2015: the year businesses recognize that climate change is real – and 4 other themes



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I recently participated in The Guardian‘s year-end predictions and analysis series. While there were lots of themes and issues to pick from, I decided to focus on five. Here’s an excerpt:

The next phase of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, fittingly termed the Sustainable Development Goals, shift priorities from insular goals like reducing poverty and increasing hygiene to more inclusive and integrated ones that push for systemic change like the rule of law, dignity and prosperity for all. The implications are significant.

And business is being called on to provide active support for the first time. This presents an unprecedented opportunity to tie businesses’ growth to their communities and the environment. For the first time, capitalists are welcome and actively needed at the table. This marks a key acknowledgement that determining our path forward as an interconnected economy will require the tensile strength of every single sector.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

So how do you make sure your business is syncing its growth plan with the new UN goals? How do you get past the loftiness and map the real changes that are needed against the trajectory of your business plan?

You’ll want to start by investing in some scenario planning.

You can read the full article on The Guardian.

And while I wasn’t able to respond to the comments that flew in before the commenting period ended – yes, I really did shut down my electronics this holiday! – I’d like to continue the conversations here. So if you agree or don’t, have a question or a solution, please do respond. As I promised in the piece, my mantra is clear:

Tell the whole story, help our executives and leaders connect the dots, identify the context, and empower stakeholders through knowledge. When I started writing about these issues, I committed to connecting the dots. Always.

A decade later, that hasn’t changed.

And remember, joy is contagious. But so is skepticism. Stay clear. Steer carefully – and lead gracefully – onwards.

Wishing you a happy and productive 2015.

Introducing Singh on CSR: A Journalist With a Purpose..and an Opinion



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*Updated July, 2014

Most recently the Editorial Director at CSRwire, a digital media platform for the latest news, views and research on CSR and sustainability. Along with leading content distribution, social media strategy and CSR/sustainability reporting services for CSRwire members, I also led Talkback, CSRwire’s aman singh, csrwireCommentary section, with over 250 contributors and increased traffic 35% – 50% year to year.

The channel featured several influencers and thought leaders – John Elkington, Hazel Henderson, Wayne Visser – as well as authors – Frances Moore  Lappé, Bob Willard, Carol Sanford – researchers, activists and CSR/sustainability professionals – AMD’s Tim Mohin, Campbell Soup’s Dave Stangis, Sustainability leader Peter Graf, John Edelman – and served as a platform to push the needle on critical topics, learn from each other and constantly crowdsource new ideas, partnerships and best practices.

While at CSRwire, I’ve had the pleasure of working with numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as the country’s leading nonprofits and academic institutions on creating and implementing communication strategies focused on stakeholder engagement and behavior change, including Unilever, Verizon, Aramark, SAP, Campbell Soup, Nestle Waters North America, McDonald’s, General Mills, HP, Mars, Avon, Sodexo, EarthShare, Points of Light and others.

Our Stakeholder Engagement Campaigns – including live Twitter chats and webinars as well as content series and multimedia – generated millions of impressions, hundreds of participants and provided our members with critical feedback, important partnerships and a pulse of their stakeholders’ concerns.

I’ve also been an active journalist for almost 15 years, including stints at The Wall Street Journal, The Villager, Tehelka.com and Vault.com, where I created, designed and managed the recruitment industry’s first CSR channel aimed exclusively at engaging, debating and discussing corporate social responsibility, sustainable (and unsustainable) business practices, responsible (and irresponsible) leadership, diversity and the lack of it, the role of workplace culture in our lives, social entrepreneurship, the newly-minted term ‘intrapreneurship’ and much, much more.

Careers in CSR and Sustainability

Vault’s CSR Channel

Skepticism is second nature to me and I’m most comfortable asking [mostly the right] questions, facilitating dialogues, editing copious pages of text, refining even the most academic articles into easy-to-read blogs and thrive on the opportunities extended by a new world of social media and access to organizations and change makers.

This is my space – to question, analyze and discuss.

I’ll examine the latest CSR report and debate how we’re faring in our pursuit of materiality and creating a new economy built on wellbeing and shared value. No question is small enough, no development unrelated. And no topic unworthy.

