Taking a Stand In Controversy: Should Nike Just Do It?

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The Colin Kaepernick campaign, which we first discussed yesterday, is high stakes for Nike because it is much, much bigger than the brand. Bigger than sport. The brand is engaging with a hugely complex issue. It is an issue that touches on American history as well as American values. It is not about institutional racism, freedom of speech, civil liberties. It is about all of that and more. So this is dangerous, but also, important territory. The campaign has polarised consumers, because the original issue polarised consumers. Many Americans feel that Kaepernick’s stand was unpatriotic, disrespectful and was anti-American rather than anti-racist.

There is also enormous risk in Nike taking on this issue and being found to be hypocritical. If people accused Nike of racism, sexism or showed the business to be unethical in the way it treats people, this could result in long-term damage to a company's reputation. Nike is a huge sprawling mass of individuals. It has enormous supply chains and operations that stretch the length and breadth of the planet. Across this business it is possible, actually it is highly probable, that there are individuals who do not behave in a way that is represented through the Nike brand. This again plays to the difference between a business taking up a cause and an individual doing the same.

There is also risk in overexposure - so far the campaign is estimated to have generated at least $43m worth of media coverage and the internet is awash with conversation about the ‘controversy’. The campaign has now generated so much noise that it is being hacked by people who see this as a platform to have some fun or are taking their own stand.

If the message becomes appropriated by a much larger audience, there is a risk that this could undermine, not just the intent of the Kaepernick campaign, but also that of the Just Do It celebration. We know the days where ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ are gone and the investment in a big idea, targeted at specific audiences can easily come undone. And brands are fair game when it comes to attempts to connect through challenging or innovative communications campaigns. We’ve seen the fall out from Gary Lineker Walkers crisps meme and of course Boaty McBoatface. If you search Nike ‘just do it’ today, you will see that the campaign has gained notoriety, acclaim, but also hundreds of thousands of new interpretations.

Just Do It…but do it strategically

Nike’s corporate activism risks alienating some audiences in the US who disagree with the message, but it will also have been a calculated risk. Nike has a track record of backing new talent, outsiders, and individuals who have polarized opinion. Nike will have done its homework on any potential damage that this campaign could cause.

Ultimately, Nike has made a strategic decision about what matters to their core and future audience. As with any celebrity endorsement, it has aligned with an ambassador that represents its brand idea but critically connects that idea to its core target audience. Nike has made a decision about the relative value of the audiences that will take umbrage with the campaign, and those who will feel it connects with them. As well as adopting a position that highlights an important issue, it has made a bet on an audience.

Nike may well have taken into consideration the likelihood that the audience that disagrees with its message will be less likely to publicize their dissent. Those disagreeing may also be more likely to forgive and forget – and perhaps have changed their opinion as a result of the campaign.

Aside from audience split, they have certainly done their research. Last year Kaepernick’s football shirts were at number 39 in the NFLPA’s official NFL merchandise Top 50 list - and for a while in 2016, his jersey was the top seller. As well, the timing of the campaign suggests that this was a considered move from the brand, with the NFL’s new season about to begin and the long US Labour Day weekend on the horizon.

Overall the Nike campaign is a great move. It lights a fire under the brand, as well as the issue. It shows that brands can and should get involved in issues beyond their core business. It demonstrates the opportunity for brands to grow by doing good.

Image credit: Brook Ward/Flickr

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Taking a Stand in Controversy: Should Brands Just Do It?

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Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick famously ‘took a knee’ during the US national anthem and flying of the flag before an NFL game in 2016 to protest against racism. Some people objected to what they saw as unpatriotic behavior, while others applauded, and followed, his protest.

Kaepernick said at the time ‘this is bigger than football’ and Nike’s decision to use him in the 30th anniversary celebrations of its ‘Just Do it’ campaign has had a similarly divisive affect on Americans. Since its launch, the #NikeBoycott hashtag is trending on Twitter with people sharing images of themselves destroying Nike products and others ridiculing such actions. However, online Nike sales are up 31 percent (1).

Just Do It

But does Nike, a sportswear brand, have a right to take a stand on racial injustice? Yes. Brands can and should be more political. They have huge influence, and thus an enormous opportunity to behave in a way that affects positive change. It’s a very difficult thing to do for large organizations, but making a choice about what they think is right and wrong is refreshing. What Nike is doing is picking a side. This is great. It’s also highly ambitious and is exactly the type of thing that brands should be doing more of for two reasons. Firstly, making a stand can help brands capture the attention of distracted consumers. But secondly, it’s also important in, and of itself, to make a stand on issues that matter.

