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Financing tends to be on the top of the list of hurdles for sustainable companies looking to scale. A business does not survive on a mission alone, and in order to generate profits and revenue, it needs capital to operate. But for sustainable enterprises setting out to meet the triple bottle line (“Planet, People, Profit”) while minimizing impacts, attracting and raising funding can be a particularly challenging task.

As it is, genuinely committing to environmental stewardship by incorporating sustainability into business decisions largely goes against the grain in a market that still prioritizes short-term profits. Despite increasing public concern with issues such as climate change, plastic pollution and the changing priorities of the Environmental Protection Agency, sustainable ventures measured along this profitability metric may outwardly pose to investors a degree of risk. Striving to mitigate costs and reduce uncertainty, investors, like businesses, are presented with their prohibitive obstacles that boil down to a matter of economics.

When investors do show interest, there is the risk that their capital is conditional and contingent upon their ability to steer the ship. "Basically, when you take other people's money you owe them something. You either owe them money back or a business decision that is kind of no longer yours,” said Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp. As they say, money is money, but some funding options can be limiting and may come with strings attached.

Up until recently, private companies (green or not) would raise capital by taking out a loan (also known as “debt financing,” which needs to be paid off with interest), “going public” through an IPO (Initial Public Offering) or accepting investments from wealthy (“accredited” and thus exempt from certain securities protections) investors.  For sustainable, viable growth, I’d advise entrepreneurs and young businesses to consider the pros and cons of each when weighing options for equity with their companies.

But the rise of social media and internet literacy sees us living in an increasingly connected world. With it, a new funding option has developed for small, sustainable businesses looking to raise capital: crowdfunding. Defined as the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people (aka a crowd), popular and well-known platforms for this model include IndieGoGo, Kickstarter and GoFundMe.

Powered by the internet connecting consumers to the things they care about, crowdfunding is used for causes and initiatives of all sizes, affording individuals and groups the flexibility to set the terms of their raise, retain control of their project, and open up to as many potential backers as possible.

One notable example of a recently successful crowdfunding campaign was held by GroBox One, the all-in-one, self-sustaining indoor hydroponics greenhouse setting out to make gardening accessible to anyone. Having met its goal more than seven times over, you can expect to see GroBox One in mainstream retailers by 2019 — right after the Kickstarter backers have received their products — bridging the gap between its goals and the marketplace while maintaining a clear vision.

Building on the freedom and flexibility offered by emerging crowdfunding options, President Obama in 2012 passed the JOBS Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation designed to support entrepreneurship by offering young, private businesses a way to crowdsource funds safely and effectively. A provision of the JOBS Act, called Regulation A, greatly expanded entrepreneurs’ access to capital, allowing them to crowdfund their capital raises and opened the door to non-accredited investors to participate in early-stage investments, subject to SEC review.

TerraCycle US Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of TerraCycle, Inc., just announced that its $25 million Regulation A offering has been qualified by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), thereby allowing anyone the opportunity to invest in our U.S. business for the first time. Through the Regulation A offering, TerraCycle US Inc., known for “recycling the unrecyclable,” seeks to use the proceeds from the offering to acquire related companies, increase staff and grow its business. Interested investors are invited to visit www.OwnTerraCycle.com or the SEC website to view detailed information about the offering.

Whether it’s to bring a soiless indoor greenhouse to market, fund a mobile app that turns picking up litter into a game, or raise money for clean energy, crowdfunding is an accessible, sustainable avenue for green ventures to source capital, and consumers looking to invest in causes important to them. Doing the right thing needs to be profitable and scalable in order to affect change, and being aware of the options available is one of the first steps to achieving lift-off.

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Climate and development standard and certification body Gold Standard and the WWF Switzerland have published a new report that seeks to help the private sector define and deliver ambitious strategies to achieve the goals outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“By following simple standards for best practice target setting and then monitoring and reporting on impact delivered, business can drive the paradigm shift to a sustainable world and reap the rewards for their actions,” said Marion Verles, CEO of Gold Standard and co-author of the report.

While business is taking notice of the SDGs, engagement strategies are still in their infancy and can be inconsistent from one company to another. In their latest review of members’ sustainability reporting, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development found that 79 percent of the companies analyzed acknowledge the SDGs in some way. However, they note that only 6 percent of those companies have aligned their strategies and targets to specific target-level SDG criteria and measured their contributions to key SDGs.

Business and the Sustainable Development Goals: Best Practices to Seize Opportunity and Maximize Credibility highlights the advantages for business in catalyzing the SDG agenda, details the common challenges and pitfalls that companies face today, and offers a clear, actionable set of good practices for business leaders to inform their strategies moving forward.

