Is Post-Financial Crisis CSR For Real?: Exclusive Interview at BSR ’14

Mary Mazzoni
| Saturday November 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments
TriplePundit sat down with Andrew Plepler, global corporate social responsibility executive for Bank of America, at BSR '14 to find out what has changed since the financial crisis when it comes to CSR.

TriplePundit sat down with Andrew Plepler, global corporate social responsibility executive for Bank of America, at BSR ’14 to find out what has changed since the financial crisis when it comes to CSR.

Since the financial crisis of 2007-2008, skepticism (and even downright hatred) of the financial services industry has been high — and many would say for good reason. To that end, governments, advocacy groups and other stakeholders have focused intensely on creating a more responsible industry. But how much has really changed in the past five years? Is the industry really modifying its core business practices in the interest of corporate social responsibility (CSR), or is it just smoke and mirrors (again)?

At the 2014 BSR conference in New York City this week, a group of expert panelists assembled to discuss just that. The conversation was dynamic and drew enthusiastic participation from audience members across multiple industries. (Stay tuned for more coverage of this thought-provoking panel discussion next week on TriplePundit.)

I had the chance to sit down with Andrew Plepler, global corporate social responsibility executive for Bank of America, before the panel on Thursday. Plepler has been with B of A for more than a decade — meaning he was the guy who bravely pitched CSR ideas in board rooms before the crisis, with members who may or may not have been receptive. Now, five years later, he’s working on annual CSR reports and serving as the smiling face on videos explaining what responsibility means for the company. Since he’s seen the issue come full circle, I was intrigued to hear his thoughts.

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3p Weekend Conferences: CSR and Planning for the Unplanned at BSR ’14

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday November 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

From left to right:

From left to right: Melanie Janin of BSR (moderator); Gabi Zedlmayer, vice president and chief progress officer for HP; Paul Massey, executive vice president of Weber Shandwick; and Koichi Kaneda, senior director of CSR for Takeda Pharmaceutical speak about planning for the unplanned at BSR 2014.

Two years ago, shortly after the 2012 BSR Conference in New York, Hurricane Sandy struck the city. Few anticipated the severity of the damage brought on by rising floodwaters, which reached 17 feet in some areas. Gov. Andrew Cuomo estimated that the total price tag for the storm will reach $42 billion, the New York Times reported.

The unforeseen and catastrophic damage caused by Sandy serves as a chilling reminder that unplanned events lurk around every corner — that everything can change in the blink of an eye.

As our planet warms, studies show such unprecedented storms, hurricanes and floods will only become more commonplace. But of course, natural disasters aren’t the only unexpected events that can shake people — and businesses — to their core. From stock market jolts and dislocation to man-made tragedies like the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, such shocks to the system come in many forms — and businesses are now expected to plan for the unplanned and to jump into action when disaster strikes the communities in which they operate.

At the 2014 BSR Conference, a group of though leaders assembled to discuss just that in a panel entitled “Planning for the Unplanned: The Role of Corporate Responsibility in Unforeseen Events.” We pulled some of our favorite quotes from the panel, so you can feel like you were there — even if you couldn’t make it to New York. 

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66 Percent Of Voters Voted For ‘None Of The Above’

Bill Roth | Friday November 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment

2969665423_cb5861053f_zWhat is an economist doing writing about an election? As a numbers guy, the statistics from the November 2014 mid-term election demands attention because of their implications for our economy and sustainability.

A lack of voter participation was the most telling statistic of this last election. Voter participation was a record low 33 percent. This means 66 percent of potential voters were so unmoved by the candidates and the issues that they did not participate. The obvious question (economic and political) is: Why did the majority of voters vote for ‘none of the above?’

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SoCal Edison Signs Historic Agreements for 2.2 Gigs New Capacity

| Friday November 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

SCE LogoSouthern California Edison (SCE) made U.S. power industry history Nov. 5, signing local procurement contracts for 2.221 gigawatts of electrical power from a diverse range of new energy resources. This represents roughly 10 percent of peak customer usage across its service territory, which spans 50,000 square miles within central, coastal and Southern California.

