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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Top Themes in 2009

I have been too critical of top ten rankings to list my top ten corporate responsibility issues for 2009 with any sort of credibility. But I can still identify themes that were important to me this year and end with a light hearted piece like they do on the news !

Greenwashing and Whitewashing – Earlier in the year, I wrote a number of posts on green and whitewashing as did guest bloggers , Kathrin Winkler from EMC and Keith Miller of 3M. Between these posts and in my December posts on employee engagement and sustainable community investment, I think a consistent theme came through. That is, the importance of striking the right balance between continuing to do the popular things that demonstrate engagement , without allowing them to divert attention from the material actions that make a substantive difference.

Ranking Programs – My overriding perspective on CSR rankings is that they serve a very valuable purpose. CR practitioners use rankings to drive change inside their companies and long may they continue. Brian Boyd talked about rankings from J&J’s perspective in his guest post in October. However, I maintain what I hope is a healthy skepticism of the supposed accuracy implied by quantification. You cannot define the best company accurately any more than you can define the best car or best country in the world. But you can improve the value of precise quantification by narrowing rankings to specific themes and sectors.

Product Impact – I tried to articulate in the Four Dimensions of Responsibility that the corporate responsibility field is far more than the ‘Direct Impact’ of the company’s carbon footprint or its community involvement contribution. In fact, in most cases that will be by far the smaller part of its impact. The impact of a business’s products and services and public policy positions is often far greater. In September’s guest post from Mark Buckley at Staples, in November’s from Francois Ajenstat at Microsoft and from Frank Mantero of GE in December we saw great examples of social and environmental sustainability initiatives way beyond ‘Direct Impact’.

Carbon Emissions and Climate Change – There was a lot of content on this topic in my blog this year. Emma Stewart wrote a guest post on Autodesk’s Corporate Finance Approach to Climate-stabilizing Targets (CFACT) . I wrote about how at BT Americas we completed our solar installation at El Segundo this year and production is as expected. We launched an employee solar residential program which has had great engagement although fewer installations than hoped. In April Kim Saylors-Laster posted on Walmart’s approach to solar. Carbon footprint and climate change is only one component of corporate responsibility, but we have had a less than clear outcome from COP15 and while compliance requirements remain far short of what is required to mitigate catastrophic climate change, the topic remains as central in the CR field at the end of 2009 as it was in the beginning.

Role of the CR Practitioner – I posted on varying themes in which I proposed that the business would benefit from the input of the CR team. This includes advertising, mis-use of the law to define what is good and bad , paying interns, the rights of the individual versus protection of the vulnerable ! I plan to continue on this topic in the new year as I consider that as CR practitioners we need to continue to spread our wings and broaden our influence within the business.

And my lighthearted piece at the end – Naked men in locker rooms do increase blog hit rate. But they also reduce your 'average time on page' when you don’t meet the customers’ expectations - SMART objectives can undermine sustainable behavior !

Happy Holidays

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sustainable Community Investment or Helping the Needy?

I have noticed some contrasts recently in the sort of giving employees want to do with the sort of giving companies want to do. As a company we want our community investment to be strategic and sustainable. For BT, with core competencies and impact in the ICT space, that means communications and digital inclusion. But employees, myself included, want to do things that involve a hands-on approach and that tackle an immediate need.

From a sustainable community investment perspective it is best to help a homeless person learn a skill so they can get a job, but working in a soup kitchen or donating to a food pantry is a hands-on approach that is more immediately fulfilling. Likewise donating money to help cure people with heart disease seems like a more charitable cause than donating your money towards a healthy living education program – although the latter might be better value. On a personal level most of us want to do things that meet the immediate requirements of a needy person.

In addition, personally, I want to do things that get me out of my normal office environment and working in different capacity. I am sure that why so many people like to work in soup kitchens.

Our emotional drivers as individuals incline us towards programs that help sustain the needy rather than truly sustainable programs that tackle the underlying issue.

Companies can and do address these differences by distinguishing between the drivers and appropriate funding to put behind employee engagement programs versus the drivers and appropriate funding to put behind corporate giving.

But the real trick is to find programs at the intersection of both employee drivers and strategic and sustainable community involvement. I am still working on it and would be interested to hear any you have come across in your sectors.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Employee Engagement: Some Last Thoughts

This is the last of a series of posts on employee engagement. Not deep and meaningful, rather I have captured a couple of thoughts that didn’t fit neatly elsewhere.

Global Sensitivity is one area that is on my radar all the time as I am the CR lead for a regional operation. Be sensitive to global differences. This could be the topic of a whole series of posts itself but I will save that for another time. The key question is centralized versus decentralized. I recommend tending towards centralized and line of business control for environmental projects, but for social and economic initiatives to tend towards global guidelines and plenty of local discretion on a geographic basis.

What about the skeptics? - I wrote a post on this some time ago and I stand by what I said in that post that we should not dismiss skeptics. In “Legal Doesn’t Equal Sustainable,” I commented on the conflict between sustainability and the advocacy based approach of our legal and political systems that require each side to demonize the other. I think that in the climate change space we have moved into that demonizing mode and as sustainability practitioners we should be setting a better example.

Much has been written on the topic recently. I will end with some other resources worth looking at:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Employee Engagement – Harness Momentum

This is one of a series of posts on employee engagement.

I see employee engagement as having two roles; as an end in itself and as a mechanism to achieve change.

As an end in itself, employee engagement serves to improve morale and enhance retention and recruitment. In that respect, the first role can be accomplished through leadership from the top and building momentum, both of which I’ve addressed in earlier posts from this series. But for the second role, as a vehicle to achieve change in support of the organizations overall CR objectives we need to harness that momentum.

Whereas building momentum calls for flexibility across business boundaries and what I termed ‘allowing the trivial’, harnessing momentum is the time to leverage this energy without losing it.