“We’ve seen businesses starting to align their strategies to the SDGs, which is essential, as we can only achieve the SDGs by working together,” said Thomas Vellacott, CEO of WWF Switzerland and co-author of the report. “Setting corporate targets with reference to the SDGs, having them externally verified and reporting on them transparently will increasingly become standard practice.”

The report comes in support of the launch of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Switzerland, with a goal of connecting a global need with business opportunity. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Report from 2017 cites that “the rate of progress in many areas is far slower than needed to meet the targets by 2030,” flagging the urgency to accelerate action. The Business and Sustainable Development Commission flagship report highlights that “achieving the SDGs could create 380 million jobs and help unlock at least $12 trillion in opportunities for business by 2030.”

Business and the Sustainable Development Goals will be updated over time as new practices emerge to help business avoid risks of “SDG washing.” It will also be supplemented with case studies to bring the implementation of the guidelines to life.

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Primark, a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, has developed a new online tool that is helping usher in a new era of transparency for the retailer. The Global Sourcing Map allows consumers to access information about the 1071 factories and suppliers that make up the company’s supply chain.

“For a number of years, we’ve been working closely with industry partners sharing information about where Primark products are made. This has included, for example, details of our suppliers, their factories, as well as our supply chain practices,” said a spokesperson for Primark. “Partners have extended from bodies such as the Ethical Trading Initiative to organizations monitoring industry standards, notably the International Labor Organization’s Better Work program.”

The sourcing map features information about Primark’s suppliers’ factories in 31 countries, including the names, addresses, number of workers and gender split of the workforce at each. To be included on the map, factories must have produced products for Primark for at least a year and be an established supplier.

“During the first year, a factory has to demonstrate that it can consistently work to Primark’s ethical standards, as well as meet our commercial requirements in areas such as quality and timely delivery. Factories featured on the map produce over 95 percent of Primark’s products for sale in our stores,” the spokesperson added.

Primark previously kept the details of its suppliers’ factories private, regarding it as a matter of commercial advantage. But with 98 percent of its factories also manufacturing products for other brands — several of whom have begun to publish the details of their sourcing practices — the company felt the time was right to share this information.

Transparency for supply chain has always been a critical agenda. This wasn’t a case of us not having the data, we know where our products are made. For us, we felt there was a natural cadence for getting this information out and launching the website was the first step, with the Global Sourcing Map following on as a second phase,” Katherine Stewart, Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability Director at Primark, told Edie.net.

“We know consumers and stakeholders are interested and we thought that publishing the Global Sourcing Map was a big step on that journey. We will continue to look at what we feel might be useful or interesting as we continue to develop our program.”

Primark’s Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability Team will be responsible for providing updates to the Primark Global Sourcing Map on a twice-yearly basis.

The move builds on Primark’s previous efforts to promote social and environmental sustainability in its supply chain. In addition to signing onto the Bangladesh Accord, the company has developed a Sustainable Cotton Program and as a member of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Program has committed to phasing out the use of certain chemicals in its supply chain by 2020.

A link to the sourcing map is available here

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Plastic packaging continues on its downward spiral as supermarkets, government and even the Queen begin to explore more sustainable alternatives.

Kiwi supermarket chain New World is setting a new standard for the food industry by drastically reducing the amount of plastic packaging stocking its shelves.

A new refrigerated shelving system is being piloted at the chain’s Bishopdale, New Zealand store, which allows New World to display fresh produce without plastic packaging. Dubbed “Food in the Nude,” the project rolled out in January 2017 and New World Bishopdale has already begun to reap the benefits. Over the last year, the grocer has seen a significant reduction in the amount of food waste produced by its produce department. “The system does such a great job of keeping everything fresh,” Nigel Bond, owner of New World Bishopdale told SUPERMARKETNEWS.

The new system works by misting fruits and vegetables with water to keep them fresh. “Vegetables are up to 90 percent water and studies have shown that misted produce not only looks better and retains it color and texture, it also has a higher vitamin content,” Bond added. “We’ve also installed a reverse osmosis system that treats the water by removing 99 percent of all bacteria and chlorine, so we are confident that the water we’re misting with, remains pure.”

The move builds on the store’s existing efforts to respond to consumers’ growing awareness of environmental issues, such as its decision to stop using plastic bags by the end of 2018. New World is also exploring ways to work with its suppliers to eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging throughout the supply chain.

Beyond reducing the chain’s food waste and packaging footprint, the new system has also garnered considerable customer support. “In my 30 years in the supermarket industry, this simple change has resulted in the most positive feedback from customers that I have ever received,” Bond said.

Meanwhile, a new bill being proposed in California is putting single-use plastics on alert. The bill specifically targets plastic straws and would make it illegal for restaurants to provide them to customers unless specifically requested. Failure to comply with the new rule could potentially result in penalties such as a fine of up to $1,000 or even jail time.

