Triple Pundit almost always brings a smile to my face, and for that reason is one of my favorite blogs by far. The group blog highlights the three "p's" of sustainable business -- people, planet, and profits -- and highlights a steady stream of optimism-inducing stories about both creative startups and long-established corporations doing well by doing good.
Pardon me for talking about IBM yet again, but the company continues to impress me with its ability to ride the green wave with intelligent and high-potential offerings. The latest example is last week's announcement of a new Sustainable Procurement consulting offer.
Tom Schueneman of the indispensable TriplePundit blog on corporate social responsibility has a great review today of AT&T's holistic approach to sustainability. The lede is the phone giant's new $500 million commitment to put 15,000 alternative fuel vehicles on the road in the next decade. It's a great example of how big companies can aim to do good and do well at the same time. The program should save the company money in the long run while winning useful public plaudits, and, as important, make a real impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, provide clean energy jobs, and support the expansion of the alternative fuel infrastructure.
The clean car initiative represents a big splash in sustainability, but it also reflects a much broader and more comprehensive approach at AT&T. Schueneman's interview with Beth Shiroshi, AT&T's assistant vice president for Citizenship and Corporate Responsibility, tells the larger story, and it provides some useful lessons for any company looking to strengthen its sustainability approach:
For years, technology companies have tried to move up the value chain by promoting big ideas that would drive sales of premium business solutions rather than commodity products and services. It certainly makes sense, and some firms do it pretty well, but it's easier said than done.
"Cisco isn't just selling technology. [SVP Paul] Mountford's pitch is that Cisco, more than any other company, can help countries such as Saudi Arabia modernize their economies and become leaders in the Internet Age. The company argues that, by investing in the Internet infrastructure Cisco sells, these governments can better educate their citizens, improve health care, and boost national productivity. They may even be able to create their own tech sectors, giving citizens the opportunity to become well-paid 'knowledge workers like those in Bangalore or Guangdong, China."
Business software giant SAP launched an online collaboration site last week to promote dialogue with stakeholders on a range of social, economic, and environmental concerns. The site sits on SAP's new collaboration workspace platform, which enables registered users to post content, communicate with SAP officials and each other, and set up public and private workspaces.
To get the dialogue going, SAP's vice president of corporate citizenship, James Farrar, has launched a new blog, a stakeholder survey, and, most important, the company's first global report on sustainability.
It's a great idea, and it plays directly to the mission-oriented marketing I wrote about with IBM recently. As noted by Sustainable Life Media, it follows similar efforts by companies including Cadbury and IKEA Canada.
SAP has a good story to tell on sustainability, and the report does a nice job of telling it. Befitting the company's role as a leading software provider, the report has a dual focus, covering both SAP's internal responsibilities to operate in a sound, ethical, and environmentally responsible manner, and external opportunities and obligations to provide solutions that help clients operate in a similar fashion.
With my purchase, the company commits to planting several trees as part of its Campaign to Reforest America, in partnership with the National Forest Foundation. It's a good cause, and pretty easy and relatively inexpensive to do. Lots of companies do similar things; the rest probably should.
But the execution is actually what made me pause: A nice separate email (in addition to my purchase confirmation), a simple vote so I could pick which of three national forests to support, and links to additional information about the campaign, the partnership, the specific forests, and the issues at stake. It was nothing earth-shattering, but a good reminder that a few extra touches can go a long way toward making your customers feel better about you.
Supporting the environment is good; doing it with engaging and educational content is even better.
Many discussions about the business value of corporate social responsibility and "going green" highlight benefits such as brand distinction, customer loyalty, and employee morale -- and, increasingly, potential cost savings. A new white paper from Deloitte adds deal value in mergers and acquisitions to the list.
According to the authors, "companies that have strong corporate responsibility and sustainability (CR&S) programs in place are likely to be rewarded for their efforts. Those that don’t have such programs can expect to face increasing regulatory and marketplace demands for change."
The trend is driven by increasingly tight environmental regulations as well as broader trends toward greater transparency and accountability around potential social and financial risk. Energy companies are obviously front and center here, but the trend affects many industries, according to Deloitte, including manufacturing, transportation, and retail.
Looking ahead, the Deloitte authors provide several useful suggestions for executives looking to buy or sell: