This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.


*IBM Confidential: The Virtual Energy Forum June 10-11, 2008 (is online & free)

Many thanks to Scot for forwarding this

Hello Jean-Francois,

The are several alternative energy speakers at this event. It may of interest to alternative energy community members. It is ok to just view a single presentation.

Conference Site:
Full List of Guest Speakers:
Complete Agenda:

Description of Conference:
The Virtual Energy Forum is a two day online-only event that will be held on Tuesday, June 10th and Wednesday, June 11th, 2008. The event is focused on how leading companies can adopt better energy management practices to cut cost, while at the same time adopting clean energy alternatives -- presenting alternative energy technologies, policies, and best practices in a live, interactive environment. The event is designed to meet the needs of corporate energy executives in a way that is not possible with physical events, webinars or other means.

Confirmed speakers to date include senior energy executives from Marriott,  Raytheon, the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as Dick Munson, author of such books as "From Edison to Enron: The Business of Power and What It Means for the Future of Electricity" and "The Power Brokers."


The Right Corporate Karma: A growing body of evidence asserts that corporations can do well by doing good, showing that conducting business responsibly and ethically is not only a risk-mitigation play, but can actually lead to innovative, new opportunities

Thanks to Jeff Hittner and George Pohle for the article and link

Strategy & Innovation
The Right Corporate Karma

George Pohle and Jeff Hittner 05.16.08, 12:15 PM ET


Call it corporate social responsibility (CSR). Call it sustainability. Call it corporate karma, if you will.

A growing body of evidence asserts that corporations can do well by doing good, showing that conducting business responsibly and ethically is not only a risk-mitigation play, but can actually lead to innovative, new opportunities to grow market share and revenue.

A recent study IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ) conducted with more than 250 business leaders from around the world verified this trend, pointing to several key findings and disconnects:

--Sixty-eight percent of businesses surveyed are already focusing on corporate social responsibility activities to create new revenue streams, and 54% believe it's giving them a competitive advantage;

--Customers are the chief stakeholders driving corporate social responsibility, yet 76% of businesses surveyed admit they don't understand their customers' CSR concerns and only 17% of businesses are even asking them;

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--Three-quarters said that the amount of information being collected about them by advocacy groups and others has increased in the last three years. The same number said they had increased the amount of information they're making available about their businesses;

Our analysis of the survey led us to three dynamics that companies should understand and act upon in dealing with CSR.

Impact On Business--From Cost To Growth
Although regulation can have significant social value, companies look at compliance as the cost of their permission to be in business--and as a source of potentially costly hits in terms of litigation and reputation.

As companies have gone global--by entering new markets to sell their products and services or by working with new overseas suppliers--the costs of compliance have risen rapidly. Failure to abide by local and global regulations can destroy business reputations and brands, but compliance alone won't build brands. Nor will compliance offer the growth opportunities that strong brands and reputations can bring with them.

However, companies are beginning to see that CSR also can offer a lens through which they can discover new product ideas, differentiate themselves, lower their costs, accelerate new market entry, realize new revenue streams and position them favorably in the talent wars.

Mexican construction materials leader CEMEX (nyse: CX - news - people ) launched a savings club, providing discounts to low-income customers and allowing them to pay for materials on a weekly basis. This gives the customers access to high-quality building materials in greater quantities at two-thirds the previous cost, allowing them to build or expand their homes more quickly and economically.

It also expands the market for CEMEX and allows it to sell more building materials--the company is growing this segment 250% annually.

Companies also are finding that many CSR initiatives can help reduce overall cost structures or increase productivity. Canadian pulp and paper company Catalyst Paper uses production byproducts in biomass systems to power its operations. It also recycles wastewater heat for its production process, further reducing carbon emissions.

Together with efficiency gains and a switch to natural gas, the company has lowered its greenhouse gas emissions by 70% and its energy use by 21% since 1990. In 2005 and 2006 alone, the company saved US$4.4 million through a 2% reduction in fuel consumption.

Of course the companies that most effectively move from compliance and risk mitigation to profitable, sustainable CSR are those that integrate it into the core of their business strategy, with leadership from the top managers and full engagement by employees, business partners and customers.

Information--From Visibility To Transparency
In today's open environment, companies are finding it necessary to take the wraps off information they once considered private or proprietary. With relentless monitoring from watchdog groups, "need to know" restrictions tend to become irrelevant. An open exchange of information can be very powerful in building trust and building brands, but it needs to be effectively managed.

