Quo Vadis on Sustainability Issues in 2017 — As a New Administration & New Congress Come to Town?

Posted on December 1, 2016 by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist

#Business & Society #Climate Change #Corporate Responsibility #Corporate Sustainability 

Are you holding your breath after the November elections?  Wondering where corporate sustainability or sustainable investing goes from here?  What our public sector positioning may be on issues of importance to the corporate or capital markets communities?
The author of the best seller, “Green to Gold” takes on the Quo Vadis questions regarding sustainability issues as President-elect Donald J. Trump builds and announces his management team, albeit with an unusual method that reminds one of the popular TV show, “The Apprentice.”
In the Harvard Business Review, author Andrew Winston posts that “sustainable business” will move ahead with or without the future Trump Administration’s support or involvement or interference.  Companies will continue on their sustainability journeys because macro forces are driving the movement, he believes.  And we can move forward even without the Federal government’s push (although that support and encouragement is always nice to have as the wind-at-our-backs).
There are five “mega-trends” at work here, author Winston offers up for us.  For example, if you want to install solar or wind power for your business, as a manager you should be encouraged that the cost to build is down by half or much more from prior levels.  (The wind-at-our-back here of course includes the very important public sector support for development of non-fossil-fuel generated power.)
Second, climate change is now well beyond theory, author Winston argues.  The CEO of Kellogg speaking at the Paris COP-21 meetings said for his company, “climate change is mission critical.”  Many other CEOs are publicly or privately thinking/expressing the same thoughts.  Climate-related weather shocks can seriously damage crops — and ripple through food, apparel, fuel and other industrial production.
Third, consider the huge Millennial generation — soon to be half of the global workforce — these men and women are not retreating from the sustainability advances made to date.  Almost 9-out-of-10 of this demographic cohort believes (Winston explains to us) that “…the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than financial performance…”  These Millennial generation men and women are rising fast to positions of power in industry (and in government, finance, NGO management, etc.). They are taking us in a different direction on key societal issues.
Number Four on his list: Social media today can quickly create fame and fortune — or disaster — for the company on the right side or the wrong side of important societal issues — like responsible management of supply chains, and acting responsibly on key social and environmental issues that our society now deems to be important (especially for popular brand marketers).
And then there is the breadth and depth of many governmental commitments for — and action taken on — climate change issues. There was great momentum coming out of the Paris meetings in Fall 2016 and on to the Morocco meetings concluded just days ago.  We are moving inexorably toward a low-carbon economy and many global public sector leaders — unlike the American President-elect’s campaign comments — do not believe “all of this” is a hoax (that is, generated by China). Indeed, as explained in our Top Story, even China has clearly delivered the message:  Climate Change, it’s not a hoax.
We invite your reading of the HBR commentary by Andrew Winston, and suggest that you share it with your colleagues (and especially the “anxious” folks in your circle). Andrew Winston is on target with his projections that the business community will continue to act even if the new Trump Administration does not take positive positions on critical societal sustainability issues.
In this, our weekly newsletter for you, we have added a section with an eye on sustainability issues, with focus on the November-December-January transition to the new executive branch leadership and the coming of the 115th U.S. Congress.  A great deal is at stake on decisions to be taken on many of our societal issues.  We are presenting for you a brief selection of the many news stories and commentaries being published that can help us to understand what may/or may not be in store — regarding the decisions and actions to be taken after January 20, 2017 with regard to sustainability issues.
Sustainable Business Will Move Ahead With or Without Trump’s Support
(Monday – November 21, 2016)
Source: Harvard Business Review – Will the seismic shift in U.S. political leadership have a chilling effect on corporate action around environmental and social issues? The short answer is no.