What role does ESG play in the ‘new normal’?

July 6, 2020 by  
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What role does ESG play in the ‘new normal’? Janine Guillot Mon, 07/06/2020 – 01:25 Facing existential crisis, it’s only natural that our perspective will change — for better and for worse. In recent weeks and months, as many of us have “sheltered in place” in the face of a global pandemic, each of us has come to grips with a valuable reminder of what’s truly important: family, friends and colleagues; security and safety; food and water; healthcare. By comparison, everything else seems small and suddenly insignificant. For some of us, that includes our work. When people are sick, suffering and dying — with little certainty about when or how it will end — how can we be expected to focus on a project deadline, a business meeting or a PowerPoint presentation? Recently, I was asked to participate in a webinar discussion about environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing in the wake of COVID-19, and I had to ask myself, “Is the work we’re doing at SASB completely irrelevant or more relevant than ever?”  The most urgent and important work being done today is that of our healthcare workers, grocery employees, delivery people and others on the front lines of meeting society’s most basic and most critical needs. We shouldn’t let a day pass without thanking them for their service, nor without asking ourselves how we can better support them as they rise to meet the scale of challenge before us. And soon, we must start giving serious thought to what we can do to ensure they’re never put in such a desperate position again. Respond now, adapt as soon as possible While today’s triage efforts are paramount, society is clearly starting to think about what’s next. This is an opportunity for all of us — companies, investors, government, civil society — to think critically about what our role might be in creating a more resilient future.  Although the global COVID-19 outbreak is first and foremost an existential public health threat, it also likely represents the dawn of an economic “new world order” and a reshaping of the global economy. Without question, it’s too soon to draw any conclusions about the lessons we’ve learned from this experience, but it’s nevertheless clear that businesses, investors and our entire system of free enterprise will need to adapt to a new normal in the coming post-coronavirus era.  Transparency leads to accountability, accountability drives innovation and innovation is key to resilience. In recent years, the rise of ESG, responsible investing, corporate sustainability — different people use different terms — has focused on evolving “business as usual” by recognizing that effectively managing environmental and social issues is key to the long-term sustainability of both business and society. The COVID-19 crisis is likely to accelerate this trend. The key questions that have arisen from the crisis are essentially ESG questions, such as: Will rising biodiversity loss and the changing climate influence the frequency and intensity of pandemics? How can companies adapt to ensure business continuity in such an uncertain environment? How can we ensure more resilient supply chains for essential goods, such as food and medicine? What can businesses in B2C industries do to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers? How can healthcare providers better ensure access to critical tests and treatments at an affordable price? How might a long-term period of “social distancing” influence the adoption of artificial intelligence and robotics, and how will that affect workers whose jobs can’t be done remotely — such as manufacturing, waste management and deliveries? How can traditional and ecommerce retailers ensure fair pricing and reduce the risk of supply hoarding or price gouging? How can a wide range of industries — across the transportation, technology, hospitality and infrastructure sectors and beyond — effectively adapt in the wake of an anticipated rise in telecommuting and teleconferencing? Will the COVID-19 crisis permanently change consumer behavior regarding shopping, travel and entertainment, with significant implications for the retail and hospitality sectors?  Once the worst of the current crisis is behind us, it’s crucial that we don’t weaken our resolve to ensure that individuals, businesses, investors, economies — and thus society at large — can become more resilient in the face of 21st-century challenges. An opportunity to adapt In the coming months, as the forces unleashed by the COVID-19 crisis continue to reshape the economic landscape, they will bring long-held assumptions under scrutiny and potentially render entire business models irrelevant. They will bring more questions, but also — if we’re receptive to them — more answers. At SASB, we encourage long-term thinking in capital markets, and while that may not help solve today’s crisis, we believe it can contribute to preventing — or at least tempering — tomorrow’s.  We believe transparency and disclosure on business-critical ESG issues will improve how companies and investors measure and manage so-called non-financial — but nevertheless critical — resources such as natural, social and human capital . Further, it will help corporate directors and managers, along with investors, understand how effective management of those resources is critical to the long-term sustainability of a business. Emerging from this crisis, we can shape a future in which the interests of business, investors and society are in closer alignment.   The best answer to my question about the relevance of our work came during a recent “industry deep dive” webinar. Our restaurant industry analyst was discussing the connection between worker health and foodborne illnesses — a business-critical issue in the restaurant industry — and the metrics that can help drive effective management of such risks, including worker training and food-handling protocols.  I immediately thought about the increasingly clear connection between lack of paid sick leave and the spread of illness, and it became clear: This crisis will provide important new insights into non-traditional performance metrics that will help drive a structural shift in how both companies and investors think about delivering long-term value to both shareholders and society. To return to my original question — is ESG disclosure irrelevant or more relevant than ever — I believe the communication piece is key. Transparency leads to accountability, accountability drives innovation and innovation is key to resilience. When investors readily can identify and direct financial capital to the forward-looking companies that are evolving their business models to thrive in the face of future risks, markets will be more stable, more efficient and better prepared to absorb unexpected shocks. Today, we’re being asked to choose between lives and livelihoods. Emerging from this crisis, we can shape a future in which the interests of business, investors and society are in closer alignment. When economic and human prosperity are mutually supportive, we won’t have to sacrifice one for the other.  Pull Quote Transparency leads to accountability, accountability drives innovation and innovation is key to resilience. Emerging from this crisis, we can shape a future in which the interests of business, investors and society are in closer alignment. Topics Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy ESG Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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What role does ESG play in the ‘new normal’?