While the bill is not an outright ban, government officials believe it has the potential to help shift consumer attitudes and spark conversation around single-use plastics. According to USA Today, straws were one of the most prominent pieces of trash collected during California’s Coastal Cleanup Day between 1989 and 2014.

“AB 1884 is not a ban on plastic straws,” said Ian Calderon, the Democratic assemblyman who proposed the bill. “It is a small step towards curbing our reliance on these convenience products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in consumer attitudes and usage.”

Calderon isn’t the first to attempt to address the issue — cities such as Davis, Calif. and San Luis Obispo, Calif. already have similar straw ordinances in effect.

Queen Elizabeth is also doing her bit to tackle the plastics problem — according to reports from The Independent and The Telegraph, single-use plastics such as straws and bottles will henceforth be banned from Buckingham Palace.

While The Prince of Wales has spoken frequently about the damaging effects of plastics on ocean health, the Queen’s piqued interest in plastics has largely been attributed to Sir David Attenborough, with whom she recently worked on a wildlife conservation documentary.

“Blue Planet’s reach now extends to the Royal households and shows how much momentum is building behind the war on plastic pollution,” Julian Kirby, campaigner for Friends of the Earth, told The Telegraph.

The new measures will be rolled out across Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, where only china glasses and plates, as well as recycled paper cups, will be permitted. Royal Collection cafes will also be required to use compostable or biodegradable packaging.

In addition to tackling plastic waste, plans have also been announced to dedicate £369 million to energy efficiency improvement projects at Buckingham Palace. Projects include the installation of solar panels and an anaerobic digestion system that will generate biogas from waste.

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This is the third in a series of articles examining how business leaders and companies can transform their corporate culture in order to succeed in the midst of the impending Purpose Revolution. Find links to the full series below.

Why do some companies’ best efforts to embed purpose fail while others don’t? In our forthcoming book The Purpose Revolution: How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good, we describe four reasons why some companies and leaders fail at purpose and offer proven practices to help you avoid these same pitfalls.

Purpose is Not a Strategy

Many leaders make the mistake of treating purpose as a business strategy to win talent and customers. At face value, this seems reasonable. But there is a catch with this approach — and it turns out to be a pretty significant one. The fact is, employees and customers can see straight through the focus on purpose when it is used solely for the sake of business.

Know too that, sooner or later, choices will need to be made between short and medium-term business interests and your higher purpose. Take the Volkswagen (VW) emissions scandal, for example. The decision to deceive regulators on emissions from diesel cars seemed good for business in the short term, by promoting and selling vehicles as “clean alternatives.” But what allowed that decision to be made? Was VW staffed by evil people who don’t care about the environment? Probably not. More likely than not, it was because VW’s focus on clean vehicles was driven by business interests rather than a belief in doing what’s right to make the world a better place.

The distinction between “doing what’s right” and the business case may feel like mere semantics, but we believe it makes all the difference. Your purpose must be authentic — not another short-term business strategy or gimmick to garner customer attention.

Making Money is Not a Purpose

This is not to say that a purpose-driven company should not be focused on making money. On the contrary, research shows that companies that activate purpose are even more profitable than those that don’t. The point is whether profit or purpose is the main driver.  

What leaders need to know is that most of the people who work for them probably don’t care how much money the company makes, how fast it grows or the increase in sales year over year. Employees do, however, care about being on a winning team, they want the company to make enough money to keep jobs secure, and want opportunities to contribute to making better products and services.

A strong driver of employee engagement is feeling pride in a job well done, of producing something that meets a real need. More than profit, employees need deeper satisfaction in line with their personal values and goals, and purpose-driven companies can help them achieve this.

Purpose is Stuck on the Wall

Years ago, we consulted a large company that had a grand purpose and values posted prominently on the wall of every office, framed behind a nice pane of glass. One day a middle manager casually said, “That is exactly where the values are in this company — on the wall and under the glass but never alive in the room.” Unfortunately, we see this situation all the time: companies failing because their purpose is stuck on the wall.

Many companies mistake idealistic statements for purpose. Such declarations are nice — and useful in many cases — but unless they are, as Walter Robb of Whole Foods told us, “a living document, alive in

the daily work and decisions,” they won’t activate purpose in your organization.

A principle to keep in mind is that the conversation about purpose is more important than the articulation. A well-articulated purpose is good, but what determines its effectiveness is how alive the conversation about that purpose is throughout the company.

Purpose is Not a Marketing Program

Another reason companies fail to activate purpose is because they treat it as a marketing program. Like viewing purpose as a means, if you don’t believe in it and support it, it won’t pass muster. Leaders at companies such as 3M and Ford, who are working hard to foster purpose-driven cultures, emphasized to us the importance of embedding purpose into every job, especially on the operational side of the business.

