By now, you've probably noticed that IDC does surveys in a big way. All that survey work means that I pay close attention to surveys produced by other companies. I read through the results with a healthy dose of skepticism, but recently I've found two very interesting ones related to sustainability - one from Ceres and another from Brighter Planet.
Ceres Survey: Asset Managers' Practices Related to Sustainability
The first is a Ceres survey released in January - Investors Analyze Climate Risks and Opportunities: A Survey of Asset Managers' Practices. At this point only a handful of asset manager are including climate change risks and opportunities in their investment analysis, with 44% of respondents indicating climate change is not material to their investment decisions. I'd like to give a copy of our financial analysis to those respondents - Seeing the Business Benefits of Sustainability - Revenue, Profit, and Inventory Management (MI219564). In our report, we demonstrated the stronger financial performance of manufacturers in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index relative to their peers. Maybe those asset managers want to rethink their position that climate change is not material to their investments.
If our report results aren't enough motivation, they need to consider a late January announcement from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC issued new interpretive guidance that clarifies what publicly-traded companies need to disclose to investors in terms of climate-related 'material' effects on business operations, whether from new emissions management policies, the physical impacts of changing weather, or business opportunities associated with the growing clean energy economy. It sounds fairly obvious to me that sustainability AND financial reporting is changing, and asset managers are going to change their tune. In turn, manufacturers definitely need better IT based tools for sustainability performance management and analytics.
Brighter Planet Survey: Employee Engagement Related to Sustainability
The second survey is an Employee Engagement survey announced earlier in February from Brighter Planet, a US-based company that provides "climate change solutions" that include a personal footprint calculator and credit cards and offsets that fund renewable energy projects, with Ceres president Mindy Lubber as a member of its advisory board.
The Brighter Planet survey was conducted in November 2009 and produced more than a thousand US responses, of which only 3% are in manufacturing and 5% are in IT/Internet, but I think the results are generally applicable across industries. 91% of the respondents classify themselves as reasonably engaged in sustainability in their daily lives, meaning they are willing to make some sacrifices for sustainability. There's a sense of humor to the report - the responses of those that have low "environmental inclinations" are labeled as "sustainability is for sissy tree huggers". It's a quick read, and I'd recommend taking a look if just to read some of the verbatim comments.
The two facts I found most interesting are :
- The most effective engagement programs feature an organizations' management or board as the main advocate for employee sustainability. These are three times as effective as those in which an employee sustainability director was the main advocate.
- Employees are generally dissatisfied with their employers' sustainability engagement efforts. Over 60% of respondents want to learn more about their employers' sustainability efforts, and 67% would like their employees to change their stance on sustainability.
I found the survey particularly interesting because Brighter Planet's results match what we've identified in our manufacturing sustainability case studies - that sustainability leaders understand the organizational implications of sustainability.
Sustainability Organizational Leadership Examples
In our research, organizational leadership examples include:
- Presenting clear executive sponsorship for sustainability
- Creating a cross-functional sustainability team so sustainability isn't the job of just one department or one person, such as a sustainability director
- Recognizing the value of sustainability in employee recruitment and retention
- Soliciting and accepting sustainability ideas and feedback at all levels in the organization.
The Connection Back to IT for Sustainability
I'm an IT analyst, not an HR director (any Star Trek fans out there?), so let me bring this back to IT. One of the best and simplest example of IT for Green in practice is in Medtronic's use of an "idea capture" workflow supported by Adobe, in the style of a high-tech suggestion box that doesn't require paper or any hands-on administration. Employees can submit their ideas for saving money or becoming more green, and the ideas are automatically routed via built-in workflows to the appropriate senior managers where they are evaluated and potentially put into effect by a designated team.
I can also envision all sorts of social media applications for sharing company information, promoting green projects, and knowledge collaboration and communication. In fact, I think that's the key - knowledge collaboration and communication, and IT can be a great enabler in this sustainability scenario as well as in sustainability performance management. Let me know how your company gets you engaged in sustainability.