We read the reports and the research so you don’t have to
Giving and receiving data
The days of giving a cheque to charity and feeling your job is done appear to be disappearing. Four out of five companies actively measure the impacts derived from their charitable giving, a new study finds. Nearly three-quarters of the 114 companies surveyed say they intend to increase their impact measurement efforts over the next three years. That’s important as 42% of companies are still failing to capture the overall impacts of their community programmes. The findings appear in a report entitled Funding Impact, produced jointly by UK charity thinktank NPC and the business-led community investment benchmark group, LBG.
Investor interest piqued
Investors can be a little like consumers: they say social and environmental issues are important to them, but show little evidence of it when it comes to the crunch. An extensive survey from professional services giant PwC suggests a change could be in the offing. In a poll of 300 US investors, more than two-thirds say they plan to incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into deal evaluations over the next 12 months. In addition, 38% of those surveyed identified investors as the group most engaged on ESG issues. Senior management were the next most cited stakeholder category (36%), with corporate boards (19%) and mainstream bankers (7%) lagging some way behind.
The poll follows a separate recent survey of 100 private equity groups by PwC. The report, Putting a Price on Values, finds that more than seven in ten of respondents incorporate ESG management into their due diligence at acquisition. On the flip side, most are risk-minded. Less than 15% calculate the value generated through a company’s ESG programmes.
SMEs and energy efficiency
Seven out of ten small business owners cite wasted energy as one of their “top irritants”, according to a survey by energy firm E.ON. The study, which is based on responses from 1,000 UK-based SMEs, finds that 85% of firms track their energy use. Meanwhile, cost savings are identified as the chief driver for 69% of workplace energy efficiency efforts by SMEs. Catering and hospitality are among the most proactive sectors when it comes to keeping energy use down, with professional services among the least attentive. More than two-fifths of the SME owners interviewed set improvement targets for overall energy efficiency.
Despite advances in recycling in the UK (44% of municipal waste is now recycled), more could be done, new research suggests. Nearly one third of UK residents say they could recycle more but find it too much effort, findings from recycling advocacy group Greenredeem reveal. Almost two-thirds of the 1,677 respondents believe the UK government should do more to incentivise recycling. Around a quarter of those interviewed expressed a concern for the environment, although not enough to persuade them to change their behaviour patterns.
Meanwhile, a parallel study among 1,000 citizens in the US finds that 86% of people expect food and drink brands to push consumers to recycle more. The US study, commissioned by the Carton Council of North America, indicates that 76% of consumers check packaging to determine if a product is recyclable. Some 52.5 million US households in 45 states now have access to carton recycling, up from 21 million in 26 states in 2011.
SRI on the rise
The European market for socially responsible investment retail funds has grown at an annual rate of about 14% per year since 2003, with total assets now topping €108bn (£91bn). The number of funds has shot up over the past decade, too, increasing from a mere 313 in 2003 to 922 today. Funds based in France account for 35% of Europe’s total SRI assets under management. The UK ranks in second place, with 14% of Europe’s SRI retail fund assets. The UK currently boasts 100 funds, with total assets increasing by 30% between June 2012 and June 2013. The findings are based on research by specialist ratings agency Vigeo. The most dynamic growth was seen in the Netherlands, ranked in third place by assets, where there was a 106% growth of SRI assets in the year to June 2013.
Water risks for energy sectors
The global energy sector exceeds all other industries when it comes to water use. A report from Wood Mackenzie and World Resources Institute finds exceptional water risks in three major energy-producing regions. Half of all US shale reserves, for example, show “medium to extremely high” baseline water stress. Over two-thirds of coal production and coal-fired power generation capacity in China shows similar levels of water stress. The risk of water scarcity in the Middle East is more serious still: 93% of the region’s onshore crude oil reserves are facing medium to extremely high risks of future water shortages.
India’s gender imbalance
The workforce of over half of India’s largest 200 companies by market capitalisation is more than 90% men, a study by the Confederation of Indian Industry’s Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development finds. Only 12% of India’s largest companies fit the upper percentile – ie registering 30-40% female staff – for gender balance. These top performers typically come from the service sector. The Business Responsibility India Survey 2013 reveals that half the companies surveyed have at least one woman on their board of directors; a feature that will become mandatory under India’s Companies Act.
Maximum emissions imminent
If the world’s current energy mix continues on its existing trajectory, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 will be 8-12 gigatonnes more than levels said by the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to give the best chance of staying within a 2C temperature rise. The IPCC says annual emissions must amount to no more than 44Gt a year by 2020. According to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), savings of 14-20Gt gigatonnes could be achieved annually if countries set more ambitious targets. The cost of such reductions would equate to about $100 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to the IPCC.
UNEP’s findings are confirmed by a parallel report from PwC, which estimates that by 2034 the world will have exceeded the IPCC budget of 270Gt for the whole century. G20 countries need to reduce their emissions output by 6% a year, PwC calculates. Current annual reduction rates in G20 countries averages around 0.7%.
Sustainability’s integration struggles
Only one in five large companies feels it is close to integrating sustainability into its mainstream operations, according to research by US business-led network BSR and the international consultancy GlobeScan. A similar percentage (22%) confesses to only just embarking on integrating sustainability. Now in its fifth year, the State of Sustainable Business Survey finds integration to be the most cited challenge among the 700 sustainability managers.
In terms of integration, sustainability professionals are gaining traction with executives in functions such as corporate communications (75% of respondents report regular engagement), public affairs (66%) and supply chain (64%). Other core functions, such as investor relations (37%), human resources (34%), R&D (32%) and marketing (32%), prove harder to crack. In almost all cases, levels of engagement are down on the previous year. As for external engagement, sustainability professionals collaborate most frequently with non-profits groups (76%), followed by industry associations (75%) and other companies (70%). Governments (46%) and media (27%) feature at the bottom of the list.
Westpac winning on flexi-working
More than three-fifths of employees at Australian bank Westpac Group currently take advantage of the company’s flexible work arrangements, up from 43% in 2010. Female executives, meanwhile, make up 42% of all leadership positions, the bank reveals in its latest sustainability report. Other highlights include $3.6bn cumulative investment and lending in the clean tech and environmental services sector, and $650m in social and affordable housing.
SC Johnson hits targets early
Since 2000, US cleaning products firm SC Johnson has lowered its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% and reduced global manufacturing waste by 62%, according to its latest sustainability report. In addition, the company calculates that its ongoing anti-dengue programme in the Philippines has now reached more than 1.65m households. A notable development at SC Johnson is the introduction of new concentrated cleaners, which use 63% less plastic compared with a standard spray bottle.
Global hotel chain Hilton Worldwide achieved its five-year goal to reduce water consumption by 10% and waste output by 20% in 2012. The targets come one and two years ahead of schedule, respectively. Other highlights in the company’s corporate responsibility 12.2% reduction in energy use since 2009, and a 12.8% reduction in carbon output over the same period.Corporate Responsibility Research CR Cheat Sheet CR Stats CSR Cheat Sheet