Brands, especially huge global ones such as Nike, have immense influence in today’s society. Although their raison d’être may be as a commercial entity, their position within our culture means they have the ability to steer global conversations and the power to sway opinion. Consumers also want brands to get involved. Sprout Social recently polled 1,000 Americans to ask them about this and 66 percent said that it is ‘important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues.’ (2)

Also, according to Edelman, half of the world’s population are making belief-led buying decisions, particularly in developing countries like China and India. ‘Consumers are putting their personal convictions front and centre. From the grocery aisle to the car dealership, they’re buying on belief. Willing or not, brands of all kinds and sizes are now navigating this new reality. And in a lightning-quick digital world, the rewards and risks are equally high.’ (3)

The critical thing about why this works for Nike - and a watchword for all purpose-led activity - is that it is relevant, and credible for its fans and substantiated by the way the brand behaves and operates. Nike has picked an issue that is important for its audience and, with a long heritage of using sportspeople and celebrities as brand ambassadors from a variety of backgrounds, it has the right to make a stand.  When Tiger Woods, for example, turned professional, Nike launched the ‘Hello World’ campaign, in which Woods discussed racial discrimination in golf. The type of campaign which brands can authentically take their stand on will, and should, look very different because they must be a reflection of a brand’s unique heritage and the priorities of their specific audience.

The Kaepernick question

What’s interesting and different about Nike’s campaign is that it is adopting an individual’s cause, initiative and agenda, which is risky. It is risky because Nike is a brand, not a person. It has brand values, it has brand ethics, but can a corporate entity have morals, sentiment, and human experience? Brands that attempt to hold a mirror up to a sub-culture or movement are in danger of seeming inauthentic.

That said, Kaepernick is a Nike athlete, someone that the brand has invested in and publicized for years. Building on the back of an individual’s popularity, appeal and opinion is also something brands do overtly - or in more subtle ways - every single day. Would George Clooney be such a great brand ambassador for Nespresso if he didn’t have values that the brand’s audience aligned with, as well as making the product feel more desirable through his own desirability?

In Kaepernick’s case, as an individual reflection of the brand’s values, Nike has always advocated the idea of commitment, pride, passion, taking a risk and following a path that is true to who you are. It has championed athletes, and often the specific challenges that they have faced in their careers as individuals, and through that connected to different audiences. This is contemporary brand marketing.

But there are still risks with corporate activism, even for a brand like Nike. This is where all the moving parts come into play to create a little genius. Nike is a brand that works strategically: it knows and understands the rules but is also prepared to go out on a limb a little, which it can only do because it stands firmly behind the principles at stake. It takes its own medicine. 

Tomorrow, in the second part of our discussion on the Kaepernick Just Do it campaign, Ben Hayman explains in more detail just how much risk Nike took on and it managed this risk strategically.

Image credit: Know Your Rights/Facebook

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Sustainable Investing After the Paris Accords

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In 2014, I was asked by the United Nations to spend a year helping the UN think through the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). That was a fantastic year, working with world leaders, working with the biggest CEOs of the world, and the largest asset owners, helping them to figure out how to solve this climate crisis from a sustainability perspective.

During the talks that led to the Paris Agreement, every major CEO of every major sector was there, or their firm was represented. And it wasn't just about risk. We needed to think about what happens if public policy changes, and we're no longer allowed to invest in coal or fossil fuels. The mindset was about opportunity. There are multi-trillion dollar prizes on the flip side if you can figure out the electric vehicle transition. If you can figure out the renewable energy transition, that's a multi-trillion dollar prize. 

This is the big question for today. At a macro level, our sustainability and profits—can they actually coexist, or does one come at the expense of the other? The greatest story about sustainability over the last 20 years is the massive reduction in cost for low cost energy, for carbon offsets, and so on. So the question of whether you want to be sustainable or not is no longer a profit versus expense one—at least to the same level as it was before.

At the same time, one has to look at the risks involved. If you're a business that has a large potential carbon footprint, and if the world is actually going to be serious about a 2°C standard, as called for in the Paris Accords, that means that a lot of that carbon footprint is actually a huge liability.

So the Paris conference was extraordinary for a few reasons. One was the belief that we would actually do this. Secondly, and very importantly, was that the business and investor community was there They weren't there as a thorn in anyone's side, but they were there hand-in-hand with policymakers saying, okay, we're with you now, and we're going work together to make this happen. The feeling in the room was that we can get there, and that business and finance are with us to get there.

This change is going to be driven, as all transformations are, by the entrepreneurial spirit of individuals in the private sector. It's going to be created by a great technology or a great new financing vehicle or a great new financial institution that becomes the breakthrough.

It's a good sign. It shows the power of progress and the power of capitalism, the power of technologies—so all of that is positive, but then the question is, how do you actually implement that in a large way across a global economy?

I’ve advised governments and financial institutions on how they should think about the allocation of capital to the best businesses, and I boil it down to five points:

  • Investors need to understand that there's a quiet revolution happening in sustainable finance. It's new data. It's new risk tools. It's new measurement. It's new disclosure policies. It's been happening for a while, and it's now taking off.

  • Investors need to understand the risks that are involved with a two, potentially three or four degree Celsius climate change scenario, and there are risks that are very direct, i.e. stranded assets. If we actually take two degrees Celsius seriously, it means that trillions of dollars of market cap value for large oil and gas companies, for example, actually shouldn't exist because their assets will have to stay underground. They're stranded. Coastal real estate is a risk. Political upheaval is a risk. If you go to Saudi Arabia or Nigeria or Venezuela or Russia or the United States, large oil, fossil fuel producers, what does your economy look like in 50 years if you can't actually go and use carbon assets?

  • This transition means opportunities: new businesses, new business models. It means old businesses looking at the world a little differently. It means old technological companies looking at the world differently as well as new technological companies engaging with the world. An investor should be thinking, how am I going to allocate capital profitably?

  • This a global transition. You actually have to think about geography when you think about sustainability because there are certain parts of the world that are in the lead. And there are certain parts of the world that are going be hit the hardest from climate events. Sadly, the African continent that contributed the least to climate change will actually bear the largest brunt of it. So having a global perspective and thinking about the nuance of geography will matter a lot.

  • You shouldn't be a purist when it comes to climate change or sustainability when you're allocating capital because there is a lot of nuance in this space. It could very well be the fact that large oil and gas companies become the leaders of the renewable energy transition. I'm a believer, personally, that it's more about engagement, that you should invest in these companies because they're large parts of the economy. They're how the energy system of the world operates today. You should ask Exxon, Chevron, Shell—what are you all doing to stay at two degrees Celsius? What is your plan? How are you contributing? That is a much more useful and thoughtful and I think, productive way that an allocator of capital should be operating as opposed to just divesting and letting somebody else deal with it.
I think there are investors who are engaged in this space who are figuring these things out every single day. That's part of this quiet revolution. These are inputs into processes that some people can use, some people can't use, but it's a source of data that five years ago, didn't exist and for some investors, it's actually very helpful as they think about the risks and opportunities

This is a major transformation, a multi-decade transformation.

It’s now becoming a global phenomenon. Most of the large financial institutions, many of the large wealth managers, have built products, have built capabilities, and are talking about this, because clients are talking about it.

This revolution isn’t just a mandate or a dictate from governments or from the United Nations. This is coming from clients. We want our investments to keep these issues in mind because we know that this change is real, and we know that this is going to be one of those big transformations that our investments need to be mindful of.

Excerpted from the World Financial Podcast, a production of OppenheimerFunds.

Image credit: COP Paris/Flickr

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Merck’s Commitment to Transparency and Ethics Could Help Win Stakeholders’ Trust

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Companies committed to corporate responsibility must recognize that a commitment to transparency in business and uncompromising ethical values are necessary to ensure a responsible corporate enterprise.

MSD (known as Merck within the U.S. and Canada) has published its 2017/2018 Global Corporate Responsibility report, which reflects the values of transparency and ethics that the company says it applies worldwide, wherever it operates its business.

Transparent Pricing and Disclosure Practices

MSD insists that it is making its vaccines and medicines more affordable and accessible by applying responsible pricing practices. To help consumers understand the company’s pricing practices, in 2017 the company’s U.S. division began disclosing information related to price increases for its various pharmaceuticals.

The company insists it is proactively offering information to stakeholders about its business and how it operates, in order to help people make informed choices about their interactions with the company and its products.

The company discloses information through its financial disclosures (such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission), annual corporate responsibility report, and participation in the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), apart from disclosures through the media.  

MSD also discloses information in areas such as its clinical trials, payments to medical professionals, grants to scientific and medical organizations, corporate political advocacy and contributions, post-marketing requirements, and philanthropic grants and contributions.

Code of Conduct

MSD says it has trained its employees in ethics and compliance in order to build a robust culture, and its corporate policies and Code of Conduct are tailored to meet the requirements of various employee groups within the organization. The company requires all employees to complete their assigned training courses in ethics and compliance.

In 2017, MSD published the fourth edition of its Code of Conduct (“Our Values and Standards”), which applies to all employees globally, and is available in 23 languages. An interactive Code of Conduct website has been set up, which enables employees to ask questions, raise any concerns, and search for relevant policies.

The website includes resources and tools to help employees practice the company’s core values of Patients First, Respect for People, Ethics & Integrity, and Innovation and Scientific Excellence in every action and every decision.

Linking Ethics to Performance

MSD believes that integrity and ethics are critical leadership competencies, and the company evaluates annual performance of employees including an assessment of these competencies. The company claims employee advancement opportunities within MSD are influenced by their level of commitment to ethics and integrity.

Apart from upholding rigorous ethical standards in its internal operations, MSD says it requires similar standards from across its supply chain. The company has a dedicated Business Partner Code of Conduct, which is based on its own Code of Conduct as well as industry principles and the Principles of the UN Global Compact.

Upholding the Values of Privacy

MSD says it is committed to a comprehensive global privacy program to promote the accountability of the organization regarding issues of privacy, data protection and data governance across its business as well as its partners and suppliers.

Data related to patients, employees, physicians, veterinarians and other medical professionals, business partners, customers, and other stakeholders is used as part of the company’s global research-based businesses, and the company maintains it pays utmost regard to their privacy.  

MSD was the world’s first company to obtain regulatory approval in the EU for Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs).

“There is increasing interest and a growing belief that a company’s ethical impact can serve as a barometer for its value and long-term sustainability. We welcome this focus,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, Chairman and CEO, in his letter to the shareholders. “We also reiterate our support for the 10 universally accepted principles of the UN Global Compact.”

Take a moment to learn more about the services ReportAlert offers.

Image Credit: MSD  

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Path to Purpose: What’s Your Organization’s Rallying Cry?

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Establishing and operating from an anchor of a “living purpose” creates a distinct competitive advantage for companies and a mechanism to engage your stakeholders. For example, customers who are aligned with a company’s brand values deliver twice the share of wallet (47%) as customers who aren’t aligned with that same brand (23%) .

Articulating an inspiring, overarching purpose statement is an important first step in helping your purpose take hold. While it’s not enough on its own, it can be the connective tissue or jumping off point to clarify and integrate your organization’s values, cultural norms, and long-term strategy.

A stated purpose is a means to demonstrate your commitment to long-term value as well as short-term results. It ignites the passion in your people and engages your top talent, so they stay, grow, and thrive with you. And it can lead to innovations that will help you stay competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace.

Some companies choose to encompass purpose in their mission statements, others in their vision statements. What’s important is that you get at “the essence” of who you are and why you do what you do. BCG’s BrightHouse says: Mission is your what. Vision is your where. Purpose is your why.

Based on my work with CEOs and senior teams, here are five steps to help organizations through the process, including questions to reflect on along the way.

1) Start External

You won’t get there by working with your senior team alone. Capture the power of your company’s narrative as experienced through the eyes of your stakeholders. Customers, employees, and suppliers will all offer important insights on the distinct value you bring.

List the people and the groups that matter to you and to your business. Determine who matters most to you and then find out what matters most to them.

Three Questions:

  •        What do our customers value about our organization?

  •        How would our employees describe working at our company?

  •        How would our partners describe our company to others?

2) Look Inside Yourself

To be a steward for your company you first must become conscious of your own purpose. This phase of the process is introspective. It’s about finding the connections between your head and heart that will then connect to the purpose of the business. Examine what is most important to you and your senior team. Discuss each of your own personal narratives and the legacy you hope you’re building. Reflect on how you want to shape your future path.

An inspirational company purpose is always linked to a leader’s overall ambition of who they want to be as a person and how they hope to be remembered in the future.

Three Questions:

  •        What am I passionate about that I want to leave as my legacy as a leader?

  •        Why am I in this business, and what am I trying to build?

  •        What people do I deeply admire and why? How would I describe their purpose?

3) Find Your Noble Cause

This is the stage where you link external and internal to pinpoint your company’s single, overarching purpose. A purpose answers the “why” question and links vision, mission, strategy, values, and culture. It’s the organization’s single underlying objective that unifies all stakeholders and embodies its ultimate role in the world.

Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard said way back in 1960, “I want to discuss why a company exists in the first place. In other words, why are we here? I think many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money. While this is an important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being.”

Three Questions:

  •        What do we want to be known for?

  •        What is it that we can do for the world that other companies can’t?

  •        If we are successful, who will benefit and how?
Sample Statements of Purpose:

Ikea: To create a better everyday life for the many people.

Ingram Micro: Realizing the power of technology.

Masonite: We help people walk through walls.

SAP: To help the world run better and improve people’s lives.

Sephora: We inspire fearlessness.

Starbucks: To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup

and one neighborhood at a time.

Visa: We strive to be the best way to pay and be paid, for everyone, Everywhere.

4) Write It

You have a wealth of thinking behind your purpose. Now turn it into a statement that will be the broader framework for the actions you will take. It’s how your purpose will be expressed. My recommendation is that you put down every word or phrase you can think of. Then begin to boil these words and phrases down to what fits best, ultimately picking a single phrase that strikes at the heart of who you are.

Fewer, bolder words are often better and more memorable. Make the statement aspirational. You want to engage people’s emotions and unlock their imaginations.

Three questions:

  •        Is the statement short and easily repeatable?

  •        Could any other company say this?

  •        Will it inspire and engage your stakeholders?

5) Test and Experiment

Finally, you’ll need to make sure the statement is clear and compelling to people across your entire value chain. Circle back to show your stakeholders what you have developed to see how it resonates. Be willing to fine tune based on what you learn. And then you can begin the work of linking everything you do back to this purpose statement and helping it take hold.

Three Questions:

  •        Are people rallying around it and talking about it?

  •        Does it make people proud to be a part of your company?

  •        Can employees clearly connect their work to this statement?
Stating and communicating your purpose is an important step forward. It will help your employees find more meaning and energy around their work. It gives you a tool to engage your customers and build more trust with them. And you will drive financial value through new partnerships, products, and services you uncover along the way, building and strengthening your organization to do even more.

Image credit: Chris McClanahan/Flickr

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Where Are the ‘Green Jobs’ in 2018? You May Be Surprised

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In 2018 job seekers and employers continued to pursue “green jobs” in sectors like renewables and conservation. While growth occurred in many states, recent trends saw Texas leading the way in sectors like wind power, currently supporting over 24,000 such jobs backed with over $42 billion in capital. These jobs are just a small part of more than 10 million clean energy jobs worldwide in 2018.

Although the clean energy sector continues to be one of the highest growth industries in the U.S., many people are still unaware of the variety of opportunities available to them. Part of the reason is that while renewable energy is the most visible and substantial sector, opportunity is also divided along geographical lines, making it a difficult field to enter for people living in certain areas.

But renewable energy is only one portion of the professional ranks fighting for environmental causes. There are dozens of different career paths that job seekers should be aware of that contribute to the fight against climate change. To show students, jobseekers, and companies what opportunities are available, we published a recap listing the best climate change jobs. The list breaks down careers by four categories: field jobs, office jobs, high paying jobs, and entry-level jobs.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), this resource includes the median pay, degree requirement, and projected growth of 18 different professions that the BLS predicts will experience steady growth over the next decade.

