Call for Papers: Leading Wellbeing in Rural Contexts

Papers are now being invited for inclusion in a special edition of the Journal of Corporate Citizenship. Issue 68, which will be published in December 2017, will focus on ‘Leading Wellbeing in Rural Contexts’ and addresses the question: ‘What are the unique challenges of rurality for communities and businesses, and how can we address them?’.

Worldwide, 46% of the population are classified as rural [1], although there is considerable variation across developing and developed countries. There are related demographical challenges which are impacted by the availability of, and access to, services. These challenges are complex but the combined effect of positive migration to rural areas of people at older ages and net out-migration of younger people is an established trend in OECD countries that inevitably results in population ageing [2]. Continue reading

10 steps toward organizational sustainability

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Author and consultant, Katrin Muff, shares an inspirational story from a recent day she spent facilitating an organization’s shift toward embracing sustainability and shared values.

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

What does it take to get an engineering company to embrace their care for a better world? Is it possible to provide access to the deeper meaning of sustainability to those who define it as either one-dimensional economic long-term survival, or as a predominantly ecological issue?

These were my questions as I prepared for my consulting day with a medium-sized traditional Swiss engineering company. The sustainability-fluent CEO had invited me to lead a workshop with his senior team, including the board, in a first conversation towards formulating a vision 2030 for a company that, in his view, had embrace sustainability. I am sharing here the step-by-step process of that very positive one-day workshop.

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Responsible Investment in the 21st Century

The fact that the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) now has almost fifteen hundred signatories including over three hundred asset owners and nearly one thousand asset managers provides evidence that responsible investment is increasingly seen as a standard part of mainstream investment practice. Over the past decade, PRI signatories have encouraged improvements in the environmental, social and governance performance of the companies in which they are invested, and they have made significant investments in areas such as renewable energy.
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Readers of the lost ark: Are resilient cities ‘the only game in town’ when it comes to climate adaptation?

In the spirit of the theme of the conference I attended in Bonn, I was pleased to overcome the shock and surprise of Icelandic volcanic ash cloud and an e-coli food outbreak to share my latest research insights with 500+ delegates from local government and global finance from around the world.

In the same week of the news that record-breaking CO2 emissions put the world on fast track to irreversible climate change, I and other delegates noted the gathering marked a tipping point in a key debate to tackling climate change.

Convened by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability with UN-Habitat, the premise to the gathering is, in summary, that cities account for both more than half the world’s population and carbon emissions, a footprint which will increase with urban-rural migration; however international climate negotiations to date have failed to grasp this and have instead focused their deal-making on nations or sectors; yet whilst these deals have stalled, city mayors from Mexico, Tanzania, The Philippines and elsewhere have the vision and appetite to step in where others fear to tread; but to lead to more tangible action on the ground requires re-thinking the way the World Bank and other global financiers select projects and partners to fund.

Given this, it was refreshing and fascinating to hear details of the new report Arc 3: Climate Change and Cities; First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network, focusing on how to manage risks associated with hazards (e.g. heatwaves), vulnerability (e.g. % poor) and adaptive capacity (e.g. resources). Taking India’s megacities such as New Delhi as a case in point, one measure – perhaps unsurprising in light of recent events in Japan – is to harden power plants against severe storms or quakes. Another intervention is the regulation of settlement growth in flood plains.

Whilst all very informative, however, the most inspiring thing was the sheer intellect, charisma and appetite for change from city leaders from the developing and emerging economies who were fired up to challenge the way people think. As Didas Massaburi, Mayor of Dar es Salaam summed it up in Bonn: “poverty and the environment are twins, and their parents are ignorance”. That is good enough for me.

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Fixing the Nine Flaws of ESG Analysis: From the Deep Water to Horizon

A year ago the explosion on Deepwater Horizon unleashed the worst environmental disaster in US history. For those who subscribe to the idea that environmental, social and governance (ESG) analysis makes for enhanced risk analysis, it was a costly blow, as BP had been rated well by many ESG analysts, and the stock took a dive after the disaster. For those who believe that ESG analysis leads to meaningful engagement by responsible investors to improve a firm’s social or environmental performance, the evidence that many investors had asked BP about their poor safety record over the past decade, to little effect, also presented a conundrum.

Although the responsible investment community now comprises over 20 trillion Assets Under Management, and along with it some new ESG millionaires, overall we are not seeing effective pressure on firms to be more responsible. Instead, we hear CEOs blaming the financial markets for short-termism limiting their investment in CSR, the ESG analysts blaming investors for not paying enough for better research, and the SRI heads in financial institutions blaming regulators for not empowering them or quietly admitting that their efforts are dwarfed by their colleagues’ exuberance for exotic derivatives, dark pools, high-frequency trades and other shenanigans that most of us get lost on.

Repeating the mantras that ESG analysis is good for returns or good for society won’t make them true, just like spraying detergent on oil won’t make the toxicity disappear. Instead, the flaws of ESG analysis and ratings need fixing, as part of a new attempt to make socially responsible investment funds, and self-proclaimed responsible investment institutions, deliver more for society, and for those citizen-savers among us who don’t want our nest-eggs to trash the planet. Today, The Journal of Corporate Citizenship publishes an analysis of the flaws of mainstream ESG analysis, some reasons for this situation persisting, and some ideas on how to begin fixing it.

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