Good Advice for Corporate Boards on Sustainability From Bob Eccles – Prominent Harvard Business School Voice

Posted on November 16, 2015 by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist

#Business & Society #Corporate Responsibility #Corporate Sustainability #ESG Issues #Sustainability Reporting 

Professor Bob Eccles of Harvard Business School is out front and very vocal on key corporate sustainability issues (like the global Integrated Reporting movement and continued expansion of sustainable investing). In a Forbes commentary he offers advice for corporate leadership on “how to show corporate leadership [in sustainability], posing the question to boards and C-suite:  “What progress are we seeing in how boards of directors of public companies demonstrate leadership in sustainability?”
The answer comes in part from a 2014 report by the Ceres coalition that found only 32% of the boards of the 613 largest publicly traded companies had oversight (over their company’s sustainability efforts). Alas, the good professor observes, most companies see ESG and “E’ and “S” and “g” is lower case.  Take Volkswagen as an example, Eccles writes — weak governance seriously undermined the company’s “E” efforts (one of the major leverage points for company products) and jeopardizes the “S” (social) efforts.
Eccles’s argument:  “Weak corporate governance on sustainability inhibits companies’ abilities to profit from sustainability.”  And, investors (seeking more profit) would like companies to do that (generate more profit) and investor’s interests in having long-term profitability will be inhibited as well.  Bob Eccles is not too optimistic about rapid change at the board level on sustainability issues, but is optimistic that over the long-term, if investors make it clear that they are interested in long-term as well as short-term performance…well, things could change more quickly.
As we observe the business sector activities on sustainability, and the rapid and dramatic rise now in corporate sustainability by key capital market players (asset owners and managers), we are encouraged that the board and C-suite attitudes toward corporate responsibility could change very quickly.  Big names / big money is paying attention on Wall Street (Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, MSCI, State Street, Citi Group, and many more top brands are focusing on ESG performance).
There’s more here for your board and C-suite if you would like to pass along the advice of Professor Eccles – we invite you to read the whole story linked below.
How To Show Corporate Leadership In Sustainability
(Wednesday – November 04, 2015 – Source: Forbes)
A 2014 report by Ceres, a non-profit organization advocating for sustainability leadership, found that only 32 percent of the largest 613 publicly traded U.S. companies had board oversight over sustainability.