Since 1990, the Web has spurred the growth of more than 100,000 new citizen groups devoted to social and political issues. Customers are joining with activist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups, using blogs, wikis, social networking sites like Facebook, and video sharing sites like Google's (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people ) YouTube to proliferate their messages, create communities of activists and even for counter-branding purposes.

Companies can easily lose control of their own brands and reputations in a world with so many broadcast and interactive channels for people to use to share information, ideas and perspectives.

Three-quarters of the businesses surveyed said they know they're being watched more closely than ever and that they're providing more information about their business operations than ever before. Surprisingly, most companies have yet to fully understand the concerns of the various stakeholders--most notably customers--and even fewer are asking them what their opinions are on CSR issues.

To better engage customers and other stakeholders, companies must create and employ new technologies and business practices that allow stakeholders to get the information they want when and where they want it. A utility company might allow customers to switch energy sources based on the real-time availability of the most environmentally friendly energy sources. Or cellphones might scan product bar codes and immediately display information the user wants, from ingredients to how much energy was used to make the product.

Consumers also want to check trading practices, product composition and lifecycle management policies. They're starting to look at the global impact of their choices across the entire supply chain--everything from labor conditions in contract factories to the lending policies of the financial institutions they deal with.

That calls for transparency and accountability in business operations that companies may not have shared openly in the past--a daunting challenge for companies that deal with literally thousands of partners and suppliers to create and deliver their products and services. It's not just a matter of providing more information, but the right information that counts. The companies that figure out how to make information relevant will win customers' trust--and build powerful platforms for growth.

Here again, applying new insight into stakeholder needs, and adapting business practices and technologies to meet those needs, is essential to this task.

As an example, one global consumer products company analyzed and overhauled all of its systems and procedures for overseeing its worldwide network of licensees and vendors, consisting of more than 40,000 factories. The company revised and consolidated more than 500 policies in 50 documents to 170 integrated rules in eight documents, providing less content and more relevance.

It then provided the suppliers with self-assessment and reporting tools, and applied risk assessment analysis technology. Advanced analytics allow it to measure compliance and performance for 100% coverage of its licensees and vendors, and then determine when and where direct audits or education are needed.

Relationships--From Containment To Engagement
The only way to get a better handle on stakeholder expectations--and forge mutual objectives--is to foster a relationship based on continuous engagement.

Imagine this scenario: A global business is struggling to monitor working conditions and environmental standards throughout its supply chain in Southeast Asia. At the same time, NGOs are focused on improving human rights and ensuring environmental compliance in local communities.

While companies and NGOs may once have viewed each other as adversaries, by collaborating they can support what are, in most cases, common goals. The business can use the NGO's resources to help monitor, educate and improve its supplier operations. The company wins because it avoids some of the costs it might otherwise have to incur, and the NGO wins because it gets access and can actually impact specific outcomes much easier than if they had a combative relationship with the company.

For British retailer Marks & Spencer (other-otc: MASPY.PK - news - people ), a series of debilitating food scandals in the U.K. during the 1990s left it so shaken that by 2000 consumer skepticism had expanded to other products too--from the wood used in furniture to the chemicals in clothing.

With an analysis showing three-quarters of their customers expressed concern about green and social issues, M&S launched the "Behind the Label" campaign, which educated its 16 million customers about all the things the company was doing regarding environmental and social issues.

M&S also worked with NGO Oxfam to develop a program where, instead of throwing it away, customers can donate used M&S clothing to an Oxfam charity shop and receive a discount toward new clothing purchases at M&S.

And M&S worked closely with suppliers to develop a whole new level of transparency--meat used in sandwiches and recipes can be sourced back to the individual cow and traceability for clothing reaches as far as dye houses and spinning mills.

The result is that M&S has rejuvenated its brand, with revenue increasing 10% and profit up 22% from 2006 to 2007.

Comprehensive Approach
To truly differentiate itself and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace, a company must address all three of these major concerns by:

--Aligning and incorporating CSR with business strategy and integrate it across all operational functions, making it easy to invest (not spend) the money necessary to achieve its objectives;

--Implementing an open information strategy for more transparent and valuable information sharing with multiple stakeholders;

--Using this increased transparency to create strong, multifaceted engagement in relationships with key constituents and customers.

Done right, this offers a company improved relationships with all of its key constituents, more loyal customers, lower costs, higher revenues and an overall improvement of the business' standing in society.

George Pohle is vice president and global leader of IBM's Business Strategy Consulting practice. Jeff Hittner is the corporate social responsibility leader for IBM Global Business Services. Their study, "Attaining Sustainable Growth Through Corporate Social Responsibility," can be found here.

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