The reason is simple: if you want to truly activate purpose, it’s best for marketing to amplify a purpose that already exists rather than promote one as a strategy. If your marketing team professes a vision out of line with the company’s reality, cynicism will be bred among the ranks of employees, and customers will sniff out your ingenuousness, setting up a game-changing disconnect between the “marketing purpose” and the “lived purpose.”

Five Practices to Activate Purpose in Your Organization
  1. Shift the dialogue from profit to purpose.Dedicate time in meetings for purpose, create purpose metrics or add purpose targets to scorecards.
  2. Emphasize a long-term view to keep your purpose present in major decisions.
  3. Align your brand’s core competencies with your social platform by making a clear, authentic purpose statement.
  4. Every leader and team member should own purpose, sustainability, and social responsibility —not just the marketing team.
  5. Systematically take purpose “off the wall” and into the work — read the mission statement at meetings, tell purpose stories in onboarding, and vet every big decision with purpose in mind.
In Creating Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good, the series:
  1. Purpose Differentiates in an Age of Disruption
  2. Winning Over the Purpose-Focused Employee
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Confronted with an ever-growing demand for transparency and materiality, companies need to find an adequate format to publish both financial and pre-financial information to their stakeholders in an effective way. While traditional reporting reaches its limits, online integrated reporting features a number of key advantages that enable them to get the job done.

It is fair to say that 2017 was an important year for corporate reporting. A number of events established the disclosure of relevant ecological, social and governance (ESG) specific data as the “new normal”:

  • Around the world, companies started to strategically align themselves with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • In Europe, the EU Directive 2014/95/EU for “non-financial” reporting, aka “EU NFR Directive”, was transposed into national laws by EU Member States.
  • The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) and the EU’s High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) on Sustainable Finance both urged for more concise ESG reporting and metrics to enable investors a better-informed decision-making.
  • And so did institutional investors, stock exchanges, analysts, index and rating providers.

With these strong tailwinds, traditional corporate reporting is undergoing a transformation. In Europe, many of the approximately 6,000 companies that fall under the new EU NFR Directive will each publish a proper sustainability report in the course of 2018. More companies might even follow suit on a voluntary basis.

Caught up in a reporting jam

However, despite the significant amount of time, resources and costs spent on production, the number of stakeholders flicking through sustainability reports is rather low. Reports show that financial audiences are missing material and forward-looking information they need to assess a company’s performance and their ability to manage future risks. At the same time, the relative importance of annual reports and financial statements is on the decline, as investment professionals and financial analysts increasingly draw on third-party information providers such as Bloomberg Terminal or Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Stunned by a complex reporting landscape and the rising tide in ESG specific data, it becomes increasingly challenging for them to perform effective research and analysis. In an ideal world, they would have one central source to feed them with the input they need to make informed decisions. In the real world, they are confronted with a multitude of information sources different in name, type and content, like Annual Report, CSR Report, Financial Statement, Sustainability Report, Annual Review, Corporate Citizenship Report, or Integrated Report. Even more confusing, sustainability reports often refer to different reporting frameworks like CDP, GRI, SASB, IIRC, UNGP, ISO 26000, guidelines like the SDGs, concepts like the Science-Based Target initiative (SBTi), or a combination of any of these. And unlike financial reporting, a consolidation of the various extra-financial disclosure frameworks into one single standard is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future.

In view of all this complexity, how can a company report on its ability to create financial and societal value in an effective way? How can it reach its key stakeholders and satisfy their particular information needs? Producing separate reports for different audiences often makes it difficult for them to obtain a coherent picture of the business. Simply merging these reports in a single document is not a viable solution either — it would be too bulky and inconvenient to read.

Online integrated reporting to the rescue

Research from Message Group among Europe’s 800 largest companies shows that between 2015 and 2017 the number of businesses publishing financial and extra-financial information in one single integrated report increased by 34 percent, while the number of companies publishing separate sustainability and annual reports decreased by 30 percent. In the same time period, the number of annual reports communicated either partly or fully in HTML format has grown to 41 percent, while the animated interactive PDF format is on its way out. 

Against this backdrop, recent developments indicate a growing trend towards online integrated reporting. Unlike stand-alone annual or sustainability reports, online integrated reporting formats put an organization’s financial performance, business strategy and governance into the social, environmental and economic context within which it operates. A well-known example is the Integrated Reporting <IR> framework by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC). Primarily designed for investors, <IR> combines financial and extra-financial information in a single web-based report, focusing on strategy and value creation.

