CSRHub Blog Research on ESG metrics and comments on sustainability best practice

Hilton: Sustainability Measurement is Part of the Brand

[fa icon="calendar'] Jul 16, 2012 6:23:13 AM / by CSRHub Blogging

By Farron Levy

Hilton owns fewer than 50 of the 3,800 hotels that fly the Hilton flag, but the chain’s brand standards Hiltongovern what the independent owners can do.  While every big hotel chain has a sustainability program, reports Marc Gunther, Hilton was the first major hospitality company to require sustainability measurement as a brand standard

And how they’ve activated this commitment is a strong example of how simple tracking and benchmarking can be a powerful driver for continuous improvement.  Reports Marc:

Just for fun, I asked Chris to give me a peek at the monthly footprint of a single hotel. He picked the San Francisco Hilton (above), which has an exemplary record. Among other things, we learned that carbon emissions per square foot of the hotel were 8 lbs per month, water usage was 148 gallons per room per month and waste was 5 lbs. per room per month. Those numbers don’t mean much, without context, but what was interesting to me was that they were all far, far below system-wide averages–indicating that there’s plenty of room for improvement elsewhere. 

 

Hilton’s tracking efforts have identified their San Francisco property as a top performer, and that same system also identifies those properties that don’t perform as well.  Hilton now has a powerful lever for change: it knows what works, so it can do more of it; and what doesn’t, so it can intervene and improve.

This same principle can be applied to anything – even (and perhaps especially) to other corporate citizenship activities that often lack performance measures (think grantmaking, volunteerism, and other community investment initiatives).  Which investments resulted in new skill development for employees, generated the most meaningful social impacts, or generated the most recruiting or sales leads Simple things to track; powerful insights revealed.

Maybe it should be part of your brand too.


Farron Levy is a guest blogger for CSRHub. Farron, president and founder of True Impact, specializes in triple-bottom-line assessments, having helped a broad range of companies and their nonprofit partners evaluate the impacts of their social and environmental investments.

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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Uncategorized, sustainability program, Triple Bottom Line, environmental investment, hilton, social investment

Shared Value: CSR Re-branded?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 17, 2011 10:31:41 PM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By Carol Pierson Holding

 

Harvard Business Review’s cover story this month, “Creating Shared Value,” should be a celebration of how far CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has taken us. Just look at how much closer we are to accepting CSR as a core competitive strategy. As fans of authors Michael Porter and Mark Kramer know, these two have been proponents of CSR for years, pushing the field forward with new ideas like “Strategic Philanthropy” and now, “Shared Value.” Most impressive about their latest article is its place on the cover of this conservative business journal.

 

Two years after Harvard Business School ran an alumni conference on the future of capitalism (which eerily coincided with Lehman’s collapse and market’s 900+ point drop), that institution’s journal leads with this article, subtitled “How to reinvent capitalism — and unleash a wave of innovation and growth.” Finally, the argument about whether CSR is key to our future or just window dressing seems to be put to rest.

 

I applaud the authors. But why, aside from promoting their consulting business, would they insist that CSR is discredited and should be replaced by Shared Value? They misstate CSR’s mission as “doing good” when in fact it is “doing well by doing good,” which is the same as their concept of Shared Value. In fact, until recently, they were huge supporters of CSR. In their 2006 article, “Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Strategy and Corporate Social Responsibility,” they pointed out flaws in CSR but weighed in heavily in its support.

 

Whether you call it Shared Value, CSR, ESG, or Corporate Citizenship, or Sustainability, or Corporate Responsibility, or Triple Bottom Line or any of the other terms people use, we are all pushing the same agenda—to do well by doing good. And the term “CSR” is well known and accepted in business.

 

It has been written about extensively in the business press. Most controversially, it has appeared twice on the cover of The Economist. First, to dismiss it per Milton Friedman’s “The business of business is business,” then a second time, in support of the concept. CSR has a set of metrics in place through the 20+ year old SRI ratings, a self-reporting structure in GRI, and a requirement in many companies’ RFP’s for a CSR report. Insurance, risk assessment, accounting bodies including FASB and many other industries and institutions all have “CSR” or “Sustainability” efforts underway. Porter/Kramer do a great service in lifting the issue to the front page of business, but why would we want to abandon all the progress made under the CSR rubric?

 

With CSR finally accepted as a core business strategy, Porter/Kramer now jump into the fray not with ideas of how to move more companies into the “Doing well to do good” camp, but with arguments about why their new name and model is better than CSR. Worse, even though they have several branding pros on the staff of their consulting firm, they dismiss the value of communications in support of CSR as mere promotion, ignoring the importance of communication in changing consumer behavior. Many of the companies Porter/Kramer cite as examples of Shared Value have used their brand to change consumer behavior for the better (think ads and promotion for GE Energy Smart CFL light bulbs). Yet Porter/Kramer fail to mention this.

 

Watching TV last week, I came across a great example of CSR communications’ power to increase sales while saving the planet.  The EPA confirms that in many cities, “The personal automobile is the single greatest polluter.” A key component to reducing these emissions will be the Electric Vehicle. Current ads for the Chevy Volt, the leading American-made Electric Vehicle (EV), are clearly good for Chevy’s brand reputation. But dismissing the ads as mere promotion misses the more important story: the advertising reduces fear of the EV by showing how easy it is to recharge, thereby persuading more consumers to buy EVs.  If this is CSR, I’ll take it over Shared Value any day.

 


 

Carol Pierson Holding is a writer and an environmentalist; her articles on CSR can be found on her website at  http://www.holding.com/Index%20links/articles.html.

