Microsoft Moves from “Me” to “Us” in Recent Environmental Sustainability Report

CSR reports are, by their nature, focused inward. At their best, they describe a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges and accomplishments, which for many large global companies are substantial. But CTRL+F for “we” and you’ll realize quickly how repetitive this game can be. A laundry list of accomplishments can read as tone-deaf when compared to the crises happening outside the door. If the last year has taught us one thing, it’s that the big issues are interconnected. Global connectivity laid the groundwork for COVID-19 to spread rapidly and also contributes to the climate crisis. Longstanding systematic racism and racial violence fueled social unrest after George Floyd’s murder, but economic insecurity and cabin fever from the pandemic added fuel to the fire. Systemic change is the key to addressing climate change, and systems thinking is the only way to get us there.

That’s why I was so inspired to read the opening to Microsoft’s recent 2020 Environmental Sustainability ReportWhile the report, like all good CSR reports, covers progress on goals, the framing of Microsoft’s approach to the challenges is different from any other CSR report I’ve seen in recent years. The 2021 outlook from Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa opens with, “For Microsoft to do well, we need the world to do well.” Many companies share a similar recognition and sentiment. Microsoft explains its theory of social change, and how the IT giant will move the levers it has at its disposal to make this change possible. Continue reading “Microsoft Moves from “Me” to “Us” in Recent Environmental Sustainability Report”

Beyond the matrix — dual and dynamic materiality

Thank you for your service, materiality matrix

CSR and ESG professionals, prepare to get busy! With increased interest in ESG disclosures coming from the SEC and the EU, ESG reporting is primed to go mainstream. With this renewed interest comes a new focus on materiality because materiality is how we determine what information to report on and what to emphasize. Bid adieu to the matrix of yore. While beloved, it has served its purpose.

The old materiality matrix was static, a moment in time, and we used stakeholder input to inform it, which means, in most cases, it was relying on old information to garner new insights. COVID-19 is the perfect example of why the old ways of doing things are no longer sufficient: Continue reading “Beyond the matrix — dual and dynamic materiality”

Why I’m Breaking Up with Amazon

Sorry kitty, we’ll find you a new box.

 

Update: kudos to Amazon, they joined the Science Based Target initiative in June 2020. Hooray!

As a working mom, I’m awfully dependent on Amazon Prime. I actually would have been happy to consider Bezos my benevolent retail master, serving up hair gel, swim caps, last minute birthday gifts and light fixtures right to my door until the end of time. But, last week the board stonewalled 7,000+ employees who asked Amazon to do something simple: report publicly on their carbon emissions and set a plan to reduce them. It wasn’t actually a big ask and the response to it was disheartening. It’s a bridge too far for this social justice warrior. I’m out.

Amazon has stated that their sustainability program is customer-first with programs like frustration-free packaging, and clean energy for their data centers. These are both great programs, though their timelines and disclosures are not as stringent or complete as they could be. What’s made Amazon a real laggard on corporate sustainability is their lack of transparency. A good sustainability program by its very nature includes disclosures on everything from energy consumption to workplace injury rates. That’s for a few reasons: disclosures help outside stakeholders compare apples to apples between competitors, understand the true scope of the challenge a company faces, determine materiality or the core issues that are of utmost importance for a company to address, and drive improvements. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Most of all, carbon emissions, which directly influence climate change, THE defining issue of our time. Continue reading “Why I’m Breaking Up with Amazon”

Why Businesses Should Embrace the Collective Model

I love a good collective. Is it like cheese, where there isn’t a bad one? If you’ve spent time in Berkeley, California, you might have eaten delicious pizza from the Cheese Board Collective, an employee-owned cheese, bakery and pizza shop. They serve only one specialty pie every day – its vegetarian and piled with weird cheeses and veggies, and there’s a line out the door and around the block every single day. The collective has been in business since 1971. The workers are the owners and they make decisions collectively about the direction of the business.

“I love saying to people that this seems like an impossible business model, but it works, and it works very well.”
– Charlie (Longtime Cheese Board member)

Continue reading “Why Businesses Should Embrace the Collective Model”

How Good Communication Can Grow Your Business

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The government is shut down, markets are faltering, there’s a coal baron up for head of the EPA. Things are rough. I think we’re in for a serious global political reckoning — a resource distribution of millennial proportions. To quote Lin Manuel Miranda writing for King George in Hamilton, “oceans rise, empires fall.” It’ll happen, and maybe it’s not a bad thing if you look at a big enough time horizon. The next decade or two might be rough though. 

And yet. I’ve got two young girls to raise. Continue reading “How Good Communication Can Grow Your Business”