Setting a precedent in the U.S. power sector, SCE for the first time evaluated over 1,800 final offers and a wide range of energy resource types “in a head-to-head competition to meet a specific reliability objective,” the Edison International power utility stated in a new release.

In the end, SCE selected 69 offers from “preferred” resources that are cleaner or more environmentally sustainable than conventional energy resources and energy storage facilities, including intelligent energy storage systems. SCE also signed contracts for five new natural gas power plants. All are subject to approval from the California Public Utilities Commission.

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Could Hydrogen Peroxide Stop Global Starvation?

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Friday November 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

hydrogen_peroxide_starvation_usdaHydrogen peroxide (H2O2) has long been used by produce distributors to reduce spoilage during shipment. The oxygen-rich substance apparently helps slow bacteria growth and acts as a natural preservative for fruits and vegetables.

Assuming we’re eating the food we put in our fridge, many of those products should have a healthy, ecologically-safe shelf life. Studies show that despite the handy preservative, an amazing amount of the food we buy here in North America (40 percent) goes to waste.

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Supply Chain Managers: What You Need to Know About Climate Change

3p Contributor | Friday November 7th, 2014 | 2 Comments

By Srini Vasan

supply chain effecting climate By nature a chain is comprised of a series of links, each interdependent on the next. The supply chain is no different. Though the links may be intangibles like materials, distributors, retailers and customers, each piece serves as an important function without which business grinds to an unprofitable halt.

Staying ahead of potential risks before they become real threats is merely part of the deal when you run a business, but what about those factors that you can’t anticipate — much less control? For example, how does a successful business prepare for or even begin to respond to factors that can disrupt the production of essential raw materials such as agriculture, fuel or mining and metals commodities? By knocking out this first essential step, the entire supply chain collapses before it’s even fully formed.

At this point, any good supply chain manager might be thinking to themselves, “Sure, but we have contingency plans in place to address natural disasters or man-made supply-chain disruptions such as export restrictions.”

That may be true. However, this doesn’t take into account the long-term fallout of the Big C — climate change. Businesses often overlook this critical piece, adopting a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Sooner or later, chances are these marked changes in our atmosphere will amplify, alter or exacerbate issues in raw material availability or their transportation thereof.

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I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Gets Nutrition Upgrade

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday November 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

I Can't Believe It's Not ButterPeople who eat  I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter are now eating a healthier version of the butter substitute.

Made by Unilever, the butter substitute is now made with plant-based oils, purified water and no artificial preservatives. It is also the first spread from Unilever in the U.S. to be made with non-GMO sourced ingredients. Mike Faherty, vice president of Unilever Foods, North America, described the changes to I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter as “the start of a complete category transformation that will help us grow the buttery spreads business.”

The re-vamped I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), the company’s sustainability blueprint, which covers all of its products globally. One of the goals detailed in the USLP is to double the proportion of products in the company’s portfolio that meet the “highest nutritional standards” by 2020. It is on its way to meeting that goal, as 31 percent of its products in 2013 met these standards.

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Replenish Brings the Refill to Personal Care

RP Siegel | Friday November 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment

ClearPath 5Sustainability becomes embedded when it becomes invisible, and that happens as a consequence of good design. People don’t buy Tesla Roadsters because they’re efficient. They buy them because they are beautiful and powerful and fast. People use refillable water bottles because they make sense, especially if you think about the amount of waste associated with disposable bottles.

The new personal care product bottles announced by Replenish yesterday at the 2014 BSR conference, fall somewhere between the two and will do well because of it. It’s a terrific combination of great design and good sense. These new reusable bottles are designed to internally accept replacement pods of concentrate that are mixed inside with no mess.

