Posts Tagged ‘ Sustainability ’

One Year On: Canada’s Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor

Earlier this week, Canada’s Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor tabled its first annual report in Parliament.  The establishment of the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor is one of four pillars of Canada’s 2009 CSR strategy for the Canadian international extractive sector, Building the Canadian Advantage.  (The other three pillars are (1) support for resource management and governance capacity building in host countries, (2) promotion of internationally recognized performance and reporting guidelines and standards, and (3) support for the development of a Centre of Excellence for CSR.)

The Office is housed within the federal government and reports to the federal Minister of International Trade.  The Office may make recommendations, but has no policy-making role or authority.  This is fairly consistent with the Canadian government’s emphasis on voluntary approaches to promote improved corporate responsibility performance by Canadian companies operating abroad.

The report summarizes the activities of the Office over its first year of operation, which included various administrative tasks in establishing the office, informal and formal consultation with stakeholders within and outside of Canada, and development of the process by which the Office will undertake reviews of CSR practices of Canadian companies operating outside of Canada.  The report also provides, for context, a short history of the dialogue around CSR as it pertains to the Canadian extractive sector.

The most surprising omission is the lack of any description of the range of sustainability and corporate responsibility issues that most commonly arise in relation to extractive sector operations in developing countries.  I can understand why the Office would avoid making any specific reference to past or current allegations levelled against Canadian companies operating abroad.  However,  the light treatment of environmental and social issues seems out of balance with the description of the economic impact of the sector, the Canadian extractive sector’s leadership in CSR and sustainability initiatives, and the relative influence of Canada’s resource sectors.

Otherwise, the report is a useful read for those engaged in corporate responsibility and sustainability advocacy in the extractive sector in Canada and internationally, if only to better understand where the Office came from and where it’s going in the coming months.

The Optimistic Responsibility Advocate

As you might surmise from the time that has elapsed since my last post, I’ve been busy! Before another month goes by, however, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about some of the projects and initiatives I’m working on that have taken up so much of my time lately, and share some observations I’ve made along the way.

Sustainable Building

Courtesy of CMLC

In 2007, the City of Calgary established the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation to oversee the community revitalization of the Rivers District in the City Centre.  East Village, the birthplace of Calgary, had, over the years, become neglected and characterized by crime, social issues, and infrastructure problems.   CMLC has developed a new Master Plan for the area, which envisions a prosperous, mixed-use, sustainable community in Calgary’s downtown core.  Since last year, I’ve been working with CMLC to develop a sustainability strategy that will help translate that vision into reality on the ground.   Read on – it’s worth it!

Tailoring a Bespoke CR Strategy: Why You Should Engage Employees

If you had a chance to take part in or review the #CSRchat on Twitter this week, you will have gleaned some key points about employee engagement in the context of corporate responsibility:  what it means; some examples of who’s doing it well; what might be required to undertake employee engagement; how it might be measured; who might be involved.  But, surprisingly, not too much was said about the benefits of undertaking employee engagement – perhaps there just wasn’t enough time!

Some of the benefits that I heard from other participants included “a heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job/organization” (@TCBCCS), “sparks positive feedback” (@gchesman), and “ideas from many sources, action from many sources, creativity and interest in the company beyond the job duties” (@EXAIR_KE).

I thought I would use this post to describe some of the benefits that I have found after conducting the kind of employee engagement I described in my post last week [Advice for the Shoestring Practitioner: Sustainability Mapping, January 31, 2011], in the context of developing corporate responsibility (CR) strategies. Read on!

Advice for the Shoestring Practitioner: Sustainability Mapping

Are you a Shoestring Practitioner?  A Shoestring Practitioner is someone with a passion for doing good, for doing the right thing, for doing things better, but who is working on a shoestring:  constrained in his or her efforts by a lack of resources, such as staff, time, money, or organizational support.  This post is intended for the Shoestring Practitioner, especially one who is at or near the beginning of a sustainability journey in their organization, but may also be helpful to others trying to advance a corporate responsibility (CR) strategy.  I prepared this post in response to questions received through my network about how to engage employees in CR planning.

In an earlier post [Should sustainability have a seat in the C-suite? December 1, 2010], I talked about the need to develop a fulsome understanding of the sustainability landscape in order to guide decisions about corporate responsibility (CR) strategy.  A comprehensive and well-founded CR strategy will be informed by current and future business drivers pertinent to sustainability, including evolving regulatory frameworks, changing stakeholder expectations (including, but by no means limited to customers), emerging standards and best practice, pressing risks and opportunities, and the organization’s own capacities and competitive positioning.  It must also consider, especially in a complex, diverse organization, the range of perspectives and opinions, the differences in awareness and understanding about CR and sustainability issues that may exist among the employees who will eventually be responsible for implementing a CR strategy, as well as among other key stakeholder groups.

