Posts Tagged ‘Corporate Responsability’

How Corporate America Can Benefit from a More Sustainable Healthcare System

posted by Tara Knight

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.

Enter the Sustainable Century – Part 3

posted by Chad Tragakis

Strategic communication for business will be critical as President Obama ushers in a new green vision for America and the world.

By Chad Tragakis, Senior Vice President, Washington, DC Office

 

“We will move forward with investments to transform our energy economy, while providing incentives to make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. We will press ahead with deep cuts in emissions to reach the goals that we set for 2020, and eventually 2050. We will continue to promote renewable energy and efficiency, and share new technologies with countries around the world. And we will seize every opportunity for progress to address this threat in a cooperative effort with the entire world.”

From President Barack Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 23, 2009

 

As mentioned in my previous post, President Obama is ushering in a new green vision for America and the world.  Each company will need to take a close look at its current strategy, and determine where, when and how it makes sense to introduce or expand environmental sustainability programs, partnerships, policies and processes into its operations.  But in terms of strategic communication and stakeholder outreach in support of business goals, there are some clear and deliberate actions that every company, regardless of size or sector, should be actively considering.

 

Get moving!  This is a unique point in time, a confluence of public sentiment favoring all things green, a public policy environment that supports it and marketplace opportunities that are rewarding it.  The business benefits of a genuine commitment to environmental sustainability are now well established and early movers will have distinct advantages.  Corporate communications may be the quarterback, but every division of your company has a role to play, and nearly every facet of your operation can take advantage.  This starts in the executive office (with board level oversight and encouragement), and includes sales, marketing and advertising, government relations, investor relations, operations, R&D, product groups, finance, legal and HR.  Integration is critical – get everybody on board, on target and on message.

 

But not too fast… Don’t rush to your new environmental messaging and outreach before fully understanding the opportunities, audiences, issues, risks and benefits.  Understand what your stakeholders expect.  Conduct research, and then still more research.  You know that policy-makers and NGOs are interested, but your customers and employees care about this too.  Work to understand why, and what it means to your business.  Consumer expectations are increasingly high for all companies to do their part across the board, but they expect more from certain industries and sectors.  The good news is that, in spite of the global recession, consumers still seem to prefer environmentally responsible products, and many are willing to pay a premium for them.  The research here is becoming increasingly clear – consumers want products that are environmentally responsible, they prefer companies whose operations are environmentally sensitive, they want this information available at multiple levels (including at the retail level), and they want companies to be able to prove what they say.

 

Under-promise and over-deliver.  Consumers are increasingly savvy and increasingly skeptical when it comes to the environment.  Your commitment must be real, your product claims must be genuine, and your stories must be authentic.  Green products from a company or industry with a questionable social and environmental record don’t add up. Make sure the company’s left hand knows what the right hand is doing.  Be clear, be consistent, be as transparent as possible, and be ready to prove whatever you say.  Don’t take shortcuts, do not greenwash – you get one chance to do it right, so be sure to do it right

 

But don’t be afraid to tell your green story.  If you have a good story to tell – a great product, a great process, a model partnership with an environmental NGO – talk about it, celebrate it.  If it’s genuine and if it has impact, it’s okay to brag a little.  Your stakeholders want to know, others can learn from your model and no one else is going to tell your story better than you.  Be sure to find the right communications channels and vehicles that will best convey your good story to the audiences and stakeholders that matter most to you – media relations, online, product packaging, integrated with advertising, marketing collateral – whatever works best.

 

In the midst of the worst economy in recent memory, dozens of America’s biggest companies and most storied brands—from McDonalds to AT&T to General Electric to Proctor and Gamble—have launched green initiatives, and are getting their stories out there effectively.  Regardless of what one thinks about politics or about President Obama’s new green vision, it’s clear that the sustainable century is here to stay.  The most successful companies, in America and around the world, will be those that rise to meet it.

 

 

 

Enter the Sustainable Century – Part 2

posted by Chad Tragakis

Strategic communication for business will be critical as President Obama ushers in a new green vision for America and the world.

 

By Chad Tragakis, Senior Vice President, Washington, DC Office

“The danger posed by climate change cannot be denied. Our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred. If we continue down our current course, every member of this Assembly will see irreversible changes within their borders. Our efforts to end conflicts will be eclipsed by wars over refugees and resources. Development will be devastated by drought and famine. Land that human beings have lived on for millennia will disappear. Future generations will look back and wonder why we refused to act; why we failed to pass on an environment that was worthy of our inheritance.  And that is why the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over.”

 

From President Barack Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 23, 2009

 

 

Building on my previous post, President Obama is moving quickly to reframe the environmental debate and reset expectations on the part of many stakeholders.  All this change will have both an immediate and a long-term impact for business.

