Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’

Every company is an energy company?

posted by Tara Knight

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)

Do plantations cause violence and death?

posted by Tara Knight

It’s a powerful question. Certainly, the last type of question I expected to see leading me into a corporate global sustainability microsite. Amazingly, it wasn’t my first surprise during my visit to the Stora Enso Global Responsibility site.

Stora Enso’s CSR microsite is ambitious. An integrated paper, packaging and wood products company based in Helsinki, Finland, Stora Enso is one of the world’s largest pulp and paper manufacturers, with operations in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Stora Enso and Hill & Knowlton’s Helsinki office built this global sustainability site to communicate Stora Enso’s commitment to sustainability. I was introduced to the site by a colleague, Jari Lähdevuori, who is part of the H&K project team that developed the microsite.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a tour, allow me to offer you a brief overview of the site. In addition to questions like “Do plantations cause violence and death?,” the site also asks visitors “How much does the forest industry accelerate climate change?” and “Does recycling paper really do any good?” Each of these questions are answered by different employees of the Stora Enso company and its stakeholder groups (including customers, forest owners and activists).

I was seriously impressed when I toured the site and found a one-on-one interview between Sini Harkki,  Greenpeace’s Nordic forest campaigner and Stora Enso CEO Jouko Karvinen where they speak quite frankly about the challenges and efforts of Stora Enso’s forestry policies. The site also includes experiential elements such as “How to build a plantation” , a module on “Lessons Learned”, and a “Test Yourself” knowledge section narrated by Carrot Mob Finland.

I asked my colleague on the project team, Jari Lähdevuori, to tell me a bit more about how this project came about:

Tara: What was the reason for the site?

Jari says: Stora Enso felt the communications about their commitment to sustainability were lost in the wash of messages from mainstream media and Non-Governmental Organizations, which seemed to have much greater reach and impact. Stora Enso did not feel their own sustainability messages were reaching the general public on a global scale.

Stora Enso wanted to communicate their sustainability policies and practices directly to the public, and bring more attention to these topics. To do that effectively, our team felt we needed compelling and entertaining content – hence, the global responsibility site.”

Tara: It’s no surprise that the site has been successful. What has the feedback been?

Jari says: “The internal feedback from Stora Enso has been very good – the site is seen as a very fresh way of communicating sustainability in a credible manner. People who have seen the site are very impressed. In fact, Stora Enso’s Head of Communications Lauri Peltola was asked if it can be used as a CSR case study at the G20 summit. It has been an exceptionally powerful way of communicating – and demonstrating – how they do business.”

Stora Enso’s Global Responsibility microsite is clearly a great example of companies really ‘walking the talk” and using the power of new media technologies to approach CSR communications with transparency and credibility by making corporate CSR practices accessible for the average person.

Far Beyond Sustainability

posted by Chad Tragakis

By Chad Tragakis, Senior Vice President, Washington, D.C. Office

It’s great that the word sustainability is in such common usage today. It suggests that people, organizations and institutions have accepted that environmental responsibility matters, and that we all play a role in achieving and ensuring it.

Still, I know plenty of people (both within the broader community of CSR thinkers and doers as well as outside of it) who find the word problematic. Few would argue that the term is overused, and much has been raised and written about the limitations of sustainability as both a word and a concept. Despite these limitations and challenges, though, usage of the term persists.

There is great diversity even among the most often quoted and widely used definitions of sustainability, among them, those developed, adopted or advanced by the United Nations, the World Business Council for Sustainable DevelopmentBusiness for Social Responsibility, and the World Resources Institute. Looking at these and at other definitions of sustainability collectively, a common theme emerges. There is a strong focus on maintaining, preserving, and ensuring the continued viability of a process, product, resource, system or state. Many would argue that, in terms of the environment and natural resource management, achieving this level of performance by business would be incredible. It would certainly be a good start.

The notion of becoming truly sustainable and having no impact on the environment is becoming an increasingly popular mantra for business. It could even be considered de rigueur for today’s CSR reports and global citizenship communications. But what if a company were able and willing to go beyond simply sustaining, beyond having a neutral or zero impact? What if, instead of just maintaining the status quo, they could have a net positive impact? What if business could actually restore the damaged and broken elements of our environment?