A more recent example for online integrated reporting is the Core & More concept developed by Accountancy Europe in 2015. A presentation model rather than a reporting framework, Core & More promotes the idea of online reporting to a wider audience. Instead of directing readers from a webpage to separate PDF reports and resources located in different online places, Core & More provides all the relevant information on a single multi-layered website.

Investors, employees, customers, regulators, and any other interested stakeholder can hence browse the information most relevant to them more easily. By scrolling up and down the “CORE” page in the top layer, they are presented with key information such as the CEO statement, key success indicators, and the company’s most material business drivers such as innovation, energy consumption, or workforce, for example. A structured summary at the top of the page directs them to a layer with “MORE” specific information about financial, environmental and social aspects. This is where investors can dig deeper into financial statements, stakeholder engagement, global market trends, or an investor relations section.

Putting the reader back center stage

Compared to traditional reporting methods, HTML offers a maximum of flexibility in terms of structure, format and style. It allows for hierarchical, faceted or hybrid navigation via menus, tabs, layers, links. It combines text with either static or interactive graphs and tables. It can also adapt and change between a more informative, narrative, or factual style, depending on the content, section, and the related audience. In doing so, online integrated reporting is able to strike a balance between financial and non-financial stakeholders. Moreover, it is flexible enough to integrate multiple reporting frameworks, accounting standards and concepts, such as the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) in combination with GRI, <IR>, the TCFD recommendations, or the SDGs. On top of all this flexibility, a digital reporting format is highly interactive and customizable, allowing the reader to create charts or compile selected content into personal PDF or printed reports.

Let’s take a look at the example of Munich Airport, a privately-owned company that published its first online integrated report in 2017. It enables stakeholders to compare the key performance figures from different years in an interactive diagram.

In one single view, readers can visualize the development of material parameters such as financial (e.g. EBITDA, EBIT, EAT), ecological (e.g. CO2 emissions total, from direct/indirect energy consumption, per passenger), and social (e.g. service quality, employees). Each section of the digital report displays a “Store the Page” tab on the sidebar, inviting readers to compose a custom PDF report with information most relevant to them. Another tab directs to the index list of the corresponding reporting framework, in this case, GRI.

Furthermore, there is a trend towards continuous reporting of non-audited information. Dutch government agency ProRail in the Netherlands, for example, displays a dashboard that shows the organization’s key performance indicators such punctuality of passenger and freight trains, the number of cancellations, high impact failures and collisions, or environmental offenses. The dashboard is automatically updated every 24 hours. Interactive charts and dynamic content spur the dialogue with stakeholders, keeping the corporate report relevant throughout the year.

To assure the validity of audited data, IT solutions giant SAP provides the option of downloading a formally assured report in PDF format. On top of that, all audited content in its online integrated report is clearly indicated and tagged by an “Audited” checkmark.

Some companies such as Dutch energy network operator Alliander go one step further by designing their online integrated report in a proper content management system. They then draw on this central online source to publish parts of the content to multiple media such as PC, smartphone or tablet, and for other types of publications such as KPIs, quarterly statements or annual reviews. This “online first” reporting approach leverages APIs to synchronize digital information with source files from databases or Excel to feed interactive diagrams, charts and tables. Web analytics enable the company to better understand their audience, their navigation behavior, preferences, and thus the ability to optimize the content and structure of its reporting over time.

By leveraging the same web content management platform, PDF templates and trained internal resources for consecutive annual reports, companies can reduce both the production costs and the risk of flaws. The ability to automate collaboration, data consolidation and publication processes in a secured central environment eventually make “online-first” a safe and efficient option for corporate reporting.

Machine-readable XBRL adding momentum

An additional driving force for online reporting is the mandatory filing of annual reports in machine-readable format. As from 2020, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) requires consolidated financial statements filed by EU listed companies according to the IFRS to be filed in eXtensible HyperText Markup Language (XHTML) and inline “EXtended Business Reporting Language”(XBRL). The new European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) would make it possible to automatically access, identify and extract both numbers and narrative information. Reports in XHTML format can be opened with any web browser, the inherent XBRL information will be accessible to the public. Investors can use it either directly or indirectly through data aggregators and services. Framework providers such as GRI and CDP have adopted the XBRL taxonomy already.

According to the ESMA, around 5,300 corporations are affected throughout Europe. As a consequence, broad adoption of HTML as a standard format for annual reporting seems to be inevitable. At the first stage, companies will only be required to map their core financial information such as the balance sheet, profit and loss statement, cash-flow and statement of changes in equity. While in the U.S. listed companies are mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to file all financial information in machine-readable format, public companies in India already need to provide certain ESG information in this manner. Once implemented in the EU, the IFRS might serve as a reference point for further regulatory initiatives to make corporate reporting more accessible, transparent and comparable.

