There’s a consciousness revolution going on.
Last week I attended the Responsible Business Summit in NY hosted by Ethical Corporation. I also attended last year.
Both years were impeccable with a host of senior corporate, governmental and international NGO leaders at the helm of unfolding a corporate sustainability and responsible business revolution.
Disruption is underway.
My key take away this year is- there’s a consciousness revolution going on. Twenty plus years ago I was on the front lines of environmental and social activism which led me to become and attorney- where I focused on international human rights and and then corporate law. What felt like a constant fight for common sense is finally making its way to the norm- at least a movement in the right direction. While things have changed dramatically and we now have the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Climate related disclosures and a host of other principled frameworks and standards to guide companies in the right direction, this conversation is still siloed in its own universe.
Agenda 21 coming out of Rio in 1992 was a lofty UN Declaration of environmental and social factors to consider while developing the undeveloped world. This skeptic’s playground showed just where the collective consciousness was some 26 years ago.
Agenda 2030 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) agreed to by 193 UN member nations in 2015 offers a totally different opportunity to feed a new wave of consciousness mainstreaming sustainable, ethical and responsible business. Many have worked tirelessly internationally and locally for decades to prepare the groundwork for this swell. More partnerships and collaborative efforts than ever are being inspired by Goal # 17 Partnerships for the Goals (UNSDGs)
Hearing Abby Maxman, CEO of Oxfam speak with Mars Global VP of Procurement, Pascal Baltussen was a highlight as they discussed their work together toward Goal #1, No Poverty.
“Sustainability targets and procurement targets must be aligned or CSR is an illusion.” Pascal Baltussen, Global Vice President Procurement, Mars
The fact that ESG is now a ‘thing’ is quite remarkable considering a year ago most people in finance I asked never heard of it or said, “I heard of it but don’t know what it is.” This year many more know what ESG is and enthusiastically embrace its positive impact.
Private equity institutions and investors are taking a hard stand on corporate disclosures where public policy and reporting requirements fall short. These bodies understand that risks pertaining to the environment and climate change, social justice, human rights, and poor corporate governance from the board to senior management, could pose material risks to their investments -long and short term-and infringe on their fiduciary duty to their clients, -not to mention an evolved stance on "doing the right thing."
ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance factors.
Companies and investor relations teams are being asked to report on non-financial data including ESG factors. The epic collective consciousness shift here is in what’s around the corner. In a few short years ESG, broadscale responsible and impact investing will be mainstream. What does this mean for the economy? How much more innovation is possible? How far are companies willing to go to comply with their own values let alone global standards carrying more weight than law?
At the Responsible Business Summit New York we heard from a panel on moving toward a global standard for reporting and how these current frameworks (and others) are collaborating.
Tim Mohin, CEO of (GRI) Global Reporting Standard, Richard Howitt, CEO of (IIRC) International Integrated Reporting Council, Matthew Welch, President of SASB and Sinom Messenger, Managing Director of CDSB shared on the collaborative intent of these frameworks, the mission they serve and the outcomes they desire, namely a unified global reporting standard. SASB serves a slightly different function as its focus is on operational risk with respect to financial disclosures.
My overall take away from two days packed with panels and keynotes on topics from supply chain transparency, to climate finance, implementing the UNSDGs, diversity and inclusion, communicating CSR, artificial intelligence’s role in the transition, and how partnerships for the global goals are actualizing collaborative win wins for NGOs and corporate stakeholders, --- there is a consciousness revolution going on.
The fact that a growing number of corporate boards are now peppered with climate scientists and integrating core ESG factors into their business strategies, is a moonshot from ten years ago.
What used to be the domain of general counsel and compliance (or activist shareholders) where law, policy or materiality mandated due diligence, is shifting to a fundamental transformation in business norms and a new economy. These include:
There’s no silver bullet and thousands have been working for decades to arrive at this moment. Many millions will have to continue to unfold a new leadership paradigm of corporate responsibility and regulatory mechanics with respect to environmental, social and economic well-being.
What was once a watchdog activist mission is now a lucrative opportunity. This is the collective mindset shift we’ve been waiting for. There is so much more work to do and the good news is, more and more frameworks and standards are coming into place and will ultimately mainstream, streamline and speed up this transition to a better world.
And while the good is slowly being anchored, still human rights, environmental justice and economic well-being are grave issues that plague many who are part of supply chains that form our stuff. We must be vigilant and more than anything believe we can create prosperity and financial wins through better service to humanity. This is leadership for a new world. It starts with a mindset shift.
If you’re organization is in this shift, and strategy, communications, leadership, mindset, compliance, or deeply embedded corporate responsibility is on the agenda, my firm is ready, able and willing to help accelerate the shift. Please reach out personally at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie Trager, Esq.
Chief Catalyst at Intentional Paradigms
Business & Sustainability Strategist
Legal Advisor, Executive Coach - ESG - CSR
Leadership for a Better World
*Founder Trager Law PLLC - Growing, scaling, and protecting small
businesses and thought leaders as they ripple their impact.