This week HP released its 2012 sustainability report, or in HP’s lingo, Global Citizenship Report. The voluminous report–almost 150 pages if you include the GRI Index–jumps into minute detail about the work HP has accomplished on several fronts, from its corporate governance structure to the company’s leveraging of technology for health initiatives to scouring its supply chain for greater efficiency.
Yesterday, I spoke with HP’s Director of Environmental and Health Initiatives, Chris Librie, from his office at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. I was curious about several issues: What does it take for a company to report on a tangled and complicated supply chain? Why would the company dive into health initiatives 10 time zones away? And what sets HP’s carbon footprint disclosure far apart from other multinational firms?
Africa is the new frontier for business; in fact, in this decade, seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies will be in Africa if current projections are accurate. Multinationals including SAP, PepsiCo and Unilever are either actively investing or are mulling increased focus on the region. From natural resources to agricultural products to the bustling hubs of technological innovation in Africa’s cities, this continent of one billion people spread across 54 states is on the move.
But the desire and demand for educational opportunities has far outpaced the opportunities actually available in Africa. To that end, this week SAP launched a “Skills for Africa” program tasked with developing information technology skills to boost access to education and support for entrepreneurs. SAP will work with dozens of partners to offer as many as 2,500 students skills training in the next five years. A pilot program in Kenya with 100 students started last fall.
TriplePundit had the opportunity to catch up with Antonia Ashton, Head of Integrated Communications for SAP Africa. I wanted to learn about some of the challenges companies face in emerging markets such as Africa–so I shot her some questions, which she answered from her Cape Town, South Africa office.
Last week, TCO Development granted Samsung’s Galaxy S4 the organization’s first ever sustainability certification for smartphones. The certification is important for Samsung and the overall smartphone market for several reasons. First, as smartphones proliferate and accomplish everything from reducing usage of laptops to helping alleviate poverty in emerging markets, the world’s resources necessary to manufacture them, from rare earth metals to petroleum, will become more constrained and difficult to procure. Furthermore, consumers are becoming aware of the social cost resulting from their assembly, as last year’s Apple-Foxconn saga clearly demonstrated.
And for Korea, the Galaxy’s S4 certification shows the country’s leading manufacturers have not only turned this tiny Asian company into a technology powerhouse, but a compelling sustainability laboratory. But will consumers really care, or even notice?
In the aftermath of the factory collapse in Bangladesh, plenty of gut checks, soul-searching, finger pointing and a rethink of how, where and why we purchase clothes is underway. One natural reaction is to focus on eco-fashion or “buy local,” and indeed here in the U.S. a bevy of manufacturers are creating clothes that look sharp and are far more ethical and socially conscious than what is churning out of dubious overseas factories. One of them is Osmium, a Massachusetts-based men’s clothing firm I highlighted two weeks ago.
Yesterday, I chatted on the telephone with Mark Paigen, Osmium’s founder and a compelling spokesman on why we should step away from fast fashion and have a wardrobe focused on clothes that last. His personal journey and his company’s successes and challenges also shed light on what domestic manufacturers confront day-to-day here in the U.S.
This week SAP announced that one percent of its workforce will eventually be adults diagnosed with a form of autism. That number could eventually be as high as 650 employees spread across 60 of its locations where SAP runs laboratories as well as research and development operations. What started as a pilot project in India will morph into one of the more compassionate, creative and necessary job programs within the private sector.
SAP’s announcement is important for several reasons. If you think it is difficult to pass a a human resource screening because you are over 40; have a spotty resume because you are entrepreneurial, lived abroad or took time off to raise a child or assist an elderly relative; do not have a college degree; or have been unemployed for six months or longer . . . then you can imagine what adults with autism face. Furthermore, SAP’s move is a call to the HR profession to wake up and end its (despicable) practice of finding reasons NOT to hire someone and look at applicants as human beings and find a reason TO hire them instead.
And with one in 88, or as many as one in 50 adults in the U.S. currently coping with a form of autism, SAP’s initiative is a big step forward to meeting the needs of this growing population.
The story starts with Thorkil Sonne, who with his wife, suffered through countless assessments of their now 16-year-old son, and was told their child would “never fit into the labor market despite his skills.”
Sonne decided that his son was not the problem, but it was society, and that it was time to change society for the better. Hence, an eventual partnership with SAP would develop and thrive.
