Posts tagged sustainability

Cradle-to-Cradle System Design: reflections by Dr. Michael Braungart

 

Wanted to share insights from Dr. Michael Braungart on circular economy. My focus this Spring in post-graduate work is centered on application of circular economy theory in supply chain optimization.

The passage below is from ICR (2007) 7:152–156 – DOI 10.1007/s12146-007-0020-2 – © ICR 2007 Published online: 28 November 2007.

“Our current ‘eco-efficient’ view of sustainability sees materials flowing through the system in one direction only – from input to an output that is either consumed or disposed of in the form of waste. Eco-efficient techniques may be able to minimize the volume, velocity and toxicity of these material flows, but they cannot alter its linear progression ‘from cradle to grave’. While some materials are recycled, this recycling is difficult and brings added costs. The result of such recycling is actually downcycling: a downgrade in material quality which limits its future usability. We need an ‘eco-effective’ perspective to replace this limited and limiting agenda. In eco-effective industrial systems, the material intensity per service unit or ‘waste’ produced by each individual element is irrelevant as long as the materials entering the system are perpetually maintained as usable resources. For example, if the trimmings from the production of textile garments are composed in such a way that they become nutrients for ecological systems, then it doesn’t matter that they are not included in the saleable product. They are not ‘waste’. Even if the material intensity per service unit of the textile mill is astronomically high, it could still be highly eco-effective if its trimmings become productive resources for natural systems. The goal is not to minimize the cradle-to-grave flow of materials, but to generate cyclical cradle-to-cradle ‘metabolic cycles’ that enable materials to maintain their status as resources and accumulate intelligence over time.

Instead of downcycling this approach is all about upcycling. It doesn’t seek to eliminate waste or produce zero emissions. Instead it focuses on maintaining (or upgrading) resource quality and productivity through many cycles of use (and in doing so, it achieves ‘zero waste’ along the way). The difference between the two strategies of cradle-to-grave and cradle-to-cradle are very important. Strategies focused on achieving ‘zero waste’ do not create sustainable cradle-to-cradle cycles. But eco-efficient cradle-to-cradle cycles do achieve zero waste. How they achieve their goals is also different. ‘Zero waste’ cradle-to-grave strategies emphasize volume minimization, reduced consumption, design for repair and durability and design for recycling and reduced toxicity. On the other hand cradle-tocradle strategies design products and industrial processes so that every single one of their ‘outputs’ becomes a nutrient for another system – designed to be re-used – to create a perpetual cycle where resources are either maintained or ‘upcycled’.”

The Social Dilemma of Human Behavior & Sustainable Choices in the Fashion Supply Chain

Introduction

Although the premise of clothing characterizes a rudimentary need (Yawson, Armah, & Pappoe, 2009), the intricacies and system dynamics specific to the fashion industry’s supply chain are far from basic (Amed, Berg, Brantberg, & Hedrich, 2016). The current state of the fashion industry is challenging because factors contributing to its complexities are uncertain and constantly changing (Amed, Berg, Brantberg, & Hedrich, 2016). From the acquisition of raw materials, to manufacturing and distribution for purchase by the consumer, the fashion industry can influence sustainable practices across the global supply chain (Strahle & Muller, 2017).

Sustainability involves changing environmental dynamics that affect dimensions of ecology, economy, socio-politics, and human behavior (Joy, Sherry, Venkatesh, Wang, & Chan, 2012). Research shows an inherent dissension among some fashion consumers (McNeill & Moore, 2015), who “often share a concern for environmental issues even as they indulge in consumer patterns antithetical to ecological best practices” (Joy, Sherry, Venkatesh, Wang, & Chan, 2012). An emerging concept in industry is fast fashion, which refers to “low-cost clothing collections that mimic current luxury fashion trends and helps sate deeply held desires among young consumers in the industrialized world for luxury fashion, even as it embodies unsustainability” (Joy, Sherry, Venkatesh, Wang, & Chan, 2012).