Household and personal care products company Seventh Generation prominently lists “restore our environment” among its global imperatives. And in its code of basic working conditions, Ford states that it seeks to become “an environmentally restorative and truly sustainable company in the long term.” I love the fact that both Seventh Generation and Ford use the notion of restoring. They are among the only companies I have seen who are using that term.

Many companies are in strong positions to add to and enhance the world around us – to rebuild, refresh, replenish, and repair. This is the thrust of Ray Anderson’s concept of the Restorative Enterprise. Anderson is the founder and chairman of Interface, an Atlanta, Georgia-based carpet and flooring company. As their Web site explains:

Interface committed to become the first name in industrial ecology worldwide. Ray set before his global team the challenge to convert Interface to a restorative enterprise. As a first step, this means reaching sustainability in our own business practices. To become truly restorative, however, will require Interface to ultimately return more than it takes. We will meet that higher goal by helping other organizations achieve sustainability.

The key line to me is “return more than it takes.” Anderson and Interface recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of the launch of Mission Zero, a promise to eliminate any negative impact the company has on the environment by 2020, and the first part of their commitment to becoming truly restorative. Since that time, the company hasreduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30%, reduced total energy intensity by 45%, powered seven of Interface’s facilities with 100% renewable electricity, reduced water consumption in modular carpet facilities by 74%, and diverted over 100 million pounds of materials from landfills.

I am firmly in the camp that subscribes to Anderson’s ideology. But the best part is that regardless of your opinions or beliefs about environmental responsibility, you can’t argue with Interface’s cold hard business numbers. Since launching Mission Zero, Interface has enjoyed a 60% increase in sales and a doubling of its profits. By eliminating waste, the company has also avoided more than $400 million in expense, more than enough to cover the costs of all of the other parts of the initiative. And product quality, overall efficiency, and employee morale have all increased.

I continue to be fascinated and encouraged by the Interface story, and by the charismatic and pioneering Anderson. Interface is the first and arguably only real poster child for the notion of the restorative company. I hope this won’t be the case for too long.

On outdoor hikes and fishing trips when I was young, I remember my father instilling in me an ethic that has been popular with outdoors enthusiasts since time immemorial – that is to leave the natural places we visit better than we found them. Clearly, this was instilled in Ray Anderson somewhere along the way. And if he has his way, he will instill this approach in an entire generation of business leaders, so that other companies can follow down the restorative trail that Interface is so successfully blazing.

Making Copenhagen Personal

posted by Chad Tragakis

by Chad Tragakis, Senior Vice President, Hill & Knowlton, Washington


No, this isn’t the new ad slogan for the Danish board of tourism (fortunately for them).  Copenhagen is a beautiful city, and they have certainly done a better job than that in marketing themselves to the world.  I’m talking about the need to make a personal, human connection between the bureaucratic and technocratic workings of next month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, and the planet’s 6.8 billion people.


The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (or COP15, as this will be the 15th Conference of the Parties), will host political leaders and top government officials from 192 countries who are coming together to develop a new framework to combat climate change.  The new agreement will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.


Most of what has been written thus far about the conference has focused on scientific, political and economic considerations – namely, what must the world do to slow and reverse the effects of climate change, what kind of an agreement can be reached, and what impact will it have on the global economy?  Less has been said about the efforts of individuals and small groups who have been working to humanize and personalize the issue.


I’m encouraged by the sheer number and wide variety of efforts to engage and inspire average citizens – in America and all over the world – to make their voices heard leading up to the conference.  Youth groups, women’s groups, civic organizations, labor representatives, environmental groups, clubs and student-led efforts from colleges and universities, and all manner of NGOs and civil society organizations are launching online petitions, Facebook groups, virtual bulletin boards, YouTube videos, letter writing campaigns, rallies, student delegations, and flash mobs.


And this week, I am delighted that my own company, Hill & Knowlton, and our parent firm WPP, have announced some additional small parts in support of this effort.