You might think: This is not a big deal. Refills of things like liquid hand soap have been around for a while. And all kinds of products are sold as concentrates. There has also been a recent move towards compaction in areas like laundry detergents. As there should be. Considering the fact that most home care products contain 90 percent water, why spend the fuel and the carbon and the money to ship water to millions of homes when we already have perfectly good water supply systems that do that very well for far less money?

We’ve been doing that with coffee and tea for as long as we’ve been drinking them. Now Coca-Cola is allying with Green Mountain Keurig so that we’ll soon be able to do it with soft drinks, too.

The idea might seem obvious, but as I learned when I spoke with Replenish founder Jason Foster, that doesn’t mean it was easy to make it happen. In fact, when Foster came up with the idea seven years ago (while ironing a shirt) he wondered, “Why isn’t there a bottle like this already?”

Even if the idea was obvious, the implementation was not. The Replenish bottle design is elegant. Here’s how it works: The squirt bottle has a threaded hole in the bottom to which the concentrate pod attaches. There is also a valve inside that keeps the concentrate from leaking in or the mixture from leaking out. Then, inside the main bottle is an upside-down measuring cup which is some distance away from the bottom.

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Balancing Commerce, Idealism and Yoga Pants: Q&A with prAna CEO

| Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

pranalogoAn early adopter of organic cotton and the first major brand to bring Fair Trade apparel to market, prAna has now joined the growing list of beloved green brands (think Annie’s Homegrown, Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine) to be gobbled up by the big guys. The California-based lifestyle brand best known for its climbing and yoga apparel was recently acquired by Columbia Sportswear – a move that will not only help the parent company, a historically cold-weather sports brand, expand its offering, but will also fortify the smaller brand with an operations platform that can help its sustainability mantra reach new global markets.

PrAna’s commitment to sustainability has set it apart from the rest from the start. In its early days, prAna’s founders would cut and sew clothing in their garage, craft hangtags made with homemade recycled paper, and ship orders to customers in boxes gathered from the local grocery store. The company was also an early proponent of renewable energy within the apparel industry, pioneering wind power through its Natural Power Initiative, for which it was recognized as an EPA Green Power Partner. PrAna has come a long way from making its garments in garages and delivering clothes in fruit boxes – today the company’s products are sold at 1,400 specialty retailers across the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia and its sales are expected to hit more than $100 million this year. All of this is expected to continue to grow in the wake of Columbia’s acquisition. The question on everybody’s minds is: “Will this acquisition change the company’s commitment to sustainability?”

In an age when more and more socially and environmentally responsible companies are being bought to help diversify big corporate portfolios, what can we learn from a company that has woven sustainability into its business from day one and has consistently sought to strike a fine balance between commerce and idealism? I spoke with prAna CEO Scott Kerslake to hear more about what this new corporate partnership will mean to a company named after the ancient Sanskrit word for “life force,” and how the brand has set its intention to keep it real.

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Report Singles Out 32 Countries Most at Risk from Climate Change

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 1 Comment

IPCC_total_anthropogenic_GHG_IPCCrptAll eyes are on the IPCC report this week. But the global panel isn’t the only one sounding the alarm. Last month, as if in anticipation of the IPCC’s latest release, the Pentagon did its own alarm-sounding: Climate change issues are a real risk and need to be considered in the interest of national security.

Now, I know what you are probably thinking: the Pentagon? When has this country’s military nerve center ever sounded out about climate change?

But really, who else is going to have the finger on the pulse when it comes to the political and social impacts of global warming?

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Adidas Creates Human Rights Complaint Process

Michael Kourabas
| Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

10095914514_55cafe6ecb_zLast month, German sportswear giant, The Adidas Group (Adidas), quietly released its “Third Party Complaint Process for Breaches to the Adidas Group Workplace Standards or Violations of International Human Rights Norms” (the Process).  Although the document is not perfect, and it is impossible to fairly evaluate the process without examining how it functions in practice, Adidas appears to have created a strong grievance mechanism that passes muster under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights.

