ResponsAbility » Sustainable Enterprise http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability Thoughts on corporate responsibility and sustainability Tue, 24 Jul 2012 15:12:42 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 How Corporate America Can Benefit from a More Sustainable Healthcare System http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2011/05/27/how-corporate-america-can-benefit-from-a-more-sustainable-healthcare-system/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2011/05/27/how-corporate-america-can-benefit-from-a-more-sustainable-healthcare-system/#comments Thu, 26 May 2011 20:15:51 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=284 I am posting on behalf of Robert Ludke, Managing Director Public Strategies, Inc. who is contributed this posting to ResponsAbility

When people refer to “sustainability,” it is often in the context of a company seeking to improve its bottom line and the environment by doing things like using less water and becoming more energy efficient. Yet, the most unsustainable cost facing nearly every company across the world is healthcare.

The challenge of increasing healthcare costs is particularly problematic in the United States – one of the few countries in the world where employer-funded coverage is the mainstay of the insurance system and universal coverage is not guaranteed. Case in point: for American companies, healthcare coverage is the most expensive benefit paid by employers.

Despite all the flaws in the current system – including the high cost of healthcare, the inefficient delivery of care and the fact that more than 50 million Americans lack coverage – there is little likelihood of fundamental change.

This means nearly every one of our U.S.-based clients is facing a challenge. They are largely stuck in the general confines of the current system, with its many shortcomings, not the least of which is an unsustainable cost trajectory.

Some companies are seeking to address that challenge by encouraging their employees to live healthier and more responsible lives in which a greater emphasis is placed on preventive care. While some incremental success has been achieved in encouraging people to lead healthier lives and increasing access to preventive healthcare, such efforts will not produce savings sufficient enough to bend the so-called “cost curve” to the point where there is a reduction in the amount of money spent on healthcare.

In order to bend the cost curve, a fundamental shift in how society manages healthcare is needed. While that challenge is daunting, for a significant number of our clients, it presents an opportunity not only to benefit their bottom line but also to improve their reputation as responsible employers committed to a healthier, more sustainable society.

In particular, many of our largest clients have the ability to use the purchasing power they gain from the number of employees they cover with health insurance to either insist on changes to how care is delivered to their employees or to serve as a useful resource to policymakers and thought leaders who are working to improve health outcomes at a lower cost.

If the private sector wants to have a more effective voice in how the cost of healthcare can be reduced while improving the outcomes of that care, it needs to engage in and shape the public debate. Opportunities abound for points of interaction with the health policy community, to launch pilot projects to develop and implement best practices, and for leading companies to be held out to the public as thought leaders in developing and implementing policies to improve the lives of their employees and the broader public.

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Every company is an energy company? http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2011/03/18/every-company-is-an-energy-company/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2011/03/18/every-company-is-an-energy-company/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2011 21:51:29 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=251 I just read a really fantastic article by one of our clients, Deloitte.

The essay was written for Forbes by Nick Main (Deloitte’s Global Managing Director for Sustainability & Climate Change Services) and Dr. Joseph Stanislaw (an Independent Senior Advisor to Deloitte’s Energy & Sustainability practice) about corporate energy use and the need for a strategy to manage energy use.

Here’s a teaser, if you would like to read the full article, click the link below to go right to the Forbes blog to read the full post.

Every company is an energy company
Every company is an energy company. And if it isn’t, it will be soon. A decade from now, a company without an energy and sustainability department could be as unusual as one without a human resources department.  Or, it might be out of business.
Read the full article here: Every company is an energy company (on Forbes blog)

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What Makes a Nation? How governments view CSR http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2011/02/01/what-makes-a-nation-how-governments-view-csr/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2011/02/01/what-makes-a-nation-how-governments-view-csr/#comments Mon, 31 Jan 2011 20:51:00 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=216 Please excuse me for being a bit behind in reading my news, but I just came across the June of 2010 German Government announcement to officially adopt a National Strategy for Corporate Social Responsibility. A Just Means article (A National Action Plan for CSR) was what piqued my interest, and I decided to take a better look at how governments were integrating social responsibility principals into their governing policies and actions.