Turning reporting into a powerful communications tool

In view of growing demand for ESG disclosure, the related surge in sustainability reporting, and a complex reporting landscape companies are challenged to find a disclosure format for both financial and extra-financial information that has a measurable value for their key stakeholders. The answer lies in form and function. By publishing material information on a discrete website, online integrated reporting is making the best use of digital capabilities. It allows for high flexibility in terms of content structure, format and style, effective navigation, the integration of infographics, video, interactive diagrams and animations, the synchronization with source databases, and the output to various media.

Used effectively, online integrated reporting makes corporate disclosure more accessible, coherent, dynamic, comparable, interactive, and thus more user-friendly and effective. To financial stakeholders, it might be appreciated as a source of authentic, relevant and reliable information, and hence become a welcome alternative to traditional annual reports. By showing them how a company creates value rather than just money, online integrated reporting helps tell the story about its corporate strategy. Synergies between corporate communications, investor relations and marketing communications leads to further alignment, greater consistency, and hence an increase in credibility and impact.

Online integrated reporting is leading to a new comprehensive and dynamic landscape, breaking away from the silos of separate financial and “non-financial” reports. These are getting transformed from distinct projects whose ownership was confined to financial and sustainability departments to a cross-functional project, from a statement of past performance to a strategic document, and from a compliance exercise to a smart and powerful communications tool. 

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In a bid to build trust into our systems and society, Unilever has announced a new commitment to cut investment in platforms that breed division in society — and is challenging the rest of the industry to do the same.

In his keynote speech at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, Calif., Keith Weed, Unilever’s CMO, demanded the industry work together to improve transparency and rebuild consumer trust in an era of fake news and toxic online content.

“Social media should build social responsibility,” Weed said. “It’s time to change the conversation.”

Weed called out the likes of Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon and other tech platforms for not doing enough to ensure the safety of brands and customers in their advertising practices. Failing to do so has prompted a dramatic shift in the public’s trust of the media — social media, in particular. Only 30 percent of people in the US now trust social media, while almost two-thirds (58 percent) trust traditional media.

“Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children… It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this,” he said.

Unilever is one of the world’s largest digital advertisers. In 2017 alone, the company spent $9.4 billion on marketing, over one-quarter of which was dedicated to digital advertising. This puts the company in a strategic position to drive industry-wide change — an opportunity it intends to seize.

For Unilever’s digital supply chain, this translates to delivering three key things: responsible platforms, responsible content and responsible infrastructure.

  • Responsible Platforms: Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect children, create division in society and promote anger or hate.
  • Responsible Content: Unilever will create responsible content, initially by tackling gender stereotypes in advertising through #Unstereotype and encouraging other industry leaders to do the same through the #Unstereotype Alliance.
  • Responsible Infrastructure: Unilever will only partner with organizations that are committed to creating better digital infrastructure, such as aligning around one measurement system and improving the consumer experience.

The new commitments build on Unilever’s existing efforts to build a sustainable supply chain. Weed acknowledged that while the company has worked diligently to integrate sustainability into its business, it cannot truly make its supply chains sustainable unless it addresses the issues rooted deeply in its digital supply chain.

“Just because one is physical and one is virtual, they are still absolutely part of our value chain. And we cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain…which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency,” Weed said.

Much in the same way they are increasingly expected to address the environmental impacts of their operations or products, businesses have an important role to play in resolving these trust issues that now threaten to ‘undermine the relationship between consumers and brands.’ And to do so would be in their best interest. Weed warns that if brands fail to act, they could face catastrophic “techlash.”

“So, we must ask ourselves — what do brands stand for in the 21st century? To remain relevant, and trusted by consumers, brands have to take the lead.”

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Building on the success of its “Good Odds” spots released during the Super Bowl, in which it highlighted the real-life story of Canadian Para-alpine skier Lauren Woolstencroft, auto giant Toyota has released a new ad campaign “Start Your Impossible” for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

“Start Your Impossible” shares Toyota’s evolution by highlighting real-life mobility stories of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, as well as everyday athletes, who demonstrate the values of humility, hard work and never giving up. The campaign marks Toyota’s long-term commitment to support the creation of a more inclusive and sustainable society in which everyone can challenge their impossible through stories of determination as well as through Toyota technologies.

The two creative pillars of the multi-platform global campaign include “inspiration,” which celebrates the human spirit, and product “evidence,” showcasing Toyota’s ideas for innovations that can help people move freely.

Magic | Toyota - YouTube

“Toyota believes that ‘mobility’ goes well beyond cars and that movement is a human right. This campaign, and our worldwide partnership with the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees, are a reflection of our commitment to providing freedom of movement for all,” said Ed Laukes, Group VP, Toyota Division Marketing, Toyota Motor North America. “’Start Your Impossible’ tells the stories of exceptional human strength and triumph.”

