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Sustainability Indexes

Companies are increasingly recognizing the benefits of strong corporate citizenship. As investors have become more attuned to the necessity of sustainable business practices there has been a growing demand for indexes and rankings that highlight global firms with strong sustainability records. In particular, three indexes provide an interesting look at how corporate responsibility is quantified and what non-financial characteristics are important in firms.

Corporate Knights is a Toronto-based media and investment advisory company that works with Solactive, a German index provider, to produce an annual list of the most socially responsible companies in each sector of the global economy. Termed the Global 100, the list scores companies on a series of indicators based on how they rank against their global industry peers. Indicators range from energy and water productivity to tax structure and employee safety and are specific to a company’s industry. To qualify for the list companies must be transparent, disclosing their current business practices to the public. The end result is a comprehensive list that details the top performing companies in each industry. Most recently Westpac Banking Corporation of Australia topped the list. They were the first Australian Bank to join the Australian Government’s Greenhouse Challenge Plus and were the first bank in Australia to create a matching donor program for their employees.

The Dow Jones Sustainability Indices is based on a similar belief in corporate responsibility. As factors such as resource scarcity and demographic shifts become more important in the business community, businesses that are operated sustainably will increasingly be able to capitalize on their value. A partnership with RobecoSAM has led to the creation of the Corporate Sustainability Assessment. This assessment is based on a questionnaire sent to the world’s 2,500 largest companies. It is looking for a company’s awareness of and the steps it has taken to address various economic, environmental, and social concerns. Social concerns include standards for suppliers, corporate citizenship and philanthropy, and labor practices. By addressing sustainability issues a company is seen as insuring its long-term vitality.

The last index series is compiled by the FTSE Group, a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange. Termed the FTSE4Good Index Series it evaluates companies on a variety of sustainability issues. Strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices are seen as a means of mitigating risk and an indication of sound management. The FTSE Group looks into a company’s environmental sustainability and supply chain labor standards as well as other areas of interest. This analysis helps determine the most sustainable businesses.

Although these indexes are primarily a means of evaluating investments they provide essential insights into the area of corporate responsibility. Each is further evidence that supporting communities rather than harming them is a vital business practice. They are further evidence of the evolving landscape of CSR. It is now increasingly seen as a means of reinforcing a brand, building loyalty, and ensuring that one’s business is appropriately situated to address societal challenges.

2013 Giva Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award Winners

Giva is pleased to congratulate Joseph Lee and Shila Vardell, 2013 recipients of Giva's Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award.

Joseph Lee is an MD candidate attending Rush Medical College. "I am truly honored to be chosen as the recipient of the 2013 Giva Scholarship! I believe that there is no better time to give back to the community and those in need than now. I hope that through this scholarship, I can gain inspiration from the commitment of others and serve as an example of the change one committed, passionate individual can make. Thank you again for the amazing opportunity!" said Mr. Lee on receiving the scholarship.

Shila Vardell currently attends the University of Phoenix working towards her Master of Business Administration (MBA), Accounting and Business/Management degree.  When asked about her reaction to the scholarship award Ms. Vardell responded, "Thank you so much for selecting me as the Giva scholarship recipient!  I am overwhelmed with appreciation and excitement. This scholarship is going to help me in so many ways and I cannot express enough how appreciative I am for Giva's generosityand support of this scholarship."

"Giva is excited and proud to engage with and support these students who truly exemplify the absolute best and brightest of this generation in not only their scholastic endeavors, but also in their personal vision and self-motivation to change the world around them. In short, they are the change they want to see in the world," said Ron Avignone, Founder of Giva, Inc.

Creating a Culture of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Your Company

When thinking of how to create a corporate social responsibility (CSR) culture inside of your company it is important to think about both the values of your company and also what CSR involves. In a general sense, CSR includes the parts of your business that do not have to deal with finance. Alexander Garrett of Management Today describes it as, “ethics; interactions with people inside and outside your company; and how you affect the planet” (Garrett, 1) in his article Crash Course in...Creating a CSR Strategy.

In terms of values, the social work that is done cannot go against what your company believes in. People will see right through your CSR report and begin to distrust your company; this means all of your consumers walk away. In a study done by Shital Jhunjhunwala, Assistant Professor of Finance, Institute of Public Enterprise, entitled Intertwining CSR with Strategy- the way ahead, there were social implications which claimed, “business cannot survive without society’s acquiescence nor succeed without its active support” (Jhunjhunwala, 1). For example, within a tech company, it isn’t wise to claim to love being green and being energy efficient if the products that are being sold use far more energy than other products on the market. This would demonstrate that not only do you not care about the planet, but you also think consumers lack the intelligence to find out that you are lying to them, not the best plan in any scenario.

Furthermore, while CSR initiatives have to start from the top-down, because nothing will be sustainable if the board is not supporting CSR efforts, employees have to also believe in the mission that is being encouraged. If the board decides that they want their employees to get a specific number of hours of volunteer work, ask the employees what they are interested in. If people are more interested in animals, begin a puppy and kitten initiative where they are able to support and volunteer with animal shelters; if they want to help the poor, create initiatives where they are volunteering at a food bank or building homes.

According to Garrett, these initiatives should not only come from employees but also customers and investors. It is important to know what people want from your company (Garrett, 1). One of the ways to do this is to be open with everyone, to never provoke sentiments that your company is untrustworthy. There are many ways to do this such as the use of social media. One of the methods that Garrett suggests is to give clear pieces of your CSR message but then also have ways for the public to see the full scale of all that you are doing. This could be a link online that leads to a full report of the initiatives that your business is taking. Along with being trustworthy comes accepting that the company is not perfect. It could be that the company never recycles and they serve every meal in Styrofoam. The important thing is also explaining how those behaviors are going to change. Let everyone know how you will do better but that it will take time and then explain to them your time frame for meeting different target goals (1).

Is this a step by step tutorial on how to make a perfect CSR culture? No. Every company is different and they will have to start small and find out what works best for their company, one does not simply know the best strategy for a CSR culture right away. This is just where to start, to find out how a CSR culture can work for both the company and society. The right CSR culture will do both and add value and sustainability to a corporation.

 

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