Last week in Oakland was the annual Ceres conference. Among the many announcements were the awards for best sustainability reports.
The Ceres-ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) North American Awards for Sustainability Reporting went to Nike for Best Sustainability Report, followed by first runner-up American Electric Power (AEP).
While the awards alone might not be big news, the story behind them reveals some great advice for companies at the beginning of the sustainability journey.
1. Don’t Leave Money on the Table
In conversation with two of the winners last week, both enterprise software leader SAP AG and smaller, green apparel company Anvil Knitwear had similar advice. If you aren’t integrating sustainability into your business, you are leaving money on the table.
“The first thing you need to do is get your President and CEO on board. Explain to them the business case for the company and how it can create value. This is not about being green, it is about driving value for the business by incorporating social and environmental aspects into decision making,” explained SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Peter Graf.
When asked why they took on sustainability as a priority, Caterina Conti, Anvil Knitwear’s chief administrative officer, executive vice president and general counsel, responded, “I don’t think you can afford not to. We have saved millions and millions of dollars. It is just dollars you leave on the table.”
In Nike’s acceptance speech, Hanna Jones stressed, “Sustainability is no longer just a values based question. It’s a core strategic imperative for any company that intends to thrive and grow in the years ahead.”
2. Speak About the Elephant in the Room
With a twist of irony, AEP won the runner-up award for reporting only a few days after NRDC blogged about their efforts to weaken federal clean air standards. Sandy Nessing, Managing Sustainability Director for AEP, explained, “We feel very strongly about being transparent. Yes, there is an elephant in the room around environmental regulations and we would be remiss if we didn’t step up and say here is what we are doing and here is why.”
“We are in a very tight spot, but that doesn’t mean you change your values,” she explained.