New Years Sustainability List
My spiritual compass is Ayurveda, a 5000 year old tradition similar to but pre dating Buddhism. It provides a life living philosophy that is simple to understand but a challenging to practice fully. Among the things it teaches is to conceive of an intention – what we really want in life — and then hold our attention fast to that intention as we pursue it.
Do this with compassion, selfishness and great purpose and all sorts of positive things start to happen but mostly you will start to attract the things and people you need to reach your goal. You may never reach your objective, but if you take a journey in this fashion, it is guaranteed, you will never be unhappy with the results of whatever you land and you will be happier and “richer” for the travel.
It is in this spirit I offer my intentions personal and professional intentions for the New Year (and beyond). And consistent with my company’s focus on measuring sustainability performance, I provide a measure for each of these goals!
Sustainability in Our Home
1. Cut Waste, Labels and Eat Local
I have nothing against sellers of processed food. But let’s face it, the verdict is out: compared to local and fresh food, processed food is bad for our health and it is terrible for the environment. My intention is to eat less processed food.
Measure: Less packaging and fewer labels on the food my family buys.
2. “Orgullosamente Mexicano”
The “buy local” movement is not without its detractors who make many salient points about the positive aspects of globalization (I say this while typing on a computer with component parts from all over Asia). But we do need to recognize the more local the better: better for the environment and for helping out our neighbors. Some benefits are clear – contribution to tax base, local employment, reduced environmental costs etc. But I want to be honest: its just nicer buying things from my people I know.
Measure: If I have to have stickers, the more with “hecho en Mexico” the better.
“For” local benefits – http://www.psfk.com/2009/08/infographic-why-buy-local-ten-reasons-to-shop-local-first.html
“Myths” of local benefits — http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/126/neighborhoodlums.html
3. Less Stuff More Services
I was in Blockbuster the other day and I had to ask my wife what a Blue Ray was. Her answer “it´s another type of DVD player”. Another type? What is wrong with the DVD player we have? Seems like we just rent things no a days as manufacturers come up with things that are marginally better to look at, play with or drive in than the things we already own. It took 40 years to get rid of black and white TVs, then another 30 for boxy color TVs, 10 for fairly flat ones, 3 for really flat ones and we have to have 3D. I-phones last about a year; fashion 3 months… Who can keep up all this (and why) and what is the cost personally and to the environment?
While I can’t find many “factoids” about how living simply is better I will go out on a ledge on this one: life is better with fewer “things.” Oh! You might say, if we buy less stuff our economies will fail to grow and we will loose our jobs. Not true, we can buy things but buy more services (i.e., less stuff).
Some questions: what is the comparative happiness factor of 20 massages versus a yet another suit? Is a family better off with a flat screen TVs in three separate rooms? How much greater is the pleasure of a third car over that of a work of art from a locally renowned artist? Which is better, spending time with a group of friends over coffee or buying the latest shoes that will look ridiculous next year?
Measure: Sample two or three months of personal services versus consumer durable consumption through the year to chart trend.
4. This Car Offsets
All of us can offset the carbon produced for our air and train travel relatively easily. But how many of us offset their car’s emissions (private cars contribute to over 5% of total carbon emissions in the US figure)? I will offset my car emissions this year, it will cost around $500, a lot I know, but I d rather have a clean environment for my kids and their kids.
You can measure your car’s carbon emissions using http://www.jpmorganclimatecare.com/ (my company has offset over 400 tons of carbon using this site!)
Measure: Tons of carbon produced by my car and dollars paid to offset
5. Meditate and Pray (or both!)
In other columns I have argued that the values we hold dear as individuals we do not always employ as consumers, employees or investors. Life is fast and the demands and the distractions of modern life cause us to do many things we would not intentionally if we had taken but a moment or two to reflect upon what was really important and how we want to live our lives.
I believe that through prayer and meditation or both, we can make better decisions for the planet and for ourselves. Taking just a few moments every day to reflect upon what is important helps to keep things in perspective and to separate the insignificant and irritating from the meaningful and important.
Measure: 15 minutes a day for meditation or prayer.
For my inspiration on meditation and prayer see Chopra Center at http://www.chopra.com
In My Work
1. Core Process, Products and Competencies
I recently sat through a presentation by an executive from Pfizer. It was in a word, outstanding. Instead of a CSR program centered on donations, Pfizer chose to apply business principles to CSR by creating a business unit to help solve health challenges in Africa and other developing areas of the world. The unit was to use core process and product competencies to address health challenges in a sustainable manner: good for those suffering from health problems and good for Pfizer.
It is time for all good companies to go far beyond donations. They band-aid and do not address root causes of the ills affecting our societies and ecologies. If sustainability is to be achieved, companies need to reduce their negative ecological and social impacts while finding away to profitably provide the product and service that meet our needs as a society.
Measure: More CSR budget of clients devoted to integrating CSR into core processes and products.
