Thursday, January 12, 2017

Private Sector Leadership and Green Bond Potential in Brazil

With the future of the Paris climate agreement increasingly tentative, momentum toward greenhouse gas mitigation will continue in other ways. New financial products, such as “green bonds,” which unleash market forces to protect the environment, have grown rapidly, and have great potential.

Much of that growth has been in developed markets. Over the past few months, however, Brazil has taken critical steps toward accelerating green bond growth, indicating a more active future for Latin America and developing countries in promoting market-based climate initiatives.

The U.S. is currently the largest issuing country to date, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative, with about 16% of the roughly $694 billion global market. Apart from major issuer China, developing countries have a very small share of issuance, with Latin America at less than 1%.

Itaú Unibanco, Latin America’s largest bank by market value, is working with partners to change this. They see enormous green bond potential for Brazil—and progress there could encourage other developing countries with similar profiles. Brazil has about 59 million metric tons of carbon stored in its forests, approximately 70% of Latin America's installed wind power capacity, and around 6 million hectares of responsibly-managed forests (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council).

Private sector leaders, such as Itau, are developing an ecosystem for green bond issuance to thrive. Itau Asset Management recently joined with a handful of other major banks operating in Brazil to sign the “Brazil Green Bonds Statement.” The statement, agreed by banks managing combined assets of nearly $500 billion, reflects its collective belief in the risk climate change poses to society and our commitment to foster a low-carbon economy.

As part of this initiative, Itau Asset Management will dialogue with other banks, with governments, and with international organizations to develop this market. They will also drive momentum toward the elements of a successful marketplace, including independent eligibility criteria for green bond issuance and increased transparency among issuers on the use of proceeds. Other key organizations in Brazil are also building support for the green bonds movement. Joint actions such as that of the Brazilian Federation of Banks (FEBRABAN), the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS), and the Climate Bonds Initiative, which launched the Guide for Issuance of Green Securities in Brazil, build awareness, support and encourage issuers.

Total green bond issuance in 2016 was at $81 billion, more doubling from the year prior, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative. By 2018, global issuance could reach $300 billion. As Brazil—and Latin America more broadly—build infrastructure around green bonds, and raise awareness, they will capture an increasing percentage of this market.

Educating investors—both retail and institutional—is critical. Environmental, social, and corporate governance issues are not just about philanthropy and citizenship; they are critical to the value of our investments, and thus the investment process. Responsible investing generates value for clients by identifying growth opportunities and reducing risk.

—Tatiana Grecco, Head of Portfolio Solutions at Itaú Asset Management

Monday, January 9, 2017

Clorox and AOL's Safe Water Project and 360 Video Partnership

Virtual Reality Brings Issue of Safe Water to Life in a New Clorox and AOL Video 

Safe water is foundational. Yet one in seven people in Peru do not have access to it. Around the world, approximately 88 percent of deaths due to diarrheal illness are attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene. Diarrheal diseases kill more children than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined, making it the second leading cause of death among children under five years old.

However, unsafe drinking water still seems like a far-away issue for most people in the United States, where water safety is not typically an everyday concern. The good news is that emerging technologies like VR and 360 video present incredible opportunity for inspiring social good. Clorox is harnessing this power to bring the issue of unsafe drinking water to life.

Tackling the global issue of unsafe water can seem daunting and there are many clean water processes and infrastructures in place to solve this problem, some coming with large costs and multiple moving parts. However, there is actually a simple, cost-effective, scalable and easily adoptable way to kill bacteria and viruses in water—a few drops of bleach. Through The Safe Water Project, Clorox is leading an effort to address the chronic problem of unsafe water. The Safe Water Project’s bleach dispenser model provides a simple, affordable water treatment solution for use in areas where people collect water from an untreated, communal water source.

Clorox and HuffPost RYOT Studios partnered to create a 360 video allowing viewers to immerse themselves in a community in Peru that has benefitted from The Safe Water Project. As part of the experience, viewers are guided by one of the community leaders, Bernadina, and shown a surprisingly simple solution—using bleach to purify water. Clorox Bleach kills 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses in water like cholera, so it is a viable and important solution even for parts of the world that lack any infrastructure.