Wall Street, ESG and the Wild West

May 14, 2019 by  
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The world of ESG is growing by leaps and bounds among big companies and mainstream investors. But the metrics — and the impacts — are still inconclusive.

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Wall Street, ESG and the Wild West

What you need to know about the bold new building laws in New York and D.C.

May 14, 2019 by  
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The cities are tackling their largest source of carbon emissions. Here are the key differences, and why they matter.

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What you need to know about the bold new building laws in New York and D.C.

Sustainable tourism: valuing experiences, efficiencies and ecosystems

June 28, 2018 by  
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How do tourism industry stakeholders — hotels, business owners, airlines — define “sustainability” from an economic standpoint? How can leaders advance efficiency and conservation without compromising — even increasing — the experience for travelers?  What are the metrics that the industry can align on to demonstrate data-driven progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while creating new economic opportunities?

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Framing the sustainability policy opportunity in Hawaii

June 28, 2018 by  
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Building on a long history of systems thinking and sophisticated natural resource management, Hawaii’s leaders continue to advance the sustainability of communities, the environment, and economic prosperity. In 2016, Hawai’i passed legislation formally aligning the state with the Paris Agreement on climate change. The State legislature with elected official and public and private sector partners launched the Aloha+ Challenge, which serves as a local mechanism to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Senate Majority Leader J.

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Framing the sustainability policy opportunity in Hawaii

These fish and meat options are the most environmentally costly

June 12, 2018 by  
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Farmed seafood, wild-caught fish , or livestock : which one is the most environmentally costly to produce? A University of Washington -led study probed that question by scrutinizing 148 life-cycle assessments for animal protein production. Lead author Ray Hilborn, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences professor, said in a statement , “If you’re an environmentalist, what you eat makes a difference. We found there are obvious good choices, and really obvious bad choices.” (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v3.0’; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); The environmental costs of producing meat, seafood Which food type is more environmentally costly to produce — livestock, farmed seafood, or wild-caught fish? New research from the University of Washington takes a comprehensive look at the environmental impacts of different types of animal protein production. Read more: http://www.washington.edu/news/2018/06/11/choice-matters-the-environmental-costs-of-producing-meat-seafood/ Posted by University of Washington News on Monday, June 11, 2018 Scientists drew on four metrics to compare environmental impacts of different animal proteins: greenhouse gas emissions , energy use, potential to add excess nutrients like fertilizer into the environment, and potential to emit substances that help cause  acid rain . They used 40 grams of protein — around the size of an average burger patty — as their standard amount . Related: Vegan diets deliver more environmental benefits than sustainable dairy or meat Industrial beef production and farmed catfish were the most environmentally costly in general, according to the university. Farmed mollusks such as scallops, oysters, or mussels and small wild-caught fish were the least environmentally costly. The university said capture fish choices like pollock, the cod family, and hake also have relatively low impact, and farmed salmon performed well. But there were differences across animal proteins — for example, the researchers said livestock production consumed less power than most seafood aquaculture as continual water circulation uses up electricity. Farmed tilapia, shrimp, and catfish used the most energy. Beef and catfish aquaculture generated around 20 times more greenhouse gases than chicken , farmed salmon, farmed mollusks, and small capture fisheries. “When compared to other studies of vegetarian and vegan diets, a selective diet of aquaculture and wild capture fisheries has a lower environmental impact than either of the plant-based diets,” according to the university. The journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment published the study this week. Four University of Washington scientists and one scientist from company Avalerion Capital contributed. + University of Washington + Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment Images via

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These fish and meat options are the most environmentally costly

The New Metrics: Clues for making sense of sustainability ratings

September 27, 2013 by  
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How can you measure a sustainable business? These examples from Microsoft, Nike and SAP come from the latest Sustainable Brands event.

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California Wine Industry to Get Green Performance Metrics

December 21, 2011 by  
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The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) has introduced a set of new performance metrics to help wineries and grape growers measure and communicate their environmental impacts.

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California Wine Industry to Get Green Performance Metrics

When Policy Fails on Climate, What Can Business Do?

December 21, 2011 by  
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There is no option left but for business to take the mantle of leadership on climate in 2012. Here are the three areas that are most critical to creating world-changing levels of impact.

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When Policy Fails on Climate, What Can Business Do?

Climate Corps 2011: Getting a Green Team Up and Running at CA

August 30, 2011 by  
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Even if you’ve got the most motivated employees on your corporate green team, many companies struggle to overcome the next biggest obstacle: How do you set the goals to measure success, and gather the metrics to show what’s working?

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