Globalization and competition create increased financial and operational pressures in industry to reduce costs (Christopher, Lowson, & Peck, 2004). When paired with growth in human population (Strahle & Muller, 2017), scarcity of natural resources (De Vries, 2013), growth in industry (Amed, Berg, Brantberg, & Hedrich, 2016), advances in technology, consumer trends (Education Bureau, 2017), and human behavior in social dilemmas, the participants in a fashion supply chain may partake in unsustainable business practices (Chan & Wong, 2012). At the intersection of globalization, market competition, fast fashion (Joy, Sherry, Venkatesh, Wang, & Chan, 2012) and sustainability is the social dilemma of fashionable versus durable clothing. This analysis will explore the social dilemma of human behavior and sustainable choices in the fashion supply chain using the context of a pay-off matrix (De Vries, 2013).

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Social Dilemma Assessment

A social dilemma is where interdependent participants face a conflict between the maximizing personal gain and/or a collective interest (Dawes, 1980). As noted by Dr. Robyn Dawes (1980), leading psychologist and researcher, “public goods dilemmas occur when individuals can choose whether to contribute to a common pool that benefits both contributors and non-contributors alike, as long as enough choose to contribute”. Resource dilemmas are slightly different because individuals can decide how much to withdraw for personal use from a common pool that will only be maintained if withdrawals are kept to a minimum (Dawes, 1980). Public goods and resource dilemmas encompass “many of the most critical problems facing humanity, most notably those regarding resource shortages caused by overuse and failures to contribute to the common good” (Shankar & Pavitt, 2002). Moreover, research demonstrates that communication between participants has a significant effect on cooperation rates in these two types of social dilemmas (Shankar & Pavitt, 2002).

Overview of the Pay-Off Matrix

The pay-off matrix offers a way to analyze human behavior in situations of interdependence and conflict (Yawson, Armah, & Pappoe, 2009). As depicted in Figure 1, interdependent positions can range from virtuously cooperative, wherein a gain for one is a gain for the others, to a win-lose competitive position (Dawes, 1980). A decision to maximize individual gain is known as a defecting choice (Dawes, 1980), depicted as “you are the free rider” in Figure 1 (De Vries, 2013). Conversely, a win-win decision (De Vries, 2013) to maximize the gain of the collective is known as a cooperative choice (Dawes, 1980). Furthermore, “at any given decision point individuals receive higher payoffs for making selfish choices than they do making cooperative choices regardless of the choices made by those with whom they interact” (Weber, Kopelman, & Messick, 2004). The cost of the dilemma is that everyone involved receives a lower payoff by making a selfish choice (Dawes, 1980).

 

Figure 1: Pay-Off Matrix in a Social Dilemma (De Vries, 2013)

Pay-Off Matrix Participants in a Fashion Supply Chain

While enduring substantial growth over the past two decades (Strahle & Muller, 2017), the fashion industry has drastically evolved due to retail consolidation, globalization and e-commerce (Amed, Berg, Brantberg, & Hedrich, 2016). It is considered to be one of the most polluting industries in the world (Strahle & Muller, 2017). Industry and trading partners often request for participants to act sustainably (Strahle & Muller, 2017). Participants in a fashion supply chain include suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers (Strahle & Muller, 2017).

Theory and Influence in Consumer Fashion Decisions

Martin Christopher, thought leader in supply chain theory and best practice, defines fashion markets as typically exhibiting the following characteristics: short life cycles, high volatility, low predictability and high impulse purchasing (Christopher, Lowson, & Peck, 2004). A key concept in understanding the impulses of consumer purchasing is Maslow’s theory of human motivation (Chan & Wong, 2012). The theory classifies all human efforts as an attempt to fulfill one of five needs (Yawson, Armah, & Pappoe, 2009, p. 951). Figure 2 shows the hierarchical order in which these needs are connected, specifically in decisions that involve buying clothes.

Figure 2: Adaption of Maslow’s Motivational Theory in Fashion-Based Decisions (Yawson, Armah, & Pappoe, 2009, pp. 952-953)

Consumer decisions to purchase fashionable or durable clothing are also influenced by body type, age, family, lifestyle, peers, society, and consumer socialization (Yang, Song, & Song, 2017), or amount of disposable income that allows for considerations of quality and durability (Education Bureau, 2017). Other influences include values from one’s culture, environment, and value orientation (Education Bureau, 2017, p. 16). Lastly, frequency of wear and care instruction (McNeill & Moore, 2015) may influence the need for fashionable, inexpensive, and of lesser quality clothing versus durable clothing (Education Bureau, 2017, pp. 47-51).

Perspectives in the Pay-Off Matrix

Using the interdependent participants in a fashion supply chain, the over-arching perspectives and the decision to cooperate or defect in sustainable practices are shown below in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Pay-Off Matrix in a Fashion Supply Chain (De Vries, 2013)

Cooperate, Cooperate: A Win-Win Solution

When all participants cooperate, all are aligned in sustainable practices (Yang, Song, & Song, 2017). Because all parties benefit from this scenario, resolutions to the conflict are likely to be accepted voluntarily (Joy, Sherry, Venkatesh, Wang, & Chan, 2012). In this scenario, the supplier uses ethical growing conditions, labor practices, and pricing mechanisms that are passed onto the manufacturer (McNeill & Moore, 2015). The product is manufactured with considerations in sustainable design, efficient use of water and energy in textile process, chemical-free treatments, and lean waste reduction (Shankar & Pavitt, 2002). Distributors and retailers respect considerations of packaging waste, energy use in transportation and logistics (Christopher, Lowson, & Peck, 2004) and the ethical treatment of trading partners. Most importantly, the consumer uses sustainable participation across the supply chain to guide purchasing decisions. After purchase, the consumer limits the use of chemical detergents, water and energy use in care, early disposal and landfill waste, and shares the experience with others in his or her circle of influence (Yang, Song, & Song, 2017). The costs of quality and sustainable considerations are shared and accepted by each participant (Jung & Jin, 2014).

Cooperate, Defect

In this scenario, the consumer adheres to sustainable practices while the supplier, manufacturer, distributor, and retailer defect. The consumer receives a small positive individual outcome that is immediate and a large negative collective outcome (the depletion of future resources) is delayed (Shankar & Pavitt, 2002). The defectors receive a higher payoff in the short run no matter what decisions all other individuals make (Dawes, 1980). The result is that the consumers suffers or loses (Dawes, 1980). The defecting choice is known as the “dominant strategy” (Dawes, 1980). Because the dominant strategy produces less preferred outcomes, it is known to be a deficient outcome (Dawes, 1980). The costs of sustainable considerations are born by the consumer and common resource pools (Jung & Jin, 2014).

Defect, Cooperate

In this scenario, the consumer defects and is “a free-rider” (De Vries, 2013), while the supplier, manufacturer, distributor, and retailer adhere to sustainable practices. The consumer pursues individual short-term interest regardless of the impact to common resource pools in the long run (Chan & Wong, 2012). Common pool resources are available to all participants such as air, water, energy, and are increasingly in short supply (Shankar & Pavitt, 2002). When the consumer defects, resources are still available without any personal cost borne. The collective actively participates in aforesaid sustainable practices across the supply chain.

Defect, Defect: The Commons Tragedy

In this scenario called the commons tragedy (De Vries, 2013), all participants in the supply chain defect causing unsustainable outcomes in decision making as depicted in Figure 4. The concept echoes that “open-access common resource pools are exploited until the very last unit as long as someone else pays for it” (De Vries, 2013, p. 390). In a widely cited paper entitled The Tragedy of Commons (1968), the biologist Hardin suggested there is an inherent tendency amongst humans to overexploit such a shared, common, or collective resource” (De Vries, 2013, p. 390). Research related to the commons tragedy “emphasizes the role of factors that may predispose people to take risks in social dilemmas” including aforementioned theory and influence in consumer fashion decisions (Weber, Kopelman, & Messick, 2004). As Figure 4 suggests, participants may differ systematically in the way each arrives at the same decision to defect.

 

Figure 4: Unsustainable Outcomes of Decisions Made by Participants in the Fashion Supply Chain (Strahle & Muller, 2017)

Conclusion

Sustainability and ethical conduct has gained increasing importance in the fashion industry (Joy, Sherry, Venkatesh, Wang, & Chan, 2012). Many fashion companies are focusing on tactical efficiencies, implementing changes to their core operations “from shortening the length of the fashion cycle to integrating sustainable inno­vation into their core product design and manu­facturing processes (Amed, Berg, Brantberg, & Hedrich, 2016). However, although companies realize that trendy, affordable fashion raises sustainable concerns, the pressure to meet consumers demands is still influencing industry behavior (Amed, Berg, Brantberg, & Hedrich, 2016).  As demonstrated in this analysis, sustainable decisions in the textile and fashion industry can be controlled along the supply chain (Strahle & Muller, 2017). Specifically, “retailers are the link between the supplier and the consumers. They could be the ecological gatekeepers and help the relevant partners along the supply chains incorporate sustainability into the business” (Yang, Song, & Song, 2017). While the fashion supply chain and consumers continue to evolve in the progression of whether to make and/or consume fashionable or green products, the challenge to connect and meet “deeper elements of value, such as high ethical standards in sourcing, efficient use of materials, low-impact manufacturing, assembly, and distribution,” (Joy, Sherry, Venkatesh, Wang, & Chan, 2012) will remain challenging for decades to come.

References

Amed, I., Berg, A., Brantberg, L., & Hedrich, S. (2016, December). The State of Fashion. Retrieved October 29, 2017, from McKinsey & Company: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/the-state-of-fashion

Chan, T., & Wong, C. (2012). The Consumption Side of Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain: Understanding Fashion Consumer Eco‐fashion Consumption Decision. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, 16(2), 193-212. doi:10.1108/13612021211222824

Christopher, M., Lowson, R., & Peck, H. (2004). Creating Agile Supply Chains in the Fashion Industry. International Journal of Retail Distribution Management, 32(8), 367-376. doi:10.1108/09590550410546188

Dawes, R. M. (1980). Social Dilemmas. Annual Review of Psychology, 31, 169-193.

De Vries, B. (2013). Sustainability Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Education Bureau. (2017, November 13). Consumer Behavior in Clothing Choices and Implications. Retrieved from www.hkedcity.net/res_data/edbltr-te/1-1000/…/2_Consumer_eng_Oct_2011.pdf

Joy, A., Sherry, J., Venkatesh, A., Wang, J., & Chan, R. (2012). Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands. Fashion Theory, 16(3), 273-296. doi:10.2752/175174112X13340749707123

Jung, S., & Jin, B. (2014). A Theoretical Investigation of Slow Fashion: Sustainable Future of the Apparel Industry. (D. E. Kempen, Ed.) International Journal of Consumer Studies, 38(5), 510-519. doi:10.1111/ijcs.12127

McNeill, L., & Moore, R. (2015, May). Sustainable Fashion Consumption and the Fast Fashion Conundrum: Fashionable Consumers and Attitudes to Sustainability in Clothing Choice. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 39(3), 212-222. doi:10.1111/ijcs.12169

Shankar, A., & Pavitt, C. (2002, July). Resource and Public Goods Dilemmas: A New Issue for Communication Research. The Review of Communication, 251-272.

Social Dilemma. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2017, from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_dilemma

Strahle, J., & Muller, V. (2017, October 30). Key Aspects of Sustainability in Fashion Retail. Retrieved from Springer Link: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-10-2440-5_2

Sustainable Apparel Coalition. (2017, November 7). The Higg Index. Retrieved from Sustainable Apparel Coalition: https://apparelcoalition.org/the-higg-index/

Weber, J. M., Kopelman, S., & Messick, D. M. (2004). A Conceptual Review of Decision Making in Social Dilemmas: Applying a Logic of Appropriateness. 8(3), pp. 281-307.

Yang, S., Song, Y., & Song, S. (2017). Sustainable Retailing in the Fashion Industry: A Systematic Literature Review. Sustainability, 9(7), 1266. doi:10.3390/su9071266

Yawson, D., Armah, F., & Pappoe, A. (2009, November). Enabling Sustainability: Hierarchical Need-Based Framework for Promoting Sustainable Data Infrastructure in Developing Countries. Sustainability, 946-959.

Why Business Can Bridge the Gap to Solve Social Problems

Why do we turn to nonprofits, NGOs and governments to solve society’s biggest problems? Michael Porter admits he’s biased, as a business school professor, but he wants you to hear his case for letting business try to solve massive problems like climate change and access to water. Why? Because when business solves a problem, it makes a profit — which lets that solution grow.

Moving Towards a Circular Economy

When you think about accelerating impacts and long-term solutions to current supply chain challenges that impact the 3P’s (people, planet and profit), we need to adopt and develop sustainable frameworks with a holistic life-cycle perspective. There is a ton of innovation happening in the CPG space (Levi’s, Unilever, PepsiCo, etc.)

Shifting from the current ‘take-make-waste’ linear model to the circular economy is critical for businesses to continue to thrive and meet society’s needs. Waste volumes are projected to increase from 1.3 to 2.2 billion tons by 2025, and with nearly 9 billion consumers on the planet including 3 billion new middle class consumers by 2030. The challenges of addressing waste and meeting increasing demand are unprecedented. Therefore it is imperative businesses continue to re-evaluate raw materials, design, manufacturing, consumption, and end of life to keep materials and products continuously flowing through closed loop systems.

How is your company innovating in product life cycle management from design and inception to sustainable product packaging? How are you personally adopting a sustainable mindset in your home, the daily choices you make as a consumer to move toward a circular economy? The bigger question is how are YOU INFLUENCING this change?

Going Green or Greenwashing?

 

Sustainable, much like organic, is used loosely as a marketing ploy. More often than not, countless companies use a concept called “green-washing.”Green washing is when a company, government or other group promotes green-based environmental initiatives or images but actually operates in a way that is damaging to the environment or in an opposite manner to the goal of the announced initiatives. This can also include misleading customers about the environmental benefits of a product through misleading advertising and unsubstantiated claims.

I use this greenwashing index greenwashingindex.com/about. There are more robust reporting initiatives, but this site is simple and give tips to the basic consumer on how to spot greenwashing and outlines the methodology behind the index. I highly recommend EcoVadis for larger organizations looking to integrate a desktop, cloud-based sustainable compliance solution. EcoVadis operates the first collaborative platform providing Supplier Sustainability Ratings for global supply chains. With a focus on maintaining quality and integrity, EcoVadis has managed to also grown quickly to meet this increasing need. Since its founding in 2007, EcoVadis has become a trusted partner for procurement organizations in more than 150 leading multinationals worldwide including Verizon, Nestlé, Johnson & Johnson, Heineken, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Nokia, L’Oréal, Bayer, Alcatel-Lucent, ING Bank, Air France-KLM, Centrica/British Gas, BASF, and Merck. Combining People, Process and Platform, EcoVadis has developed the industry-leading team, innovative technology, and a unique CSR assessment methodology that covers 150 purchasing categories, 110 countries, and 21 CSR indicators. More than 30,000 companies use EcoVadis to reduce risk, drive innovation and foster transparency and trust between trading partners. EcoVadis is driven by a diverse team of over 300 talented professionals from 40 nationalities committed to a real impact on the environmental and social practices of companies around the world.