Since The Safe Water Project launched, there have been strong results, with more than 60 percent of community households treating their water with bleach and over 350,000 liters of water a day being purified.

Leveraging AOL’s network, which reaches more than 500 million global consumers, this short film, titled “Purely Peru,” showcases how VR can be used for global storytelling and social good. Through this partnership, Clorox and AOL are creating a fresh new dialogue around how brands can engage with their audiences about important issues.

The 360 video is accessible across screens on the HuffPost RYOT app, YouTube 360 or through a VR headset; viewers can make a donation straight from their devices. Visit Visit to learn more.

—Gabriele Amtmann, associate director of marketing, The Clorox Company

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Corporate Responsibility: A 2017 Outlook

When it comes to the social sector, philanthropy, giving back, helping others, improving our communities and our planet—however it’s defined—we are seeing clear and positive trends. In 2015, charitable donations hit a record for a second year in a row at an estimated $373.25 billion, corporate giving reached $18.45 billion, an increase of 3.9 percent year-over-year (YoY), and employee participation in their companies’ community efforts has continued to rise, and last year reached 33 percent.

How will this story continue to unfold? Here are some predictions for 2017:

Profit + Purpose. We’re likely to see the acceleration of aligning corporate philosophies and sales goals to better meet the needs of underserved populations and to address major global issues, such as noncommunicable diseases, climate change, and poverty. Examples of this include CVS Health’s decision to discontinue tobacco sales, Subaru’s commitment to building fuel-efficient vehicles in eco-friendly plants, and Prudential’s focus on financially empowering underserved communities.

The Impact of Corporate Responsibility on the Bottom Line. Similarly, we’ll see greater investor interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, which will cause the C-suite to further incorporate corporate giving and employee engagement as core components of a strong business strategy. Not only is this the right thing to do, but studies increasingly show a direct link between CR initiatives and greater profitability, higher investment value, and employee recruitment and retention.

The Expanding Role of HR. The 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study found that 51 percent of employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments, and that 74 percent are more fulfilled when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work. As such, CR initiatives will become increasingly integrated with HR efforts around employee recruitment, engagement and retention efforts. It’s critical that HR be able to communicate and present defined social programs and campaigns that both current and prospective employees can feel good about.

The Rise of Human Social Responsibility. Employees are increasingly looking for a greater diversity of options for giving back and supporting causes. Organizations need to listen to their employees more and take cues from them. It’s a shift in mindset from Corporate Social Responsibility to what corporate citizenship and philanthropy expert Rachel Hutchisson has coined as Human Social Responsibility, where organizations, as conveners of people, will take their lead from their employees and their individual human social contracts. This will result in more organizations looking for ways to support employees’ causes within the broader scope of their CR programs, incorporate giving and volunteering that employees do on their own time into these programs, and encouraging skills-based volunteering as a dual employee development and community investment tool.

Measurement, Storytelling and Breaking Silos. The importance of measurement will continue to grow in 2017. We will see continued demand for measuring and reporting the results of grants, community partnerships, and employee programs. Also, aligning results with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will gain more attention and will factor into storytelling, particularly with the growing importance of public-private partnerships in business. In the end, organizations must have the infrastructure in place to connect the dots on measurement, impact and storytelling across the entirety of their CR, Sustainability, PR, Marketing, HR, and IR efforts.

Technology. In order to facilitate more employee participation, build better partnerships and support increasingly robust reporting requirements, CR software will continue to grow in importance as a core enterprise technology need. To meet the demands of their stakeholders, corporations need a technology platform from which to organize their employee giving and volunteering, tie all of their disparate CR efforts together, measure and report on their efforts, and tell their impact stories. And just as the private sector has adopted cloud-based and mobile solutions to manage other aspects of the business, CR will continue to follow.