With the Global Reporting Initiative’s upcoming conference in Amsterdam and the growing interest–and execution–of integrated reporting, it is still important to remember the combination of the financial and non-financial data is a challenge for many companies.
Yesterday, during a meeting with SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer Peter Graf at the company’s annual conference here in Orlando, he shared some insight into the journey he and the enterprise software giant together have taken on their path towards issuing its integrated report.
Some points may be obvious: for example, Graf’s team worked closely with SAP’s CFO and finance department to make the case for issuing an integrated report, including discussing how both quantitative and qualitative performance were important in disclosing the company’s overall performance to shareholders and stakeholders.
But integrated reporting, Graf insisted, is not just about creating an annual report with the expectation that a more sustainable business will be the end result. Instead, the conception, drafting and execution of such a report should be a catalyst to inspire more innovation and creative thinking within a company.
So in Graf’s view, here are the five steps behind an integrated report, or more precisely, integrated thinking within a company at all times, and for the long haul:
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and four universities recently completed a study that sounds an ominous note for the future of many cities’ water supplies. At least half of all cities with a population of over 100,000 are in regions beset by water scarcity. Many of these cities have long depleted their surface and groundwater sources.
To that end, the study covers the water infrastructure of four cities: Adelaide in Australia and Phoenix, San Antonio and San Diego in the U.S. The study explores various rural-urban partnerships that showcase how cities can work with farmers to adopt irrigation conservation technologies and therefore free up water for environmental and urban use. By working with local farmers to reduce their water consumption, cities save money by reducing the need to import water long distances while the farmers reduce expenses on water-related costs.
While the growing stresses of populations coupled diminishing water supplies is obviously problematic, this convergence also demonstrates how the future looks bright for clean water technology entrepreneurs–while businesses now are tasked with ensuring they are part of conversation over water conservation.
So what are each of these four cities and surrounding regions accomplishing and what are the challenges in the years ahead?
Will your summer vacation, or job, be affected by sequestration? Memorial Day Weekend, the official start of summer, is fast approaching, and with it are millions of trips across the country to visit one of America’s most stunning assets, our national park system. I am lucky enough to have three of them within 90 minutes of where I live. Whether they are those stunning natural wonders of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks, or urban treasures such as the National Mall in DC or Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia, the National Park Service (NPS) does an admirable job running hundreds of parks on a shoestring.
But the sequestration cuts are hurting our national parks. Despite the fact defense and entitlements eat up almost two-thirds of the federal budget, the bizarre dance between the Obama Administration and Congressional Republicans have led to budget cuts at the NPS. While a five percent cut may not sound like much–after all no one gets rich working as a park ranger–the cuts have caused chaos within an agency already operating on a shoestring.
As the death toll from the Rana Plaza factory collapse climbs over 800 [Ed note: it has now reached 1100], it is easy to heap blame on the factory owners and the companies who source in a country where the average monthly wage is $70 to $100–and often even lower. But consumers also ought to look inward: our desire to have a cheap t-shirt in every color or desire to purchase an outfit at H&M or Zara and wear it only once is part of this vicious circle.
So that begs the question, where on earth can one shop where workers are not exploited, locked into factories, or forced to work long hours or else lose the only opportunity to support a family? Obviously any list is going to be subjective. And the solution is complicated. My personal M.O. is to do most of my shopping at thrift stores, though the obvious retort is that plenty of those clothes were made in sweatshops (though I always seem to find blazers and other garments made in the U.S. or Italy–and I know, sweatshops exist in the U.S. and Italy).
Bryce Covert from Think Progress issued a solid and thoughtful list of ethical clothing manufacturers yesterday, though many of the article’s readers voiced a huge concern: is what a company says about their supply chain really the reality? Do they really know whether workers in those far off factories are really treated ethically and equitably? Nonetheless Covert’s list is an excellent jumping off point.
Here are a few suggestions of more eco, fair, ethical, and local companies from which to purchase clothing. Remember one point–it is easy to object to spending $100 on a pair of trousers, but if they are made well, they will most likely outlast the five pairs for which you spent $20 a pop. 3p and I invite readers to share their ideas in the comments section.
