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    By Nikos Avlonas

    President CSE


    Bravo to companies’ incorporating sustainability.  The effort is noble and daunting.  Often executives address first the environment, social and governance (ESG) issues most important to them.  Other times, they delegate sustainability to a manager.  An executive might be highly motivated to engage the community.  A former HSE manager, now in charge of sustainability, might emphasize safety.  Both are noble pursuits, but are they relevant to investors?


    According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Institutional Investors, 66 % of U.S. investors altered their behavior to incorporate ESG risks just in 2017.  Investors rely on ratings agencies which look at those ESG aspects of a company with financial relevance, i.e., most material.  If a company is putting resources into issues material to the company but not to investors, this can become an enormous waste of time – and resources.


    ESG factors relevant to market performance vary from industry to industry.  An airline is going to consider fuel efficiency both for financial reasons and to limit its carbon footprint, more so than an accounting agency.  If the airline reduces fuel consumption, its financial performance, ESG rating and hence share price benefits.  The accounting firm can reduce energy consumption by the same percentage and little will change in the market.


    Whether you get your performance advice from Morning Star, Edelman, Bloomberg,  Harvard (with  research showing, “material issues are the most promising signal” informing investment decisions based on ESG criteria), or hundreds of other resources, you can no longer questions the value of ESG material issues to your bottom line.  This begs the question, what is material?  The answer sits with your most influential stakeholders, not just your shareholders or your C-suite, though these are important voices.


    Only a materiality assessment, based on guidelines such as the GRI and  industry benchmarking surveying stakeholders which have been carefully identified as having the most influence on company decision making, can provide a weighted list of those issues most material to your company and hence your bottom line.


    The stronger the balance sheet, the stronger the rating.  The lower the material risks, the stronger the rating.  The more transparent the company in its reporting, the stronger the rating.


    One of the best actions a company can take is training on sustainability issues, how to identify and assess stakeholders then prioritize material issues.  The training is the first step in an iterative process.  Check out CSE’s free first module of the Online Certificate on ESG Performance for Professionals and Investors, or in response to COVID-19, the Certified Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner Program, Advanced Edition 2020, October 2-5 and 6, DIGITAL VERSION.

    The Center for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) thanks all of our participants at our sold-out San Francisco training, October 15-16, 2019.  The discussions were enlightening, deep, meaningful and the key issues brought to the table critical.

    CSE’s Certified Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner Program, Advanced Edition 2019 provides participants the tools they need to implement effective sustainability strategies. Executives from Fortune 500 & Fortune 1000 companies tackled issues arising from Sustainability Reporting, ESG ratings, stakeholder engagement and competitive advantage.  Discussion also focused on the integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as responsible communication of sustainability practices, initiatives and results. The salient topics covered included supply chain, compliance, international legislation, the circular economy and the significance of materiality assessment.

    Several Sustainability Professionals from leading companies such as Cisco, Oracle, Chevron, Lyft joined CSE’s certified sustainability program that has qualified over 6.500 Sustainability and CSR professionals.

    Attendees were among the first to learn about CSE’s research on Sustainability Reporting Trends in Silicon Valley 2019, a follow up to 2016’s research. CSE’s research indicates that Silicon Valley has made significant improvements in sustainability strategy and reporting over the past three reporting cycles. Despite improvement, much work remains especially when comparing Silicon Valley to CSE’s research findings on the Sustainability Status of all sectors in North America.

    Attendees from corporations, governments and NGOs from around the world have trusted CSE and participated in our advanced training to become Certified Sustainability (CSR) Practitioners and earn recognition in the Sustainability and CSR field.  Each training addresses issues of deep concern to the region and the participants.  The upcoming trainings include Miami January 16-17, 2020 and Atlanta March 9-10, 2020!

    CSE’s Certified Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner Program, Leadership Edition 2020, will take place in New York City on June 11-12, 2020 and its goal is to help sustainability and other ESG professionals rise to any occasion and implement or upscale existing sustainability initiatives taking place in their organization.

    Register early for our future global trainings and earn the chance to inform the discussion, bring your unique challenges and learn the case-study based methodology to enhance your sustainability journey.

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