A key component of sustainability mapping is stakeholder engagement, particularly internal employee engagement.  Employees can provide unique insight into current and emerging challenges and opportunities, shed light on existing organizational strengths and weaknesses, and highlight areas where CR and sustainability programming could advance strategic business goals.  Moreover, early employee engagement around CR and sustainability issues increases the relevance of strategies developed in response to their input and the likelihood of later buy-in and support.

While sustainability mapping can be a significant undertaking, especially in a large organization, employee engagement is something the Shoestring Practitioner often can tackle on their own, with limited resources.  Click here to learn how…

Embedding Sustainability in Organizational Culture

The Network for Business Sustainability will soon release its new research report, Embedding Sustainability in Organizational Culture: A How-To Guide for Executives.

NBS gave me a sneak preview of the Executive Summary of the report, and invited me to review it.

Overview of the Report

From a comprehensive review of academic research on sustainability and organizational culture (as well as studies dealing with other types of organizational culture change, such as safety and innovation), NBS’ research team identified a broad portfolio of practices for embedding sustainability.  Some of these practices have been shown, through research, to be effective, while others show potential but remain untested – at least, in an academic sense.

The researchers then grouped the practices into four different themes: fostering commitment; clarifying expectations; building momentum for change; and instilling capacity for change. These four themes together comprise the four quadrants of a new framework designed to help executives, senior HR managers, and senior sustainability managers to embed sustainability into their organizations:

Network for Business Sustainability's Portfolio Framework for Embedding Sustainability

Click here to read the full review

Should sustainability have a seat in the C-Suite?

Some of you may recall the case study published on-line by the Harvard Business Review back in October, which posed the question of whether or not fictional company Narinex should hire a Chief Sustainability Officer.  The full Case Study is now available in the December 2010 edition of HBR (subscription required; text pages 133-137) (or try this version at Scribd, e-pages 135-139).

If you’re not familiar with the HBR Case Study feature, it generally involves a fictional scenario depicting some current business challenge and features the advice of two business leaders with subject-matter experience.  A few readers’ comments, distilled from the on-line commentary compiled previously, are included to illustrate additional perspectives.

Well, golly; the editors at HBR thought my comment “offers a valuable perspective,” and included an edited version of it in the December issue (text page 137 or Scribd e-page 139).

A few of my contacts have asked to see my comments, so I reproduce my full comments below (with the HBR-selected paragraph highlighted).  My comments will make more sense if you read the Case Study first!  Thanks for your interest!

Read my full comments on the HBR Case Study here…

Investor Relations: where capital meets corporate accountability

For some 250 years, responsible investing has been a key means of aligning our influence with our values.  The Investor Relations function is squarely at the nexus between the strategies and performance of the company and the primary leverage point for stakeholder expression of sustainability goals.  What does this mean for the Investor Relations professional?

Perhaps the very earliest occurrence of socially responsible investing took place in 1758 when the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, issued the first of a series of denunciations of the slave trade, advising its members to “avoid being any way concerned, in reaping the unrighteous Profits arising from that iniquitous Practice of dealing in Negroes and other Slaves” and “endeavour to keep their Hands clear of this unrighteous Gain of Oppression.”

John Wesley, founder of Methodism

Around the same time (between 1744 and 1760), John Wesley, an English preacher and founder of the Methodist Church, delivered his sermon entitled The Use of Money.  You may have heard the saying, “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  That is John Wesley, paraphrased.  What it doesn’t capture, however, are the boundaries he drew around the first of his three rules: “gain all you can.”  Wesley advised his followers to gain but without hurt to body, mind, or soul, of either ourselves or our neighbours.  He spoke of unhealthy work environments, cheating, lying, anti-competitive behaviour, the sale of anything that may impair health, and what he called “sinful trade”.  He advocated honest industry, diligence, continuous improvement, and best practice.  Religious institutions have been at the forefront of socially responsible investing, or SRI, ever since.

In the last five decades, we have seen a steady rise in interest in SRI.  [For a brief history of SRI, see these entries on Wikipedia and About.com.]  We know environmental, social, and governance (or ESG) issues are not new to investors.  So what has changed? Read on!

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