for fed Clean Power Plan http://t.co/LvwV6YdvxL #njenviro

Great explainer on where #NJ offshore #wind political saga stands by @NJSpotlight’s Tom Johnson http://t.co/pRglw2P18t

Q for @CFigueres at #CWNYC: Who are next biz who will take big bold #leadership #climate actions?

@AndrewWinston What’s your thought? Imp next step in convo, or placating? Mr. Swensen’s 11% decade avg returns indicates he’s a smart man

Cogent accessible read on #climate risk: “The more uncertain we are, the more careful we should be” #sustainability http://t.co/v3qqdBq5Az

Strong #NJ @starledger Ed Bd op-ed supporting Obama’s #climate treaty plans. Denier comments prove the pt. http://t.co/q9Iw3vGyTu

Posted with permission by the American Sustainable Business Council-New Jersey.

This letter was sent as submitted comments on the NJDEP’s proposal to formally repeal the law that allowed NJ to be part of the multi-state RGGI clean-energy coalition.

September 5, 2014

Submitted Comments Opposing Governor Christie’s NJDEP Proposed Repeal of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Regulations

Alice Previte, Esq.
Attn: DEP Docket No. 04-14-15
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Office of Legal Affairs
P.O. Box 402
401 E. State Street, Seventh Floor
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Dear Ms. Previte:

Please accept these comments on behalf of the American Sustainable Business Council-NJ, representing diverse companies and business associations, regarding NJDEP Docket No. 04-14-15.

The American Sustainable Business Council-New Jersey and its network of NJ-based business owners and supporters are dedicated to pursuing a sustainable economy in New Jersey.  Therefore, we request the reinstatement of New Jersey into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Throughout the Northeast, RGGI has consistently shown that it contributes to bolstering state financial coffers, while also reducing greenhouse emissions. RGGI also serves to stimulate new markets for renewables and clean energy technologies, which lead to additional job growth and the attraction of new financial investment capital.

As business leaders in New Jersey, we see RGGI as a very smart investment; one that mitigates the risk of climate change, while producing much needed revenue and the cause of many new, well paid, in-state jobs. RGGI demonstrates that economic gain and environmental stewardship are entirely compatible. RGGI is a business investment that pays significant dividends with almost no associated risk.

We call upon Governor Christie to re-engage New Jersey in RGGI for the following reasons:

1/ RGGI is a market-based and impactful way for New Jersey to reduce its global warming emissions, while at the same expanding its clean energy economy.

2/ RGGI is a source of revenue. New Jersey can generate millions of dollars in carbon revenues through RGGI. These dollars can be invested in local economic opportunities. Prior to its withdrawal from RGGI in 2011, New Jersey raised over $113 million in revenues.

3/ RGGI helps to mitigate the very real risks of climate change. Rising sea levels and extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy demonstrate the economic risks associated with inaction. RGGI is a prudent insurance policy against further damage.

4/ RGGI is an effective and flexible way for New Jersey to comply with EPA’s recently announced draft carbon standard for power plants.

5/ Residents of New Jersey want climate action. An overwhelming majority (80%) of citizens support limits on carbon emissions.

RGGI is a proven program that generates benefits for businesses, creates jobs and provides a positive impact on the economy.

Since 2009, the program has helped to:

  • Reduce climate-altering carbon pollution by almost 30 percent;
  • Cut electricity prices by 8 percent;
  • Create more than 23,000 job-years of work;
  • Lock in more than $1.8 billion in long-term savings on energy bills; and
  • Add more than $2.4 billion in economic activity to the region.”

As business leaders, we recognize a good investment when we see one, and RGGI stands out as a clear case in point. RGGI is only an early example of the adjustments and steps we will all have to make in the dawning era of climate change recognition, but it is one that has proven its worth to us within the NJ business community.

We encourage the Christie Administration to appreciate the business case for rejoining RGGI.

Sincerely,

Matt Polsky

Business Engagement Manager
American Sustainable Business Council-New Jersey

Sustainability. Green. Renewables. Resilience. These buzzwords seem to be popping up everywhere.