From careers in CSR to the future of GRI reporting, from analyzing the do(s) and don’t(s) of sustainability to the latest in impact investing and our search for materiality; from social media etiquette to transparency in this new hyper-connected world, from work/life balance to gender and age discrimination, from effective communication strategies to the immensely irritating term “greenwashing”; and much much, more, join me for a promising and thought-provoking ride.


Hardcore lessons of sustainability – ’10 Words or Less’


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I recently participated in “10 Words or Less,” a popular video series hosted by former journalist Michael Prager who writes on sustainable lifestyles and food. Prager reached out to me via Twitter, thanks to a recommendation from Asheen.

As we got started, he reminded me that “10 Words” is an ethic, not a limit. The conversation, despite a couple of technical hiccups – I’m still not sold on Google hangouts – was interesting and covered good ground.


Name Aman Singh
Born when, where New Delhi, India, Sept. 15.
The year? “Earlier in the decade of the gas leak in Bhopal.”
Anything notable about the circumstances? “At that time, parents did not find out the sex of their child. My parents wanted a boy, had a boy’s name picked out, but they had a girl and stuck with the name.”
How’s that working for you? “I think it empowered me. My name in Punjabi, which is my native language, means peace. I’m quite the contrarian, but they had the right thought in mind.”
Where do you live? “New Jersey.”
Family circumstance “I’m happily married to a car geek, also from my hometown Delhi, and we have a 14-month-old son.”
When did you move to the US?

Grab the rest on MichaelPrager.com.

Brewing a Better Future [#BaBF] with Heineken: Examining the Many Flavors of Local Sourcing


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Earlier this year, TriplePundit‘s Nick Aster and I chatted with the Heineken team to discuss what “Brewing a Better Future” meant for the company. It coincided with the Heineken's sustainability teamrelease of its latest CSR Report and the chat, which began with a selfie of the Heineken team, was both engaging and active.

It also revealed an area that deserved more digging than we could get to in the allotted hour: the company’s sourcing practices.

So we decided to team up with the experts for Round 2! This time we’ll chat with Heineken’s sustainability leadership team including:

  • Michael Dickstein (MD) – Director, Global Sustainable Development
  • Paul Stanger (PS) – Local Sourcing Director, Africa & Middle East Region
  • Edwin Zuidema (EZ) – Global Category Director, Raw Materials

Here’s what you need to know:

Date: August 27, 2014

Time: 11am ET

Hashtag: #BaBF

Speakers: @HEINEKENCorp

Moderators: @AmanSinghCSR @NickAster @TriplePundit

To RSVP, send out the following tweet:

I will join @HEINEKENCorp @AmanSinghCSR @NickAster & @TriplePundit to discuss local #sourcing on 08/27 http://bit.ly/BaBFchat #BaBF

Got a question? Include it in the comments section below or send it to contact@triplepundit.com. Talk soon!

From Conflict to Collaboration: Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace Participate in LIVE Twitter Chat


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When two adversaries decide to cut across their divides to work together toward a bigger cause, Kleercutchances are there’s a story – or two – to be told, learned from and examined for replicable tips.

Five years ago, Greenpeace launched a nationwide campaign aptly titled #Kleercut to invoke consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark to reexamine its fiber sourcing standards. K-C responded by inviting Greenpeace to a meeting.

What emerged from a series of meetings that followed that initial, tense meet up was a collaborative framework that has shifted K-C’s sourcing standards and helped offer both greenpeace and kimberly clarkorganizations a tangible way to move forward on protecting and conserving forests worldwide.

Today, K-C reports a significant increase in its FSC-certified fiber use and notes higher sales across its Kleenex and Scott tissue brands.

Marking their “wood” anniversary, K-C’s Sustainability Strategy Leader Peggy Ward along with Greenpeace’s Richard Brooks and Rolf Skar, decided to participate in a live Twitter chat facilitated by TriplePundit’s Nick Aster and me on August 5, 2014.

The questions were flying in even before we started keeping the panelists busy through the hour and more: from a behind-the-scenes story about how the two began collaborating five years ago to the future of alternative fibers and how the organizations are working on connecting consumers with sustainability, we covered a lot of ground.

Tweetbinder KC-GP tweets stats

Here are the stats: http://www.tweetbinder.com/rs/db6u3eRDv67

For highlights, grab the #Storify version. And to also grab our audience’s perspectives, search for #ForestSolutions on Twitter!

