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 Many shareholders have withdrawn proposals as the result of corporate action, typically aided by discussions between the filing shareholder and the company’s investor relations team.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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How to start the new data collection conversation

By: Cora Lee Mooney, Director of Learning & Senior Consultant

It is data collection season in the world of sustainability. The reports and questionnaires are due in a few months, and corporate social responsibility professionals are tapping internal data owners for information updates.

This year, however, the arduous company-wide data collection process that occurs is becoming more dynamic for companies making the move to the G4 Guidelines. Specifically, the new requirements for the Disclosure on Management Approach (DMA) in GRI G4 are shifting the course of conversation.

For many companies, the internal process of gathering information for a report section typically was completed by asking data owners for two key elements, the policies and programs in place and the data to demonstrate performance. For example, a disclosure on local spending would identify the definition of “local” used in the corporate policy, and then describe activities and programs implemented over the year to increase the amount of money spent on local suppliers.

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Top 3 reasons to take your sustainability report online in 2015

By: Jennifer Griffith, Senior Design Consultant

Increased transparency and external reporting are essential for companies. Yet, getting stakeholders to read a company sustainability report and derive value from it is one of the biggest obstacles for corporate responsibility reporting. When done right, online reporting helps to overcome this challenge. Online CR reports are more accessible, engaging and measurable than stand-alone print reports.

1. Report Accessibility

Offering your sustainability report online and supplementing it with additional formats for a variety of readers is the best way for stakeholders to have maximum accessibility to it and thus, greater opportunity to read it. A stand-alone print report limits its accessibility by virtue of its medium; the report is only available to the number of people less than or equal to the printed quantity, and only those who can physically get their hands on it.

In addition to offering your report online, several other supporting formats expand readership.

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The Environmental Employee Engagement (EEE) Roadmap

Engaging employees in the environment is good for business and the environment. BrownFlynn collaborated with TD Bank and the Environmental Defense Fund to create an Environmental Employee Engagement (EEE) Roadmap, enabling others to benefit from the development and implementation of TD Bank’s successful EEE program. Read the whitepaper here!

EEE whitepaper

How business can nurture sustainable cities

By: Jared Robbins

Inner-city vacancy, environmental degradation and social inequality are fundamental concerns for 21st century America. Post-Second World War America was a place of prosperity and rapid economic growth. Government investment, in the form of federal incentives — including the G.I. Bill and the Federal Aid Highway Act — allowed Americans to spread out from the city-center farther than before. Termed suburban sprawl, this land-use pattern had, and continues to have, disastrous effects on the environment.

A study by Edward Glaeser shows that suburban CO2 emissions in New York City are 14,127 pounds greater per average household than their central city counterpart. Additionally, as suburbs and exurbs flourish and tax dollars are funneled into these communities, central cities increasingly become economically, academically and physically stressed. Cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit and Philadelphia are littered with the effects of urban decay. Philadelphia, for instance, has more than 40,000 parcels of vacant land, according to the nonprofit Take Back Vacant Land. These properties cost the city of Philadelphia $70 million in lost taxes, and $20 million is spent by the city, annually, for safety and upkeep.

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2014 Staff Retreat and Community Service

Another year, another staff retreat come and gone this week with time for reflection and energizing momentum. We shared good conversation, good ideas, good food and good fun as we planned for the future and took part in some community service – not too shabby for two days! Here are some of the highlights through photos…

image5 IMG_2591 IMG_2598 IMG_2611 IMG_2612 IMG_2614 IMG_2615 IMG_2600 photo 1 photo 4 photo 2 IMG_2608