If you are interested in working in a job related to sustainability, the following fields could be of interest to you.

Entry-Level Jobs

You do not need a doctorate to have a meaningful impact in the fight against climate change. While scientists and engineers are among the most visible green jobs, there are many important careers that only require an associate's degree.

For example, environmental engineering technicians make a median pay of $50,230 and have a projected growth rate of 13 percent over the next 10 years. They assist environmental engineers by collecting air and water samples to assess pollution. On the front lines in the fight against environmental contamination, environmental engineering technicians work both indoors and out in the field.

Social and community service organizers also play a critical role in the fight against climate change. The position usually requires an associates degree and has a projected growth rate of 18 percent. Organizers galvanize public support and educate their community about pressing local and global environmental issues.

High Paying Jobs

Green jobs are not only important for the future of the world, they can also be lucrative career choices. Educating the public and job seekers on career paths that anticipate a continued growing demand and pay high medium salary can convince more talented people to enter into such jobs to prevent climate change.

Environmental engineers take home a median pay of $86,800 in a field that has an expected growth rate of 8 percent. Most environmental engineers hold a master’s degree and are skilled at preparing environmental investigation reports, designing projects that help protect the environment, and inspect industrial facilities to make sure they are up to code.

Office Jobs

Of course, there are jobs that function in a more traditional office environment, with regular hours and other regular functions for those who prefer to stay inside. Again, communicating the diversity of positions and structures of green jobs will convince more of the public to enter this growing sector.

Sustainability specialists, who typically have a bachelor’s degree, make a median salary of $55,000 and can expect a 9% growth in job opportunities over the next ten years. Sustainability specialists tend to work in the private industry, helping businesses make cost-effective decisions that also promote environmentally friendly policies.

Image credit: Mario Caruso/Unsplash

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Pro Bono Perspectives, the New Podcast Seeking to Inspire Social Impact

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Common Impact, a nonprofit that pioneered corporate skills-based volunteering, is launching a new podcast – Pro Bono Perspectives. Hosted by CEO Danielle Holly, Pro Bono Perspectives is the latest in a series of Common Impact initiatives focused on showcasing the people, organizations and ideas that are shaping new models for purpose-driven work.

As millennials and Generation Z professionals are determined to make significant social impact through their careers, this workforce demographic shift offers an opportunity to rethink how corporate responsibility practitioners - or really, all and any professionals, for that matter - can engage at work and in their community to create sustainable positive change. Skills-based volunteerism is a growing engagement model that can bridge the professional development and community impact gap for the next generation of leaders.

“I am constantly inspired by the people who touch our work and help to make our communities better -- the nonprofit leaders who work tirelessly towards their missions, the corporate employees who pole jump over the standard ‘way of doing business’ and the cross-sector chameleons who are able to bring people from different backgrounds, experiences and values together,” said Common Impact CEO and Pro Bono Perspectives Podcast Host Danielle Holly. “Now, I have the chance to share the stories of the people who drive our work – and me – every day.”

Be sure to tune into the podcast series today, Tuesday, October 2, as our own Dave Armon will talk about next month's 3BL Forum and the brands taking stands movement that is transforming corporations' role in society.

TriplePundit recently caught up with Danielle Holly to learn more about this series.

3p: Who should listen to this podcast, and why?

DH: Pro Bono Perspectives was developed to inspire anyone interested in social impact. The podcast features interviews with everyday leaders from all backgrounds and provides an in-depth look at their career and how they apply their experiences to create a meaningful impact in their communities. In creating this podcast, our hope was to provide our listeners with real-life examples of how to navigate across sectors as well as build a career in social change work no matter their interests and skill sets. Pro Bono Perspectives examines the increasingly prevalent  idea of a purpose-driven career and provides listeners with both inspiration and tactical next steps to be a change-maker in their own communities.

3p: What are you hearing from corporate responsibility professionals out there?

DH: We have all heard about the social conscious of millennials, and as this generation moves into leadership positions, we can see an increasing demand to create tangible, meaningful impact in their day-to-day work. They want their employer to take a stand on issues of social and environmental importance, give back to the communities in which it operates and involve them in the process. This trend appears to continue as Generation Z enters the workplace.

We are also continuing to see a real need for capacity building with nonprofits. Movements like the Full Cost Project reinforce the social sector’s need for infrastructure support. This creates a huge opportunity for skilled volunteerism. Research also indicates that there is growing corporate interest in skilled volunteerism with more than 50 percent of companies managing a formal skilled volunteer program. But along with the growth in demand come some challenges. Skilled volunteerism is something that works incredibly well when done right, but needs to be approached in a way that appreciates and fully utilizes the perspectives and skills of participants from both the corporate and nonprofit side of the partnership.

Common Impact has described the components of successful skilled volunteerism (a panoramic perspective, skill sharing and sticky relationships) through a concept we call The Knitting Factor. Our podcast conversations with cross-sector leaders and practitioners support this concept while also providing practical guidance for organizations and individuals who want to create meaningful change on a personal, professional and community level.