What did Adidas do?

Introduction: The document containing the new Adidas Process opens with a bold pronouncement:  “The Adidas Group is committed to operating as a sustainable business which is environmentally sound, respects human rights and ensures fair, safe and healthy working conditions across our global supply chain.”  The Process was designed to help Adidas satisfy these commitments.

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The Business Risks of Water Shortages

| Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 1 Comment

CDP 2014 Global Water Report cvrWhether it’s greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and climate change, waste management and recycling, or water usage, investors and businesses are increasingly sensitive and exposed to the risks environmental crises pose to the financial bottom line.

Yesterday, CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project) released the CDP Global Water Report 2014: From water risk to value creation. Representing 573 professional investment management companies responsible for managing a mind-boggling $60 trillion in assets, CDP surveyed 174 of the world’s largest companies regarding their water usage, their exposure to threats to water resources and how they are, or are planning, to cope.

Indicative of the widespread risks and seriousness of the threats to water resources they perceive, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of survey respondents reported exposure to water risk. Ninety percent are integrating water resource management into group-wide business strategies, and 82 percent are setting goals and targets to reduce water use.

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CDP: Just Disclose Before Your Investors Make You

3p Conferences
| Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Paul Dickinson: globalisation has limited the power of government to act in the best interests of its citizens

Paul Dickinson: Globalization has limited the power of government to act in the best interests of its citizens.

By Felicity Carus

Nike and ExxonMobil are not two companies often mentioned in the same breath, unless of course it comes to the health of their profits.

But Paul Dickinson, founder and executive chairman of CDP, is disappointed by the apparel giant’s refusal to participate in the nonprofit’s voluntary Global Water Report launched yesterday. Exxon participated in the CDP’s last annual carbon report, while Nike did not make its data public for the water report.

The water report was conducted on behalf of 503 investors, such as Bank of America, CalPRS, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase & Co, with $60 trillion in assets under management.

“It’s a bizarre company like Exxon or Nike who will ignore a legitimate question for their shareholders,” he tells me. “The question is: If they are not answerable to their shareholders, then who are they answerable to? Are they rogue companies?”

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ExxonMobil, MIT Hook Up on $25 Million Energy Initiative

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 1 Comment

MITEI_logo_R3ExxonMobil will chip in $25 million over five years as a founding member of the MIT Energy Initiative, a collaboration aimed at “working together to advance and explore the future of energy.”

Under the agreement:

  • The $25 million will support “faculty and research efforts”
  • ExxonMobil will collaborate with MIT on a “wide range” of projects, including research to improve and expand renewable energy sources and find more efficient ways to produce and use conventional hydrocarbon resources
  • MIT will establish 10 ExxonMobil Energy Fellows each year for graduate students
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After the Thrift Store: What Happens to Your Donated Clothes?

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Goodwill StoreThis past weekend, thousands of fans crowded Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, to watch the San Francisco 49ers play the St. Louis Rams. Many of these attendees showed up to the game with old jeans and other unwanted articles of clothing, donating them in exchange for a special Levi’s discount coupon, as part of a used clothing drive sponsored by Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co) and Goodwill.

Since Levi Strauss announced the collection event in late October, the iconic jeans maker has received 15,500 unwanted pairs of jeans – 10 tons of denim – dropped off at Goodwill stores for this campaign and at this weekend’s game. Goodwill will sell those jeans and other donations to fund its job training program.

Later this month, LS&Co will cover the field of its stadium with the donated denim, creating a “Field of Jeans” to visually express the enormity of the country’s textile waste – 26 billion pounds sent to the landfill every year, according to the denim giant – as well as to demonstrate an example of how we can find a new use for that material. LS&Co’s partner Goodwill will be responsible for sorting and reselling all jeans and clothes collected through the “Field of Jeans” event.

But what happens to used clothing that can’t be resold – not just from this “Field of Jeans” clothes drive, but from other nonprofit charities, for-profit thrift stores and collection events?

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