Author Archives: Audrey Roth

CRA Member Spotlight: CBRE’s Jennifer Leitsch

p43_InterviewSubject_Leitsch_W2018 By John Howell Jennifer Leitsch is Director of Corporate Responsibility for CBRE, the world’s largest real estate services company. Leitsch is a LEED Accredited Professional and a SASB FSA Credential holder, and has been trained by Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader. She also serves as the Vice Chair of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Stakeholder Council, representing business enterprise while advising the GRI Board on strategic issues. JH: CBRE has a history of supporting social and environmental practices. What’s behind the company’s commitment? JL: We view CR as integral to our business—it generates growth and opportunity for both the company and the communities that we service. JH: How do you convey that message? JL: We’ve been issuing an annual corporate responsibility report since 2007. It’s an important statement about our mission: It’s developed along Global Reporting Initiative Standards, and includes our progress toward implementing the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact.

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Is It Time to Start Focusing on What Really Matters?

p41_W2018 By James Burke Many people share the skeptical attitude from the cartoon above toward building a sustainable future. Sustainability can help an organization improve reputational image, obtain better access to capital, meet employee expectations, and drive competitive advantage. But as the cartoon points out, what if it’s a big hoax and this is all for naught? The answer is that it doesn’t matter. A robust, thriving consumer base is absolutely mission critical for every company on our planet. Recognizing the risk of inaction, companies have been reporting on environmental, social and governance issues for decades. But with all the data collection, subsequent evaluation, and rating/rankings, the majority of individual companies are not delivering needed performance improvements. Why? The major culprit for lack of performance improvement can be found in the supply chain. Supply chains represent approximately 80 percent of non-financial impacts for most companies, and over 90 percent in the consumer goods sector, according to a 2016 McKinsey report.

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Electricity, Customer Satisfaction and Corporate Responsibility

electric transmission tower with dusk sky , energy background By Tina Casey Utility companies began practicing corporate social responsibility long before the movement took hold in other economic sectors. That’s partly due to the legal and social obligations that come with being a regulated monopoly, and partly due to the localized nature of water, gas and electricity service. There are important differences between utilities and other companies, but one area in common is the need to satisfy customers and build loyalty. Practically any business, from the corner laundromat to a global brand, can gain important insights by looking at the elements that factor into customer satisfaction. For a closer look at the topic, CR Magazine spoke with Andrew Heath, Senior Director for Utilities Practice at the leading market research firm JD Power. (The following remarks have been edited lightly for flow.) Tina Casey: How do you measure customer satisfaction? Andrew Heath: For utilities, there are six factors in customer satisfaction: power quality, reliability, billing and payments, communication, customer service, and then also corporate citizenship.

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Investment Giants Step Up Governance Oversight

Odd huge businessman goes across the town By John Howell It’s contagious, spreading fast, and is having serious consequences throughout society. I’m not talking about this season’s virulent flu, but the recent announcements by the biggest global mainstream investors that they will be increasing oversight on governance among their portfolio companies. Investment firms—including BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street (which collectively manage $14 trillion in assets)—and several other investment entities are putting the thousands of companies in their portfolios on notice that their governance practices and strategies will be more closely monitored by the funds in the future. And they’re not looking just for traditional governance—that the social relevance of their operations and missions will be evaluated, too. This notice was included in an open letter by BlackRock founder and chief executive Larry Fink to the CEOs of the world’s largest public companies this past January. “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” Fink wrote.

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How Toy Giants Hasbro and Mattel Match Up on CR

toys collection isolated on white background By Tina Casey How do corporate responsibility and public reputation impact a company’s stock performance?A look at the recent history of Hasbro and Mattel provides anecdotal evidence that CR does support strong stock performance — but only if the company is effective in focusing and promoting its CR actions. In an exclusive email interview with CR Magazine, JohnWeiss, Director of Ceres’ Company Network, offers this insight:
While it’s always difficult to show causation, there is some evidence of a connection between environmental and social performance and strong management systems, which is a factor in a company’s stock price. Some companies that outperform on environmental and social issues — that is, they’re effectively managing risk — also benefit from a lower cost of capital, which can contribute to a better stock price. I think we can expect to see more people studying this question in the years ahead, and developing even more robust conclusions, as the data set continues to grow and covers an increasingly long period of corporate performance.