“’Start Your Impossible’ is a global corporate initiative that aims to inspire Toyota employees, partners and customers, and connect them with the company’s core beliefs,” added Noriaki Yamashita, General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support Division at Toyota.

And that includes tackling climate change by harnessing clean technologies.

Frozen | Toyota - YouTube

In its 60-second ad spot, “Frozen,” Toyota sheds light on the imminent impact that global warming could have on the beauty, hope and heroes of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. In addition to sparking further conversation around the issue, the ad spots underline Toyota’s commitment to creating a low-carbon future through the development of hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles.

“Start Your Impossible” was created in partnership with Saatchi & Saatchi and Dentsu. The company’s first-ever global marketing campaign was created in honor of Toyota’s shift to a mobility company and its eight-year worldwide partnership with the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees. The campaign will run in 27 countries throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

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Sustainable production standards for clothing continue to rise, with attention to sustainable materials and practices becoming a more integral part of the global apparel industry. In an effort to mitigate its impact on the environment, the sector has been taking important steps toward more sustainable product solutions.

But are we doing enough?

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the apparel industry has one of the largest carbon footprints globally, contributing to considerable air and water pollution and resource waste. Textile mills, the manufacturing facilities where fibers are woven into the final products that consumers see, generate 20 percent of the world’s water pollution alone.

It’s not just the final product that can be harmful to our ecosystem. The entire apparel supply chain, from fiber ingredient production until after it leaves consumers' hands, plays a role in the industry’s environmental impact — and the responsibility to think more sustainably across the supply chain falls on all of us.

The Supply Chain as a Process

From the textile spinners that create yarn, to the mills that weave it into fabric and dye it various colors, to the brands that design the final garments and package it for consumers, and finally, to the consumer that uses and disposes of it, each segment of the supply chain can empower itself to do more to make the entire apparel industry more sustainable.

Spinning & Dyeing: The nature of synthetic textiles produced by spinners and mills can result in microplastics pollution of our water supply from textile washing, which is harmful to both humans and marine life. Additionally, traditional methods in which fabrics are dyed lead to significant energy and water usage. To curtail this pollution and waste, the NRDC developed a Practical Guide for Responsible Sourcing to help spinners and mills follow water, fuel and energy saving best practices. The industry can also look to solutions from organizations addressing plastic and water pollution such as the Oceanic Society or Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Manufacturing: The performance and durability of a particular fabric and its end product play an important role in sustainability. If a product isn’t made to last, it will break down faster and need to be replaced sooner than a well-made, durable piece of clothing. Sustainable, high-performance materials, such as Sorona®, which is partially derived from naturally renewable resources and offers a variety of performance benefits, are available to help apparel manufacturers create more durable products made to last for many years. We ultimately need to keep garments in closets longer and out of landfills.

Sponsored by
DuPont.

Packaging:  Waste from packaging is a significant environmental concern across many industries, and companies such as RePack are challenging the textile industry to be more mindful of packaging by encouraging brands to partner with them. Through a partnership with RePack, brands can offer consumers a reusable package in which to receive their products, with an incentive to return the packaging. According to RePack, using their packaging can help companies reduce their carbon emissions by 80 percent. Some forward-thinking apparel brands have begun to proactively evaluate their packaging and its impact on the environment, identifying sustainable solutions to reduce waste internally or through third-party partnerships and programs.

Use & Disposal: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 85 percent of post-consumer textile waste ends up in landfill. Yet there are ways to thoughtfully manage unwanted or old clothing, and the onus is on the industry to lead these consumer education efforts. For garments that can still be worn, clothing swaps and consignment shops can extend a product’s life; for garments that can’t, textile recycling centers around the country will accept these items. Brands should look to companies such as Patagonia, Madewell and Royal Robbins that have established programs that offer consumers a way to recycle old garments purchased at their stores.

Joining Forces to Drive Change

Accountability falls on every member of the supply chain. The environmental realities call us to be more sustainable throughout an apparel product’s entire lifecycle. Beyond taking actionable steps individually, we can unite to take action together to ensure the industry is driving long-term sustainability.

Pursue sustainability certifications: Certifications in the apparel industry help companies ensure their products are meeting critical environmental standards, and there are multiple options to explore.  Just a few examples include:

    • The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the standard for organic fibers
    • OEKO-TEX® is a system for raw, semi-finished, and finished textile products at all processing levels
    • The Bluesign® system ensures that textile products meet very stringent consumer safety requirements
    • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a BioPreferred® Program that certifies bio-based products

Each of these environmental certification and accreditation programs align companies around set environmental standards, encouraging the improvement of their environmental footprint and providing consumers and partners with more visibility into their eco-efforts.

