Back in 2009, the media and financial services company Bloomberg launched what TriplePundit called a “ground-breaking data service” in corporate social responsibility. The new service enabled all of Bloomberg’s clients to access all public ESG (environmental, social and governance) data from up to 3,000 companies, through the company’s 250,000 data terminals. Now Bloomberg is aiming to show how some of that information can translate directly into a healthier bottom line. The company has just released its first sustainability report, which shows the company saving two dollars on operating costs for every dollar spent on sustainability measures. Bloomberg’s report, “The Sustainability Edge” (pdf), lists some misses among the hits, but the overall picture strengthens the case for investing in sustainability.
Bloomberg and Corporate Transparency
Hit the “About” button at the top of Bloomberg’s home page and you’ll get straight to the company’s founding principle back in 1981, that “bringing transparency to capital markets through access to information could increase capital flows, produce economic growth and jobs, and significantly reduce the cost of doing business.” That certainly fits into the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) model, though historically Bloomberg has applied the transparency principle to other companies and not to itself. However, as stated by Bloomberg chairman Peter Grauer on page 9 of the report, the value of the company’s sustainability strategy because apparent within just a few years of implementation, and that made self-reporting almost inevitable as part and parcel of being a good corporate citizen. In effect, Bloomberg’s sustainability savings turned the transparency trick neatly back upon itself.
Lowering Operating Costs with Sustainability Investments
Bloomberg’s savings came from a combination of conservation (demand reduction) and capital investment, which together yielded more than $25 million in savings from 2008 to 2010. The targets it hit mainly consisted in top-down actions or management decisions rather than individual employee actions. The company’s REC purchases, for example, were more than expected, and all of the new data equipment shipped to clients complied with Energy Star efficiency standards. In addition, Bloomberg expects to achieve LEED certification for the office space occupied by about half of its workforce, by 2012. While communicating conservation measures to individual employees can play an important role in a comprehensive sustainability strategy, Bloomberg’s report indicates that companies looking for a return on their sustainability investment could get the most bang for their buck through basic purchasing decisions.
Sustainability as a Mainstream Business Strategy
In a recent post, Triple Pundit observed that CSR has reached a tipping point into the mainstream, and predicted that it will become “more part and parcel of everyday business strategy.” You can see it in the actions of corporate giants like Dole, which has deployed a sustainability-based strategy to gain a competitive edge in the banana market. That in a nutshell is the point of Bloomberg’s report. Bloomberg President Dan Doctoroff sums it up on page 10 by stating, “Integrating sustainability into business strategy and financial markets delivers real value.” More to the point, he draws in all aspects of sustainability and planetary health as vital to “society and the economy, and, by extension, to business.”
Image: Money by Jason Dirks on flickr.com.