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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.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Last month, I attended a workshop for the US launch of 2 Degrees, a mission driven ‘for profit’ organization in the environmental sustainability space. A few years back I launched an employee charity match program at BT with the help of a small ‘for profit’ but likewise mission driven start up, then called Create Hope, now Truist.

I just read an interesting article ‘Saying Something Different’ by Matthew Bishop in Alliance Magazine. He writes compellingly about social enterprise and what he calls “philanthrocapitalism”. He also addresses how for profits and non-profits have a lot to learn from each other – a topic I touched on in a post 'What Business Can learn from Non-profits' .

I welcome the opportunity for learning and perhaps even blurring across the traditional boundaries between mission driven and ‘for profit’ organizations. For-profit organizations have much to gain commercially from developing their sense of mission and non-profits still need to remain financially viable even if they do not have to deliver a financial return on their investment.

Monday, October 5, 2009

IT Going Green – a Comparison of Corporate and Personal Attitudes and Actions

This is my second post on the results of a survey of the views of IT professionals on Green IT that BT conducted in June 2009.

I see a strong indication from our survey respondents that companies that take a strong position on climate change actions and policy are able to influence the views of their employees in the same direction.

· In companies with a formal policy on climate change, 55% of individuals believe human activity is a major cause of climate change. This figure is only 38% for companies that have expressed no concern or are climate change skeptics.

· In companies with a formal policy, only 5% of individuals believe human activity has little or no impact on climate change. Whereas this figure is 14% for companies that have expressed no concern or are climate change skeptics.

Companies with a strong climate change policy may attract recruits sympathetic to the topic. However given timescales I think the stronger dynamic here is that companies have influenced the views of existing employees through company policies.

Good news (although you will have to look at page 12 of the paper itself to see the data) that 50-60% of respondents with a neutral or negative view towards climate change, nevertheless reported participating in environmental actions such as turning off electrical equipment, recycling and traveling less.

The same data set also shows pretty consistently that respondents of all persuasions are more likely to participate in environmentally friendly activities in their personal life than at work. So there is some room for us CR professionals to improve engagement at work across the board.

My first post on this topic was Cost/ROI – A Double Edged Sword.

Friday, October 2, 2009

In the name of Corporate Responsibility. Is This Really True ?

I read a story in the Washington Post Express today that is also carried in London's Metro Publication and even the Telegraph. It sounded like a spoof to me so I thought I would put it side by side with a spoof from The Onion yesterday and see if you can guess which is which. Click on the story to see which publication it comes from and, I guess by implication, which is true.

Japan's All Nippon Airways(ANA) is asking its passengers to use the restroom before boarding......The airline hopes to cut nearly 5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Pepsi to cease Advertising
"[some of] the company's $1.3 billion annual advertising budget would be....spread among various charitable organizations.....