So, how do you harness momentum? I have used three interrelated approaches outlined below to help achieve this:

  • How the Individual Fits - Help the individual understand how their contribution fits into the whole. Look for ways to draw a quantified linkage between action as an individual and the objectives of the organization. In an ideal world our people will know what activities have to occur, and by when, to meet corporate responsibility targets, so they can put their actions in context.
  • Materiality – action on trivial impacts help build momentum. It is not necessary to stop those activities, but when harnessing the momentum it is the time to help people understand where the material business impacts are and how they can influence those impacts.
  • Functional Application – challenge the business units in the company to examine how they can impact the organization’s sustainability objectives within their core business activities and use the feedback from that to breakdown the objectives into functionally appropriate targets and objectives.

Earlier this week I attended an office party in our New York office catered wonderfully by one of our CSR partners, Project Renewal. I was humbled when two graduates of Project Renewal’s Culinary Arts Training Program told me what a great boost it was to their confidence to be invited in to speak to and work with us. But what great boost our own people get from organizing and participating in these programs. Joe Murphy, a colleague who volunteers with Project Renewal told me that every time he volunteers “I feel better than the person who gets the free meal.”

As corporate responsibility practitioners we must make sure that we harness this momentum to enable real change in underlying problems and not allow it to be a pressure release valve that enables us to allow the underlying problems to perpetuate.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Employee Engagement – Build Momentum

This is the third in a series of posts on employee engagement. I previously addressed the issue of engaging employees through the first step of demonstrating strong leadership from the top. Step two is to help build momentum throughout the organization.

I am often asked how I get employees to participate in supporting sustainability and CR programs. For the most part I find that people want to take action. In fact, if anything there is pent up demand. I just need to give them ‘permission’ and some framework for what they want to do.

BT has Carbon Clubs as a way to bring colleagues together to discuss climate change issues. Once a part of the BT carbon club, employees are able to share knowledge and ideas with colleagues and take action together. Similar to our program, Walmart has Personal Sustainability Projects. These programs were developed by employees as an outlet for them to embrace sustainability. The characteristics of these and other frameworks are very similar;

  • Empower - enable cross functional teams to form
  • Seed ideas - provide forums and gathering points through social networking and recognize with publicity and awards.

A couple of characteristics that I would add to the two above include:

  • Be flexible with boundaries - for example support activities that might impact carbon footprint outside of work if that is what folks want to focus on. I was briefed a year or so ago on a great example of a grass roots carbon club initiative at our Adastral Park research center. The team arranged to borrow a fleet of electric bikes from a vendor, put a charging station on the campus and loaned the bikes out to employees to try out two weeks at a time. Interested employees could then make their own arrangements to buy a bike instead of driving if that worked for them.

  • Allow the trivial - Three years ago and new in the role, I discouraged people who wanted to replace the paper in the photocopier and eliminate Styrofoam cups. We run massive data centers. Styrofoam cups and the paper in the office copier are simply not material and divert attention from what is. I have changed my views on that approach. Most BT employees never see the inside of a data center, but they do see the cups in the canteen and paper in the copier. Our people build their trust in their employer’s position from what they see, possibly more than from what they are told in corporate communications. So supporting the visible is important, even if it is trivial. And then, when those people have an opportunity in their jobs to influence something material they will take the right actions.

Adding these characteristics to your framework will help your organization to build momentum and engage employees in the process.

My next post will focus on the third step of employee engagement: harnessing the momentum.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Employee Engagement – Leading From the Top

This is the second in a series of posts on employee engagement describing what I consider to be three stages to full employee engagement; leading from the top, generating momentum and harnessing momentum.

The first step is to demonstrate leadership and commitment from the top. It is often stated as a foundational requirement for employee engagement, but can be hard to attain as illustrated by the many times I am asked the question , so how did you get your leadership team to support this?

I see an interesting tension between attaining true leadership for an issue while resisting the pressure for the company to change its CR priorities according to the CR priorities of the senior most leadership.

I have observed four characteristics that help distinguish true leadership for a sustainability theme.

Policy – a clearly articulated company position on the issue that includes definition of the extent of its effects on society and on the company, the cause, and the role the company has in mitigation and perhaps adaptation.

Targets – output related targets presented within the context of resolving the issue.

Names – named and visible members of the leadership team who back the policy and associated programs.

Engagement – Skin in the game through visible engagement by members of the leadership team. Examples from BT include Ben Verwayan’s active chairing of the Climate Change Task Force of the Confederation of British Industry as CEO of BT and Sir Michael Rake’s active role as chair of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

Historically, when corporate responsibility was philanthropy, the corporate CR theme was often set by the personal priorities of the most senior leaders of the company. An individual felt strongly about a particular theme and so philanthropic donations to that theme did well under their leadership. Today, enlightened companies have integrated corporate responsibility and sustainability into their business. One test of a good sustainability pillar is that it meets the changing needs of society and the changing role of the business in society, but resists change purely due to a change of leadership.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Employee Engagement

This is the first in a series of posts on the topic of employee engagement. It expands on my participation in a panel at BSR 09 a few weeks ago with Christopher Corpuel, Vice President, Sustainability at Hilton Hotels and Silvia Garrigo, Manager of Global Issues and Policy at Chevron. Silvia talked about engaging at the leadership level and Chris addressed integrating sustainability with the business. My focus was on engaging employees.

Deborah Fleischer at Triple Pundit - wrote a great overview of the session as did BSR. I have decided to try and capture my own thoughts while they are still relatively fresh in my mind.

But we should start with the question, why do any employee engagement at all? Employees are a key stakeholder group. They have the primary impact on the performance of the company in any particular corporate responsibility pillar and they have an impact through their actions outside of the workplace. The Green IT survey we did earlier this year identified that companies are able to lead the views or our employees towards a more positive approach to acting on climate change. So there is a rationale for companies to take action to engage employees on sustainability topics which they consider important – it makes a difference. The survey also identified that employees take more action at home than at work, so there is also room for improvement.