Chatting LIVE with Mars’ Sustainability Chief: Integrating Sustainability, Driving Responsibility


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On July 24, 2014, I facilitated a live Twitter chat with Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability Officer at Mars, Inc. and TriplePundit to offer an opportunity to learn more about sustainability at the food manufacturer.

As a lead up to the chat, Mars published its fourth annual Principles in Action Summary, which details the company’s approach to business, its progress, and the shared challenges facing both its Marsbusiness and society.

As one of the world’s leading food manufacturers with more than 130 manufacturing sites and an expansive supply chain, how does the company contextualize sustainability, set goals that encompass its social and environmental footprint, grow its supply chain and do it all responsibly?

For an hour we chatted – with 104 attendees generating almost 600 tweets, over 3.5 million impressions and 27 questions. Here’s the Storify summary.

And here are Parkin’s responses to the questions that we couldn’t get to in the hour:

  • @cmehallow: Does @MarsGlobal use @CDP Water Disclosure to manage/measure its #water impacts?

We have just completed our second CDP Carbon response and are evaluating the Water and Forest programs.

  • @csrdispatch: This might be a cheeky question, but do you feel a conflict between commitment to sustainability and selling junk food?

Our consumers, both people and their pets, get nutrition and pleasure from our products.  We are continuing to look at the role of our portfolio in addressing nutrition and obesity.

  • @dgardinera @dataeco: What have been your experiences with large #renewableenergy procurement?#MarsSusty

Our most recent large scale project was Mesquite Creek, but we have on-site projects or 100% renewable contracts at more than a dozen globally. We also just announced another project in Australia last week: http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/10219-the-sun-won-t-melt-this-mars-bar.html

  • @kellyfmill: Specific ways #sustainability goals are integreated w/ other departments? 

We believe it’s everybody’s responsibility, therefore we have goals in all functions/departments in the business. 

  • @jsonenshine: Can you share how you are driving farmer productivity? [A3b: Driving farmer productivity is our way to do both.]

Yes, as an example in cocoa, we are providing training, latest planting material and access to fertilizer for farmers.

  • @wssocialimpact: How does @MarsGlobal address sustainability goals in the short term?

We have a range of Sourcing Targets for 2015 and 2020 and Operations Targets (SiG) for 2015. More info at:



  • @gurumug: How do you cross-verify #sustainability reporting standards/systems ?

We have a third party audit of our data and an assurance by Corporate Citizenship.

  • @greenguyboston: Glad to see your sustainable sourcing goals, but what is your progress to date against them?

Check out our 2013 Principles in Action Summary to learn more on our progress to date: http://mars.com/pia.

  • @jreneemorin: What are @MarsGlobal biggest challenges working with suppliers on #MarsSusty?

One of the challenges is that we work with 100k+ suppliers and often many tiers of them back to the farmer. 

  • @cmehallow: When @MarsGlobal needs to access capital markets, does its strong #susty program provide advantage?

We are a private, family-owned business, but we do believe that boosting our reputation through sustainability is crucial to attracting great people to work for us

  • @rohitms4: Is there any specific standard to measure your success in #sustainability?

Yes, measurement of impact and not just activity. 

  • @earthshare: How is @MarsGlobal investing in associates and their communities? #MarsSusty

In 2013 we did more than 500K hours of Associate training, and through the Mars Volunteer Program, 19K Associates devoted 70K hours to their communities.

  • In response to A15: @darrylv asked: That is promising. How about elsewhere in your supply chain? #MarsSusty

Because there are more farmers in cocoa than any other crop we purchase, we started there first and we’re looking to learn from our experiences in cocoa.

  • @beth_rcarnac: As a Mars Associate, I’d love to ask where have you seen our Associates best come together to collaborate on this #MarsSusty

There are Associates at every factory around the world and collaborating across our sites to achieving our SiG goals. 

Want to chat with us? Email me for more details.

As ICRS Launches UK’s First Professional Body for Sustainability Professionals, Questions About its Efficacy


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With the launch of its first professional body, has sustainability lost its edge? >> Interesting albeit controversial take by Guardian Sustainable Business’ Jo Confino.

Does the sustainability sector need one more professional accreditation?