Guiding Your Team Through Sustainability

I’m sharing insights from Jennifer Woofter, chief-consultant at Strategic Sustainability Consulting. Interesting perspective in addressing the management of change which can often be much larger than the green-change initiative.

Source: Guiding Your Team Through Change, Sustainably — Strategic Sustainability Consulting

Change can be difficult. Whether it’s a shift at work or in your personal life, embracing change can be a challenging issue for many people. For companies moving toward greening the workplace, it’s key that they remember that even small changes can result in small stressors to employees. It’s important to recognize the added stress and think from employees’ perspectives during the transition. Organizations that are working to be more adaptive and innovative may find that the resulting culture change becomes a huge roadblock to their efforts as employees resist or respond to the stress.

Innovation and change require leaders and employees alike to embrace new behaviors, which may initially seem antithetical to existing corporate culture. When making such dramatic shifts, it’s vital that leadership understands it’s impossible to dictate optimism, trust, conviction or creativity and consider the needs of everyone in the company.

With that in mind, the entire team should work together to establish a joint purpose and utilize internal efforts to make sure everyone on the team is onboard before changes begin.

One of the best ways to motivate employees, particularly during a transition is praise. Praising people not only motivates them, it also encourages and inspires them to do even better.

If you are helping to lead a cultural movement toward a greener workplace, consider these tips:

1. Frame the issue in a way that will excite your employees and motivate them to action. In order to engage your team’s commitment you have to inspire a desire and responsibility to change. A good organizational purpose calls for the pursuit of greatness in service of others and asks employees to be driven by more than simply personal gain.

2. Demonstrate quick wins that can show how actions toward change are working. Instead of simply declaring the culture shifts you want to see, highlight examples of the actions you expect to see more of in the company.

3. Create safe havens. If you intend for individual to act differently, you might find that changing their surroundings in order to support new behaviors to be incredibly helpful. Outposts and labs are often built as a way to give people a safe space to embrace new beliefs.

4. Embrace symbols that will help create a feeling of solidarity and demarcate who your employees are and what they stand for to the outside world. Symbols can help define the boundary between “us” and “them” for movements and can be as simple as a T-shirt, bumper sticker, or button supporting a general cause, or more elaborate like a new corporate brand identity. Internally and externally, such an act can reinforce a message of unity and commitment — that an entire company stands together in pursuit of a singular purpose.

It’s important to remember that even with the best guidelines, and the best intentions, change isn’t easy. While harmony tends to be most people’s preferred environment at work, a moderate amount of friction should be considered positive during a transition. Creating a culture shift with a complete absence of friction probably means that very little has actually changed. So explore the places where change faces resistance in your office. These areas may indicate where the dominant organizational design and culture need to evolve.

And culture change can only happen when people take action. While articulating a mission and changing company structures are important, keep on tackling the tough issues after you’ve shown people the change you want to see.

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2017 Trends in Corporate Sustainability 

I’m sharing insights from Amy Augustine. She elaborates on trends in sustainability, particularly clean-energy policy. Enjoy!

Source: 7 Trends That Will Drive Corporate Sustainability in 2017

As we confront a new political climate that is inspiring both uncertainty and rising citizen action, I am more convinced than ever that business must play a critical role in achieving a sustainable, equitable and clean-energy future. Bold leadership, as well as individual and collective action from influential companies and investors, is critical to ensure continued progress in achieving the ambitions of the historic Paris Climate Agreement and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Fortunately, companies we engage with here at Ceres continue to demonstrate that sustainability is not just good for the bottom line; it is the bottom line. Despite backward steps in Washington, there is unprecedented clarity in the business community – especially from the Fortune 100s – that building a healthy, low-carbon economy is irresistible and irreversible. Examples of this are popping up everywhere, although still not at the pace and scale we need.

