Can Corporate Sustainability & Economic Growth Coexist?
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Announce specific commitments to scale-up energy efficiency, better working conditions worldwide, green investing
Submitted by: Ceres
Posted: May 11, 2011 – 03:12 PM EST
OAKLAND, Calif., May 11 /CSRwire/ - Sustainable business practices got a powerful, public boost today when a group of globally prominent investors, Fortune 500 companies and organized labor announced a series of coordinated commitments to combat climate change and other societal challenges while building a safer, more sustainable global economy.
Commitments announced at the 2011 Ceres Conference here range from the nation's largest public pension fund launching plans to integrate social and environmental factors into all investment decision-making, to an iconic apparel company announcing a paradigm shift in treatment of workers in global contract factories, to a software giant unveiling new and enhanced energy management solutions with the potential for influencing one-sixth of the planet's collective manmade greenhouse gas emissions.
"We face enormous global challenges that require bold solutions to build a new, sustainable 21st Century economy," said Ceres president Mindy Lubber, whose group helped coordinate the commitments announced today at the Oakland Marriott City Center.
"We cannot take global economic prosperity for granted," added Anne Stausboll, Ceres board co-chair and CEO of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the nation's largest public pension fund with $236 billion in assets. "The sustainability of our natural resources is essential for the long-term health of our financial markets and the retirement security of our pension fund’s 1.6 million members."
Participants in the Investor-Business Roundtable for a Sustainable Economy include Levi Strauss & Co., SAP, Jones Lang LaSalle, AFL-CIO, the nation's two largest pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, Generation Asset Management and the Skoll Foundation. The group's collective statement is available at www.ceres.org/roundtable.
In addition to the individual commitments, CalPERS and CalSTRS will be joining two-dozen other investors in sending letters next week to all of the Russell 1000 companies requesting that their management teams and boards address sustainability issues across their organizations - from the boardroom, to their operations, across their supply chains. The letters will also encourage companies to use the Ceres 21st Century Roadmap for Sustainability, as a framework for integrating sustainability into their business strategies.
Among the individual commitments by Roundtable participants:
"It is vitally important for our investment managers and partners to identify and address ESG risks in order to help build a strong and sustainable global economy," said CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes.
"Levi Strauss & Co. is proud to heed Ceres' call for action with a new commitment in our supply chain," said company president and CEO John Anderson, speaking at the conference today. "On the 20th anniversary of our Terms of Engagement, we're proposing a new standard for supplier factors because we believe that it will produce positive results for workers and for companies."
"SAP's purpose is to help make the world run better through IT innovation," said Peter Graf, chief sustainability officer at SAP AG. "We see sustainability as a transformational force - similar to globalization or the arrival of the Internet - that will rely on IT as a catalyst. In this context, the Investor-Business Roundtable for a Sustainable Economy is essential in encouraging collaboration between businesses and investors to identify and eliminate the boundaries that keep us from building a sustainable economy."
"The recent Empire State Building retrofit shows the vast potential for upgrading our nation's building infrastructure with more efficient technologies, leading to good jobs and significant cost savings," said Damon Silvers, policy director at the AFL-CIO. "Institutional investors can both lead and benefit from unleashing this enormous opportunity that will benefit all parts of the U.S. economy."
"More and more companies recognize that a well-run program to minimize their environmental impact produces financial benefits that outweigh the costs," said Dan Probst, chairman of energy and sustainability services at Jones Lang LaSalle. "We see it in our own operations and in our work on behalf of corporations and investors: a strong energy and sustainability program is good for the bottom line as well as for the environment."
The Roundtable is an outgrowth of a process that began last December, when Ceres brought together business, investor and labor leaders at CalPERS headquarters in Sacramento to discuss the urgency of global sustainability challenges and what they could do collectively to address them.
"The Roundtable is an acknowledgment that we need deeper collaboration between investors, companies, labor and other economic players to accelerate large-scale environmental and social solutions," Lubber said.
Lubber emphasized that today's commitments are only a beginning and that additional companies and investors will be participating in the Roundtable at future meetings.
"The world can no longer afford business as usual," said the group's collective statement, citing specific challenges such as climate change, increasing competition for resources and population pressures. "We, as business, investor and labor leaders, must lead the way in spurring transformative change. We recognize that incremental progress in addressing these global challenges is not enough."
Ceres is the leading coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest organizations working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as climate change and water scarcity. Ceres also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of nearly 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling nearly $10 trillion. To learn more about Ceres, please visit www.ceres.org.
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