The notion of corporate responsibility has evolved beyond traditional “checkbook philanthropy”— where checks were written each year to disparate causes and organizations; employees likely didn’t participate in or even know about these donations; and no one ever knew what that money actually did. Today, CR is transforming to become results-based, impact-focused, and inclusive to engage employees in ways that are meaningful to them. Companies and employees want their efforts to have an impact, and they want to know what that impact is.

In the year ahead, we’ll see organizations diversify their CSR efforts to create stronger, more engaging programs. Measurement will be crucial to a company’s ability to share its impact story with the people and organizations they help, as well as their customers, employees, boards, investors and other stakeholders. And perhaps, these impact stories will even inspire greater participation in causes and campaigns that will help build a better world.

— Jamie Serino, director of marketing, MicroEdge + Blackbaud

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Responsible Reporting: Five Tips for your CSR Report in the New Year

Currently, companies are compiling data and information for their 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports. Here are five tips to get the most value, and to manage risk associated with CSR reporting. These tips will also help embed CSR thinking into all levels in your organization.

Here are the five tips reviewed in this here:
1. Determine what is material for your organization
2. Don’t stop with materiality
3. Compare your reporting parameters with other companies’
4. If you can’t support it, don’t report it
5. Use this year’s gaps to plan for next year

1. Determine what is material for your organization. Materiality is now an essential part of CSR reporting. Within just the last five years, this push came from Global Reporting Institute, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board—and even the Securities and Exchange Commission. Materiality has been used in financial reporting for decades; even so, there is still some disagreement (including between auditors and their clients) as to what is “material.” There are several standard risk management frameworks that provide guidance on identifying highest risk areas. Two frameworks are ISO 31000, or COSO’s Enterprise Risk Management framework. Service providers may claim to have the unique way to determine materiality. However, there is no single, “correct” way to perform materiality analysis for CSR reporting parameters. Use an approach that incorporates standard risk assessment principles. As with any other emerging issue, this will be revised over time, so just make sure you document what you did, and your rationale for doing so.

2. Don’t stop with materiality. Materiality is a concept that allows organizations to focus on what matters the most. The challenge with materiality as applied to CSR is: material to whom? Many CSR materiality discussions are driven by the needs of the investment community. One prominent framework proposes six to eight CSR parameters as being “material” for inclusion in financial filings. Does this mean that companies should not report on other parameters?

Other issues can still matter to key organizational stakeholders. Some CSR issues may include regulatory requirements, with information already a matter of public record via reports submitted to agencies. Some CSR parameters can enhance an organization’s reputation. Other parameters could be standard practice for some key stakeholders. For example, an organization with locations in some cities may be expected to have programs that encourage ridesharing or cycling to work. A company with any presence in drought-stricken Southwest would be expected to conserve water. If the organization does not include these parameters in CSR reports, it can send the wrong signal to prospective employees, neighbors, or other key stakeholders.

3. Compare your sustainability reporting parameters to other companies’. Investors and other stakeholders are comparing your CSR reports to other companies’. Shouldn’t you? Organizations can learn much by reviewing CSR reports of financial peers to see what they report on, and how much detail they provide. Many CSR performance issues are now being embedded into requirements of the supply chain. It is also useful to compare your CSR report to those of key customers. You can select other companies to get traction with the executives who provide you with resources. If there is an executive at your company who is relatively new, compare your CSR report to the one of their prior company. The C-suite should want their new organization’s CSR report to be at least as good as the company they just left.

4. If you can’t support it, don’t report it. Stakeholders use the social and environmental information in CSR reports to help them make many decisions, such as: whether buy or sell your stock; whether to add or retain you as a vendor; or whether to work for your organization. These decisions can have direct financial impact on your organization. Other consequences can include how easily you can obtain permits to expand operation, or effects on your brand’s reputation. Stakeholders can find out if you report data that is incorrect or unsupported. Media can provide coverage, and social media is quick to spread opinions about these errors. The rigor of data collection and management for CSR information doesn’t match that for financial reporting. After all, financial reporting has a head start of several decades! There are valid reasons for data inconsistencies and errors: different units of measure; different reporting periods; or simple lack of data. Reporting invalid data is worse than not reporting data at all.