 

Despite some uncertainty over the timing and substance of legal and regulatory changes to come, whether you are an American firm, or a global enterprise doing business in or with the U.S., there’s a new sheriff in town.  And despite the policy and political challenges Obama faces, companies would do well to take stock of the fact that the very citizens who voted for a green president are the same consumers who will vote for clean energy, for products with recycled content, for low energy consuming electronics, for reduced product packaging, and for companies with a genuine and demonstrated commitment not only to quality and value, but to sustainability.

 

It’s about embracing both environmental opportunity and environmental responsibility – and the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  There are tax incentives and grants to take advantage of; a host of new business opportunities with the public and private sectors; new product and service offerings; partnership possibilities; bottom line energy and resource efficiency gains to be made; not to mention risks to be mitigated and managed (in the form of fines, lawsuits, boycotts, protests, and disastrous media stories).  And the low carbon economy will bring about new winners, including solar, nuclear and natural gas providers, which will increasingly fuel the rest of the economy. 

 

Each company will need to take a close look at its current strategy, and determine where, when and how it makes sense to introduce or expand environmental sustainability programs, partnerships, policies and processes into its operations.  But in terms of strategic communication and stakeholder outreach in support of business goals, there are some clear and deliberate actions that every company, regardless of size or sector, should be actively considering.

 

I’ll outline these in my next blog post…

Enter the Sustainable Century – Part 1

posted by Chad Tragakis

 

Strategic communication for business will be critical as President Obama ushers in a new green vision for America and the world

 

By Chad Tragakis, Senior Vice President, Washington, DC Office

 

 

 

“Let’s be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil. We can harness homegrown, alternative fuels like ethanol and spur the production of more fuel-efficient cars. We can set up a system for capping greenhouse gases. We can turn this crisis of global warming into a moment of opportunity for innovation, and job creation, and an incentive for businesses that will serve as a model for the world.”

— From Barack Obama’s speech announcing his Presidential Bid in Springfield, Illinois, February 10, 2007 

 

From his campaign kick-off more than two-and-a-half years ago right up through his inauguration this past January, the environment and environmental sustainability were central themes and important priorities for candidate Barack Obama.  He’s been in office for only nine months, but President Obama is moving quickly to reframe the environmental debate and reset expectations on the part of many stakeholders.  All this change will have both an immediate and a long-term impact for business.

 

Making good on his stump speech commitments, President Obama, supported by a Democratic-controlled House and Senate, is quickly turning campaign pledges into national policy:

 

§  He has re-energized the push for a cap and trade system to limit greenhouse gases;

§  He instructed the Department of Transportation to require higher fuel economy standards;

§  He asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a new rule limiting mercury emissions from power plants;

§  He asked the EPA to review a Bush Administration order denying California and 12 other states the right to enact auto emissions standards stricter than the current federal level;

§  He reinstated a critical practice on the part of government agencies in support of the Endangered Species Act;

§  He reversed a last minute Bush Administration order allowing offshore drilling and drilling on some public lands;

§  He mandated that federal agencies cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 2010 levels by 2020.

 

And his recent address to the U.N. General Assembly underscores the way Obama wants the world to view the U.S. when it comes to the environment.  It signals his desire for America to re-join the global dialogue on climate change, and to resume a leadership position.

 

President Obama is tapping into a public policy sweet spot, connecting the dots between energy, the environment and economic recovery.  Even before the effects of the recession were truly felt, he espoused the economic benefits of an environmentally focused stimulus—clean tech, renewable energy, low carbon, resource efficiency—noting that it could create tens of thousands of high-skilled, well paying American jobs, spur new technologies and new industries, and foster a truly sustainable economy. 

 

But even as the economic crisis has become the issue and the central challenge for his young administration, Obama has remained steady in triangulating energy, environment and economy.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, for example, allots funds for numerous environmental initiatives including $11 billion for an electricity smart grid and funding for 40 million smart meters for American homes to promote energy efficiency; $6.3 billion for state and local green efforts; $4.5 billion to modernize and efficiently energize federal buildings; and $2 billion in grants to foster the next generation of high performance batteries.  And the much hyped “Cash for Clunkers” program, while criticized by some, has been hailed by most as a win for business, a win for consumers and a win for the environment.

 

The Obama Administration has also committed to investing $150 billion over ten years in energy research and development, and most recently, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Treasury began accepting applications for a new $3 billion program offering direct cash payments to companies that create renewable energy facilities.

 

All this momentum, of course, reflects the broad public interest in and support for environmental sustainability that helped get Obama elected.  And while the environment certainly was not the only issue, for many voters it was a central concern. 

 

But by no means will this be a slam dunk.  Continued economic uncertainty and a heated national debate over health care are casting a pall over everything the new administration does.  Well entrenched sectors, from the coal lobby to agriculture, are making their voices heard, and this is leading to dissent even within President Obama’s own party.  Securing the 67 votes needed in the U.S. Senate to ratify whatever comes out of Copenhagen will be an uphill battle.  So, when and if a climate change deal is struck, it will likely look much different than the grand, elegant solutions that were once envisioned.

 

So what does all this mean for companies?  I’ll share more in my next blog post…