These seven key corporate trends are ready for primetime and will be critically important in advancing our sustainability goals, no matter the political winds in Washington.

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1. Corporate support for clean-energy policy is accelerating

Corporate energy buyers want renewable energy – and not just to help them meet their own greenhouse gas reduction goals. Renewable energy prices are increasingly cost-competitive in many parts of the country, and they remove the long-term risks associated with fossil fuel energy price volatility.

More than 900 companies and investors are calling on President Trump and Congress to keep the U.S. in the Paris Climate Agreement and to support low-carbon policies in the U.S. And nearly 100 global companies have signed on to to the RE100 initiative, a commitment to source all of their energy from renewables.

Lacking a national carbon mitigation strategy, states and cities will continue to be the platforms on which we’ll see meaningful clean-energy progress. In Michigan, Ohio and Virginia, among other states, companies are helping to shape policies that strengthen and increase access to renewable energy, leading to more clean-energy investment and jobs in those states.

Stay tuned for our upcoming Power Forward report this spring documenting these trends among Fortune 500 companies.

2. More investors expect companies to disclose climate-related risks and opportunities

The Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures (TCFD) – whose leadership includes Ceres member companies such as Bloomberg LP and JPMorgan Chase – recently published a specific guidance on how companies should evaluate and disclose climate risks in financial filings.

Investors and global stock exchanges are taking notice, especially in regard to how carbon-intensive companies are analyzing business impacts under scenarios where carbon pollution is reduced at levels that would limit global warming to 2-degrees Celsius or less – the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.

More than ever, investors are aiming these questions at energy-intensive companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron, which are already struggling financially as global oil demand is waning.

3. Companies are advancing human rights reporting and performance

Companies are facing unprecedented scrutiny on their human rights performance and reporting. In 2015, the nonprofit group Shift that helps organizations to implement the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), developed the UNGP reporting framework, which companies such as Ericsson, Nestle, and Unilever are already utilizing to strengthen human rights reporting and performance.

Ceres is now collaborating with Shift to advance corporate adoption and implementation of the framework to drive improved human rights performance across direct operations and global supply chains.

4. Water risks are rising on the investor agenda

Water crises such as prolonged droughts and extreme precipitation events – been in California, lately? – were again among the top five global impact risks in an annual report from the World Economic Forum.

Increasingly, companies operating in water-stressed regions are proactively taking action to conserve and protect water sources. General Mills, Gap and PepsiCo, are among a growing cadre of companies engaging with California policymakers on the urgency for stronger water management policies in this water-starved state.

5. Competence on sustainability is becoming a measure of board effectiveness

Corporate boards have a key authority and responsibility to boost corporate attention on long-term sustainability risks like climate change. Large investors are increasingly focused on the role board members can play on sustainability. U.S. pension funds CalPERSand CalSTRS, for example, both recently updated their governance principles to explicitly request that company boards have stronger experience and expertise on climate risk management.

In the coming months, investors and other stakeholders will be looking to engage with key governance experts within companies on this topic, including corporate secretaries and general counsel.

6. SDGs will be a bigger driver of strategy and action

In 2015, more than 190 world leaders committed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at ending extreme poverty, eliminating longstanding inequalities and fighting climate change.

Worldwide momentum behind these internationally supported goals continues to gain strength, and at the upcoming Ceres Conference we will hear from Novozymes, BASF and Intel about how they are aligning their commitments and business strategies with this global vision.

7. Sustainable sourcing is becoming the new norm

Access to reliable, affordable supplies of key inputs is threatened by climate change, water scarcity risks, and the use of unethical practices like deforestation and forced labor. Agricultural supply chains are feeling some of the biggest pressures, leading to stronger action by investors and companies themselves to push for strategies to assess and manage these risks.

This spring, Ceres will release an interactive tool called Engage the Chain to help investors and companies better understand wide-ranging agricultural commodity risks.

