CSR and Financial Performance Linked, Moskowitz Prize-Winning Scholar Reveals

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 26th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Caroline_2-20By Deborah Fleischer and Christina Meinberg

Winning the prestigious Moskowitz Prize—the only global award that recognizes outstanding quantitative research in socially responsible investing (SRI)—is no small feat. It recognizes scholars who are at the forefront of academic research on SRI, including such topics such as shareholder activism, socially responsible mutual funds and how SRI impacts financial performance.

Caroline Flammer, assistant professor in general management at Ivey Business School at Western University (London, Ontario), was recently named the 2013 Moskowitz Prize winner. Her paper, “Does Corporate Social Responsibility Lead to Superior Financial Performance? A Regression Discontinuity Approach,” competed with a record number of 49 other submissions. Her complex research makes a bold and clear conclusion–that the adoption of corporate social responsibility (CSR) shareholder resolutions (e.g., which tackle environmental issues such as reduction of CO2 emissions or social issues such as the implementation of non-discrimination policies) leads to an increase in shareholder value and enhances long-term operating performance. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Flammer on the implications of her work.

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The Latest in Sustainable Textiles

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday February 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

177861_10100462607228268_1728561023_oWe economize on our driving by using shared resources, or we bike to work, or walk to save on our carbon footprint. We reduce our energy usage where we can by buying appliances that conserve water and electricity and we lobby for energy-smart concepts like solar or wind energy production.

And yet, one of the world’s greatest culprits in environmental pollution is something we use every day and probably give the least consideration to its environmental impact: our clothes.

Conventional textile production is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. The World Bank estimates that the textile industry is responsible for as much as 20 percent of industrial pollution in our rivers and land.

Finding ways to curb the environmental pollution caused by textile production starts with finding new ways to produce fabrics that don’t require toxins and large amounts of water, and which minimize harm to local the ecology.

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Yerdle’s Critics Miss the Point

| Tuesday February 25th, 2014 | 4 Comments

yerdle_city

In case you’re not familiar, yerdle is an online marketplace in which people can give away things they no longer want, or lend things out they don’t use very often.  It’s a classic sharing economy concept with big potential to make more efficient use of goods that would otherwise be thrown away.

Salon’s Andrew Leonard wrote a fairly scathing review of yerdle’s new credit system on the grounds that it dishonestly suggests the service is free. He further implies that yerdle is yet another PT-Barnum-style huckster start-up tech company claiming to offer something for nothing with a secret future business plan that will somehow screw people.

On the first point, Leonard is correct.  Yerdle’s new credit system requires users to give away things and do other tasks in order to earn credits which can then be exchanged for goods.  There’s talk of being able to buy credits with cash in the future.  For all intents and purposes this means you can’t get anything “for free” on yerdle anymore – you have to do something, whether it be give away products of your own or some other action. The point is, there’s a cost even if it isn’t expressed in dollars.  So, yerdle might indeed want to reconsider their use of the word “free.”  But the notion that yerdle has much in common with a bait and switch tech company is unfair.

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Novo Nordisk Adds Environmental P&L to Their Sustainable Toolset

RP Siegel | Tuesday February 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Novo Nordisk It’s an old management truism that says you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Certainly if companies hope to manage their impact on the planet, then they’d best start measuring it. Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical giant that was named the world’s most sustainable company in Davos 2012, just announced another step in that direction, by publishing their first Environmental Profit & Loss (EP&L) account. This, for a company that has steadily been reducing their carbon footprint and water use, and who’s CEO pay is already tied to sustainability indicators, further integrates sustainability into its core business practice.

Novo Nordisk, best known as suppliers of insulin, is the first pharmaceutical company to do this, the second major corporation, after Puma to take the step. Both companies worked with natural capital analyst Trucost to develop their EP&L accounting process.

What this means, in a nutshell, is that environmental impact, as defined by the process, will have equal footing with other business concerns, as a criteria for driving business decisions. It will help each company to focus their efforts on the biggest supply chain and operational risks and opportunities associated with environmental issues.

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Gap Raises Minimum Wage for US Employees

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday February 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment

GAPGap, Inc. will increase the minimum hourly rate it pays American employees from $9 per hour in 2014 to $10 per hour in 2015. The 45-year-old company with six brands has 90,000 employees in the U.S. and operates in more than 50 countries with 137,000 employees worldwide. The company stated in a press release that increasing the minimum wage it pays employees is “not a political issue.” Instead, the decision to increase its minimum wage “will directly support our business, and is one that we expect to deliver a return many times over.”

A day before Gap’s announcement, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on the effects of raising the federal minimum wage. The report concluded that raising it would increase the pay and family income for most minimum wage workers. The CBO estimated that increased earnings for minimum wage workers would be $31 billion, and move about 900,000 people above the poverty line. However, the CBO analysis pointed out that families whose income increases “tend to raise their consumption.” Clearly, that is something which Gap understands.