Germany is joining a number of countries, such as Great Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands, India and Poland who have created separate institutions and positions of a CSR Minister or an Ambassador for CSR implementation. It is fascinating to me the different approaches each government has taken to tackling CSR principles within their governing policies and programs.

In this regard, North America is playing catch-up. At this time, the United States Government does not have a coordinated or explicit CSR approach, plan or policy.  The U.S. government has recognized some dimensions of CSR by taking a series of steps in areas such as environmental policy, anti-corruption and bribery, and child labour. Further, true to its entrepreneurial roots, the U.S. government does endorse CSR activities by providing awards to companies, such as the Department of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence.

In 2006, the Canadian Government held a series of four National Roundtables on CSR, and from these roundtables in April of 2009, the Canadian government announced their “National” CSR strategy Building the Canadian Advantage.  Most narrowly however, the strategy was designed only to assist Canadian mining, oil and gas companies in meeting their social and environmental responsibilities when operating abroad

In the U.S. and Canada, one could most convincingly argue that these governments have ultimately only loosely addressed CSR within the four key roles of governments in global CSR identified by the World Bank: endorsing, facilitating, partnering and mandating. It was therefore with great pleasure that I read the German Government’s Action Plan for CSR, where they indicated a very broad and deep mandate for CSR within Germany:

“The development of a national strategy to promote corporate social responsibility (CSR) was undertaken with the aim of making a contribution to meeting the core challenges facing us in the globalised world of the 21st century. In Germany, corporate social responsibility is a fundamental element in the country’s social market economy system….

Corporate social responsibility is not however a substitute for political action. Rather, it augments the responsibility borne by the political sector and civil society and goes beyond what is required by law. The reason: Tapping the potential CSR offers requires the combined efforts of society as a whole. Neither the political sector nor business nor civil society is able to master the enormous challenges of our times single-handedly.”

What more can I say? A CSR policy well said, and I will be watching Germany’s progress with interest.

@TaraKnightHK

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Stock market says: CSR = $$ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/09/29/stock-market-says-csr/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2010/09/29/stock-market-says-csr/#comments Wed, 29 Sep 2010 19:36:24 +0000 Tara Knight http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=162 I feel one of the most pervasive characterizations of CSR is that companies experience a financial penalty as result of subscribing to or integrating CSR practices and policies into their business. Of course, the recent Wall Street Journal  “The Case Against CSR” op-ed is one example of the disconnect that many people have of the value of CSR to a profitable business (Boston College’s The Voice of Corporate Citizenship provides an excellent overview of some of the commentary.)

Making a business case for CSR within a company whose corporate culture believes that integrating CSR comes with a significant cost to the bottom line is a huge challenge.   Recently I have been circulating a couple studies with my colleagues that have been really helpful in reframing this “CSR costs money” debate.

An August 2010 working paper from Harvard Business School, The Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility on Investment Recommendations delves into how sell-side analysts perceive CSR information, and how this information affects their recommendations. The researchers reviewed a large sample of US firms over 16 years, examining the ways corporate CSR activity is communicated to investors through analysts, and how it this affects public equity markets. Analysts’ recommendations can substantially affect stock prices and trade volume. The researchers found that firms with strong CSR strategies are perceived to be value-creating, especially over time, and this is reflected in analyst’s positive recommendations for these firms.

Another collaborative study, Does Corporate Social Responsibility Affect the Cost of Capital? from Principles for Responsible Investment, used a sample of 12,915 U.S. firms. This study found firms with a better CSR score had a lower cost of equity capital – even after controlling for firm-specific issues or type of industry. The study found that CSR investment particularly in improving responsible employee relations, environmental policies, and product strategies substantially contributed to reducing a firms’ cost of equity.