3p: What do you hope Common Impact can achieve with this podcast series in a year from now?

DH: Our hope is that our listeners are able to take what they heard from our podcast guests and translate that into action in their own lives - whether that means finding a new passion for social impact, activating their inner 'intrapreneur' within a company, or becoming a change marker in their community on an issue that gets them out of bed in the morning. At Common Impact, we know first-hand how pro bono, when done right, can have a transformational impact on a nonprofit organization and their surrounding community. We hope that Pro Bono Perspectives demystifies pro bono work and brings it to life for people of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences - whether they are working at a large fortune 500 company or entrepreneurial nonprofit. We also hope to bring new voices to the conversation to help lower the barriers to entry for small to medium sized businesses and encourage people to feel empowered to get involved in purpose-driven work no matter where they are in their careers.

Future episodes will feature social impact leaders such today's podcast with Dave Armon; Rachel Hutchisson, VP Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy at Blackbaud; and Colleen Olphert, Director of Membership and Member Services at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship.

Image credits: Common Impact


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Aligning the SDGs with Integrated Reporting

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The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) is the global body bringing business, investors and regulators together to drive reform in corporate reporting. "Integrated thinking," from the point of view of the IIRC, is critical to the global business community's agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and to that end, the organization is making its case this week during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and Climate Week NYC.

TriplePundit had an opportunity to catch up with the IIRC's president, Richard Howitt, while he was in New York City for Climate Week and several affiliated events. He discussed recent achievements of ‘breakthrough moments’ in the growth of integrated reporting; the planned new global strategic phase for the IIRC to be announced next week; and preparations for a major alignment project between different reporting frameworks, which have been part of discussions in New York City this week.

3p: What were you hoping to achieve this week at this week's UNGA and Climate Week NYC?

RH: Climate Week has brought the world’s business leaders with other key decision-makers together, and the IIRC is proud to be amongst our many key partners in a collective effort to review progress towards the SDGs and Paris Agreement, and to underline how integrated thinking and reporting has and will contribute to those efforts.

The IIRC is not only working with individual organizations on a micro level to adopt integrated reporting, but has a mission to reform and change the corporate reporting system in the world. This week is where the world meets and we are proud to be here.

3p: More regulatory bodies worldwide are mandating integrated reporting. What are the reasons you hear as to why this shift is occurring?

RH: Endorsement by regulators is playing an important role in giving added impetus to the growth in integrated reporting, evidenced by the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s call for the top 500 listed companies to adopt integrated reporting, its adoption by the Ministry of Finance in China and its inclusion in the European Union’s Directive on Non-Financial Reporting. However, we see equal weight in ‘soft law’ approaches, including the inclusion of integrated reporting in corporate governance codes from New Zealand to South Africa to Brazil.

The TCFD Task Force recommendations mark a turning point in the world where the ‘multi-capital’ approach is recognized as being a financial issue for the company too, and where the IIRC’s vision of financial stability and sustainable development coming together has been realized.

Regulators now recognize the real financial risks to whole economies of failing to address this very different approach to value creation, and the need to reform capital market rules to unleash long-term investment and to protect long-term returns.

3p: From your point of view, what are the biggest "breakthrough" moment for integrated reporting in the past year?

RH: The official position paper from the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) that integrated reporting is "the future of corporate reporting" - no qualification, no conditions - is the surest sign yet that the financial community is embracing integrated reporting. The October 2017 decision of the International Accounting Standards Board to Review its guidelines for the narrative part of the company report ("the Management Commentary Practice Statement") partly to address integrated reporting, was a further huge step to move this in to the mainstream. The recommendations of the High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance called integrated reporting “the ultimate ambition," another key step in demonstrating that integrated reporting is a key tool as the world transitions to a sustainable financial system.

Lastly, the financial standard-setters and the sustainability frameworks - SASB, CDP, the GRI and CDSB - which combine together in the "Corporate Reporting Dialogue" convened by the IIRC, agreed a joint position statement in favor of the TCFD recommendations. In the next few weeks, we will announce a major alignment project starting with these recommendations, then going much further. It has the potential to be the biggest step yet in the integration of financial and non-financial reporting, a "breakthrough moment" not just for the past year, but for many years ahead.

3p: How can companies address the SDGs through integrated reporting?

RH: The IIRC has published a very practical guide for companies who undertake integrated reporting on how to integrate business reporting of the SDGs, authored by Professor Carol Adams. In it there are a series of case examples, including how AkzoNobel uses its integrated report to map each SDG against its supply chain, different products, and human resources; how Grupo Nutresa and SAB Miller integrate the SDGs in their business strategy; and how Unilever applies integrated thinking to seek to address the business challenges and opportunities which the the SDGs present.

3p: What have you been hearing from the investor community about integrated reporting over the past year?

RH: We are working with a coalition of investor organizations who haven’t simply endorsed integrated reporting and our objective of long-term value creation, but committed to using it in their day-to-day investor decisions. More investors are signing up to this approach and we invite more again. But ‘system change’ applies to the investment sector too, which is why we work with the Principles of Responsible Investment, the International Corporate Governance Network, the CFA Institute, the World Economic Forum and major investors including BlackRock - all members of our global IIRC Council - to debate and act together to create the conditions to shift upwards long-term investment. The Corporate Reporting Dialogue has agreed a joint approach on the future of reporting with an umbrella group of seven investor coalitions led by the PRI, which will be published shortly and demonstrate the high degree of alignment in our thinking.