As you’ll see from the comments section, the opinion on that is divided down the middle. And while we all probably have also an opinion to add depending on our background, longevity of work in the sector and where we stand on the idealism scale, the discussion reminded me of my first “CSR workshop.”

Conducted by the Center for Sustainability & Excellence [CSE] group and certified by the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment [IEMA], the workshop had all the telltale signs of a robust professional certificate curriculum.

From comparing the leaders vs. the laggards in “CSR practices,” the emerging trends in CSR reporting and the regional differences in how corporations were interpreting “corporate social responsibility,” to writing a CSR plan for my company that encompassed sustainability factors as well as social and economic goals, the curriculum was rigorous and gave me a lot of information to process and use for years to come.

It also gave me a moniker – CSR-P – that I have used over the years to indicate that I am a CSR Professional.

Did it invite curiosity? Often.

Did it help explain my credentials and experience more credibly? Sometimes.

More importantly, the workshop made me think. It made me dive into research. It taught me materiality and helped me sift between greenwashing, whitewashing and the many other labels of our sector. And it also opened up a path for me that otherwise would have remained superfluous and intangible in definition.

But back to Jo’s article: Do we need one more professional accreditation?

Probably not.

But as the sector grows, divides, integrates and subsumes within organizations, we do need groups/associations to allow sustainability professionals to learn from each other’s challenges, share best practices and grow the cadre of professionals integrating CSR and sustainability into their skill sets and mindsets.

And if this critical mass of influencers and practitioners can then influence other professionals – HR, Accounting, Technology, Finance, etc. – to shift their thinking and modus operandi to align with our mutual goal of preparing ourselves to coexist in a shared / new / circular / no waste [pick your preference]  economy, that would be a win.

Not only for the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability but for our entire sector.

Thoughts? Leave a comment or connect with me @AmanSinghCSR.

Careers in CSR: Networking Your Way To Success


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I met PwC Canada’s James Temple at a roundtable of CSR and sustainability leaders brought together by Edelman in Minneapolis in 2011 to discuss how they planned on moving forward on their commitments and what roadblocks they saw ahead.

I was the chosen facilitator for the hour and luckily for me, I got to ask all the questions!

The conversation was busy, high level and revealed a lot about the challenges these practitioners were facing as they worked to change the systems within their multinational corporations. While the roundtable was operated under Chatham House rules, the relationships that were formed that day continue to flourish.

Longevity is a true asset in this sector – and James has continued to be a wonderful resource and a much-needed mentor for those looking to pursue a career in the CSR field – critical as generations turnover across our workforce and expectations and mindsets on corporate social responsibility shift globally. He recently also facilitated a webinar to explore some of the latest trends in building a career in CSR. I asked him to pen some highlights and top tips for readers and here’s what he had to say:


I recently hosted a webinar focused on exploring trends and insights about building a career in corporate responsibility as part of what’s become a semi-annual conversation between hundreds of prospective practitioners and sector trailblazers.

As practitioners in a field that continues to transform, the conversation was dominated by the importance of networking and how to best leverage relationships toward pursuing a meaningful career. Joining me for the discussion were Paul Klein, president and founder of Impakt; Jerilynn Daniels, senior manager of community investment and marketing at RBC; Alex Daprato, partnership marketing associate at TrojanOne; and PwC Canada’s Sustainability Manager Klaudia Olejnik.

After a quick review of the CSR industry, we switched to discussing our panelists’ respective careers. Specifically, how they got there, if they would recommend breaking into the field today or if integrating a CSR mindset into any role is the way to go – and what they felt some of the key capabilities were that would help set an emerging leader up for success.

We also ran a live Twitter stream to help with on-the-spot responses from across the globe. Most of the questions focused on how to transcend the passion behind the industry to a sustainable career focused on embedding and implementing a complex change management strategy.

And how do we do this in a way that facilitates breaking into an increasingly complex field?

What struck me most was a single word: enough.

Too many times we focus on trying to be everything to everyone, but how can we understand corporate cultures in a way that doesn’t become overwhelming and can be communicated effectively? Could this be a building block to create the foundation for a career in CSR?

The panelists suggested that when thinking about who to talk to and what to ask, great networkers should remember that the CSR field is broad and diverse, and that practitioner experiences will be dependent on a variety of factors, including age, maturity of the organization that they are working for, geographic location, cultural norms and industry, just to name just a few. And framing good questions will be key to helping uncover the right information to inform decisions about a career in CSR and the tools needed to succeed.

