When Executives Speak Out

A fair number of prominent business people have taken leadership positions on issues of sustainability and societal responsibility. Of course there are the examples we know and love to quote: Paul Polman of Unilever, Ian Cheshire of Kingfisher and Jochen Zeitz of Puma.

But what about when the pronouncements are more controversial?  I will never forget  the audible intake of breath at the BSR conference in San Francisco in 2010.   Aron Cramer was interviewing Zhang Yue, a prominent CEO from China running an energy efficiency business and displaying impeccable employee/human rights credentials. Taking everyone off guard he proclaimed that …

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A Sustainability Surge?

Over the last week or so I have had a taster of both how big and how small the world really is.

On Thursday the previous week I joined HP’s advisory board on corporate responsibility and sustainability, the HP External Global Citizenship Council.   I was honored to participate in a day and a half of stimulating discussions and insights.

Last week,   BT’s internal executive level Sustainable Business Leadership Team met in London.  I was able to experience moving from the advisory to the operational side of the table just a few days apart.   We commenced our BT meeting with an …

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Connecting the Dots

In preparation for an internal meeting this week I have been reviewing some reports that are going to send me home full of optimism tonight.

The Ecosystems Markets Task Force is a key commitment from the UK Government’s Natural Environment White Paper. The task force’s November 2012 interim report states right up front in the executive summary that “business depends on nature”; not just the harder nosed ‘resources’ word that I prefer to use  in a business context, but actually on ‘nature’. Task force membership includes the Chair/CEO and CFO’s from companies such as Kingfisher, United Utilities, Unilever and Jaguar/Land Rover.

So …

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You Don’t Need to be a Healthcare Company to Care for Health

Recently, I’ve been writing about ethics and how an organization embraces an ethical obligation, even when it seemingly conflicts with the bottom line.

Along these same lines, I’ve been seeing many organizations that have taken active steps to push ahead with a CSR initiative in a way that supports both the stakeholder and the community at large.  There is a growing understanding that positive societal and environmental outcomes need to be a part of a company’s mission.

Take Unilever as an example.  This month, the company’s food service arm, Unilever Food Solutions, is campaigning among restaurants to cut 100 calories …

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Forget the Informed Consumer – Make the Sustainable Decision the Easy Decision

There are a number of apps that provide information that will help us be more sustainable.  I looked at one recently that had won awards and would help me determine the financial savings of a CFL compared to an incandescent bulb.  There are apps that let you switch your home devices on and off from your hotel, check the charge on your EV from the living room, and assess the sustainability credentials of a product while in the store.

I have written and even made videos about some of these.

But I am increasingly of the opinion that they …

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Keeping Shareholders at Arms Length

I participated virtually in the Green Monday conference this week and had pause for thought after hearing each of the panelists respond to a question about the impact of shareholders on sustainability.

Andrew Shapiro of Green Order mentioned the mission driven nature of Facebook.  That mission will be maintained in public ownership partly through the class A shares on the market having lower voting power than the class B shares held by a much smaller block of existing shareholders.

Karen Hamilton of Unilever described CEO Paul Polman’s action to cease providing quarterly earnings forecasts because he didn’t see the short …

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Guest Post: A Marketer’s Perspective on CSR

Neil Blakesley is a long time colleague and VP of Marketing at BT Global Services.  He was also an early supporter of my foray into social media three years ago – not something all VP’s of Marketing are comfortable with even now!  Neil recently recorded a short video interview for Shama Kabani for her Dallas TV spot “Socially Sound with Shama.”.   I spoke to him over the phone afterwards and asked him to expand on his thoughts on CSR from a marketer’s perspective for this guest post.

Well to be honest, Kevin, I could have spoken on the interview for another …

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Where are you on the journey?

I have a penchant for simple models and frameworks.  In developing a presentation recently I used what I perceive as a three stage evolution of the corporate responsibility journey;  (1) how we give it away, (2) how we spend it and (3) how we make it.   The “it” of course is  money.

Stage 1; How we give it away. The traditional mode of corporate responsibility delivered through philanthropy, community investment and volunteering.  We make a profit and then we find ways to give it away for the good of society, sometimes referred to by the phrase ‘giving

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BT and Unilever Sustainability Aspirations

As I have written before in Should We Pick Our Customers, I am interested in the idea of incorporating sustainability credentials in identifying priority prospects,  and also,  in partnering with customers on their sustainability.  So I was especially excited when Unilever recently unveiled its bold sustainability plan. Marc Gunther wrote an excellent post on the plan.

BT recently won an extension to its outsourcing contract with Unilever worth around €173m (£144m).   The original contract, announced in November 2002 and worth around €1bn, was the first comprehensive, global telecoms outsource contract ever undertaken by BT and remains one of …

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