 

 

 

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[fa icon="comment"] 9 Comments posted in capitalism, corporate social responsibility, CSR, Electric vehicle, ERI, Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School, strategic philanthropy, Uncategorized, Milton Friedman, sustainability, The Economist, Mark Kramer, Shared Value, Triple Bottom Line, Carol Pierson Holding, corporate citizenship, CSRHub, Michael Porter, Nissan Volt

Buying Our Way to Salvation

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 8, 2010 6:14:36 PM / by Berit Anderson

Friday November 26th was “Buy Nothing Day”, an International Day of protest against consumerism led by Adbusters magazine, which describes it as, “[a] sudden unexpected moment of truth, a mass reversal of perspective, a global mindshift – from which the corporate/consumerist forces never fully recover.”

In spite of the organizer’s claims that it is “sudden” and “unexpected,” Buy Nothing Day was, in fact, scheduled to coincide with “Black Friday”— the Friday after Thanksgiving traditionally set to kick off the Christmas shopping season and perhaps, this year especially, save the economy from its doldrums. I daresay that the winner this year was Black Friday, since presumably most readers haven’t even heard of Buy Nothing Day and, anecdotally at least, people were buying. A friend on Facebook reported on a “Black Friday Traffic Jam” from the Hudson Valley:

“Last night taking late bus back from NYC after splendid day with sons and their friends and wonderful meal, the traffic was backed up 5 miles in every direction from Woodbury Commons trying to get to their midnight to midnight Black Friday sales... it was unbelievable. Talk about shop till you drop. Visa and Master Card are raking it in in the Northeast today.”

Although CSRHUB’s founders believe that business must be part of the solution, CSRHUB is more aligned with the forces of Buy Nothing Day than with Black Friday. As stated on CSRHUB’s “About Us’ page, the CSRHUB founders believe that business can be:

“an agent of positive social change. We believe that providing these corporate [ratings on environmental, social and governance performance] will increase the transparency . . . and encourage critical discussions of how companies treat their employees, impact the environment, adjust their carbon footprint, act in their community, provide innovative products and services for sustainable development, and govern themselves.”

But can businesses actually be a source of public good, and not just for today but for Seven Generations? Clearly, since the start of the Industrial Revolution, business has helped feed, employ and raise the living standards of billions of people.  But what good is this to our children and grandchildren if we have created ever increasing dead zones in our seas (405 dead zones worldwide, the largest 27,000 sq. miles), an ever increasing ozone hole in our skies (resulting in increasing ultraviolet radiation), widespread species extinction (according to a report published in Nature, 15-37% of known plant and animal species will be extinct by 2050 from climate change alone), and we are heading toward a literal climate meltdown?

If overconsumption is a problem, how can businesses -- generally motivated to maximize sales and profits -- solve that problem?  How can business be remade to be Triple Bottom Line – not just for profits, but for people and planet also?

One solution is to encourage companies to produce less or to manufacture products that have a social good, through tax and other incentives,.  Since corporations are individually chartered by the state, it’s possible to create a new type of corporate entity -- a “benefit corporation” -- that is highly protective of the environment, its employees and society in general, and to provide tax and other benefits to such entities.  One major step in this direction is the B Corporation movement, which requires B Corporations to: 1) achieve a passing score on the B Ratings System, a comprehensive tool to assess a company’s social and environmental performance; and 2) agree to legally expand the responsibilities of the corporation to include the interests of its employees, suppliers, consumers, community, and environment. So far there are 327 B Corporations with $1.6 billion in revenues in 54 industries (including CSRHUB which was recently approved).  And, indeed, earlier this year, two states, Maryland and Vermont, passed legislation actually codifying and making it possible for businesses to be chartered as “benefit corporations.”

Another possibility is to create mechanisms for businesses to make more money by selling less. Although this isn’t currently practical for most businesses, it is possible and is being done in regulated businesses.  In the electric utility business, for example, state public services commissions have decoupled profits from sales, and created a mechanism for utilities to make more money by selling less by utilizing efficiency and conservation methods.

CSRHUB seeks to solve this problem by “rewarding” businesses that perform well on environment, social and governance issues with good ratings.  CSRHUB Users, for example, can see which companies perform best on environmental issues and can make decisions about what to buy, who to work for, and who to do business with based upon those ratings.  CSRHUB also uses tags to allow users to identify companies that are involved in a wide range of behaviors such as coal production, nuclear power or pesticides and pollutants, or that have been rewarded for being one of the “100 Low Carbon Pioneers”, a member of the “Carbon Disclosure Project,” or an EPA Climate Leader.

So far, these are all small steps.  But for those of us who have been part of and watching this movement for numerous years, they are important ones that are starting to snowball and create new consciousness. CSRHUB is proud to part of this new ecology.

Stephen Filler is a CSRHUB Cofounder and Advisor. An intellectual property attorney, he is the Director of Business Development for Prism Solar Technologies, Inc., a solar photovoltaic module manufacturer. He has provided legal services to and served on the boards of sustainable, environmental and renewable energy businesses, technology and media companies, non-profit organizations and trade associations. Stephen serves on the Boards of NY Sloop Clearwater, NY Solar Energy Association, Sustainable Hudson Valley Business Network. He received his JD from Boston University Law School.

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[fa icon="comment"] 1 Comment posted in Berit Anderson, Black Friday, CSRHUB opinion, responsible business, Triple Bottom Line, Buy Nothing Day, consumption, CSRHub

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