3p: Integrated reporting has come a long way this decade, but clearly there is still a long road ahead. What are some of the IIRC's key goals for 2018-2019?

RH: For the forthcoming year, the key goals for the IIRC are to demonstrate and catalyze continued progress in the adoption of Integrated Reporting by advancing integrated thinking as a driver of effective corporate governance and bringing the adoption of Integrated Reporting to new markets and sectors, particularly the USA and China.

To do this, we are working harder to mobilize the ‘investor pull’ for Integrated Reporting, make it easier to adopt Integrated Reporting, regardless of sector or industry, and foster a policy and regulatory environment that supports moves towards Integrated Reporting. Just next week in Paris, we will launch a new global strategic phase for the International Integrated Reporting Council, which marks our achievement of a series of ‘breakthrough moments’ which we set ourselves. This will represent an intensification of our strategy towards the global adoption of integrated thinking and reporting. I welcome the presence of so many in our coalition in New York this week, to celebrate how far we have come, but have used the conversations of this week in readiness for the next steps we must take together.

Image credit: United Nations/Flickr


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Is Oregon's Bicycle Tax a Fair Way to Support Its Cycling Community?

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At the beginning of this year, the state of Oregon began charging a sales tax on new bicycles as a result of a state-wide transportation bill passed in July of 2017.

In a part of the country known for being bicycle friendly, the law has proved quite controversial with critics saying it unfairly burdens consumers who are making environmentally conscious transportation choices, while others call the law petty.   

The $15 tax was originally to be levied only on adult sized bikes retailing at $200 or more, but as of June this year, an amendment to the bill cast the net wider to encompass both e-bikes and children's bikes, too.

The industry publication Bicycle Retailer said this week that taxes collected through August total $290,000 on just over 19,000 bikes sold in the first two quarters of the year. Lawmakers had predicted receipts of about $1.2 million in the first year, and although a seasonal bump in bicycle sales may boost tax revenues over the summer months, it seems likely that revenues could fall short of expectations.

But whether or not the state generates its expected revenue from the tax, more fundamentally, many consider it punitive to cyclists. So, does the tax make sense? And is it helping or hurting Oregon’s bicycling community?

In the long run, cyclists stand to gain overall when this tax is viewed in the broader context of Oregon’s House Bill 2017 (as the law is known). Despite the fact that Oregon is the first (and as yet only) state to levy a specific tax on new bicycle sales, it comes as part of a range of new revenue sources encompassed by the transportation bill.

As Forbes explains, the bill also levies a four cent per gallon gas tax increase, a $16 dollar vehicle registration increase, a 0.1 percent payroll tax, and a 0.5 percent tax on new car sales. In other words, all users of transportation infrastructure will pay a price.

A proportion of funds collected from these new revenue streams will flow back to cyclists too. The League of American Bicyclists, (while not in favor of the bicycle sales tax) says the transportation bill will dedicate $1.3 billion to biking, walking and transit spending, from a total budget of $5.3 billion metered out over 10 years. This includes $125 million for safe-routes-to-school investments alone, a cycling program for children.

So overall, Oregon’s planned spending is good news for cyclists. While no consumer wants to see a bicycle tax, state funding for cycling infrastructure and programs looks like it will be far in excess of the revenue recovered from the bicycle tax over the 10 year time span.

But the question remains, is it the best thing to tax cycling, a behavior you want to encourage, when it generates a relatively meager return? Consider also, that according to the Portland bicycle advocacy group Bikeportland.org, the state estimates it will cost $50,000 a year just to administer collection of the tax.

The League of American Bicyclists thinks the approach to transportation funding should be to recognize cycling as a low-cost burden on society and as such, not bear any costs at all.

Instead, they think taxes should fall where societal costs are greatest. The organization says: “For motor vehicles, this would suggest that taxes should be higher, potentially much higher, to account for the costs of air pollution, health problems, congestion and other issues associated with the use of motor vehicles. For bicycles, this might suggest negative taxes.”

Whether that’s a fair way to to fund infrastructure is no doubt a matter of opinion, but the aforementioned Forbes piece suggests Oregon’s approach is a matter of having one eye on the future, and trying to figure out ways to fill its coffers as the transportation mix changes in years to come.

For example, the state is looking at things like a vehicle per-mile tax which may become necessary at some point in the future to replace gas taxes. After all, infrastructure will still need to be paid for even if all drivers in Oregon were to own (or share) electric cars. Viewed in the context of a transportation system in flux, a sales tax on bicycles may similarly be seen as a way of generating new revenue streams for a transportation mix increasingly diversifying away from fossil fuels.  

The tax may lend an advantage to the cycling community too, by giving it a voice. Taxation demands representation and so paying the tax might give the cycling community greater leverage to ensure cycling infrastructure and safety projects are implemented.

