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CSRwire Weekly News Alerts - New Sustainability Resources Offer 'View of the Forest' As Well As The Trees

Submitted by: CSRwire Weekly News Alert

Categories: Research, Reports & Publications, Sustainability

Posted: Feb 19, 2008 – 10:59 PM EST

 

A report calls for quantum leap in sustainability and surveys corporate responsibility developments, and CSRwire launches a new multimedia network showcasing CSR

Feb. 19 /CSRwire/ - For the past seven years, The Lifeworth Annual Review of Corporate Responsibility has fulfilled two key roles: surveying the past year's corporate responsibility (CR) developments and, perhaps more importantly, analyzing and contextualizing emerging trends in sustainable business. This year's report steps up last year's theme, which combined the notions of "tipping points" (popularized by Malcolm Gladwell) and "framing" (popularized by George Lakoff) to explain major paradigm shifts driving sustainability into the business mainstream.

The report covering 2007, appropriately entitled The Global Step Change, essentially (and importantly) asks, might these changes be too little, too late? Lifeworth, a boutique consultancy providing research and coaching on personal and systems change toward sustainability, tried to answer this question by polling the 4,000 corporate responsibility professionals who subscribe to its newsletter. The findings?

Business trajectories are definitely trending toward sustainability, according to the poll. And the report identifies (and applauds) a "wave of announcements of specific time-bound environmental targets, concerning actual performance, rather than management processes" happening in 2007. At current rates, however, companies will not reduce their social and environmental impacts in time to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals or avert a climate catastrophe, according to those polled - and judging by corporate targets.

Lifeworth Director and report author Jem Bendell uses this finding to issue a call for a "step change" (or quantum leap) in sustainable consumption by individuals and, more importantly, companies in order "to stop living as if we have another planet to go to." Companies consume a heck of a lot of resources, and furthermore they have more control over the systemic frameworks in which consumption takes place - for example, individuals can choose between vehicles, but companies control how energy efficient those vehicles are.

Lifeworth calls for both personal transformation and systems change, consistent with its mission. Bendell points out that, when it comes to reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, companies generally disclose direct emissions from their own operations (what the GHG Protocol calls "Scope 1" emissions), but typically do not disclose upstream (Scope 2, for example emissions from electricity production to power their operations) or downstream (Scope 3, or emissions from consumer use of their products) emissions.

Sticking with vehicles as our example, the lion's share of emissions associated with cars comes out the tailpipe when driven, not out the smokestack when produced. Stated differently, Scope 3 emissions have the greatest environmental impact, yet remain invisible in company disclosures. Taken a step further, reducing Scope 3 emissions requires personal transformations, since it covers consumer use of products - but it also requires systems changes, as consumers need less energy intensive products to use. Achieving substantive corporate sustainability will require companies to attend to (and disclose) not only their own direct (Scope 1) emissions, but also so-called indirect (Scope 3) emissions.

The bulk of the report covers the spectrum of sustainable business developments in 2007, from the debate over biofuels diverting food to fuel, to the environmental and social destruction of the rose industry in Kenya, to the integration of sustainability into business school curricula. While most corporate responsibility communications focus on the trees, examining specific CR developments, the report gives a view of the forest, placing events into their broader context. Few resources currently exist that fill this function.

Recognizing this gap, CSRwire.com has launched its own platform for surveying the broad landscape of CSR developments. The new Video, Commentary, and Research (VCR) web portal gathers multimedia resources from across the spectrum of the CSR community, spanning from corporate CSR communications to NGO and shareholder activist campaigns, and everything in between.

VCR consolidates this wide array of CSR-related information in one central location, replacing the need to surf across the entire web to gather data. The site slices and dices content in a number of different formats, from audio and video to news briefs to activists to public policy to research to blogs. It also organizes content by 23 different CSR categories, such as human rights, environment, green building, clean tech, diversity, and sustainability.

For example, the site currently contains a podcast of Vermont State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding discussing green investing, an EPA video on ENERGY STAR, an activist update on Sudan divestment shareholder resolutions filed at mainstream mutual funds such as Fidelity and Vanguard, and a report on corporate challenges to Fair Trade coffee. The site also hosts profiles of member companies that gather all the materials pertaining to that organization, including critical commentary.

'VCR' is interactive, allowing users to not only download information but also upload content, leveling the playing field and transforming audience into participant.

This article was written by CSRwire contributor Bill Baue.

To read the latest corporate social responsibility news from Coca-Cola, Center for Resource Solutions, IBM, Keep America Beautiful, Volvo, The Aspen Institute and other leading socially responsible organizations, visit http://www.csrwire.com/LastAlert.html.

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