While I use carbon emissions and climate change primarily for examples, the steps apply equally to all pillars of corporate responsibility. And though I present them as a series of steps, in practice most examples I come across are implemented in parallel. Initiatives rarely start from a standing start and who wants to wait anyway! In three subsequent posts I will describe what I consider to be three stages to full employee engagement; leading from the top, generate momentum and harness momentum.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Guest Post – GE

Coming Together on the "Rule of Law"

Back in February I wrote a post “Legal Doesn’t Equal Sustainable” highlighting the distinction between sustainability and legal requirements. This was from the perspective of my experience working in a developed economy. In this guest post, Frank Mantero from GE positions the importance of the rule of law to developing economies and to GE’s operations in developing countries.

Frank Mantero is the Director, Corporate Citizenship Programs, for GE Corporation. Frank coordinates the company's global citizenship efforts, develops and manages the company's Citizenship Report, monitors the company's engagement with the DJSI and leads communications for GE-sponsored disaster relief efforts.

Working for GE, I work for a multinational company with extensive and continuously growing operations in developing countries. One of the biggest challenges that we face today is the need for strong local institutions that help foster the rule of law, protect the rights of individuals and create predictable, transparent and equitable legal and regulatory environments;.

Here, the need for localized engagement has become more visible as we reflect on and manage the fallout of the recent global financial crisis-- the result of a complete “systems failure”. Slowly we are waking up to the impact of our actions and inaction, discovering the need to ‘reset’ our approach to business in every region and every industry. We have been challenged to re-think the way work together and re-set our responsibilities to each other and the communities around us.

As we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, and stand back to observe a new and unfamiliar world, I look around me to see others in the same situation-- weather beaten and tired. Despite the exhaustion, the survivors remain because they share the same the goals and values that defied a global economic meltdown- integrity, experience and a focus on transparency and accountability. For us to succeed in the future, we must continue to anchor ourselves using these goals and values, while at the same time innovating for change.

As Einstein once mused, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” This philosophy is the foundation for the new, innovative approaches and collaborative actions that are changing the way we think about and shape our future. As a collective society, we face tremendous challenges such as climate change, energy security, water scarcity, migration, and health pandemics. To help tackle these modern day challenges, companies must build out their capacities around these issues, integrating innovation into the heart of their business. This innovation lies not only in the products and services companies provide, but also in their approach to engaging with the communities and governments where they operate.

While the growing strategic importance of what some call sustainable development and others call corporate responsibility, citizenship, or even responsible business does add some complexity to businesses operating in the global marketplace, it more importantly highlights the need for collaboration and agreement on the rules of the game. So, the ‘Rule of Law’ can no longer just be about securing a top down enforcement of the law, but also about building and/or strengthening the capacity of institutions and society to develop governance mechanisms that support sustainability values.

For me, this means securing the highest credible standards in one’s own practices considering local customs, cultural and political differences, that in turn, advance that of all businesses and governments towards sustainability. The importance of a consensus on truth and integrity is why in my work at GE I place great emphasis on “Rule of Law”. It plays a central role within our citizenship strategy, as it drives shared accountability and provides security in the midst of a downturn.

Without doubt, an effective Rule of Law ultimately strengthens nations (competitiveness) economically, politically and socially, creating environments that enable businesses like mine to engage and contribute to common development. It is time we come together, beyond issues of compliance, to uncover the roots and experience the promises of Rule of Law.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Corporate Home Pages Promote the CR Message

I did an informal review this afternoon to try and gauge the extent to which companies are externally positioning sustainability and corporate responsibility as issues at a corporate level.

I just tackled just the first 40 or so of a list of 400 companies. Not very scientific I know, but enlightening nevertheless.

Every company had a link to their corporate responsibility site, but more importantly and to my surprise, exactly half the companies had sustainability issues highlighted front and center with large font text in prominent boxes. The language used was atypical of the corporate home page - environmental values stuff. And there was very little was about straight philanthropy, rather the focus was on core issues of company interaction with society and environment.

Here are some examples (excuse the lack of links but I am timing out);

Ahold - Acting in a responsible manner for the benefit of the planet
Air Liquide - Planet Hydrogen - Our planet abounds in energies. But by depleting its natural resources, we are asphyxiating it.
Akzo Nobel - Emergency on Planet Earth - A new magazine published
Allianz - The Good Entrepreneur - Green Ideas and economic success are not mutually exclusive.
Amadeus - Joined "Massive Good" - global health initiative
Arcelor Mittal - Taking responsibility for transforming tomorrow
Arla Foods - Closer to Nature - we are at one with nature and have a responsibility to look after it as best we can
AstellasPharma - Changing tomorrow - leading light for life

These are not the consumer product and marketing pages. These are the corporate home pages where shareholders go to look up the company report and accounts and a description of locations.

Call me a naïve optimist, but I think this is a good sign. I know there can be a big gap between words on a web site and core actions at board level, but there is also a big gap between having some CSR people in the company and making the issue front and centre in company communications. I think we have bridged that gap in many companies.

The corporate pages are for investors and these communications help set the foundations for companies to act positively in the sustainability space and bring their shareholders along with them. An optimistic ending to my day today.

Sustainability Rankings by Industry Sector – Any Better? Part 2

This is the second of two posts. The first, earlier this week, was on TBR’s ranking of the ICT sector.

M&E’s Sustainability Ranking looks at the oil and gas services sector and in contrast with TBR, takes a very broad perspective of sustainability “comparing twenty companies in the sector against 355 criteria of sustainability, corporate governance, social responsibility, transparency and ethics.”

So although it is sector specific, the M&E ranking has a great dependency on weighting factors between very disparate CSR themes which I see as a significant downside when looking at the specific scores.