From the hour-long conversation that featured numerous questions from an active audience, here are three recommendations to help enhance the networking experience:

  1. Brainstorm CSR related scenarios through open-ended questions

Great networkers focus on asking strong, open-ended questions during an informational interview and look for ways to create a knowledge exchange that’s mutually beneficial. When meeting with established CSR professionals, panelists recommended spending time working through scenarios or situational examples to compare diverse perspectives and ideas.

  1. Build a rapport that highlights genuine authenticity

Use networking time to build a rapport. Try to highlight a deep understanding about social issues, examples of continuous adaptation, or the ability to synthesize complex information in a way that can be re-communicated across diverse arrays of stakeholder groups.

  1. Use a shared language and keep the conversation focused around value creation for both people

In CSR, business language can be technical and complex.

Get back to basics, keep things clear and concise and remember to talk within the confines of a person’s role. Don’t overwhelm your mentor with general questions about how to change the world – they probably don’t know how (none of us do)! Instead, share complementary ideas that allow you to learn from each other.

Remember that curiosity is the name of the game, and you’ve got to check your ego at the door: CSR is a profession, not a persona. Let good communication skills guide your networking conversations, don’t let your passion to be a change-maker get in the way, and follow-up with those you’ve met to thank them for their time.

Combined, this might sound pretty basic but it’s the art of synthesizing complexity that will set you apart – and will make sure people remember you for your tact and talent.

About James Temple:

James Temple is the Director of Corporate Responsibility for PwC Canada and has a dual role leading the PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada Foundation. In this capacity, James provides oversight to the Canadian Firm’s internal Corporate Responsibility strategy, representing the ways PwC integrates good social, environmental and economic values into its business operations.

#RaytheonCSR: Addressing the STEM Crisis, Empowering Veterans, Contextualizing Sustainability


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Last week I facilitated a Twitter chat in partnership with Nick Aster at TriplePundit on how defense and aerospace behemoth Raytheon contextualizes corporate social responsibility [CSR]. On the podium answering questions was VP for Corporate Affairs and Communications Pam Wickham [@PamWickham1].

Pam Wickham, RaytheonThe conversation, which saw 147 participants and generated over five million impressions, traversed through a number of topics and invited many interesting questions from the audience.

Some of the questions:

  • How does the defense company associate itself with being a “green” company?
  • How is the company leveraging its reach and footprint to address the growing decline in students pursuing science, technology, engineering and math [STEM] subjects?
  • How is it expanding its social responsibility efforts to reach a global audience?
  • What were Raytheon’s priorities for its $29M budget for operational sustainability?
  • Why doesn’t the company disclose its recruitment/retention numbers on women – and how does it attract a diverse workforce without this disclosure?
  • Does the company see sustainability as a competitive advantage?

While we weren’t able to get to all the questions in the hour, Wickham was prompt and enthusiastic with her responses. Grab the recap on Storify and stay tuned for more.

People Get Sustainability, Business (and Marketers) Don’t: 20 Minutes with the CEO of Unilever


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Last month, Unilever CEO Paul Polman was in town – New York – to receive the Lifetime Achievement award from the Rainforest Alliance. As Rainforest Alliance President Tensie Whelan put it, “Paul has made several lifetimes of difference by leading Unilever to become a game changer.”

The company’s work with the Rainforest Alliance is well-known – by setting targets like sourcing 100 percent of its palm oil sustainably, Unilever has made it easier for other companies to follow suit and helped complex supply chains become comfortable with change and collaboration.

And, the company hasn’t stopped at palm oil.

Today, roughly 50 percent of the company’s tea originates on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms as it works toward sourcing 100 percent of its raw agricultural materials from sustainable origins (that figure currently stands at 48 percent).

Having recently interviewed Unilever’s Marketing Chief Keith Weed on the company’s refreshed goals and commitments, the opportunity to discuss sustainable development from the vantage point of the outspoken CEO was tempting. We caught up over a quick phone call:

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan:

“When we launched it we said we don’t have all the answers. One of the reasons why we are working so wellUnilever CEO Paul Polman with Rainforest Alliance is because we share common goals. Take tea for example: Standards are driving up fast in an industry that’s not easy to standardize. [This is where the] scale of Rainforest Alliance is significant – and essential for the USLP to come alive.

