Discoveries from the Sustainability Reporting Conference

Suits

The Toronto Sustainability Reporting Symposium

In the fall I attended a conference on sustainability reporting. It was held in Toronto’s swanky financial district (where they film Suits btw), where leaders in sustainability reporting, subject mater experts, corporate sustainability chiefs, and academics, congregated to share insights and developments with regards the current state of sustainability metrics. It was certainly enlightening, although simultaneously somewhat disconcerting.

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The Corporate Paradox

Film Recommendation

The Corporation (2003)

Understanding its Purpose

A powerful documentary about the role of corporations in modern society. Although a few years old already (as reflected in the graphics), the content is nonetheless very relevant and highly potent. It highlights the origins of the modern corporation, it’s stated advantages, and it’s very real disadvantages as displayed by some of the world’s biggest companies. The documentary raises the question (among others), that such misdeeds are not due to the some select bad actors. Indeed, some of these companies are still around, still churning out considerable industry. Rather, the filmmakers posit that it is the very nature of the corporation itself, as it is currently defined, that inclines industry to do bad. If the corporation’s sole purpose is based upon an obligation to shareholders to maximize profit, does it not naturally follow that people and resources need to be exploited for maximum gain?  Despite being an immortal entity that is increasingly granted greater rights in society, a corporation has none of humanities’ morals and apprehensions – unless otherwise embedded.

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The Business Case for Solving Global Issues

TED Recommendation

Michael Porter: Why business can be good at solving social problems

This has been one of my favorite TED Talks in pulling together the various factors that currently plague society, and simplifying it into digestible form. The speaker, Michael Porter, is considered a management guru and likely anyone who has taken any formal business classes has heard his name. His biggest claim to fame is the establishment of what is now referred to as the Porter’s Five Forces model. It is essentially a tool for assessing the various external factors that will effect your business. In his talk, Porter basically extents his analytical framework into the social realm. What are some of the biggest problems facing the planet today, and how can we solve them?

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How Do We Measure the Impact?

The Right Ruler

One of the first sustainability obstacles faced in the business world, is how do we measure it? Even after management has decided that the natural environment, which includes people (ie. the community), is an issue to their enterprise, many might find dealing with qualitative concerns more problematic and vague. The obvious question being, “How do we measure positive impact in a community?” As is often stated, you manage what you measure. So how do we do it? Fear not, there are metrics!!

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