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Bob Willard

White Paper: “7 Bold Strokes to Save Our World”

If I were in charge of the world, for a day, here are the first seven things I would do to mitigate our current global self-inflicted crises, and build back better.

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3 Versions of Performance Dashboards for 21st Century Companies

Let’s take a look at how a dashboard might look if non-financial / sustainability performance were assessed using three different sustainability frameworks: the Future-Fit Business Benchmark (FFBB), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Integrated Reporting Capitals.

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New Stakeholder-centric Purpose Drives 21st Century Capitalism

The new stakeholder-centric purpose drives 21st century capitalism – and changes everything.

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5 Reasons Why “Mother Nature” is a Key Stakeholder

For years, companies have treated the environment as an externality. There are five reasons why it’s time to treat Mother Nature as a key stakeholder.

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The Business Case for Sustainability, Redux … Seven times

Seven answers to the question about whether there is a business case for sustainability … again.

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Are Three Enoughs Enough? Part 3: Making enough difference

Sustainability champions want to make a difference. We want to create a new paradigm of responsible businesses helping to create a just and resilient human society on a finite, healthy planet. How do we stay upbeat when we fear that we are not making enough difference to accomplish our lofty goals, quickly enough?

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Are Three Enoughs Enough? Part 2: Enough sustainability

How much sustainability is enough? There are four ways that companies express their answer to that question. Using a company’s reduction of its carbon footprint as an example of a sustainability goal, let’s explore them.

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Are Three Enoughs Enough? Part 1: Enough wealth

Lately, I’ve found myself revisiting the concept of “enough.” Maybe it’s time we all did. Maybe we would benefit from being satisfied with enough wealth, achieving enough sustainability, and making enough difference. I will explore these three “enoughs” in three blogs, starting with enough wealth.

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5 Reasons Why I’m Writing My First-Ever Integrated Report

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with integrated reports. I’ve have been disappointed with the incoherence of most so-called integrated reports that I’ve seen so far. That disappointment leads me to the first of 6 reasons why I’m writing my first-ever integrated report for my sole proprietorship.

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7 Hopeful “I-Think-I-Can” Signals for Sustainability Champions

Sustainability champions are “Little Engines That Could.” Our mantra is, “I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can.” We are energized by reports like the annual State of Green Business 2018 that say an ESG mindset is moving from the margins into the mainstream. There are 7 hopeful “I think-I-can” signals for sustainability champions which back up this trend.

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10 Reasons the New SRW 3.0 Is Exciting

The 1st edition of the Sustainability ROI Workbook was launched in May, and its 2nd edition was released in September. There are 10 reasons the new 3rd edition of the Sustainability ROI Workbook (SRW3.0), released today, is exciting:.

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3 Consultative Selling Questions Answered by the “Sustainability ROI Workbook”

The “Sustainability ROI Workbook” helps frame the answers for Mack Hanan’s three consultative selling questions: How much? How soon? How sure?

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Coming soon! 7 Enhancements to the Original “Sustainability ROI Workbook”

Based on feedback from users, conversations with chartered professional accountants (CPAs), and good ideas that keep hatching while I’m sleeping, I have created an enhanced 2nd Edition of the “Sustainability ROI Workbook.” As of September 11, it will replace the current version. It will include 7 enhancements to the original Sustainability ROI Workbook.

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5 Reasons to Attend the “Doing Business & Doing Good Summit”

As the summer winds down, I encourage you to consider attending an upcoming sustainability conference.  There are five reasons to attend the Doing Business & Doing Good Summit.

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“Sustainability ROI Workbook” ‒ The Backstory

As many of you know, I just released the Sustainability ROI Workbook. It is a self-published, free, open-source Excel workbook with the most comprehensive business case for sustainability so far. Here is the backstory to the workbook and my new BHAG.

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Announcing: A Free 7-tool “Swiss Army Knife” for Sustainability Professionals

This week, after six-months of helpful public comment on draft versions, I officially launched the “Sustainability ROI Workbook.” This self-published, open-source resource is a free 7-tool “Swiss Army Knife” for sustainability professionals.

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12 Trillion Reasons To Be A More Sustainable Company

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) define a world that promises a flourishing future for human civilization on spaceship Earth. Some companies already embrace the SDGs as their aspirational environmental and social goals. Other companies hesitate, in case attaining some or all the goals’ 169 associated targets by 2030 would be at the expense of company success. There are 12 trillion reasons why their hesitation is unjustified.