“[Its] only been a year since the Rana Plaza fire happened. Those 1,050 women worked in conditions that were little more than modern-day slavery. We’re determined not to let that happen in our supply chain. So we’ve put some goals to match our resolve. We’re going to help more women gain access to training and land rights. The transformation can be substantial.”

Pushing forward in the absence of political will/action:

“In the absence of politicians, we need to move faster. Climate change is a great opportunity for business. Report from the White House is an encouraging sign. Needle is starting to move in the U.S. The tornadoes and hurricanes are starting to drive the message home for people.

“Besides, this is probably the only opportunity we’ll have. The Millennium Development Goals, for instance, are due to be completed next year – the urgency cannot be watered down.”

The most critical challenge for business:

“The biggest challenge is [that] we cannot scale our ambitious goals alone. It’s a major challenge to create the right partnerships and increasingly difficult to get the political sector to participate. How do you create size and scale in a vacuum?”

The changing role of marketers:

“I always say, don’t blame the consumers. There are many examples where consumers are leading business, especially the young ones. They’re changing our lives and systems.

“Consumers are speaking out everyday but we don’t want to see it. Then we say the consumer doesn’t want to change. If we can tap into the enormous movements, we can create change much faster. That’s the job of the modern-day marketers. Their job has changed. It doesn’t work any more to push consumption. We need a new model and get companies to adjust their marketing strategies as well as their job roles.”

People get it, business doesn’t:

“I spend a lot of time on how to develop leaders who can lead us through partnerships, with purpose, can think long-term and beyond 2020. On my way back from Abu Dhabi last month, I was reading an article that reported university students rebelling against the way economics [is being taught]. If teachers are teaching Milton Freidman’s theories, who is going to change the economy? For my kids, sustainability is the new normal. They don’t want to watch TV or buy the newest gas-guzzling car. Their generation is already thinking differently. Yet, marketers keep saying consumers don’t want it.

“Our understanding of consumers [and consumption] is too narrow. We need to get much closer to consumers. If we go to any of the emerging markets – 81 percent of the world’s population lives outside the U.S. and Europe – most of the growth is occurring in climate stretched areas today. They might not understand Rio+20 or climate change language but they know that weather patterns are changing, water is decreasing, etc.”

From mindless to mindful consumption:

“Marketers should switch from asking whether consumers are willing to pay for something to which consumer doesn’t want less poverty, more education, a healthier world with cleaner air and better nutrition.

“We just need to be astute about solutions. Look at the Edelman survey – consumers expect more and more from business, and if business understands this, it is a wonderful time. Children die from diseases which we can solve with hand washing – new market – marketers should be very excited by this. But that connection is not there.”

Three actions to change the world:

“We must get out of short termism because lots of solutions are long-term [climate change, access to education, water shortage, etc.] – and we can only solve them if we invest over longer periods and evaluate the social and economic capital. Then business people can optimize these. For example, 40 of the top 100 companies are already pricing carbon internally. They’ve committed to stay within these limits. Business is leading because they see the cost of action vs. inaction. We have now 40 countries that are pricing carbon including China. We have 20 other countries that are putting a tax on carbon. The system is starting to move.

“We need to give politicians Unilever Sustainable Livingconfidence that this [focus on sustainable development and long termism] will not kill jobs or stifle growth. The exact opposite is in fact true but we need to provide the proof points.

“We need to get companies to adopt integrated reporting quickly as well as become comfortable with transparency. It’s going to take much more than a nine-to-five job to bring all of this together. We need leaders and we’re short on them.”

If this was his last interview as the CEO of Unilever:

“We can use our scale to transform systems and change. We need to create a better place than the one we were born in. Ninety-nine percent of people are not in a position to make a difference. We can. We need to force change – it’s our duty to leave the place in a better place. I hope this drives Unilever and everyone else.”

Originally written for and published on CSRwire’s Commentary section Talkback on June 2, 2014.

Priorities Set, JPMorgan Chase Focuses on Stakeholder Engagement with Latest CSR Report


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Despite the upheaval and the effects that continue to dog Wall Street since the 2008 crash, JPMorgan Chase has managed to recover more elegantly than some of its counterparts.

