Friday, May 07, 2010

Gauging Progress; Inspired by CERES 2010

I made it to the CERES 2010 Conference opening reception on May 4th. Since I was unable to attend the entire event I figured mingling with some of the attendees would undoubtedly bump me into people I know and introduce me to some new ones. Both these things happened, as I connected with friends from Trucost and Trillium Asset Management and made some great new connections with CERES staff and a member of the Winslow Management Company. It was a pleasure to see Tim Smith of Walden Asset Management receive the Joan Bavaria Award for his tireless work in shareholder advocacy supporting environmental sustainability and social justice.

I attended the event back in 2005 when I worked with Beacon Power and remember being fairly impressed with the level of conversation happening in the corporate world around sustainability. What I mostly started to think about at this year's reception was how much progress toward a business community more in tune with the real needs of our economy has been made. The cynical and impatient side of me, despite the positive attitude of the people I met, is convinced that a whole lot about public companies hasn't changed one bit (the financial collapse of 2008, our developing "jobless" recovery, and the recent BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill reinforces this thinking). So I decided to pause and look at some global indicators I've become familiar with and compare their values from 2005 to 2010 to help me (and perhaps others) assess how we're doing. Now, I realize that five years is not a whole heck of a lot of time, especially geologically, and if we are to believe that a large part of the solutions to the challenges facing our global community that need to happen quickly lie in the fleet-footed and fast-acting entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs of the corporate world then we should see some tangible progress in five years, right?

Here's what I came up with:
Here are links to sources and some comments about the data:FTSE4Good listings: Data in 2005 column is from 2004Carbon Disclosure Project: Sent to FT Global 500Global Reporting Initiative: They had a GREAT spreadsheet from 1999-2010 sortable with tabs!UN Human Development Reports: NOT the easiest to find info, could take a lesson from GRIUN Global Forest Resources Assessment: Data in 2005 is from the decade of the 1990s, 2010 data is decade of 00sGlobal CO2e Emissions - EIA: Again, easy to use spreadsheet
Cleantech Venture Investment: North America, Israel, Europe, China, & India

There's been some progress, and there's been some setbacks. With the overall pressure on environmental and social capital increasing, are we making the large-scale changes needed to steward what we have for those to follow? I'm not sure, and feel that some of the incremental thinking around CSR is getting in the way.

What are some other measures I should be taking into consideration?

Special thanks to @AshleyJablow, a friend of mine from Net Impact Boston, who wrote a blog post at The Changebase reflecting on what she learned at this year's CERES event. Her exploration of the issues important to her inspired me to take a step back and look at some of my assumptions about CSR.

Check out some of the video interviews from the CERES Conference made available on the CERES site.

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