That’s because global climate change is here and now. As a coastal state, we’re already feeling the impacts of climate change because we’re vulnerable to storms, flooding and sea level rise. And, we know more is coming, based on research not only from global organizations like the IPCC but NJ’s own Climate Change Impacts Report.

Big businesses are already getting ready, spending millions of dollars on hardening their infrastructure and reevaluating where their raw materials come from and how they get produced.

But what about smaller businesses, especially right here in the Garden State? Here’s five great NJ sustainable business resources for small business owners.

1. Got 5 Minutes? Grab some ideas from this “Go Green” guide just for small businesses from the NJ Small Business Assistance Program.

3. Got 15 Minutes? Sign up for free webinars, resources and networking opportunities from the American Sustainable Business Council.

3. Got a few hours? Schedule a free NJ Clean Energy Program energy assessment. Attend the next New Jersey WasteWise Business Network meeting on Nov. 13.

4. Got some time after work? Drop in to you town’s Environmental Commission or Chamber of Commerce to talk with people in your community about energy efficiency, recycling, renewable energy, and whatever else is on your mind.

If your hometown or the town your business is in is part of Sustainable Jersey’s program, check out their programs to go green, save money and make your community a great place to live.

5. Got a day+: Join the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s new Sustainable Business Registry that provides resources and recognition for businesses that adopt sustainability practices.

If you aren’t sure where to start, you can meet with a NJ Small Business Development Center sustainability consultant for free, one-on-one Pollution Prevention and Sustainability help.

These resources can help you make sure your business stronger than the (next) storm, but that’s just a beginning. Really, being a “sustainable business” is just what small business owners have always done: save money on energy, make less waste, create new ways to serve customers better than your competitors, and contribute to your community’s wellbeing.

Being a sustainable business owner is all about doing business today so all of us can thrive tomorrow. It’s about helping people, places, and businesses be better in every way, for all of us.

Catch The Economist article called The New Green Wave. I appreciate that CSR’s future includes license to operate in a changed world http://t.co/SFOnzjpNmD

RSVP: Sept. 18 NJ Sustainability Summit. Focus on small biz success & leadership http://t.co/VbELob2eXj

+1 for Hamilton Nolan’s response to sky-fell-oh-well WSJ carbon tax op-ed. Count me in for climate action hope http://t.co/iKkYDAL3g5

Good read: How sustainability leaders hold steady over the long haul http://t.co/HDcvdwW1CN

NJ sits on sidelines while our neighbors fight for our health & safety in EPA lawsuits http://t.co/PnCgRBvry3

GREAT explainer: Stop Trying to Kill EPA’s Carbon Rule http://t.co/PnCgRBvry3

US Resilience Project offering a “How-To” biz resilience workshop 9/16 at NJIT http://t.co/nY3n5VjfE4

Breath of fresh air for CSR: no-smokes leadership–here’s to better health. Kudos CVS Health http://t.co/n3qudMwljT

Glad NYT is adding a climate editor. We need more biz sustainability reporting. http://t.co/Wk7V9tDjP0

Dave Roberts is back! http://t.co/aF7pgcAvuT

Big idea for a big problem but how real? Via FastCompany: Secaucus testing solar-power commuter pods http://t.co/4baYnwgoPI

Rising tide lifts all boats so paddle hard RT @chrisleewilson The key to success is to focus on the needs of others.

What’s next for “responsible business”…my susty convo w/ Christine Bader for Earth People Media http://t.co/KaVMMB9Cnb

New Jersey PACE’s Sept. 4 press event & plan to power AC’s economic recovery w/ clean energy http://t.co/QuQILDpIo3

Listen in: @ASBCouncil & @GinaEPA Sep. 4 to discuss #climate policy & #smallbiz http://t.co/e1yNMRd3dU

My latest for EarthPeople Media and the wonderful Anna Clark.

Baders-Book600x350

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.

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

 

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.