Collaborate to optimize sustainability: By combining forces, members of the supply chain can leverage each other’s strengths to do business more sustainably. For example, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) brings together manufacturers, brands and retailers to solve sustainability challenges across the supply chain. Among other programs, SAC’s Higg Index helps measure and score a company or product’s sustainability performance. Additionally, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute works to ensure circularity in supply chains through its Products Program.

Brands can also collaborate one-on-one to fuel eco-innovation and develop more sustainable apparel options for consumers. For example, DuPont™ Sorona® collaborated with Unifi REPREVE® — a high-quality fiber containing recycled materials — to create high-performance, renewably sourced garment insulation. By working together, the apparel supply chain can be inspired and learn from each other to drive meaningful change.

Sustainability for All

Doing business more sustainably requires commitment and action. However, by working together across the supply chain, we can knock down the barriers to integrate sustainability into the foundation of the apparel industry — ultimately producing accessible clothing that gives people the opportunity to make thoughtful and responsible apparel choices that contribute to a more eco-friendly industry.

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Growing consumer demand for apparel and consumer products made in socially and environmentally responsible ways continues to drive companies away from a business-as-usual model. But corporate behavior isn’t the only thing being influenced by shifting consumer attitudes — the concept of the ideal partner is also being shaped by sustainability.  

Forget Tinder — according to new survey findings from Timberland, individuals practicing eco-conscious behaviors could have a better chance of scoring a date than those who don’t. In its 2018 Eco-Love Survey, the outdoor lifestyle brand revealed that four-in-five Americans find it attractive when someone partakes in sustainable practices.

Timberland surveyed 1,000 men and women in the US to understand the importance of sustainability in finding love. The results speak for themselves — ‘green’ is the new red.

One-in-ten men and nearly as many women say that they’d like to meet someone at an activist event such as a protest or boycott, while three-fifths of people surveyed say they would want to meet someone while enjoying outdoor leisure activities. Volunteering events were also singled out by 42 percent of women and 31 percent of men as an ideal place to meet someone. One-in-ten participants even identified ride shares as a great place to meet their future partner.

The survey found that conserving water, tending a garden, turning off lights when not in use and considering the environmental impact of products are the top sustainable behaviors people find the most attractive. Survey participants said that volunteering for environmental causes, commuting in environmentally responsible ways and spending time outdoors also enhances a person’s attractiveness. Littering, climate change denial and not recycling were pinpointed as turn-offs.

While values-driven actions were largely the focus of the survey, Timberland also highlighted the shifting consumer preference for sustainably and responsibly made goods. According to the report, one-fifth would appreciate clothing made from recycled materials (20 percent) or lingerie made from organic cotton (19 percent) as a gift from their significant other.

“As Earthkeepers, good is at the heart of everything we do — whether that means making our products more responsibly, or making our communities stronger,” said Allison Crowley, Global Brand Manager for Timberland. “With the Eco-Love survey, we’ve found that doing good can also be a way to help make a love connection with someone who shares your values. When it comes to dating, it seems that sustainability is in style.”

Meanwhile, in response to the paradigm shift driving the findings of Timberland’s survey, 20 new brands have committed to eliminating the use of endangered forests in their textile supply chains by 2020. With these new additions, the CanopyStyle initiative has now surpassed 125 brand partners representing over $134 billion in annual revenue. All partner brands have committed to eliminating their use of ancient and endangered forests, as well as advance conservation solutions in landscapes such as Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem, Vancouver Island’s rainforests and Canada’s Boreal forest.

The latest cohort of fashion brands and retailers taking the lead on saving forests includes Canadian ethical clothing brand TAMGA Designs, zLabels (a subsidiary of Zalando that develops its in-house brands), leading Swedish clothing chain MQ Retail, high-tech mattress and home furniture producer Koala and Australia’s modern bohemian fashion brand Spell & The Gypsy Collective.

“The addition of 20 brands and designers from three continents is a clear signal of CanopyStyle’s continued and strengthening momentum around the world,” said Nicole Rycroft, Founder and Executive Director at Canopy. “The transformation of the viscose supply chain is going to be a game changer for our climate, for the lasting protection of forests and for the advancement of traditional communities’ rights.”

In recent months, Canopy and its brand, retail and design partners have catalyzed significant transformation of the viscose supply chain. Through work with producers and other industry stakeholders, 25 percent of the global viscose supply has now been verified at low risk of originating from ancient and endangered forests. An additional 35 percent of rayon supply is currently in the CanopyStyle Audit process and six next-generation solution enterprises are working with Canopy to bring their innovative technologies to market at scale.

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