5. Use this year’s gaps to plan for next year. It is common to want to present only the good stuff in CSR reports. It’s also common to present only the good stuff to senior management. This can backfire on your CSR program. Most CSR reports are signed by an executive. Use this as an opportunity to get the resources you need for next year. Nobody has all the CSR data and information they would like for their CSR reports. Many stakeholders respect companies that are candid about their performance, including areas where they have fallen short. Senior management respects candor, too. Don’t hide the gaps. Consider the risks they pose to your organization. Develop a plan to address them, and estimate the resources you’ll need. When you get the sign-off on this year’s CSR report, ask senior management for what you need for next year’s CR efforts—so you can return with a more robust CSR report next year.  

—Douglas Hileman, CRMA, CPEA, President, Douglas Hileman Consulting LLC.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Five Key Learnings for CR

Millennials are the most populous generation in United States history, with more than 90 million living in America today. Knowing this, companies are investing in winning over this generation. Research shows that millennials are concerned with corporate ethics, and companies are listening— in 2015 alone, 81 percent of Fortune 500 companies published sustainability reports.

While it’s great news that so many companies are focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR), it’s just as important to ensure corporations make evidence-based decisions to determine how to best serve their communities. For example, many companies currently require a “global day of service” for all employees. This approach is not effective. Not only does it disrupt the work day, it’s likely not providing the charity, non-profit or community-based organization the kind of services it really needs. A better model for engagement would be a company adopting a community-based organization and using a skills-based and capacity-focused approach. Imagine if their corporate employees could choose from a menu of support that highlighted which community-based organizations had the greatest needs and employees could sign-up based upon their expertise.

To ensure that companies make the best use of their CSR resources, Get IN Chicago recently made five key recommendations for violence prevention initiatives at community-based organizations. These learnings were designed through two years of research and data collection, to be used to combat violence and the systemic issues that lead to it. That said, what we learned can provide valuable insight to any company, large or small, currently executing or considering a CSR strategy.

1. Confirm the program actually addresses the needs of the group or risk population you want to serve. A CSR initiative’s success ultimately depends on the research and planning behind their charitable choice. At Get IN Chicago, our goal was to impact youth violence, but through research, we found that few violence reduction programs were serving acutely high-risk youth. For example, there are many different reasons someone may be at-risk. There’s risk of teen pregnancy or high school dropout. To impact violence, our organizations need to be engaging the acutely high-risk youth: those who are at the greatest risk for gun violence. Thus, our first step to impact was making sure our partners were working consistently with this population.

Distinguishing the group you intend to impact is essential when determining which partner programs are the best investment for your company. If a partner doesn’t directly benefit the cause or population that you’re looking to address, then you should re-examine your support. They may not be a fit, but more likely, they may need support in designing their screening process or engaging a vulnerable population.

2. Ensure the organizations you support have the capacity and capabilities to work with the people you’re trying to serve and collect quality data related to those services. When your company finds a charitable partner aligned with your chosen cause, ensure that the partner is equipped with appropriate resources. Get IN Chicago found that certain skills, expertise and operational upgrades were crucial for community-based organizations to be effective. Resources are limited; for sustainable programming, funding is often not only needed for services, but capacity building.

Companies can help organizations on the front lines with technical assistance to develop staff training, strategic planning, and financial management. In particular, strengthening program infrastructure can have a dramatic effect on program outcomes. Collaborations between community-based organizations and companies can also help build up the community overall by encouraging work to continue beyond the life of a particular grant.

3. Review if the program is delivering the correct dosage of intervention. We know that some companies use their CSR resources toward evidence-based programs. However, in practice, are these programs delivering the interventions as intended? Similar to medication, much evidence-based programming is only effective when delivered at the appropriate dosage, which varies by program and the participants’ risk level.

