Last week, Marks & Spencer (M&S) issued its annual sustainability report. The yearly “Plan A” update from the £10 billion United Kingdom retailer outlines what the company has done to mitigate its impact on society on the environment. After all, the numbers themselves show the effects of M&S’ footprint: 20 million customers visit 1,064 stores weekly, 2,000 vendors that supply products for the stores’ shelves and 81,000 people work for the company across the world.
Overall, the company has made progress on its Plan A sustainability agenda, and considering its broad supply chain, M&S is fortunate: the High Street icon was unscathed by the horse meat scandal that rocked Britain and it had no ties to last month’s Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh.
So what has M&S accomplished in 2011-2012, and what new goals does the company have in sight for the next several years?
Camping season is well underway with school soon ending and summer vacation beginning. On both sides of the pond, plenty of festivals will launch and turn meadows into what will appear to be large swaths of brightly colored confetti. A fair number of those tents will be left behind as the combination of mud and partying will render them uninhabitable. But one enterprise in the United Kingdom aims to turn those unwanted tents into reusable wrapping paper.
Wrag Wrap is striving hard to change the Brits’ wrapping habits. Louise Oldridge and Nicky Rajska of Devon in southwestern England founded the company in part as a reaction towards living in a world where resources have become more constrained.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz, New York will never be the same, ruined by a menace of two-wheeled contraptions that will overtake NYC faster than the Muppets can take Manhattan. The NYC Bike Share Launch has already hastened the city’s decline.
After months of delays, software glitches and Hurricane Sandy, the NYC Bike Share program launched last week on Memorial Day. According to Citi Bike, the program is catching on: almost 15,000 bicycling trips during the previous 24 hours and over 65,000 total and counting. For now, the gleaming blue bicycles emblazoned with the Citi logo are only available south of 59th Street in Manhattan and in a few Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Some glitches, which the New York Daily News gleefully pointed out, occurred during the rollout: many tourists and locals alike were unaware Citi Bike was only open to annual subscribers during the first week. And some of those annual subscribers did not receive their codes in time. One bicycle was even stolen. Commentary has been all over the map.
In a bizarre and doddering rant, which in part came across as commentary suited for The Onion, but mostly demonstrating the tragedy of what can happen if someone forgets to take his or her meds before appearing in a live interview, Rabinowitz launched a tirade against Citi Bike and, that has become a gift that keeps on giving.
Last week, Raytheon issued its annual corporate social responsiblity (CSR) report. This year’s version sheds light on what the U.S defense contractor has accomplished on the environmental, social and corporate governance fronts. From its funding of education programs to working with veterans, Raytheon and its employees have had yet another productive year.
So what has changed since the company’s previous CSR report? Not much actually, but give the missile manufacturer credit for working on a variety of community programs as well as making progress on a wide array of issues from transparency to greenhouse gas emissions.
The following are some of the highlights from Raytheon’s CSR report:
Like many business terms, employee engagement is one attracting a lot of attention, focus, discussion and even controversy. And like any good business term, it has now devolved into a buzzword, where many of us talk about it but have no idea what it really is. Now some evidence suggests “engagement” is not all what it is cracked up to be.
As an Inc. article recently noted, engagement means little if the result is merely a work-life balance–though in this age where almost all of us are wired and therefore working after hours, balance is clearly in favor of work anyway! Of concern to some human resource professionals is whether employee engagement programs are truly resulting in greater engagement or if workers are simply more satisfied. Companies invest in these programs, after all, in the hopes that happier employees will be more loyal, perform at a higher level be proud stewards of the company’s mission, or contribute to the organization’s corporate social responsibility agenda, such as through volunteering or in some kind of community work.
Clearly the balance is tricky.
Add ski resorts to the growing list of businesses and organizations pushing federal lawmakers to do more about climate change. On May 29, Ceres and its partner organization BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) announced over 100 ski areas, including iconic resorts such as Squaw Valley, CA and Park City, UT, have signed the Climate Declaration.
The properties will join companies such as General Motors (GM), Levi’s, Patagonia and Unilever who have signed on to Ceres’ agenda that insists climate change is an opportunity for the U.S. to not only lead, but create economic opportunities.
So what’s in it for skiers and snowboarders?
For the 14th time, ExxonMobil’s shareholders voted against a proposal to instate nondiscrimination protection for the company’s LBGT employees. The proposal’s failure to pass at yesterday’s annual shareholder meeting was no surprise–few shareholder resolutions do not even come close to passing, as 3p has routinely reported. And as the case with most shareholder proposals, ExxonMobil’s board of directors recommended owners of the company’s stock vote down the proposal in a recent proxy statement submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. But this round, shareholders defeated the proposal by over a four-to-one margin, a record thumbs-down vote according to the Dallas Voice.