First in the M&E report is Schlumberger followed by Baker Hughes and then Halliburton in third place. Although the broad scope of the M&E report prevents an accurate comparison to Newsweek’s green ranking, interestingly, the order in the top of the ranking is the same; Schlumberger #118, Baker Hughes #154 and then Halliburton at #169. (Considering they come from the oil and gas services sector I think all are pretty respectable positions in Newsweek’s rankings, ahead of many companies in much less challenging sectors).

I find the observations within M&Es study to be valuable. Amongst other things M&E identifies;

  • relative positioning of the participant companies from year to year, for example “The biggest movers in 2009 are Baker-Hughes, jumping from a score of 47.07% in 2008 to 72.7% in 2009”
  • correlations between sustainability performance and financial performance, “study shows a significant correlation of 0.34 between the total M&E results covering 355 points of sustainability performance with Return on Assets (ROA)”.
  • comparable participation of the included companies with the DJSI, UN Millennium Goals and Carbon Disclosure Project.

All in all although I remain skeptical about the specific scorings, the concise commentary and conclusions provided with this report are valuable and fairly unique amongst reports I have seen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sustainability Rankings by Industry Sector – Any Better ?

I have written previously about ranking programs and commented that I put more value behind rankings for a particular theme or a particular sector, where the comparison is more likely to be apples with apples and the vagaries of weighting factors are at least somewhat lessened.

Two sector rankings have been brought to my attention recently. I will cover one today (TBR) and one later this week (M&E) when I have collected my thoughts on it.

TBR’s Sustainability Index Benchmark Report looks at the ICT sector. TBR’s scope for sustainability is environmental issues. You can see that Dell, came first followed by BT, IBM, HP, Intel and Nokia.

A comparison with Newsweek’s rankings is possible, although only partial as Newsweek only covers US companies. In Newsweek’s ranking of 500 companies, HP comes first, Dell second, Intel fourth and IBM fifth. It is notable that these ICT sector companies are all clustered in the Newsweek ranking although the order is different.

I see weightings as having a significant impact on ranking even in TBR’s sector specific comparison. For example, how do you rank the relative importance of recycling equipment for BT, which is predominantly a networked services company, with Dell, which sells hardware products in boxes as its core business? (If this sounds like hard feeling’s that we are not #1, it isn’t meant to, I am more than happy that we are well recognized in the rankings).

I suspect that with only a couple of months between the surveys, the different positions between TBR and Newsweek are more likely to be reflecting weighting and methodology rather than performance, so I have to say I remain what I hope is a healthy skeptic on the exact order of rankings, but a supportive of the underlying objective and continued improvement to methodologies.

More to come later this week on M&E rankings in the oil and gas services sector.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Should companies comment on politics?

Back in August, John Mackey (Co-founder and CEO of Wholefoods) was pretty heavily criticized for an opinion piece he wrote in the Wall Street Journal “ The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare.” A story in ABCNews, typical of the headlines generated, carried the subtitle “Branding Experts Say CEOs Should Stay Quiet When It Comes to Politics”

This headline is not confined to this side of the Atlantic. In October, Sir Terry Leahy, Chief Executive of Tesco and Sir Michael Rake, Chairman of BT, were criticized in an opinion piece in the Times headlined “When business leaders start getting political, it is time to switch off” for speaking on the ‘political issues’ of climate change and education.

The fourth dimension in the Four Dimensions of Sustainability is the opportunity that companies have to ‘Inform and Influence’ the views of all stakeholders, including government and civil society. I have proposed there that companies use the opportunity they have to influence stakeholders. In a post back in September “Isn’t the Healthcare debate a CR Issue too” I questioned why more companies were not speaking out on healthcare issues for example.

I have often contrasted the approaches of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the US Chamber of Commerce on climate change. While I, and BT, support one of those approaches and contest the other, at no time would I suggest that trade associations, companies or their CEOs should not speak out with a position on the issue.

Companies must represent their interests. If the education system is failing to deliver the required quality of employees or anticipated environmental change is threatening future supplies of a raw material for example, then CEOs are obliged to comment on this. Of course this needs to be within the context of taking seriously their own responsibilities in the particular field. If we want companies to be serious about their impact on sustainability we need them to take an active role in society.

But while corporate leaders must speak out on societal issues that effect their business together with the outcomes they would like to see, should they propose specific solutions? What is the best solution for healthcare cost and availability, which balance of tests and course work is optimum for high school education, cap and trade or tax which is better public policy? I doubt corporate leaders are experts on all these things, but then perhaps neither are political appointees or civil servants in many cases. And it can be hard to draw a clear line between defining required outcomes and suggesting solutions.

In my view the corporate world has been too far away from these important civil society debates in the past couple of decades and the recent increased involvement is welcomed. It is important is that positions should be transparent in the extent to which they represent the view of the individual, the best interest of the company and the best interest of society (for the record, the views in this post reflect mine and mine alone!) I for one would prefer to see C-level execs overshoot a little in expressing their views before we try and pull back, and I think we are far from that right now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guest Post: Microsoft

I just moved across to Windows 7, an early mover in a BT wide program with anticipated benefits that include improved power management. In addition to Microsoft reducing their own direct footprint, the power management of Microsoft products have the potential to make an impact on reducing some of the 530M tons of CO2 emissions that SMART 2020 identified for the whole ICT sector. I asked Francois Ajenstat for some insights into the energy consumption implications of this new release"

Francois Ajenstat is the Director of Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft Corp. He is responsible for Microsoft’s communication and outreach for key sustainability initiatives across Technology and Innovation; Global Partnerships and Corporate Environmental Practices.

Microsoft views software as a key foundational component of helping better understand our world and tackle environmental challenges. We believe it can enable the IT industry to significantly increase computing capacity around the globe, while simultaneously reducing the amount of energy required by our industry. With the recent launch of Windows 7, we have committed to reduce the energy consumption of our operating system and help our customers around the world save energy and save costs.

