Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2012 in Retrospect: CSR & Sustainability in the Press

Today's editorial is by Elaine Cohen, a contributory writer for CSRwire, author of CSR for HR: A necessary business partnership to advance responsible business practices and a prolific advisor on CSR and sustainability reports.

The first press release posted in 2012 was titled Two Senate Climate Hawks Team Up for a Must-See Colloquy posted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Anyone see that must-see colloquy? The story was about two Democrat Senators repudiating climate change denialists and arguing for serious U.S. action on climate change.

We could probably start the first 2013 press release season with the same colloquy. Can we really attest to serious action over the past twelve months by the U.S. Government? Hurricane Sandy probably did more good than this hour-long political duologue, and in November 2012, we saw a flurry of companies donating often huge sums to the rescue of those impacted by the storm, including Volkswagen Group ($500,000), Kohl's Department Store ($1million), and Abbott ($1million).

Hurricane Sandy Compels Corporate Coffers

I counted about 16 corporate press releases about Sandy donations. The Business Civic Leadership Center reported that businesses pledged more than $38 million towards relief efforts. The Office Depot Foundation, however, did it differently. They celebrated commitment to caring by ringing the NYSE Closing Bell on December 19, 2012 and by donating Teddy B. Caring Bears and school supplies to children at two schools damaged by Hurricane Sandy. I get the Teddy Bears, but ringing the bell? Did I miss something?

The Year of the B's?

2013 may go down, among other things, as the year of the B's, with six companies announcing their certification as B Corps in January alone: Patagonia, InterSchola, Harvest Power, Womenetics, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), and Adbongo, Inc. Adbongo describes itself to be certified as a veteran-owned, minority-owned, HUB (Historically Underutilized Business) and DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) company. Now it can add B (benefit) to its credentials and make an even stronger contribution to S (sustainability).

The B movement continued to grow, adding several members throughout the year including A&R Solar, Etsy, Terracarbon, Waldron, Dolphin Blue and many more. If these names don't sound too familiar to you, then that's probably because B Corp certification appears to be most popular with smaller businesses, for whom it provides a unique, accessible CSR framework.

Today there are 664 B Corporations in 23 countries across 60 industries. While there is still some way to go to reach critical mass, momentum is building for this progressive business approach which includes legacy in its balance sheet. Ben and Jerry's made a B scoop in October 2012 – the first wholly-owned subsidiary to become one – when they announced that Chunky Monkey is now a certified B Corps ice-cream.

Celebrating Ourselves: Rankings Rule the Releases

February 2012 started with a press release about the U.K. retail grocery chain Sainsbury's being the only U.K. supermarket named to the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations. This is commendable, of course, and indicative of the important place that rankings and ratings have gained in our

sustainability consciousness. Ranking and rating achievements were prominent in 2012, with every possible position on every possible scale being cause for a celebratory press release.

Johnson Controls announced that it was named one of 'World's Most Ethical Companies' for the fourth consecutive year in the Ethisphere Institute ranking in March, while Las Vegas Sands Corp. "saw a meteoric rise of 238 ranks to #128" on the U.S. Newsweek's Green Rankings in October. Not to be outdone, in November, Motorola announced that the company had been recognized by three leading sustainability rankings (DJSI, CDP and Newsweek). This is clearly raising the bar.

Perhaps we can expect more 2013 press releases to cover multi-ranking positions. One to watch.

Workplace Rankings…and a Key Achievement for UPS

Another type of ranking which has more of an internal focus is the "Best Place to Work For" series. Novo Nordisk led the press releases on this topic with their announcement in January 2012 that the company was named to Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" list and in November, MGM Resorts became one of the "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality."

Another item, which caught my eye on the issue of workplace sustainability, is the announcement that a UPS driver has achieved 50 years of safe driving. Ron Sowder travels 306 mile a week for UPS, and is the first driver in the company's history that has never had an accident over a 50-year period. With road safety being a major global corporate sustainability issue, contributing to a level of 1.3 million deaths per year, a few more Ron's would not go amiss.

The Longest Press Release Title…

I think the award for the longest press release title in 2012 goes to this one: Novartis Foundation Symposium discusses psychosocial support to help vulnerable children achieve mental health and wellbeing for a better future in sub-saharan Africa. The title may be long, but the story goes deep, indicating that up to 30 percent of children in developing countries may be suffering from depression due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, poverty and conflict. What is sustainability if it is not creating a world in which our children can live in health, peace and contentment? Creating meaningful dialogue which leads to actionable, sustainable solutions is a compelling imperative and an opportunity to businesses to engage for good.

…and a Personal Favorite

Probably my favorite press release of 2012 is this one: Conscious Box and Brendan Brazier say going vegan is the best thing you can do for the planet. Offering the first vegan lifestyle subscription available, Conscious Box makes a sustainable choice accessible to those who choose to eliminate animal products from their diet. But if that is too radical for you, simply convert to snack foods, which come in game-changing breakthrough packaging, made of advanced biopolymer technology and completely compostable. This packaging was launched at a baseball game and fans received a free pack of compostable packaged peanuts. I wonder if the peanuts tasted any better?

Source: CSRwire

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