2. Agrocolonialsm or Smart Development Investments? Agriculture the Next Conflict Zone?
As with most of my colleagues, I have many different professional and personal interests. If you follow my columns you will know I am passionate about food, agriculture and rural development. A looming crisis preoccupying my thoughts these days relates to rich country investments in agricultural lands in developing countries – some 10 million acres that’s equal to all of California’s cropland in 2010 alone.
The basis for my concern is resource conflict. If you pay attention to resource conflicts you know that various regions of the world have been and are beset by resource conflicts. The most famous is Sierra Leone and blood diamonds. Other more current examples include conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and oil in Sudan and Nigeria.
I don’t know about you but the genocide, mass rape and murder, use of children soldiers and uncontrolled environmental destruction so common in these conflicts is unacceptable, and as consumer and investor I want to avoid abetting these conflicts. Daily these conflicts inflict horrors most of us can not even imagine.
In my mind these conflicts are harbingers of things to come if investments in agricultural lands do not benefit both investors and the families and communities living on and from the land (in many cases for countless generations). More concretely, I refer to investments being made by US, Canadian, Chinese, Libyan, and Saudi investors who are securing long-term agricultural leases for some of the best land in developing countries like Mali, Uganda, Kenya and Sudan.
Long-term leases and outright ownership are central to critical agricultural infrastructure investments in developing countries but maximizing investment value to all involved is a tricky calculus. On one side of the equation is the need to feed a growing world population this will require improved and sustainable productivity and that requires investments, lots of it. To attract capital and know how will require security of investments, interesting potential returns, and transparent property rights. On the other side, there must be local food security and investment deals that maximize benefits to all stakeholders involved. There has already been and there is potential for much more physical dispossession (violent or otherwise), cultural dislocation, uncontrolled urban migration, food scarcity and corruption.
I am not privy to the deals currently being made, but I will go out on another limb by saying, many them, some of the largest of which are being transacted in Africa, the financial benefits to local famers and communities are small to nil. As the World Bank reported, most deals in Africa are negotiated by government in capitals far from the lands actually leased or sold and are – to say the least — far from transparent or public…. Would murky 50 year land deals to foreign companies for millions of acres made by leaders in Australia, Canada, the UK or the United States be tolerated?
Probably not but as a citizen of the world, I see don’t know reason why food security as term applies only to national interests alone (as it typical does) but at the same time the interests and rights of famers and their communities must appropriately considered in the bargain. Balancing the equation will not be simple as recent World Bank research reports.
Measure: Two columns and one research paper on the issue
3. Proselytizing Measuring to Maximize CSR Value
Unless the CFO can put her arm around you and say “Wow this CSR project has great IRR projections” I beg of you don’t propose it. Not having a rigorously defined and attractive return potential will only reinforce the notion that CSR or sustainability “takes” and doesn’t give. Every sustainability project has return potential even if measuring it can be difficult. And more importantly, sustainability projects are often the gift that keeps on giving, for as I have noted in other columns, there is no limit to human generosity, kindness and happiness key definitional elements of sustainability. Like any business concept, to tap these elements, to manage them and maximize them you must measure.
Shame on your company if it is not already measuring the easy things to measure: energy, water, carbon, and resource input use. But as important as these are, they are only elements of sustainability and capture but a small fraction the value CSR and sustainability can bring to your company. If you want to maximize this value you need to undertake a CSR brand valuation measuring the contribution of CSR to earnings and or corporate share value.
Through our valuation methodology we estimate Coca Cola has an estimated CSR value of $600 million, FEMSA in Mexico around $50 million, and the East African Brewing Company about $10 million, figures any manager, CFO down, should be interested in managing to maximize. More than just a coming up with a monetary value, however, the process of valuing CSR Brand Value contribution helps uncover incredible insights on what your company does well, not so well or not at all, and how fairly simple projects and relatively modest CSR investments can exponentially increase returns.
Measure: Help ten companies measure their CSR Brand Value
Love to Hear From You….
These are some of my intentions for the New Year and beyond. Please write if you want to connect on any of these themes or any of your own intentions. Together, let´s make 2011 a more prosperous and sustainable year.
Para más información sobre cómo calcular el Valor RSE de la Marca:
ES Global Consulting
Marc de Sousa-Shields
Marc encabeza el área de Responsabilidad Social Corporativa de ES Global. Sus responsabilidades principales se centran en la asesoría de estrategia de RSE a nivel corporativo, las evaluaciones de inversión en RSE, y las mejores prácticas de capacitación en RSE para empresas en los países en desarrollo. También ha trabajado extensamente en el campo del desarrollo económico local especializándose en la pequeña y microempresa, incluyendo micro-finanzas en las zonas rurales y urbanas de los países en desarrollo.
Algunos de los clientes de Marc en consultoría y capacitación incluyen el Banco Mundial, la Corporación Financiera Internacional, BAC Credomatic, Statoil, la Fundación Ford, Grupo Modelo, Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, y varias prestigiosas instituciones de investigación y universidades. Para obtener más información, visita www.esglobal.com