It’s clear that investors are looking for, and paying attention to CSR information. Investors with Bloomberg’s Professional market data service for example are able to access carbon disclosure information supplied to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) by the world’s largest firms.  Analysts and investors are certainly accessing information about CSR policies and practices, and considering this in their investment decisions. CSR may need investment, but whether environmental, social or governance related – smart companies are leveraging strong CSR  practice as a positive factor in improving their market valuation.

@TaraKnightHK

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Dilbert Always Gets It Right http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2009/07/14/dilbert-always-gets-it-right/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2009/07/14/dilbert-always-gets-it-right/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2009 14:23:11 +0000 Boyd Neil http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=27 Todays’ Dilbert cartoon by Scott Adams captures the zeitgeist of how some still view corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Dilbert.com

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We’re Back! http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2009/07/09/were-back/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2009/07/09/were-back/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2009 18:38:49 +0000 Boyd Neil http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/?p=17 In 2007, the North American corporate responsibility (CR) team launched a blog on Collective Conversation called ResponsAbility, a play on words reflecting H&K’s unique and powerful ‘ability’ to help provide counsel on all facets of CR and CR communications. ResponsAbility featured original thinking, case studies and insights from H&K offices across North America, on a wide range of CR topics including employee volunteering, recycling, stakeholder engagement, privacy, green tech, and workplace diversity. (All of these posts have been migrated to this new platform and are accessible here.)

Although well received by clients and H&K colleagues alike, with posts attracting hundreds of views and trackbacks, the demands of keeping up a blog ran up against the business exigencies of day-to-day client service.

Well, ResponsAbility is back . . . with renewed commitment and energy and frankly a better infrastructure for ensuring the breadth and regularity of contributions. Why are we doing this? Because we have more and more clients coming to us for support on various facets of CR and sustainblity. We want to demonstrate that H&K’s CR consultants are among the brightest and most passionate counselors in this field. And we want to prove we deliver confirmed results.

From our perspective CR is much more than strategic philanthropy or “green” initiatives. So expect ResponsAbility to offer a broad range of posts covering everything from governance issues, employee engagement, impact on biodiversity, ethical behavior of sales forces, employee benefits, product quality and safety, CEO compensation, and energy efficiency . . . to responsible downsizing, supply chain working conditions, and responsible advertising and marketing to children.

Our goal is to make this the go-to source for the best thinking on corporate responsibility and sustainability.

You can help by subscribing to our RSS feed, adding ResponsAbility to your blog roll and insisting — by way of your comments, criticism and praise — that we make evident high standards in our thinking about, and our counsel on, these crticial business issues.

Boyd Neil . . . on behalf of Chad Tragakis and the North American CR team.

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Transgender Protection in the Workplace – PART ONE http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2008/06/06/transgender-protection-in-the-workplace-part-one/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2008/06/06/transgender-protection-in-the-workplace-part-one/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2008 15:06:00 +0000 Boyd Neil http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/10782.aspx by Michelle Tsai, senior account supervisor for the corporate group in the New York office. 

This is the first of a two-part post on equal protection for transgender employees in the workplace.

When I started my communications career in the early 1990s at the Texas Department of Transportation as a public information officer, my boss told me there was an unwritten rule that women were discouraged from wearing pants in the office, by fiat of the district engineer.  But, she said, things were better than when she started her career in the 1970s, when women who flouted this rule were actually sent home to change! 

We’ve come a long way indeed.

Interestingly, this example of our shifting attitudes toward sex stereotypes (i.e. that women wear skirts and men wear pants) has become a factor again with regard to non-gender conformist individuals increasingly present in the workplace.  This group includes transgender men and women, people who are transitioning or have already transitioned to a different sex than they were assigned at birth; and intersex individuals, those born with genetic anomalies that can cause impaired development of secondary sex characteristics.  But this group also includes individuals who simply are more comfortable with challenging traditional sex stereotypes, such as men with long hair, or women who don’t wear makeup.