When a program is not implemented at the correct dosage, its chances of impact decrease. For example, many effective mentoring models require at least two 1-hour sessions per week. Even if organizations include effective mentoring models in their plans, their program might not be impactful if sessions only happen once per month. Maintaining a clear understanding of the dosage of interventions is key when implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of an evidence-based initiative.

4. Track programs from the start to improve outcomes and share success. Return on investment is crucial for the sustainability and continued impact of all CSR initiatives. We know that being able to determine the outcomes of a program is important to violence prevention work, but it’s equally important to any community-based program addressing social issues.

Programs should be designed to have measurable outcomes and tangible results. Incorporating evaluation into programs can help to strengthen what works and identify areas for improvement, but in order to do this, community organizations need to have appropriate systems for collecting and sharing data to document their efforts and monitor their impact. Companies and funders can support community organizations to evaluate success, improve their programs, and direct funding to what works.

5. Empower communities to serve their local youth. Communities that feel empowered become safer and are more successful at reducing violence, a strategy that Get IN Chicago has embedded into its work. But the underlying message here is universal: the more community members are inspired by and involved with a CSR initiative, the more effective the program will be.

For a community-based organization to meet their goals, success depends upon a community of engaged and empowered people. Fostering community collaboration and resident empowerment programs is a vital element to consider when measuring the success of your company’s CSR program.

As corporations continue to give back more and more every year, it’s important to make sure they’re doing it in the right way. These five recommendations are starting points for corporations, big and small, who are looking to make a difference in communities. Before you donate a large sum of money, talk to the communities and organizations you want to serve. Discover what they truly need and help them introduce evaluation to improve effectiveness and measurement to determine impact. Ask these questions and in addition to the dollar amount increasing, the amount of positive impact will also.

 —Dr. Toni Irving, public policy expert and executive director of Get IN Chicago.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Hit the Deck and Deck the Halls: A Story About USO Holiday Care Packages

Connie Avery is the aviation safety management system program advisor at FedEx Express. She write about how important USO Holiday Care Packages are to the troops.

Growing up watching old WWII shows with my father, I had the dream of becoming a military pilot.

I went to college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach and lived on campus, which was attached to the airport much like the FedEx facilities in Memphis. As a member of Air Force ROTC, my 5’3” stature was too short to fly, so I then looked to the Navy. I joined after college and became a helicopter pilot—fulfilling my childhood dream.

I was initially assigned to Keflavik, Iceland and then San Diego, Calif. In my first five years in the U.S. Navy, I visited England, Puerto Rico and had port calls in Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Curacaos, Qatar, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Kuwait.

The travel was the adventure I had dreamed of – but the reality of being separated from home is the unvarnished truth. Connecting with family, particularly before email, was very difficult. The troops depended on cables for emergency news, and the USPS for routine mail. They lost touch with what was happening back home, for very long periods of time. That is why “Mail Call” always created a buzz. Every person on the ship would be anxiously waiting for that note from a loved one, or a package with necessities that were not available on the ship.

In the Persian Gulf during Christmas one year we had just received the last mail call before the holiday. Sometimes it would take a few hours to sort and distribute the mail, bringing the anticipation to a fever pitch. Our designated mail person arrived in the hangar with a giant box. Our chief recognized that it was a USO care package and knew it would be loaded with goodies. I am thankful for his wisdom to take charge of the situation as he assured equitable distribution of the reindeer noses and antlers. From there, the stockings were hung with care all over the helicopter. We decked the hanger with boughs of holly and trimmed the tree with the gifted decorations, as well as some lovingly created ones of military hardware spares.

While it was not home, the spirit was there. The gift pack provided a respite of holiday cheer in the otherwise monotonous conditions of underway deployment. My shipmates and I each were able to share among us our own holiday traditions and enjoy the whimsical fellowship of our manufactured cheer. It is with fond memories that I look on those times, with that special group of people—my first Christmas on a ship.