A year has already passed since Marks & Spencer launched its Shwopping campaign in many of its United Kingdom stores. In partnership with the NGO Oxfam, Shwopping has helped move textile and garment recycling a huge step forward. The premise of the Shwopping initiative is customers can drop unwanted clothing into a specially labeled box when they shop for new garments–even if the clothing was not purchased at M&S. With beloved actress Joanna Lumley as Shwopping’s spokeswoman, the program launched in April 2012 with gusto.
So how has the program fared one year later? Yesterday morning I chatted over the phone with Adam Elman from his London office. As Marks & Spencer’s Head of Delivery for Plan A, the company’s sustainability and ethical agenda, Elman updated me on Shwopping’s successes and challenges.
A recent Deloitte study offers a concise overview of the challenges companies face within their supply chains and how they, in turn, can partner with their suppliers to solve current problems and prevent new ones. The challenge is huge for multinational companies and their vendors because the increased demands for transparency clashes with the reality that the supply chain for many a business is becoming more complex and opaque.
As energy prices become more volatile, commodities surge in price and manufacturers look for new markets in which to hire workers, it behooves companies even more to ensure their supply chains are more resilient and socially responsible. NGOs are scrutinizing supply chains across the globe in this age of social media that can turn the shenanigans of a wayward supplier into a massive global headache for a company. Add the recent tragedy in Bangladesh, which follows only a few months after another avoidable catastrophe, and the importance of a more collaborative and transparent supply chain becomes even more crucial.
So what are the “four steps to effective supplier collaboration,” according to Deloitte, and what are some examples of what leading companies are doing to confront these challenges head on?
As Africa emerges as the latest continent to experience vigorous economic growth, the demand for science and engineering education is clearly obvious. One should not generalize a continent with over 50 countries, but one truth about Africa is that the desire for education far outstretches the opportunities available throughout the region. Many global organizations including UNESCO are striving to ensure education remains high on the agenda of governments throughout the region.
The challenges confronting Africa are analogous to what countries in the Middle East face–long term success means enough locals have got to be skilled in fields such as mathematics, engineering or the physical sciences. But the difference in the Middle East is that for now the wealthier countries can import scientists and engineers as a temporary measure–as well as the professors who can transfer such skills and knowledge. Africa does not have that option.
So the ability to spark interest in the sciences has got to start at home. One up-and-coming science museum in Cape Town aims to spark interest among local youth who eventually can help build South Africa’s, and the continent’s, capacity in the sciences.
Yesterday, the adidas Group released its 2012 Sustainability Report, which focuses on the company’s work on environmental, supply chain and community work. As is the tone of most current sustainability and CSR (corporate social responsibility) reports, “innovation” is the clarion call that rings throughout adidas’ 100 page report.
So whether the company tries new approaches when communicating with workers within its supply chain, rolls out new, modern and more sustainable fabric or motivates its workers to volunteer within the communities in which they work, adidas is working on some compelling programs that could inspire other companies to launch similar initiatives. Clearly some will flatline, others will thrive.
Here are some highlights from adidas’ recent work:
Waitrose, the $8.4 billion United Kingdom grocer and often the grocer of choice for Britain’s royal family, is now tackling the amount of packaging the company uses for its food products. As part of the company’s new sustainability commitments, Waitrose has promised to reduce its packaging to half of its 2005 levels by 2016.
The company’s pledge is an ambitious one, considering the increased popularity of prepared foods amongst supermarket customers on both sides of the pond in recent years. Much of Waitrose’s commitments to reduced packaging relies on its lines of prepared meals and snacks. So how is the high end retailer tackling these waste diversion goals?
On Wednesday, ForestEthics announced that more major brands have moved away from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) paper products certification program. Office Depot, Southwest Airlines and Cricket Communications have joined HP in the shift away from the U.S. paper industry-backed SFI in the tussle over certified paper products.
ForestEthics has long alleged that SFI is a front for the paper industry, and a Fall 2010 report accusing SFI of “greenwashing” was been just one battle in the fight between paper certification programs including the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
The announcement comes despite what ForestEthics describes as tactics attempting to “bully” the organization into silence. According to Executive Director, Todd Paglia, SFI and its backers, which include Weyerhaeuser, International Paper and Sierra Pacific, have engaged lawyers in an attempt to squelch ForestEthics’ criticism of SFI.