It’s also worth noting, bicycle specific taxes are not entirely unprecedented. For example, Hawaii charges a $15 new bike registration fee, which while not technically a tax, is collected by retailers at point of sale (as is the case with the Oregon tax). Another precedent is found in Colorado Springs, where $2.3 million has been raised from a $4 per bicycle sales tax in effect since 1988.

The difference between both these examples compared with the Oregon law, is that cyclists paying these fees might enjoy a more direct individual benefit in return.

For example, Hawaii’s bicycle registration program has helped stolen bicycles to be recovered for their owners, while in Colorado Springs, because the tax is at the city level, infrastructure spending is highly localized. This returns value directly to the cyclist paying the taxes in their local community, as opposed to money being collected centrally and dispersed across the state, perhaps unevenly.

In the end though, the matter boils down to whether consumers are prepared to pay the price. As the Forbes article outlines, consumers are said to grumble when they see the tax on their sales invoice, but when dealers explain it goes towards bike infrastructure they are more accepting. As one cyclist interviewed for the piece commented, “I feel, as a biker, I’ve received great benefits in the past years living in Oregon, specifically Portland. The bike lanes have improved, the new bike laws and bike boxes at intersections have provided more security, and the overall environment to be a biker is improving. But there is still more to do! Given the moderate onetime cost of $15 at the time of purchase of a new bike, I feel it’s not overtaxing on most of us.”

Image credit: Oregon Department of Transportation/Flickr

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Dunkin’ Donuts Pledges to Help Coffee Growers Adapt to Climate Change

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As several countries mark International Coffee Day this Saturday, September 29, it’s important to remember our favorite morning brew is one of the most traded commodities in the world, and farming it allows 25 million families in more than 60 countries to make a living. Yet experts say climate change will pose an increasing risk to coffee crops.

By 2050, growing areas suitable for the world’s most popular coffee strain—Arabica—will drop by up to 70 percent in some key coffee-producing regions, the BBC reports. A warming climate could also exacerbate pests such as the dreaded coffee berry borer, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Such stark changes not only threaten your morning cup of Joe, but also put millions of livelihoods at risk. Smallholder farmers, who produce roughly 70 percent of the world’s coffee, will be forced to adapt in order to maintain their way of life.

To that end, global coffee giant Dunkin’ Donuts and National DCP, a $2 billion supply chain management company serving Dunkin’ franchisees, are launching a new partnership to protect the global coffee supply while supporting farmers.

The companies pledged to donate up to $2 million to World Coffee Research (WCR), a nonprofit collaborative research and development program for the global coffee industry, over the next five years. California-based WRC focuses on coffee genetics with the aim of developing more resilient strains that can better withstand weather extremes, as well as pest and disease problems that may increase due to climate change.

“With rising temperatures and more [frequent] extreme weather, the need to make coffee plants more resilient to threats like diseases and droughts has never been more urgent,” Tim Schilling, CEO of World Coffee Research, said in a statement.

Dunkin’s investment will move in increments, as the company donates a price percentage of every pound of Original Blend coffee beans sold to its franchisees. WRC has similar deals with other large coffee suppliers through its CheckOff Program, but Dunkin’s pledge makes the company one of the nonprofit’s largest donors to date.

“We are excited to support the work being done by World Coffee Research benefiting farmers around the world and shoring up long-term supply assurance for our franchisee cooperative members,” Matt Daks, director of strategic sourcing for coffee and tea at National DCP, said in a statement. “Through WCR’s CheckOff Program, we can help combat the impacts of climate change, develop more vibrant, vigorous, varietals and ensure farmers can grow healthier trees, resulting in better quality and higher volumes.”

WRC’s work in coffee genetics not only safeguards supply chains for large purveyors like Dunkin’, but also protects livelihoods by providing coffee farmers with better, higher revenue-earning varieties.   

The social element does not appear to be lost on Dunkin’. “As a leading coffee retailer, we have a responsibility to protect the commodities we source, and the farmers and producers whose livelihoods depend upon them,” said Karen Raskopf, chief communications and sustainability officer for Dunkin’ Brands, which owns both Dunkin’ Donuts and ice cream icon Baskin Robbins.

As a leading coffee retailer that sells 80 cups of the stuff every second, Dunkin’ is in a position to make a huge impact on the way the commodity is sourced and sold—and coffee sustainability is top of the list when it comes to the company’s corporate responsibility initiatives.

Dunkin’ continues to expand its work with the Rainforest Alliance, and all espresso beverages served in the U.S. and approximately 16 international markets were made with 100 percent Rainforest Alliance Certified beans as of last year. Dunkin’ and National DCP are also working to certify all of the brand’s Dark Roast Coffee through the Rainforest Alliance—meaning supplier farms meet rigorous standards regarding biodiversity and natural resource conservation, as well as farmer well-being. In European markets, which consume the largest share of the world’s coffee by far, Dunkin’ restaurants also serve Fair Trade certified espresso.

On the environmental side, earlier this year Dunkin’ announced plans to phase out its infamous foam coffee cups, which are difficult to recycle. The company will swap in a new, double-walled paper cup that’s already in use in most of its international markets and will reach its entire retail portfolio by 2020. The switch will remove nearly 1 billion foam cups from the waste stream annually, though “the new cups' recyclability will vary by city, state and municipality,” the company told Treehugger in February.

Image credit: The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) via Flickr

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