If you would like to send a message of encouragement to support our troops this holiday season, go to

FedEx Cares is the company’s global giving platform through which FedEx will invest $200 million in more than 200 global communities by 2020 to create opportunities and deliver positive change around the world. Homegrown volunteers supplement and enrich these community investments.

—Connie Avery

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Look Inside: Target’s Journey Toward Better-For-You Living

At Target, customers (or guests) are at the heart of everything the company does. And now, more than ever before, access to better-for-you products is one of their main priorities. Healthy and sustainable living is a very personal journey, and guests want to take the best care of themselves and their families. They have a strong desire to make better choices and are concerned about what they put in, on, and around their body. They look to trusted brands like Target to provide options that will help them get there.

However, there are some things that can stand in their way—like a lack of access to better-for-you products, an inability to afford them, or a clear understanding of what they are. And that’s not OK. In Target's eyes, wellness and sustainability should really be accessible to all.

At Target, wellness and sustainability as two sides of the same coin—together, they have the potential to impact the broader well-being of the planet and people in a holistic way. To make sure it's doing its part, Target is committed to providing a greater level of transparency and traceability for guests, assuring products are sourced and made in the most ethical and responsible way possible.

From organic foods to beauty and personal care products made without unwanted chemicals, Target looks for ways to give guests the product options they want—and frankly expect—from them. They have come a long way, but there’s still a lot of work do.

Target is making progress on offering up more sustainable product options too. One big example: Sustainable seafood became high-priority at Target as they became aware of the broader depletion of seafood species around the world, the challenge between supply and demand, and the impacts of commercial fishing on the ecosystem. Since 2011, they have worked to ensure fresh and frozen seafood selection is sustainable and traceable. In fact, Target worked extensively with its partner FishWise to develop a comprehensive sustainable seafood program with stringent guidelines that the owned brand and national brand fresh or frozen seafood product must meet. What was born from these efforts was Target’s sustainable seafood guidelines, which are used in tandem with social compliance policies that help ensure products are produced ethically.

Today, Target is proud to have achieved its goal—100 percent—for owned-brand seafood products; when it comes to national brand products, 91 percent of them are sustainable, and they have worked hard to achieve full compliance across remaining products. But, in the meantime, thy have helped take the guesswork out from guests—who know they can easily find a wide range of sustainably sourced, affordable seafood in stores.

Sustainable seafood is only one piece of the puzzle. Target has also continued to curate new, ‘better-for-you’ products, providing more choices for guests, so they don’t have to make tradeoffs.

Beginning in 2013, Target unveiled Simply Balanced, a food collection that takes the guesswork out of eating well. It’s a Target owned brand that’s free of artificial flavors, synthetic colors, or artificial preservatives. In 2014, Target worked with other brands to make natural, organic, and sustainable products more accessible and attainable through Target’s Made to Matter program. The guest response was overwhelmingly positive, resulting in $1 billion in sales during 2015—demonstrating that what’s better for you and the planet can also be better for business.

Target's work goes far beyond food products. In 2013, the Target Sustainable Product Index (SPI) was introduced, developed in partnership with industry experts, vendors, and NGOs, to encourage ingredient transparency and a common language, definition and process for what makes a better, more sustainable product. They’ve focused first and foremost on human health and transparency. They since reduced usage barriers for vendors to participate and expanded the product categories to include cosmetics this year.

Target also is proud to lead the conversation around safer, more sustainable beauty and personal care products. In 2014, the company co-hosted a summit,during which key industry players discussed ingredient transparency and product sustainability within the beauty and personal care industries. Work continues today as they look to help guests make the best choices for themselves and Target knows that to truly make an impact, they can’t do this alone. It will take significant systemic change, but they are making tangible progress.

Living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle should not be reserved for a select one percent of the population, but accessible to people everywhere. It will take some time and require hard work, but each day, they’ll take steps toward securing a more healthy and sustainable future for guests. Each day they inspire and educate on better choices, and empowering others to make strides on their journey.

—Jennifer Silberman, Target VP of Sustainability & Wellness