Just 10 days before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion marked the beginning of the devastation wrought by BP's oil spill, Cone completed its new "Shared Responsibility Study," entitled: "Companies Fail to Engage Consumers on Environmental and Social Issues."
Do you believe in miracles? Well, brace yourself. We may have another one coming down the pike. Financial reform bills have been passed by both the House and the Senate. Lawmakers are currently working on the final version. We just might see the most sweeping financial reform since the Great Depression within our lifetime. Considering the aggressive and well-funded lobbying by banks, financial institutions, large corporations, and highly placed politicians, this would truly be a miracle.
I love walking around my neighborhood (Astoria, Queens) because it's one of those areas of NYC where you get a true cross section of the population. There are some upper middle class, middle class, and working class folks of every ethnic and religious denomination. You're as likely to run into a white out-of-work actor as you are 2nd generation land owner leaving his local mosque. The other great thing about Astoria is that it's a great case study for small business environments, especially retail. Raquel and I were walking home when she decided to stop into the fabric shop along the way. The place was full of patches, brightly colored yarns, sewings kits, and bolts of fabric. It had the potential to be so exciting a place, so welcoming an envrionment, yet it wasn't. It was, instead this cold grey pall was cast over what should have been a vibrant visual array of fabric and supplies.
Regardless of how you view corporate responsibility, there is no denying that it has been increasingly grabbing more news space in mainstream and alternative media than ever before. Especially in the wake of the ongoing BP oil spill fiasco, there remain some core questions regarding the extent, criteria and involvement of CSR that could use some honest answering.
In their Harvard Business Review article, The Sustainability Imperative, David A. Lubin and Daniel C. Esty say that companies need to get better at communicating sustainability. In the article, the authors identify sustainability as an emerging megatrend, similar to quality in the 1970's and IT in the 1980's.
In order for companies to gain advantage from this megatrend, they need to execute in five critical areas, one of which is reporting and communication. They write:
I have the joy of ushering business executives and professionals in exploring a variety of nonprofit boards for participation. Each candidate goes through a thoughtful process of sorting through the plethora of causes that interest them, including organizations that are at different stages--from start-up enterprises to century-old nonprofits.
When making their final choice, here are the six considerations that board candidates take most seriously:
Last week, I was invited to speak at a United Nations NGO conference on the role that women play in the changing world order. The CONGO Committee of Spirituality, Values, and Global Concerns and its working group “Values and Business” presented an inspiring two-day conference.
Today was day two of training for the 26 of the 51 fellows selected by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) for the 2010 class of Climate Corps, a unique internship program that connects business schools students with companies who want to initiate the discussion of sustainability internally, with an emphasis on energy efficiency. The highlight of today's agenda was a panel of Climate Corps alumni who discussed their experience as well as gave practical and relevant tips to the new class of interns.
With a foot in both the academic and business worlds currently – I find myself intrigued that a lot of colleges/universities are taking such a lead in committing their facilities and community to new journeys in sustainability, while corporations are lagging way behind. Some companies may be ramping up marketing efforts, for certain, but what about the basics of first engaging the humans in their businesses with sustainability on a more personal level? It goes beyond the recycling bin in the corner and the automatic lights in the restrooms.
Let’s learn from the many institutions of higher learning that have sustainability pledges, as they are all quite similar. Harvard’s – which comes up first in a Google search, is a nice example.
Nothing too bold or scary here. However, by putting such a list in front of your nose and occasionally glancing at it, you will – much more likely – stop and think a bit. You may even start to change your own behavior. Checklists are powerful stuff: Do you take the stairs as often as possible? Do you unplug computers and turn off lights? Do you walk, bike or take the subway more often than getting into a car or bus?
My question: Where are all the corporate sustainability pledges?
Every year Vault conducts employee surveys to rank firms and companies by industry according to various standards including diversity, prestige, work/life culture, salary, etc. Last year, we added a short section on green, i.e., energy conservation, recycling, environmental friendliness and workplace safety, in the survey, hoping to get a glimpse into what companies were doing toward becoming ecologically friendly. We're currently in the middle of our 2010 Top Consulting Firms Survey.
“What is needed is a better approach to help the poor, an approach that involves partnering with them to innovate and achieve sustainable win-win scenarios where the poor are actively engaged and, at the same time, the companies providing products and services to them are profitable.”
C.K. Prahalad – From The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits
I was surprised to read about Panera Bread’s new cafe in St. Louis dubbed the St. Louis Bread Company Cares Cafe. The concept is simple yet groundbreaking… take whatever you want to eat or drink and instead of paying a cashier, drop whatever you can afford into a donation box. And if you don’t have any money, you can donate your time. Crazy concept, I know.
In November last year, MBA candidates at three business schools across the country decided to initiate oaths of ethical conduct for all graduating students. While the oaths were student-sponsored, these almost-socialistic self-administrations rang hollow amidst a recession. As I wrote at the time, it spoke of an identity crisis for business schools, which were beginning to look inwards at their curriculum for reasons behind the failed leadership on Wall Street.
Remember the Old Boys’ Club…? The boring, cranky, devious one that controls the banks, the economy and most of our wealth creation and money supply from behind the scenes? The one where nearly every key position in government is occupied by an Old Boy? Yes, that one.
Well, there are still a few lifetime members of the OBC firmly entrenched in the Federal Reserve (Grandpa Ben), and the Treasury (Timmy G and Larrykins) who continue to give all our money away to their ever-popular clubby friends.
These are the same old boy club members who along with ex-Goldman partner and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin gave the store away to the big banks in 1999 with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Ordinary banks like Citigroup could now legally play roulette with government guaranteed deposits. OB Robert Rubin thought it was such a great idea he took a job with Citibank only weeks after leaving the Treasury.
These same old boys, Summers, Greenspan, Geithner with OB Senator Phil Gramm (now a lobbyist for Swiss Bank UBS) the very next year pushed through the ill-fated Commodities Futures Modernization Act - otherwise known as Derivatives-Are-Born-Free Act. This little understood law overturned a century old rule that had prevented unregulated market bets since the Panic of 1907. Now all bets were off…
It's one thing to be environmentally conscious. It's another to encompass sustainability as a good business practice. And yet another to demand that employers discuss their corporate citizenship as part of the interview process and make it a part of your job search, especially considering the current job market.