Sustainability

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For BASF, Sustainability Is a Catalyst

Risk mitigation drove chemical giant BASF to adopt a sustainability focus, initiating a chain reaction that transformed not only the company’s product lines, but its corporate culture. The company’s vice president of sustainability strategy, Dirk Voeste, explains the step-by-step process that BASF undertook to produce a company-wide shift in this massive organization’s mindset.

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The Sustainability Insurgency: Missives from the Frontlines, Part 1

Emma Stewart, Autodesk’s head of sustainability, says that social intelligence helps CSR advocates in the company win colleagues’ buy-in. “In order to be a legitimized contributor to the business, you have to be as smart or smarter about your customers or other stakeholders as other business units,” Stewart says. The use of social intelligence, such as systematically calling on leading customers and “market-shapers” such as regulators, supports CSR managers’ ability to create a sustainability business case.

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Are Firms and Managers At Risk When Contributing to Climate Change?

At what point do corporate executives become personally liable for their companies’ failure to take action on climate change? This question is moving into focus as a trend toward holding company executives accountable for business practices and decisions that harm the public gathers steam. Climate activists look at precedents in the tobacco industry and asbestos manufacturing — including the recent conviction of Eternit’s CEO in Italy on negligence charges — as the potential basis of legal action against the fossil fuel industry’s leadership.

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Working Toward Totally Transparent Yogurt

Wood Turner has been working in sustainability for 20 years. In 2006 he left his work at a sustainability and brand strategy firm in Seattle to lead Climate Counts, a nonprofit incubated within Stonyfield which scores and ranks large companies on their efforts to address climate change. Now VP of sustainability innovation at Stonyfield, Turner continues his work on bringing climate-conscious practices into the core of business operations. In an interview, Turner describes the collaborative processes that make this strategy work.

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Asia Pulp & Paper and Greenpeace: Building New Directions, Together

When two organizations are on opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to sustainability issues, it may seem like there’s no hope of ever reaching agreement. Such was the case when Greenpeace and Asia Pulp sat down to negotiate a truce after Greenpeace’s hard-hitting campaign to change Asia Pulp’s forestry practices, which Greenpeace saw as destroying endangered rainforest habitat. But as Asia Pulp’s Aida Greenbury explains, it’s possible even for two polar opposites to find areas of common ground and work together for sustainable business practices.

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How Sprint Negotiates Sustainability

As the head of corporate social responsibility at Sprint, Amy Hargroves has challenged the telecommunications company to “walk the talk” on sustainability, with significant success. But it hasn’t come easy by any means. In her interview with MIT SMR, Hargroves describes how she has partnered with Sprint’s legal and government affairs team to turn principles into practice.

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Bridging the Sustainability Gap

Most mainstream investors are unconvinced that sustainability leadership translates into profits and marketplace success. Despite rising importance on the corporate agenda, sustainability —as currently understood and measured — interests only a small niche of investors. The authors argue that a “back to basics” approach for measuring sustainability’s direct impact on revenue growth, productivity and risk would provide mainstream investors with the data that’s critical to their decisions.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Wilber Baan.
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The Risks and Responsibilities of Tech Innovation

The introduction of Google’s breakthrough wearable computer, Google Glass, creates numerous possibilities for risky behavior on the part of Glass users. Should companies on the cutting be held responsible for their customers’ poor judgment in using new tech? There are legal and social precedents that say they should, but business and corporate responsibility expert Christine Bader suggests ways companies can combat this problem.

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Sustainability Dialects

All functional areas have their own “language” to express the concepts most important to their roles in a company. In the fourth installment of his series on the Sustainability Insurgency, Gregory Unruh explains how CSR officers can introduce sustainability as part of the conversation in different functions.

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No Free Market for Energy

The idea that energy is a “free-market good” is a myth that needs to be abandoned. Subsidies for energy exist for good reason. The authors argue that in order to wean ourselves off hydrocarbon dependence, U.S. and global policies that subsidize oil and gas production at higher rates than renewable energy production need to be changed to reduce the bias in favor of hydrocarbons.

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Mobilizing the Insurgency

The sustainability director’s goal? Empower allies inside of companies to link social intelligence with their job responsibilities and the company’s overall sustainability strategy. In the third installment of the series on corporate social responsibility insurgencies, Gregory Unruh examines how managers offer leadership in establishing and nurturing sustainability projects — and culture — in their companies.

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The Trouble with Supply Chains

The UN’s Global Compact report identifies auditing the supply chain as the biggest obstacle to putting sustainability principle into practice. Companies simply don’t have enough information about suppliers’ sustainability practices to determine which links on the supply chain will provide the best outcome. But as global data sources become more all-encompassing — and companies’ analytics capabilities grow more sophisticated — that is changing.

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Human Rights: The Next Frontier

It is becoming more and more commonplace for companies to take human rights into account when sourcing materials or manufacturing processes. Guest blogger Olivier Jaeggi of ECOFACT explains why this trend has significance for sustainability — and how corporate standards are increasingly taking the position that paying attention to human rights is a necessity for companies’ risk management strategy, rather than an act of good will.

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Image courtesy of the World Economic Forum/Flickr.

Creating Societal Benefits and Corporate Profits

The odds of launching a new business that creates value for both the company and the public can be improved with good planning. An in-depth analysis of how four companies created for-profit initiatives that also have high societal value suggests that each followed a similar step-by-step process to achieve what the researchers call synergistic value creation. Those steps include establishing cross-business incubators and installing multi-perspective monitoring systems.

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Is Hostility to Blame for Sustainability’s Leadership Gap?

When a conservative think-tank challenged Apple’s sustainability programs at a recent shareholder meeting, CEO Tim Cook didn’t back down, refusing to bow to its calls to suspend any activities that didn’t “add to the bottom line.” Apple’s shareholders rewarded him with resounding support. If sustainability is to increase its profile as a business priority, more executives will need to follow Cook’s lead.

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