No doubt, company actions on all of these fronts will continue to evolve – and, hopefully, accelerate. Such leadership is more essential than ever.

Future Trends in Sustainability Reporting

GRI and international think tank and strategic advisory firm SustainAbility have published the latest insights from the GRI Corporate Leadership Group on Reporting 2025 which explored four key trends fundamental to the UN Sustainable Development Goals: climate change, human rights, wealth inequality, and data and technology. The insights, captured in the report Future Trends in Sustainability Reporting provide practical guidance to reporting organizations working to respond to the risks and opportunities that we face on our path to a sustainable future.

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“The CLG Reporting 2025 was a dynamic group of thirteen forward looking companies motivated to uncover and understand emerging trends and improve disclosures,” said Eric Hespenheide, former GRI Interim Chief Executive. “The group engaged during meetings throughout the year, including with leading experts and stakeholder representatives, and shared their own experiences of reporting. The discussion about future reporting trends is vital to ensure that sustainability reporting has the most positive impact possible on sustainable development.”
The publication presents key information on each sustainability trend. Highlights from the report include:
Climate change: There was clear consensus in the group that it is not a matter of if business should or can act on climate change but how, and how fast they deliver change. Companies are solution providers: they are expected to be part of the solutions, from new energy models to efficiencies in the production and distribution of goods. Furthermore, clear and ambitious science-based targets are needed, and greater company and country engagement is expected following the Paris Agreement, with businesses expected to link to Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
Human rights: Expectations of corporate reporting on the many facets of human rights are growing: human rights due diligence is now the expected minimum. Investors, rating agencies and regulators are increasingly seeking this information. Key human rights issues set to receive greater focus include labor rights and issues linked to natural resources. The group highlighted that modern slavery is a new form of severe labor abuse and is leading to a broader movement from a focus on audit and compliance to due diligence and collaboration. Conflict over natural resource wealth is also becoming a more recognized issue with land rights increasingly disputed.
Wealth inequality: Various challenges for business related to wealth inequality were discussed, including radically increasing the share of value captured by workers and small-scale producers – for instance, achieving living wages for laborers and living incomes for small-scale producers. Eliminating economic gender inequality and gender discrimination is also becoming a key issue, as is tackling the race-to-the-bottom on public governance to attract investment. Calls to end the era of tax havens are increasingly expected, and breaking market concentration and addressing the unequal distribution of power will become imperative.
Data and Technology: When it comes to corporate reporting, data and technology are often seen as an opportunity and a challenge in equal measure. Challenges include securing sufficient internal buy-in; promoting the culture and creating awareness for good use of the internal systems that deliver high-quality, comparable data; lack of availability of sensitive and confidential data; and a need for more analytical tools to better understand data. Opportunities include online reporting; embedding sustainability data into targets and performance management systems; monitoring and providing feedback loops to data providers; and better understanding the dynamics and other demands on the data to improve the information channels and lower the burden for colleagues.
“SustainAbility is delighted to have partnered with GRI to deliver the Corporate Leadership Group (CLG) on Reporting 2025,” said Rob Cameron, Chief Executive, SustainAbility. “Corporate transparency and sustainability reporting are fundamental to the transition to a sustainable economy – allowing stakeholders to hold companies to account for poor performance, and to direct capital towards companies that are providing the innovation, solutions and scale of action needed to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We hope that the lessons we have learned will help more companies to make measurable and transparent progress in these critical areas.”

Get Beyond Tier 1 Suppliers to Engage with Labor Risks | Innovation Podcast

 

Source: Get beyond tier 1 suppliers to engage with labour risks | Innovation Forum

Smith, analyst with Ecovadis, talks with Innovation Forum’s Ian Welsh about how companies are now beginning to look for modern slavery and labor risks beyond their tier 1 suppliers. They discuss what supply chain mapping actually means in practice, and the systems that companies are developing to uncover where their risks are and how to target resources effectively.

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