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The Opioid Crisis: Taking Action in the Private Sector

A bottle with a hydrocodone (the generic name for drug sold under other names by various pharmaceutical companies) label and hydrocodone tablets spilling out isolated on white background. Hydrocodone is a popular prescription semi-synthetic opioid that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone is said to be one of the most common recreational prescription drugs in America. By Roger Krone The conversation around solving America’s opioid problem is centered on public policy, but the private sector holds considerable levers of power. In October, President Trump declared a public health emergency. He stated that ending the opioid crisis will require the resolve of our entire nation, including the “mobilization of government, local communities, and private organizations.” Unfortunately, we have not yet seen significant mobilization in the private sector. As we know, there’s a lot of work to do. The scale and urgency of the opioid epidemic are alarming. Many experts believe it is the worst drug crisis in U.S. history. Drug overdose claimed at least 64,000 lives last year, making it the leading cause of unintentional death in our country. More Americans died last year from drug overdose than the number of U.S. soldiers we lost in Vietnam. Millions more suffer from non-fatal opioid use disorder, and countless more will suffer if trends continue. Improving these numbers will require our nation’s business leaders to respond.

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Women: The Next Corporate Cause?

Candid picture of a female boss and business team collaborating. Filtered serie with light flares, bokeh, warm sunny tones. By Laura Wise On January 7, 2018, at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards, Oprah Winfrey received the 2017 Cecil B. DeMille award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment -- the first black woman in history to win this coveted award. She delivered a timely and well-crafted acceptance speech -- better yet, a call to action -- declaring ever so eloquently that the culture of silence in the entertainment industry has ended, “... I’m especially inspired by all of the women who have felt strong enough and inspired enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year, we became the story.” 2017 will be remembered as the year of women, as the year when women across the country and in every industry said, “Me Too” in unison. In January of 2017, nearly 5 million Americans marched for women’s rights; since that time, the Women’s March has been called one of the largest demonstrations in American history.

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Bird Estuaries and Boardwalks: Quantifying the Costs of Sea Level Rise

Water crashing over rocks By Jan Lee Global warming is a major concern for communities along California’s sweeping Pacific coastline. More than 600 miles of western shoreline stretches between the state’s north and south boundaries, pocketed by old-growth forests, carefully preserved beaches and small, historic towns that serve as magnets in California’s thriving tourism industry. The world’s sixth largest economy realized more than $125 billion from tourism in 2016 alone, driven in part by the throngs of tourists that head each year to landmarks like Disneyland in the south and San Francisco’s historic Pier 39 two-thirds of the way up the coast. No region however, is a more iconic symbol of California’s carefully sheltered tourism industry than Santa Cruz County. Situated barely 90 minutes south of San Francisco and framed on the west by a curve of towering cliffs and dotted by sandy beaches, the county is proof of the fact that small localities can and do have a big economic punch. As the state’s second-smallest county, Santa Cruz reaped $700 million in tourism revenue in 2000 and recorded one million visitors.

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Profiles of the 2017 Responsible CEO Winners

gold cup winner on bokeh background, 3D illustration CR Magazine’s 2017 Responsible CEO Award acknowledges individuals who go the extra mile to help their corporations exceed daily goals in a sustainable and responsible manner. Winners were announced at the 2017 COMMIT!Forum. Municipal/Nonprofit CEO of the Year: Anthony Haines Anthony_HainesAnthony Haines is the president and chief executive officer of Toronto Hydro Corporation and its subsidiaries, one of the largest urban electricity distribution companies in Canada. He is a seasoned leader with over 25 years of experience in the Canadian energy industry, including 15 years in various senior roles in the natural gas industry. Under Haines’ guidance, the Toronto Hydro Corporation has: - Supported emerging energy storage technologies; - Successfully connected over 11,000 solar projects; - Been recognized by the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA) as a Sustainable Electricity Company; - Increased the time between accidents from 1 every 250,000 hours to 1 every 6 million hours.

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Hit Your First Sustainability Report Out of the Park

A white leather baseball on a grass field on a sunny day, with copy space By Jen Boynton At this year’s 2018 GRI Reporters’ North America Summit, participants got deep into all the best ways to improve their sustainability reporting with increased materiality, stakeholder engagement and communications. But the conference also served newer reporters, sharing tips and tools for those just getting started with reporting. Stewart Rassier from the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, an experienced consultant with multiple “first reports” under his belt, together with Jamie Jones Ezefili from Northern Trust, an accomplished first time reporter, shared some best practices for first time reporting. “The first report is hands down the most difficult report you’ll have to do,” Rassier explained, which was oddly reassuring. The most important thing is to get started, because each subsequent reporting cycle allows a company to get a little more transparent. The reason it’s the hardest is that reporters generally underestimate the legwork involved.

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