This has been in part due to a robust community development program targeted at local impact, strategic partnerships, a deeper introspection of its practices, as well as a public acknowledgement that it needs to do more to become part of the solution.

I asked EVP and Global Head of Corporate Responsibility Peter Scher to name the biggest challenge from 2013—a year he acknowledged was a mix of difficulties and successes:

“As Jamie Dimon, our Chairman and CEO said in his annual letter to shareholders, last year was certainly a tough year as we worked to resolve legal issues we had with a number of government agencies. But our businesses stayed strong, we continued to serve our clients and communities, and we launched some of our most ambitious corporate responsibility initiatives ever, including New Skills at Work and the Global Health Investment Fund. We’re extremely proud of what we accomplished in 2013.”

Urbanization, the growing discourses around investing in natural gas and helping small businesses scale featured among the company’s goals for 2013.

Highlights from its 2013 CR Report point to progress more close to home:
JPMC New Skills at Work

  • Launched New Skills at Work, a $250 million, five-year workforce development initiative aimed at helping close the skills gap around the world.
  • Created the Global Cities Exchange, a program to help U.S. and international cities develop and implement regional strategies to boost their global trade and investment. The Exchange is part of the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project with the Brookings Institution launched in 2012 aimed at helping metropolitan leaders strengthen their regional economy.
  • Provided $19 billion in new credit to American small businesses and, for the fourth fiscal year in a row, was named the #1 U.S. Small Business Administration lender by units.

The report also alludes to the firm’s keen participation in the impact-investing and sustainable development sectors.

For instance, it worked “with a group of peer investment banks to develop the Green Bond Principles, a set of voluntary guidelines designed to promote integrity and transparency in the growing market for Green Bonds, which are issued to finance environmentally beneficial projects” and collaborated with “The Nature Conservancy to establish NatureVest, a new initiative of The Conservancy that aims to create a platform to advance investment in conservation.”

As for community investment and employee engagement, the numbers are none too shabby:

  • Donated $210 million to nonprofits in 39 countries and contributed 540,000 hours in employee volunteer hours.
  • Provided nearly $7 million in grants to promote consumers’ financial capabilities across the U.S.
  • Provided $2.7 billion in community development loans and investments to build or preserve 45,000 units of affordable housing, create 1,100 new jobs, enable 784,000 patient visits and serve 4,400 students in low- and moderate-income communities in the U.S.

As for the report itself, JPMorgan is experimenting with a new format. Expanding on its 2012 Report, which featured an interview between CEO Jamie Dimon and Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek as the focal point to introduce the report and address its critics upfront, the 2013 disclosure goes a few steps further and uses interviews with key stakeholders to tell the entire story.

Framed as a series of stakeholder engagements, the report unwraps over 45 pages – half of last year’s hefty 90 pages – neatly packaged with data, infographics and narrated through conversations between key partners, internal experts and external advisers. It’s a good quick flip through and indicates a move occurring across industries to complement material data with visual storytelling.

One excerpt in particular caught my eye:

JPMC Walter Isaacson quote

Chairman & CEO Dimon responds:


“One thing to keep in mind is that where we did make mistakes, we’ve acknowledged them and made significant progress toward fixing them. We’re investing unprecedented resources to ensure that our compliance and control processes and culture meet the highest standards. And the changes we’re putting in place are designed to make certain our controls will be robust and effective, day in and day out, over the long term.

“We also fully appreciate that rebuilding trust requires more than talk. Our regulators and shareholders want to see progress and performance – and so do we. There is a lot of progress we can point to already, and, by the end of the year, I believe we will be able to demonstrate the enormous amount more – which I think will go a long way toward restoring confidence that JPMorgan Chase is the safest and strongest bank on the planet.”

Of course, this is all easier said than done – and all eyes are on the firm to ensure long-term sustainability.

As Scher states in his letter, the company’s ability to pull resources and activate its deep relationships—not to mention its talent base—is noteworthy. It is in a unique position to create positive impact, influence investment dollars and foster a more sustainable economy.

But herein lies the rub: can an American icon rebuild trust in the marketplace while doing business with traditional capitalists, a static economy and a model that rewards short-term profits and trading returns?

Originally written for and published on CSRwire’s Commentary section Talkback on May 20, 2014.


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