Corporate governance and sustainability: Who’s connecting the dots?

By Margie Flynn and Mike Wallace

Scrutiny of how companies handle sustainability governance — the “G” in the ESG triad of environmental, social and governance issues — won’t be subsiding anytime soon.

While the United States tunes into presidential debates over the governance of the entire nation, governance of sustainability issues is rapidly increasing as one of the most important business concerns of our time.

More eyes around the globe are watching public and private companies, as well as public agencies, to ensure greater accountability for managing, measuring and reporting their collective ESG impacts.

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5 questions to enhance your next sustainability report

By Barb Brown and Sarah Corrigan

What do corporate responsibility practitioners do during July and August?  Vacation? We hope, for a couple of weeks, anyway.

But for many, summer is also the ideal time of year to step back and evaluate current and best practices for environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures. If your organization is considering reporting non-financial information next year, the summer months are prime time to begin planning.

Given major marketplace shifts within corporate reporting, evaluating your approach to reporting is particularly important this year. Organizations currently face transparency demands from multiple angles, including increasing requests for information from customers and investors, and the growing need to incorporate ESG principles into supplier management.

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Pittsburgh flexes its sustainability muscle

By: Mike Wallace and Jared Robbins

Back in 2011, one of the world’s largest certified Global Reporting Initiative trainings to date took place in Cleveland, drawing nearly 200 business students and college seniors from 14 colleges in Ohio.

The event, held at Cleveland State University and hosted by consultancy BrownFlynn, revolved around a theme that has grown in importance since then: Developing sustainability capacity within a geographic region.

Around the country, cohorts of cities and various regional allies are tackling sustainability through a variety of mechanisms.

The Pittsburgh region exemplifies one strategic approach to regionally tackling sustainability issues.

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My Experience at BrownFlynn

By Erin Murphy

My name is Erin Murphy. For my senior year internship for Aurora High School I worked with BrownFlynn and their Senior Design Consultant, Jennifer Griffith, in the area of graphic design. I learned many new concepts that reinforced and also changed my perception of a career in graphic design. During my time at BrownFlynn, I learned some key things that reinforced my desire to pursue a career in graphic design, including:

  • Working with different Adobe software that I can have fun with
  • Helping different people communicate in a more effective way
  • Not everything in design is fun, but 99% of it is
  • I can work at a place that would allow me to do all different types of design work
  • Every day is different, but the projects will always be interesting and challenging

Also during my internship, I learned some new concepts that changed my perception of a career in graphic design. A couple of examples are:

  • It can be long hours depending on how far away you live from work and how much work you have to do
  • A graphic designer does not only do design, but also has to know the business side of the organization
  • There is a front and back door to design (or the designer and the person who brings those designs to life through coding). It’s hard to do both and do them perfectly.
  • Sometimes you might have a project that you do not necessarily want to do, but you have to do it anyway because it’s your job
  • A lot of responsibility can fall on your shoulders and sometimes a client might want you to do something at the last minute, and you have to be able to adapt and deliver for them

While my internship helped me realized what a true job in graphic design could be, I also know that for now I can just focus on college and enjoy the next few years before entering the workforce myself. Thank you everyone at BrownFlynn for helping me understand what a career in graphic design can really be.

Six reasons to respond to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index survey

By Jessica Urdangarin and Brittany VanderBeek

In the competitive atmosphere of sustainability ratings and rankings, it is easy to get lost in the race to earn the highest scores and be an industry leader.

While the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) provides scores and industry rankings, the actual process of responding can provide tremendous benefits to companies — even for those that do not get listed on one of DJSI’s leadership indices. The DJSI questionnaire is a dynamic and effective tool for companies to manage sustainability and thus financial performance.

BrownFlynn has identified six compelling reasons to respond to the DJSI questionnaire.

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How to engage your investors on ESG issues during proxy season and beyond

By Mike Wallace and Sarah Corrigan

Spring brings a new proxy voting season, as shareholders exercise their right to raise issues of importance to company management, the board of directors and fellow shareholders. In recent years, the number of shareholder proposals devoted to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues have increased at a fast pace. While institutional investors may not be involved in the majority of these proposals, companies should note that institutional consideration of ESG practices has grown significantly.

Last month, the Sustainable Investments Institute, Proxy Impact and As You Sow teamed up to publish their annual guide to proxy season, Proxy Preview 2015. This preview reveals that shareholders have filed 433 resolutions regarding ESG issues (excluding traditional governance proposals) through the middle of February, a slight uptick since the same time last year.

Of those proposals, the greatest proportions pertain to the environment and corporate political activity, at 27 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Many shareholders have withdrawn proposals as the result of corporate action, typically aided by discussions between the filing shareholder and the company’s investor relations team.

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Why you should answer the new CDP climate questions

By Cora Lee Mooney and Sarah Corrigan

The 2015 CDP Climate Change questionnaire contains two new unscored questions, and many companies are in the process of determining whether to answer them.

For practitioners who recognize that the value of sustainability reporting lies in the process, this decision should be easy. These practitioners understand that the stages of the reporting process — stakeholder conversations, data collection and response writing — all contribute to refining their company’s sustainability strategy.

CDP highlights the importance of this strategy formulation by launching its two new questions within the Strategy (CC2) section of its questionnaire. This year, responding organizations are asked whether they have an internal price on carbon (CC2.2c) and whether their board of directors would support an international agreement between governments on climate change (CC2.4).

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