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Seven Companies with the Most Unique Matching Gift Programs for Employees

3p Contributor | Tuesday February 25th, 2014 | 2 Comments

GiftBy Adam Weinger

With competition for top employees at an all-time high, companies are looking for ways to stand out. Many have implemented corporate giving programs, such as matching gifts, which allow their employees to contribute to causes close to their hearts. Here are seven with unique matching gift programs.

BHP Billiton

BHP Billiton is the world’s largest mining and petroleum company (based on 2011 revenues) headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, and employs more than 46,300 people.

BHP’s matching gift program is unique in that it’s not only very generous (matching donations up to at a one-to-one ratio), but it offers fundraising matches, also. If you participate in a fundraising event (a walk, run, bike, etc.), BHP will match all donations that you personally collect. BHP will also match donations raised for events hosted exclusively by BHP employees.

In fiscal year 2013, BHP Billiton reported $7.5 million in contributions (including matching gifts) to more than 1,500 nonprofit organizations.

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Fracking Boom: Some North Dakota Rentals Now More Pricey Than NYC

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday February 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

williston_nd_Target_Logistics_Bear_Paw_Lodge_fracking It’s a lesson that, not surprisingly, cuts across all segments of the oil industry these days and is as old as the Alaska pipeline: There’s always a price with fame, including fracking fame.

With a population that more than doubled since 2006 when the fracking fever gripped North Dakota, the town of Williston’s real estate prices have burst through the roof. Average monthly rents and leases now top those of New York City, making it the most expensive place to live in the country. An 800-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment will cost you somewhere in the range of $2,100 per month. A 1,400-square-foot plan, spacious in comparison, ranges around $3,500 a month. Add another $500-600 per month if you want it furnished.

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ExxonMobil CEO Cites Fracking Concerns in Homeowner Suit

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday February 24th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Rex TillersonMaybe we should just file this one from the continuing fracking saga under the “just do as I say, not as I do” file.

But it’s still pretty delicious: According to various news reports, including the Wall Street Journal, Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil’s chairman and CEO, is part of a lawsuit seeking to block construction of a 160-foot water tower adjacent to his and his wife’s Bartonville, Texas home. The tower will supply water to a nearby hydraulic fracturing site.

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WegoWise Aims to Inspire Building Efficiency Improvments

| Monday February 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

WegoWise building efficiency dataEarlier this month, the building analytics company WegoWise launched a blog that provides the public with useful nuggets of data about building efficiency and water use, gleaned from the staggering amount of information it collects from scores of utility companies around the country, among other sources. The new blog, data.wegowise.com, focuses on concisely presented, interactive images that enable readers to get a visual grasp-at-a-glance of the essential elements before delving into the details.

As a means of helping to convince property owners that energy efficiency improvements are an investment, not a cost, the new blog is especially timely for New York City. New regulations embodied in Local Law 84 require owners of thousands of buildings in New York to start recording and publicizing their energy and water consumption, and WegoWise has launched a new service designed to help them comply.

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Interview: CEO of Japan’s Kirin Brewery on Creating Shared Value

Shared Value Initiative
Shared Value Initiative | Monday February 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Kirin_beer

Kirin Company sells two of Japan’s most popular beers, including Kirin Lager.

By Meghan Ennes

Kirin Co. faces an interesting challenge when it comes to creating social good. Among the assets in its large food and beverage business are two of Japan’s most popular beers: Kirin Lager and Ichiban Shibori. But how does a company that makes alcoholic beverages also address social needs, like drunk driving accidents, for example? The beginnings to that complicated answer, says President and CEO Yoshinori Isozaki, center around the concept of shared value–which has enabled the company to address the needs of society while still operating under its core business.

In the new series, “Leading Shared Value: Personal Reflections from Global Practitioners,” the Shared Value Initiative will speak with global leaders who are driving shared value strategy within their organizations. Today we interview Isozaki-san, who will also be speaking at the Shared Value Leadership Summit: Investing in Prosperity, May 13-14 in New York.

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Asia Pulp and Paper: One Year After the Forest-Clearing Moratorium

| Monday February 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment
CIMG1437

APP’s Mill in Perawang, Sumatra, Indonesia

Last fall we reported extensively on Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and its Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), which since February 2013 placed a moratorium on any further clearing of natural forest across the company’s 38 supplier concessions in Indonesia and subsequently put an end to the use of natural wood fibers in its paper mills.

In October, we also reported on Greenpeace’s assessment of how APP’s moratorium was holding up. In a comprehensive report published by the organization–who up until the implementation of FCP had been one of APP’s harshest critics–its assessment was generally favorable. In essence, Greenpeace’s position was that while some concerns remain, the company is doing what it said it would do.