As corporate social thought leaders Susan McPherson and Laura Clise outlined last fall, big business supports gay rights for a variety of reasons: 1) most working professionals in offices are adults 2) at a fundamental level, it is the right thing to do 3) equality within the office for everyone makes business sense.
So why is ExxonMobil digging in its (pardon the pun) heels?
On Tuesday, May 28, Enterprise Holdings announced it had acquired Chicago-based IGO CarSharing. The $15.4 billion company, which also owns the car rental services Alamo and National, purchased the decade-old nonprofit under terms not disclosed to the public.
To some observers, the acquisition is a curious one for Enterprise: despite recent purchases of car sharing services in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, the company’s own head of corporate sustainability was dismissive of car sharing in an article posted earlier this year on TriplePundit. Lee Broughton referenced a study touting the advantages of car sharing and proclaimed car rental services had already offered consumers similar benefits. Meanwhile, car rental companies in recent years claim they are becoming more “sustainable.” So what changed?
Europe has long looked to North Africa as a source for its energy needs. First, the oil fields in Libya, next, natural gas along the southern Mediterranean coast and recently, dreams to tap the region’s vast sunshine as a source of electricity fostered excitement. Such visions make sense: the Sahara surely has plenty of space for photovoltaic panels and solar thermal energy plants, oil has proven to be as big a curse as a blessing to the greater Middle East-Northern Africa region and in the wake of the Arab Spring, clean energy could become an economic stimulus for a region thirsting for jobs.
Such was the goal of the Desertec Industry Initiative (DII), or Desertec, an ambitious plan to harvest Saharan sun, combat carbon emissions and climate change and boost Europe’s energy security. Considering the fact that 90 percent of the world’s population lives within 1800 miles of a desert, such a plan in the long term could be replicated on other continents.
Despite hiccups such as a downward projection of future energy targets, Desertec seemed on track. Then, the King of Morocco decided his people should come first as solar slowly scales across North Africa.
Describing any massive construction project as “green” is a stretch, especially when it comes to sports facilities. But in football-mad Brazil, plans for a bevy of new and refurbished football stadia for the 2014 World Cup are well underway. It has been a messy sausage-making process for the most part; FIFA has tried to light a fire under the Brazilian World Cup organizing committee for failing to adhere to “European time.” But despite infighting within, outfighting with FIFA and fears Brazil’s infrastructure will not be able to handle the 500,000 tourists expected to visit the 12 host cities, Brazil is ready to showcase some impressive green building projects for next month’s Confederations Cup, the warm-up to next year’s mega football event.
Global heckling aside, Brazil will roll out impressive facilities that could both score international green building certifications such as LEED while adding to the country’s rich modern architecture legacy. Much of the credit for Brazil’s greening of the World Cup goes to Vicente Mello and Ian McKee, two architects who drafted the CopaVerde plan, which advocates for the most responsible construction practices possible for the event’s venues.
So what is sustainable about these World Cup venues? We focus on a few of the sites.
Earlier this week Ogilvy Public Relations received a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Exploration grant. One of 10 finalists out of the over 1,200 applications sent for this program, Ogilvy will pursue a global health and development research project titled “Cause Generation: A Platform to Define a Generation’s Cause.” Part of the project involves answering a simple question: just what is this current generation’s cause? Past overarching causes included, of course, World War II, the Vietnam War, nuclear non-proliferation, women’s equality and HIV/AIDS. But in today’s world, which allows anyone with social media savvy to attract attention to his or agenda, passion and activism are now highly fragmented. To that end, Ogilvy’s professionals seek to channel the intelligence, energy, curiosity and passion of younger generations around a specific cause.
Yesterday the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) named the Israeli drip irrigation technology firm Netafim its annual Industry Water Award winner. Founded almost 50 years ago, the firm has grown far beyond the Middle East and now sells irrigation equipment in over 110 countries.
SIWI’s decision to award Netafim the 2013 award goes beyond the company’s accomplishments and technological innovation. This award is important because it demonstrates the enormous impact agriculture has on the globe’s ever diminishing water supply. Data varies from country to country, and water experts will agree to disagree on agriculture’s overall worldwide impact, but anywhere from 70 percent and perhaps even over 90 percent of the world’s fresh water goes towards farming.
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?