Microsoft has been investing in power management for many years in order to help our customers reduce energy costs but also extend the battery life in notebooks. When I look back at Windows Vista, in addition to the many power management features that we included in that product, the most important change that we made was power management “on by default”. That effectively meant that any Windows Vista user would have their PCs go to sleep after a certain period of inactivity. Considering that there are over 1 billion PCs around the world and the vast majority of users leave their PCs on 24/7, the savings in energy alone can be staggering. The NRDC found that this could shave $500 million off the US energy bill and eliminate 3 million tons of global warming pollution.

With Windows 7, efficiency was a guiding principle during our design and engineering efforts. We focused on core innovation to improve energy efficiency both when the PC is in use and when it is off. We also worked closely with our platform and software partners to help improve the efficiency of Windows computers, attached devices and installed software.

Windows 7 takes advantage of down time to save energy to scale the hardware down to the lowest available power consumption level. One of my favorite new features to help reduce idle power consumption is Adaptive Brightness. The power consumed by the display in a mobile PC is as much as 40 percent of the total power used by the system. Similar to a mobile phone, Windows 7 allows the display to dim after a short period of inactivity, reducing the amount of power used when laptops are idle for just a few minutes. Adaptive Brightness helps improve the user experience by sensing user activity so that it refrains from reducing the display brightness if there is activity immediately after dimming. This automatic behavior helps balance power savings with the PC user experience.

Another area that we focused on was to help improve energy efficiency when the PC is in use. For example, in Windows 7, when a user disconnects the network cable, Windows automatically places the network adapter into a low-power state. If the network adapter and its driver support the low-power state, additional power savings can be attained. We’ve also made optimizations to DVD Playback which reduces the amount of computing resources required for DVD playback and reduces the amount of time when the optical drive needs to be spinning.

Finally, I get a lot of questions on whether you need to upgrade to new hardware to run Windows 7 and what the impact is on eWaste. If your PC is less than a few years old, you can simply upgrade to Windows 7 and do not need to purchase a new PC. According to Softchoice, 88 percent of corporate PCs it has under management meet the minimum system requirements of Windows 7. Of those not equipped to run Windows 7, the majority would simply need more RAM and hard drive upgrade. Only one percent of their PCs would require replacement.

Overall, we have consciously thought about the design of Windows 7 and its impact on the environment. We were committed to making these changes and I’m personally very excited about Windows 7. I hope that you will get a chance to upgrade and take advantage of the new power management capabilities in this new OS.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Want More Junk?

My children are at a wonderful school, with wonderful programs on environmental responsibility. They recycle and compost and learn about the importance of biodiversity from an early age. As they grow up they will carry with them a much deeper sense of responsibility to the environment than my generation.

But when it comes to school holiday events, participation is still recognized with piles of cheap plastic trinkets. This reinforces one of the key behaviors we need to change, that disposable material goods are the reward for success. But we grown-ups demonstrate exactly those behaviors too, and at sustainability conferences of all places.

At the most recent round of fall corporate responsibility conferences, CRO, WEEC, BSR, Net Impact, FOSI, I collected re-usable water bottles and conference bags galore. But if you get a re-usable water bottle at every conference there is no opportunity to reuse it. And who has ever re-used a conference bag? Most can’t even be used at the supermarket.

I have collected enough stress balls, memory cards and ‘do not use for climbing’ carabineers from expo stands to last my family for years. But still I find myself hankering for even more. I try to determine how long I need to speak to the guy behind the table before I can take another credit card flash light without it being obvious that was the only reason I approached. I recently picked up a baseball cap made from recycled bottles and I was pleased with my acquisition. But I already have more baseball caps than I know what to do with.

We are allowing recycling and notional re-usability to ease our conscience for having stuff we don’t need. Instead we should treat it as a transitional step that has served its purpose. As a next step, I encourage the sustainability community, including myself, to wean ourselves off all this stuff and find other ways to make our clients and ourselves feel good for participation at conferences. I think we will find it liberating.

And then maybe, with a clearer conscience, I can speak with my kids and with their school about finding new ways to reward the next generation that rely less on material and more on substance.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guest Post: Autodesk

A ‘Wild West’ of Corporate GHG Target-Setting

As I have mentioned in my blog before, at BT we launched our Climate Stabilization Intensity Target in 2008. Until now we have been (as far as I am aware) the only company with such a target. However I am thrilled that Autodesk has now launched a target with a similar approach. Emma Stewart kindly agreed to provide some insights in a guest blog.

Emma Stewart, Ph.D., is the Senior Program Lead at Autodesk’s Sustainability Initiative, where she combines expertise in environmental trends analysis, policy and metrics design, and management consulting. Her award-winning work has been covered by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, Harvard Business, and Forbes, among others.

With the scientific and policy trends pointing to increasing and unprecedented levels of consensus on the scale of global emissions reductions, corporate leadership in defining a path forward remains varied, not comparable, and under-scrutinized. A bit like the Wild West, the domain lacks law, scrutiny and is full of somewhat aimless shooting.

Even amongst the leaders charting the frontier, targets are:
  • grounded in little more than ‘guesstimates’
  • very short-term in nature
  • at risk of accusations of ‘green washing’ because they mask an actual increase in absolute emissions
  • opaque due to intensity calculations or derivation from multi year commitment
To address these challenges, at Autodesk we have developed a Corporate Finance Approach to Climate-stabilizing Targets (“C-FACT”), a science-driven, business-friendly and transparent approach, which is grounded in climate science but recognizes that companies are GHG emitters and simultaneously create economic value.

In 2008, BT announced a Climate Stabilization Intensity model, which introduced the idea that corporate carbon reductions should be set relative to economic value-add. Autodesk strongly endorse this idea and applaud BT’s leadership. To make this concept applicable outside of the UK, we have suggested a universally acceptable metric for ‘value-add’.

With consultation from Clear Carbon Consulting, we have built the model to be compatible with existing business reporting norms, replicable and verifiable, accommodating of organic and inorganic changes in business, proportional to company's contribution to GDP and predictable, appropriate to attain climate stabilization.