In order to fully understand the issue, it’s important to make a distinction between three separate concepts: gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.  Gender identity is your own internal feelings of being male, female, both or neither.  Gender expression is how you present yourself externally to the world, whether masculine, feminine or androgynous.  Sexual orientation is your preference for a partner based on your physical, emotional and spiritual connection to the gender qualities of another person, and is usually described as being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Public attitudes and legal protection of transgender employees varies widely throughout the world, with Canada and Europe generally more liberal and the Middle East generally more conservative.  Currently, there is no federal law in the United States that explicitly prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws hiring or employment discrimination on the basis of the employee’s “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” but does not mention sexual orientation, much less gender identity.

Early court decisions held that transgender people were not entitled to protection from employment discrimination under Title VII. More recently, however, a new line of cases, based on intervening U.S. Supreme Court decisions, may provide protection for LGBT people in some situations. 

In my next post, we’ll look at one landmark Supreme Court case almost 20 years ago that continues to impact gender identity law today, and take a look at the progress we’ve made in establishing equal rights for LGBT employees in the workplace.

 

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From Earth Day to Earth Week to Sustainable Environmental Practices http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2008/04/28/from-earth-day-to-earth-week-to-sustainable-environmental-practices/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/2008/04/28/from-earth-day-to-earth-week-to-sustainable-environmental-practices/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2008 17:25:00 +0000 Boyd Neil http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/responsability/10625.aspx By Liz Purchia is an account executive in H&K’s public affairs group in Washington D.C.

Last Tuesday was Earth Day and for many organizations, Hill & Knowlton included, it turned into Earth Week. 

Everywhere you looked from clothing stores to TV stations to global corporations, people were championing the environment, offering environmental tips and discounts on eco-friendly products. In our Washington, D.C. office Hill & Knowlton handed out free reusable water bottles and tote bags to every employee to cut back on the amount of waste we produce.

I found myself logging on to various Web sites, signing up for petitions and learning tools that I can use to curb my environmentally harmful habits.

Sustaining Environmental Energy

I work on a lot of energy and environmental issues for clients in D.C. and what I’m wondering is now that Earth Day is over, what’s going to happen? Has everyone done their part for the year?

Recently, President Bush outlined the administration’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.  As Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said, “We can’t wait until 2025 to deal with greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). That is too late, that is dangerously late, that is doing nothing.

The Warner-Lieberman bill, scheduled for debate in the Senate calls for halting growth in GHG emissions starting in 2012, 13 years earlier than the president proposes.

All three presidential candidates, Sens. McCain (R-AZ), Clinton (D-NY), and Obama (D-IL) support mandatory limits on GHG and are advocating a much more aggressive climate change platform. But with the election year, there’s very little chance that much will get done in terms of environmental policy.

Everyone’s looking to see what others are doing to support the environment and to reduce their environmental impacts. Before hiring us, some potential clients are even looking to see what Hill & Knowlton is doing as a company to address climate change.

Environmental Sustainability as Business Opportunity

In February, I was on a Hill & Knowlton exchange program in Brussels where we were the exclusive PR partner for the European Business Summit. The focus of this year’s event was “Greening the Economy,” underlining that the environment can become a business opportunity.

The U.S. can take a few notes from European businesses, which have incorporated environmental plans into their business models for many years. We can support our economy through green practices. What’s good for the environment can and should be good for business.

I recently read a New York Times article, “Millions of Jobs of a Different Collar” in which Jerome Ringo, president of the Apollo Alliance predicted that the U.S. could generate between three million to five million more green jobs over the next 10 years. Van Jones of Green for All is quoted in the article as saying that green jobs “cannot be easily outsourced…If we are going to weatherize buildings, they have to be weatherized here…If you put up solar panels, you can’t ship a building to Asia and have them put the solar panels on and ship it back. These jobs have to be done in the United States.”

As clients come to us to help shape their business and communications plans, inserting environmental practices will be beneficial to their business, their potential business and employees.

The market needs companies to adopt environmental practices. It may just be monitoring data center usage, improving energy efficient technologies or turning off the lights on weekends, but making a commitment to the environment means making a commitment to sound sustainable business practices.

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