Hill & Knowlton was selected by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to serve as the official media sponsor for COP15.  As our announcement on this states, Hill & Knowlton will support an information campaign to encourage climate conscious behavior by delegates and others to help reduce GHG emissions during COP15.  The campaign will also ensure that knowledge from the conference regarding climate conscious behavior will be communicated more broadly, locally and internationally.


WPP has launched the UN ‘Hopenhagen’ campaign, which aims to generate worldwide public support for an agreement in Copenhagen.  As the Hopenhagen site aptly states:


Hopenhagen is a movement, a moment and a chance at a new beginning.  The hope that in Copenhagen this December – during the United Nations Climate Change Conference – we can build a better future for our planet and a more sustainable way of life.  It is the hope that we can create a global community that will lead our leaders into making the right decisions.  The promise that by solving our environmental crisis, we can solve our economic crisis at the same time.  Hopenhagen is change – and that change will be powered by all of us.


Most scientists agree… Copenhagen represents our last, best chance for world leaders to address global warming in a comprehensive way before its effects become irreversible.  If our leaders and representatives at COP15 are to make the difficult decisions required to strike a meaningful agreement, it may just take our collective 6.8 billion voices to give them the political will to get it done.

Catholic University Starts ‘Panel’ Discussion

posted by Andrew Cuneo

By Andy Cuneo, Senior Account Executive, Washington, D.C. office

Catholic University is seeing the sunny side of electricity production by unveiling this week that more than 1,000 solar panels will be installed at the school in Northeast Washington, D.C.  A Washington Post article noted that by installing the 1,088 solar panels, the school expects it will save more than 340,000 kilowatts of energy each year. To put that in perspective, that totals less than one percent of the annual energy needs of the school but is enough to power at least two radio stations for a full year.

This is a great step in making the university more environmentally friendly and one others should take a close look at.  More colleges and universities, particularly those based in urban areas, should view to the progress being made at Catholic University as a stepping stone to their sustainability as well.




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…

A Toast to Buying Local

posted by Andrew Cuneo

By Chad Tragakis, Senior Vice President in the Corporate Practice, Washington, D.C

A visit to my uncle’s small farm in Massachusetts a few weeks ago gave me a new frame of reference on the “buy local” movement, and how it connects to corporate responsibility and environmental sustainability. It is a fascinating, multi-dimensional subject that I hope to read and write about much more on Hill & Knowlton’s ResponsAbilty blog in the future.

But it was President Obama’s much hyped “Beer Summit” (a term I know that the White House dislikes, but which has not dissuaded the media from using) that got me thinking about how the products we choose send symbolic messages about consumption and responsibility, and the extent to which product selection actually impacts the environment and the economy.

The buy local debate focuses on two primary dimensions of benefits – strengthening the local economy (by keeping dollars circulating in your region, promoting economic growth and development, jobs, taxes, etc., as well as creating a greater sense of community) and protecting the environment (since local goods require less transport, reducing related emissions and packaging materials). When discussing food in particular (as opposed to goods and services generally), there are a few other benefits that come into play, including fresher foods requiring less use of preservatives and other chemicals, supporting small businesses (especially farms), promoting fair trade, and preserving natural and green spaces (namely by keeping family farms profitable and thus preventing their sale and development).

Getting back to the beer summit, in Washington’s sometimes fervent climate of “buy American”, it’s not surprising that criticism of the White House by some parties here was focused on buying American beer, not buying local beer. If the latter were of top concern to those involved, then I would have heartily recommended a few bottles of Dominion Lager, a product of the Ashburn, Virginia based Old Dominion Brewing Co., and a personal favorite.

The buy American debate raises a whole host of different issues connected to corporate responsibility. For example, when is a company that is headquartered in the U.S., but which maintains a global manufacturing and operational footprint, an American company? When do companies and their products become “global” brands? How “Japanese” is a Japanese car made in Alabama? What about an Irish beer brewed “under license” in Canada? Good questions for another time.

But putting national or local economic considerations aside, would it be more environmentally responsible to consume an imported beer from a brewery with a best-in-class sustainability program, rather than buy locally from one without?

In the final equation, the most responsible and sustainable choice is probably a carefully considered balance between these two sometimes complementary, sometimes competing dimensions.