I see a strong foundation for brand-enhancement through communicating that the approach is data-driven, grounded in science and a rigorous approach to a complex problem.

We applied C-FACT to a set of leading tech companies and found that if they were to adopt this approach, global GHGs could be reduced by a whopping 3,801,112,763 metric tons by 2050, equivalent to roughly 9 percent of the global target laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I hope that other companies will, in the spirit of open source tools, consider this model, analyze its strengths and weaknesses, improve upon it, and then adopt it. For a video tutorial and White Paper that explains the methodology step-by-step, please go to and help Autodesk and BT turn the Wild West into a Renaissance.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Should we pay our interns?

I was listening to an interesting piece on the radio a few weeks back about internships on NPR. The piece talked about the importance of getting an internship for students hoping to get into good jobs after college. Not surprisingly, the more sought after the job field, the more competition there is for internships. And it is increasingly common that companies don’t pay interns. Of course, it can take quite an investment of time to get someone acclimated, linked-up and trained-up and then they go back to school just as they are performing effectively. And there are plenty of potential interns chasing even the unpaid positions so why is there a need to pay?

The journalist then went on to talk about the cost of going to school and how some students have to get paid work during the holidays or they cannot afford to be at school. Of course those are the students from less advantaged backgrounds. And so, unintentionally, unpaid internships perpetuate the economic divide. Students from more advantaged backgrounds can take internships that lead to the best jobs. Students from less advantaged backgrounds cannot afford to go for those internships and so are disadvantaged in applying for those jobs.

Corporate responsibility and sustainability are amongst the most sought after fields these days. I see unpaid internship positions advertised all the time. I have had students come up to me at conferences and offer to work for me as interns for free. It is a tough call. I have no budget for paying an intern, so it is that or nothing. Why deprive someone of the opportunity? But if removing barriers that discriminate against the economically disadvantaged is going to be recognized anywhere in the corporate world it would be from within the corporate responsibility field and it seems to me that unpaid internships are one of those barriers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Breakfast Panel - Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan

I have been invited to speak on a breakfast panel in DC on November 10 by It is part of a series called, "Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan." This one is on the environment. Other speakers include Jennifer Alcott, Telework!VA Program Manager and Steven Ruth, Professor, George Mason University School of Public Policy.

You can book via the eventbrite link at the top of the BroadbandCensus homepage. The link with a photo of eggs and bacon on a plate. If the panelists get to eat I guess I won’t be eating much :-)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dilemmas in Corporate Responsibility – Privacy and Safety

In my mind, the most challenging issues for corporate responsibility officers involve conflicts between different CR priorities. In the ICT sector the tensions between privacy, freedom of speech and online safety is one of those issues.

Balancing these priorities can present real ethical dilemmas. Here are just a few of the dilemmas in this space that have been enhanced by the internet;

    • How much privacy do you allow individuals on line - a battered woman seeking help needs to remain anonymous but what about an adult trying to engage in predatory online chats with children?
    • In my eyes a private citizen battling the authorities in an oppressive regime deserves the protection afforded by privacy, but I don’t want someone battling with deadly weapons where I live. I might prefer we stopped them using the internet to enhance their plans.
    • What level of access prevention is applicable for sites that are illegal, hateful or immoral?
    • As a consumer, what components of information from my online activities can be used to select the advertising presented to me?

There are cultural differences to consider too. I think it is generally true that Europe (including the UK) puts a higher priority on online safety at the expense of privacy and freedom of speech. Whereas, relative to Europe, America tends to balance freedom of speech and privacy more highly.

Later this week I am attending the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) conference in DC. FOSI (of which BT is a member) is one of the organizations that works with companies to consider these issues, exchange views and develop conclusions and solutions that balance the issues appropriately. FOSI’s focus is protecting kids and families on line. I attended last year and found the discussions important and fascinating – true ethical dilemmas. I plan to tweet from the conference this year so I can share my thoughts in real-time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Guest Post: Johnson & Johnson

My October 13th post Interpreting The Top Ten received a number of comments including from Jay Whitehead, publisher of CRO's ranking and from Chris Coulter who produces the Globescan report. I thought it would be interesting to hear from one of the companies that appears high in the rankings and Brian Boyd, VP of Environmental Affairs at Johnson & Johnson (3rd in Newsweek rankings) kindly shares his thoughts on the topic in this guest post.

Just being realistic, can anyone think of a more complex and all-encompassing “business issue” (and so deftly expressed in one simple word) than the concept we now know as “sustainability”? I can’t.

So it’s no surprise to me that “how we measure it” is going to evolve and vary. As a sustainability practitioner in a company that has been measured, ranked and rated for many years, you learn early that chasing ratings and points is a bit of the tail wagging the dog. While I agree it’s far more pleasant to come out near the top of any ranking vs. the bottom, the key is in how we use them. I find sustainability rankings to be quite helpful for tracking business trends, understanding stakeholder expectations, and gaining access to inventories of the latest sustainable business practices….all of which are fundamental to informing any business strategy. But given the demands of creating, aligning, measuring, and improving sustainability strategy and metrics in a large global company, reacting to “ranking volatility” just isn’t possible. So we view them as one of many important inputs to future strategy.

As for trying to reconcile the myriad sustainability rankings with each other, I don’t think that’s possible either. There are so many, each with its unique purpose and proprietary angle, many in competition with each other, it doesn’t seem likely that standardization or equivalence is anywhere near on the horizon. So for now, we’ll keep trying our best to set good business strategy, sustain strong performance …..and hopefully the good rankings will follow.

Brian Boyd is Vice President, Worldwide Environment, Health & Safety at Johnson & Johnson. Brian joined Johnson & Johnson at McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals in 1990, where he progressed to become Manager of Environmental Engineering. In 1997 he was promoted to Manager, Engineering, for the McNeil Las Piedras manufacturing plant where he led the plant launch team for MOTRIN production.