Feb. 5 marked the anniversary of APP’s announcement by company Chairman Teguh Ganda Wijaya that it had stopped the destruction of natural forest lands in Indonesia, and in marking this milestone, the company has announced further areas of focus going forward. APP also hosted a debate in Jakarta to discuss their progress to-date; the debate panel involving company officials, the NGOs assisting them in their FCP implementation, and importantly, members from both WWF and the Rainforest Action Network, who remain skeptical critics of APP. More on this later–but, first, a quick recap of what APP has been doing in the last 12 months.

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Investors Pressure Oil Companies to Disclose Carbon Asset Risk

Mike Hower
| Monday February 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 12.35.36 PM The jury might still be out on when the world will run out of oil, but the rising human and economic costs associated with climate change, air pollution and overall environmental decline are accelerating the world towards a low-carbon economy. In recognition of this reality, a half-dozen investors recently filed shareholder resolutions with 10 fossil fuel companies, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, seeking an explanation of their strategies for competing in a low-carbon global market.

Southern Company, Hess, Anadarko, Devon, Kinder Morgan, Peabody Energy, FirstEnergy and CONSOL Energy also received resolutions.

The resolutions focus on potential carbon asset risk, or the possibility that these companies’ present and future fossil fuel-related assets will lose value as various market factors—such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, fuel economy, fuel switching, carbon pollution standards, efforts to curb air pollution and climate policy—increasingly reduce demand for fossil fuels and related infrastructure.

According to the shareholders, fossil fuel companies are not sufficiently disclosing these risks, even after a coalition of investors managing more than $3 trillion in collective assets sent letters last fall to 45 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies urging them to report on this very same concern. Resolution filers include the Connecticut State Treasurer’s Office, the New York State Comptroller’s Office, Arjuna Capital, As You Sow, First Affirmative Financial Network and the Unitarian Universalist Association.

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Will the New ‘Food Porn Index’ Get People to Upload More Photos of Healthy Food?

| Monday February 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

foodpornindex Are you into food porn? Well, you don’t have to admit right here right now, but given that there are more than 175 million food hashtags ond Twitter and Instagram, there’s a good chance you’re also part of this phenomenon.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry–we’re not talking about porn that mixes sex with food, but about people sharing online photos of meals they’re about to eat at a restaurant or homemade food, from Krispy Kreme glazed donuts to peanut butter brownie pizza.

If you want to get a better idea about this phenomenon just go to Tumblr, Instagram or Twitter and search for #foodporn. What you’ll quickly notice is that most of the #foodporn photos on the various social media channels are of food that is not exactly the healthy type and include mostly fast food and fatty, sugary food.

Now, a new website wants to change that, one photo of kale at a time.

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Shell Banks on Runaway Climate Change

Sarah Lozanova | Monday February 24th, 2014 | 3 Comments

climate change oil Imagine a world where coalitions form to address climate change. Global alignment to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions slows the demand for coal, while boosting efficiency and clean energy investment and deployment. Carbon prices and cap-and-trade schemes enable investment in carbon capture technologies as the world shifts to low-carbon technologies. This proactive approach to climate change, entitled “Blueprints,” was identified by Shell in 2008 as one of three possible scenarios.

Shell has used scenario planning as a powerful business tool for making more strategic choices and being sensitive to uncertainties for 40 years. The “three hard truths” that were the foundation for the three scenarios in 2008 were that energy demand is surging, suppliers are struggling to keep up and stresses on our environment are increasing. The scenario entitled “Scramble“ involves a lack of decisive action on climate change, thus coal and biofuels drive growth in developing countries, leading to rising food prices and air pollution, while the U.S. and Canada turn to “unconventional oil projects,” such as Canada’s tar sands.

In the past, Shell used scenario planning merely as a tool to gain insights but didn’t advocate for any particular scenario. For the first time, Shell chose a scenario that it wants to manifest, and it says it chose the Blueprints scenario as being better for both the company and the world.

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Raising Federal Minimum Wage Would Benefit Majority of Low-Wage Workers, CBO Finds

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday February 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Minimum Wage Protesters While many conservatives and conservative think tanks claim that raising the federal minimum wage would bring only negative consequences, an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows otherwise.

The CBO, a non-partisan group that analyzes congressional bills, analyzed the effects of increasing the minimum wage and concluded that it would increase the pay and family income for most low-wage workers. The increased earnings for low-wage workers would be $31 billion, by CBO’s estimate.

Overall real income for all low-wage workers would increase by $2 billion, and real income would increase by $5 billion for workers whose income is below the poverty threshold. Raising the minimum wage would move about 900,000 people above the poverty line. The CBO also found that raising the federal minimum wage would slightly reduce employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent. However, changes in the economy for goods and services might offset the employment decrease. As the CBO points out, “The families that experience increases in income tend to raise their consumption.”

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