Brian joined Worldwide Environmental Affairs in 1999 as Director where he was instrumental in the development of the global environmental dashboard, external manufacturing and supplier programs, the MAARS process and in supporting all of our business groups. He was promoted to VP, Worldwide Environment, Health & Safety in November, 2003.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Social Media Impacts Corporate Responsibility

I was reading the first edition of the In Context Bulletin, a quarterly newsletter on corporate sustainability. In the latest issue, a topic close to my interests caught my attention. The article was focused on social media and how these web tools can better target your corporate sustainability messages.

Personally, I thought the article missed the true value of blogging and how it can impact corporate responsibility. I posted a response on the In Context blog expressing my thoughts.

The world of corporate communications is changing. There used to be a clear line of demarcation between the individual as an executive communicating a corporate message and the individual as a private citizen exchanging personal views. Corporate communications that represent the company position tend to be one too many. Private citizen communications are two-way but limited to very small audiences.

With internet tools and blogging especially, there is a significant blurring of these two options that I see will bring great value to corporations and to corporate responsibility.

In fact, I have written a couple pieces on why I personally blog and tweet.

The internet and social media tools that are now available act as an equalizer for individuals to voice their thoughts. These tools also allow executives in large organizations to share their personal views and become connected with their stakeholders.

Having a company blog open to comments from readers helps in some way show the importance of weighing differing viewpoints directed toward that company. When a business executive can truly express his or her views, blogging provides a strong foundation for individual accountability. And through opening him or herself up to a more personal connection with readers I believe the executive blogger (CR practitioner or otherwise) creates an environment in which the views of their external stakeholders are front of mind in their decision-making.

Blogging as a communications tool for CR practitioners is interesting, but blogging as a mechanism to bridge the gap between company executives and stakeholders is a compelling route to ever-improving corporate responsibility.

I’d be interested in hearing your take on the impact of social media on corporate responsibility. Why do you participate in social media and what impact has it had so far?

Friday, October 23, 2009

IT – Still Missing the Big Opportunity

With the exception of teleconferencing as a substitute for travel, the recognition by IT practitioners of the value they can bring to the overall improvement in environmental performance of company they serve is woefully short.

This is my fourth and last post adding my personal thoughts on the results of a survey of IT Professionals on Green IT that BT conducted in June 2009. The full results came out in September.

Previous posts commented on employee attitudes and action and on the impact of ROI on Green IT.

Respondents to the survey identified participation in activities such as disposal of electronic equipment, recycling, energy star, consolidation and virtualization, in the order of 70% to almost 90%. But as the attached graph shows, with the exception of teleconferencing, other more strategic contributions to the wider energy efficiency of their organizations are only reported to be in the range of 15% to 35%. This is the equivalent of seeing the cost IT incurs for the company, but missing the value proposition of IT.

(click the image for a larger view, hit 'back' in your browser to return)

Listed in the left column of my blog under the heading “ICTs Carbon Footprint” are many of the reports written on the potential of ICT to reduce carbon emissions. Even the most cautious of these, SMART 2020, identifies the carbon reduction ‘opportunity’ of implementing ICT solutions to be five times bigger than the ‘burden’ of the whole ICT sector. Other reports identify much higher leveraged benefit.

I think that IT departments and folks within those departments with an environmental appreciation are still missing an opportunity to position themselves and their functions as of strategic value to the company’s environmental footprint reduction efforts, rather than as an energy burden that needs to be reduced at all cost.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I am at BSR but the Real Sustainability News is at Supercomm

I am at BSR in San Francisco. Shortly I am speaking on a panel about sustainability engagement. My topic is employee engagement and one of my points is that for effective employee engagement you need visible senior management support.

At the same time as BSR, Supercomm09 is happening in Chicago. Supercomm is an international event for broadband communication providers, carriers and vendors. Thousands of people attend from the ICT sector.

In one of the sessions, five leaders in the telecom industry were asked on the SUPERCOMM stage what technology they would invest in today if money and budget were not an issue. These are technical guys (CTO, CIO, VP of networks etc). According to XChange Magazine, two of them, BT’s George Nazi and Sprint's Matthew Oommen presented ideas about clean energy and energy efficiency as their wishes.

This is the sort of visible leadership I am going to be referring to when I speak this morning. It lays the groundwork for effective employee engagement.

Of course speakers at BSR will address issues of social, economic and environmental sustainability. But the real news, and evidence of good progress, is when two of five senior business speakers on a technical panel at a regular trade conference put green issues at the top of their wish list.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Naked Men in Locker Rooms and Why I Think SMART Objectives Can Undermine Sustainable Behavior

SMART Objectives are a popular management tool in business and have been for some time now. If you are not familiar with the concept, SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound. Typically, SMART objectives are metrics cascaded through an organization that set objectives for individual employees. They are used to manage performance and contribute towards determining pay and bonus.

SMART objectives simplify an individual’s contribution to a metric, measure performance against that metric over defined time periods and isolate the contribution of individuals independent of the whole.

If you compensate an individual according to their performance against a metric, they will get the message and focus on that metric. If it is timebound, then they will meet the objective within the time defined, losing sight of the implications on the next time period. This can make it hard to take account of the more holistic impacts of one’s activities and creates counterproductive behaviors. It reinforces a behavior that the whole doesn’t matter. And isolating the individual’s performance to their metrics distracts from seeing the bigger picture.

Employees are pretty savvy – after all, that’s why we picked them. At its worst, if you judge an employee based solely on performance against an individual metric the individual will find a way to meet and exceed the specific achievement of that metric perhaps even at the expense of the underlying intent.

In a post back in February, “Legal doesn’t equal sustainable”, I commented that sustainable thinking requires seeing both sides of an issue, resolving problems holistically and looking for solutions that none of the participants may have conceived of alone. I think SMART objectives, overzealously applied, undermine this approach and companies need to get smarter at how they are applied.

Of course I understand that the opposite end of the spectrum – judging everyone by the performance of the whole - can lead to mediocrity. But I think companies have gone too far the other way. I wrote a piece recently for GE’s 2008 Citizenship report on metrics and particularly the role of ROI in sustainability. In that post I stated that I believe ROI has role to play to inform, but not to lead our business sustainability decisions. I think the same of SMART objectives. They have a role to play to inform, but not to lead our actions.

And as for “naked men in locker rooms?” Well, I keep getting asked about the hit rate on my blog. Apparently that’s an important measure of how successful it is. I heard once through the grapevine that ‘naked men in locker rooms’ is a popular search term and I figured if I added that term to the title, I’d see a boost in traffic.

Just goes to show, that if you only focus on one metric, you could jeopardize the value that you bring as a whole.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Room for Improvement - Employees Are Taking More Action at Home Than at Work

“Room for improvement”, together with “could try harder”, the comments I most dreaded on my report card at school. However, “room for improvement’ there is for us sustainability managers in the employee engagement space.

This is my third post adding my personal thoughts on the results of a survey of IT Professionals on Green IT that BT conducted in June 2009. The full results came out in September.

In my last post, I observed that companies appear to be leading their employees' attitudes. Companies with clear and proactive policies in the climate change space have employees who report more proactive attitudes to the issue.

(click the image for a larger view, hit 'back' in your browser to return)

From the attached chart, I noted that participants in the survey report a higher level of activity on key environmental activities at home than at work. The difference is consistently of the order of magnitude of 10 percentage points. So for example, of employees who believe human activity is a major cause of climate change, 90% report recycling more at home, but only 77% report recycling more at work. Although respondents with less firm convictions on the causes of climate change report less action, they still consistently report more action at home than at work. (This is not the case for travel; however, a direct comparison is not possible as the ‘at home’ question only referred to commuting, where the ‘at work’ question referred to all business travel.)

The implication is that there is potential for corporate responsibility and sustainability practitioners to increase action amongst employees by 10 percentage points simply by bringing it up to the same level as the level of action employees take at home. If the conclusion of my earlier post is correct and companies are leading employees' attitudes, then let’s make sure we are taking full advantage of that in terms of action in the workplace.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interpreting the Top Ten

I continue to be fascinated by the range of company ratings programs for corporate responsibility.

In a not particularly representative sample, I recorded the top ten of the most recent programs that came to my attention. BMS, IBM, HP and Nike each appear twice in my sample but no company appears more than twice and all other companies appear once only.

These particular four surveys have very different scope and intent but if those differences are taken into account, the contrasting outcomes can be informative.

Globescan/ Sustainability


WPP and Cohn & Wolfe


Sustainability Survey

100 Best List

Green Brands

Green Rankings



Clorox Green Works



General Mills

Burt's Bees (Clorox)


Toyota =

Walmart =


Tom's of Maine (Colgate Palmolive)



SC Johnson






M&S =

Unilever =



State Street




BT =

DuPont =

Nike =




Kimberly Clark


Applied Materials,


Dove (Unilever)


Just looking at methodology for example, the CRO survey is based on a pure quantified methodology; Newsweek is based on a quantified methodology but includes a component from an opinion survey; the Globescan and GreenBrands are based completely on opinion surveys (although of very different audiences).

The most important things to understand are:

  • What is the ranking intended to measure - carbon emission reporting, green performance, overall corporate responsibility?
  • Is the basic methodology a perception survey, panel of judges or a quantified measurement?
  • What companies are in scope – is it geographically limited, size limited, dependent on submission of an ‘application’ or limited to members of a particular index or association ?

The Globescan/Sustainability list, based on level of unprompted recall by sustainability specialists, is a measure of which companies are in the forefront of overall sustainability judged by peers. The CRO 100 Best, with a quantified methodology is limited to American listed companies only, but it is still interesting that there is no overlap with the Globescan/sustainability top ten. It is not until you get to #15 on Globescan’s list, that you hit IBM, the first company to appear on the CRO 100. There is no further overlap with Globescan’s or CRO’s top 20.

Likewise, none of the top ten Green Brands according to consumer perception have propelled their company in the top ten green companies according to Newsweek’s quantified ranking. The first top ten Green Brand to appear on the Newsweek ranking is P&G at #26.

I would enjoy hearing from others on what conclusions you would draw from these contrasts.

I wrote another blog post on this topic “Ranking Corporate Sustainability Performance” in December 08.

Postscript 10/30/09: Brian Boyd VP of Environmental Affairs at Johnson and Johnson provides a response with a guest post.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Guest Post: Reducing Japan’s Carbon Emissions

Colleagues in BT across the globe who have an interest in sustainability share their insights with me. I find that perspectives from outside of the relatively small group of us immediately involved in sustainability can be especially enlightening. A recent update from Takeshi Fukada, a BT Conferencing sales manager in Japan especially caught my attention for its illustration both of the challenges in reaching a global agreement on emissions reduction but also the support for countries to take action. Takeshi kindly agreed to share his insights below:

The Nikkei newspaper carried an interesting article on October 4th referring to Japan's recent commitment to 25% carbon emission reduction by 2020 (from a 1991 baseline).

According to the Nikkei some EU countries, such as France and Denmark, and some developing countries had praise for our announcement. It is an honor for us, but the article says we should consider deeply what their "praise" means.

Developing countries are happy, says the Nikkei, because it is obvious they can expect benefit from it, such as commercial backup and technical support for CO2 reduction. The EU, on the other hand, may be happy because Japan, one of its competitors in the global market, set and committed to this hard target by themselves. The target limits CO2 emission in Japan. It means we have some limitation on our productivity geographically. So the article says that the position of some EU countries is a "backhanded compliment".

At the same time, we know from the history that its target will not limit our economic expansion because it promotes our technical innovation.

I personally take very positively that Japan takes its high target. We will have some commercial difficulties, but it can put us at a different stage, as a leader in environmental business, like the US takes a lead in IT business.