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4 Ways That Stone Soup is a Metaphor for “Ultbook”

The more I refine the beta release of the business cases in the “Sustainability Advantage Ultbook,” the more I appreciate that there are 4 ways that Stone Soup is a metaphor for “Ultbook.”

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5 Reasons for Hope on Climate Change, Despite Trump

Sometimes things need to get worse before they get better. Things really got worse on the climate change file with the election of Donald Trump. However, energized by 5 reasons for hope on climate change, despite Trump’s election, we are cranking up our efforts to mitigate climate destabilization and make things better.

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3 Weighting Factors for the Business Case for Sustainability

What if the financial business case for company action on a pressing environmental or social issue is not good enough? Then what? Don’t despair. Depending on how the 3 weighting factors for the business case for sustainability are applied, the sustainability initiative may still get the flashing green light from executives.

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3 Purposes Are Better Than 1

The usual explicit purpose of a company is to provide products and services that improve the wellbeing of stakeholders like customers or shareholders. To multiply the power of its purpose by three, a company should also be purposeful about its intended positive impacts on the wellbeing of two critical implicit stakeholders: the environment and society-at-large. That is, “3 purposes are better than 1.”

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UltBook: Answering the Big 3 “Whys”

  Suppose your company launches several sustainability initiatives and then the sponsoring executives move to another company. The replacement executives are new to “sustainability” and push back, saying “Tell me again why we should bother with all this environmental and social stuff?” That is, “What’s the case for change?” Internal sustainability champions need good business reasons […]

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The 6-Point Publishing Strategy for “The Ultimate Sustainability Advantage Workbook”

Sustainability champions have been ill-equipped to convince hard-nosed business executives that it is in their company’s interest to help address urgent environmental and social issues. We need a more usable, complete, and compelling business case tool. Here is my 6-point publishing strategy for “The Ultimate Sustainability Advantage Workbook” to ensure that it is available to, and usable by, worldwide legions of sustainability champions by November.

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Coming Soon: “The Ultimate Sustainability Advantage Workbook”

“The Sustainability Advantage” (2002) explained the original version of the Sustainability Advantage Worksheets. “The New Sustainability Advantage” (2012) recalibrated the original business case. In November, I will publish the third “book” in the series, cleverly disguised as an Excel workbook. Its working title is “The Ultimate Sustainability Advantage Workbook.” It will be”ultimate” in three ways …

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Announcing: 5 Firsts for the Future-Fit Business Benchmark

For several years, I have worked with the Future-Fit Foundation to develop a Future-Fit Business Benchmark. This week, the Future-Fit Foundation launched Release 1 on a jazzy new website. Ta dah! There are 5 firsts for the Future-Fit Business Benchmark – Release 1 that make this a significant milestone.

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5 Shameful Tax Avoidance Numbers

The Panama Papers remind us that aggressive tax avoidance is a social injustice. Exposed wealthy individuals and corporations say they did nothing wrong, equating “wrong” with “illegal.” Tax avoidance is unethical, not illegal. Here are 5 shameful tax avoidance numbers that amplify the shame of tax dodgers.

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3 Reasons the First Future-Fit Benchmark is for Business

“Global governance failure.” That risk to world economies was ranked #7 of 31 risks in the World Economic Forum (WEF) “Global Risks 2014” report’s. In the WEF’s 2015 report, “Failure of national governance” was on the list of the 28 biggest threats to large economies – that is, multinational corporations and countries. This raises the question: “Who’s running our world?” There are 3 reasons that the answer is “Corporations.” They are the same 3 reasons that the first future-fit benchmark is for business.

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3 Strange Signs Our Government Doesn’t Want Corporate Taxes

“This government is not that interested in increasing the government’s capacity to do anything about anything. They are not interested in raising more revenue.” I remember thinking when I read that quote in a recent article in the CCPA Monitor, “Surely, that can’t be true!” After re-reading the article several times and doing some further research, I’m starting to agree with it. There are 3 strange signs that the Canadian government is not interested in more tax revenue, especially from corporations.

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5 Reasons It’s Time to Use the Sustainability Risk Stick

I’m screwing up as a sustainability champion. For fifteen years, I have been writing and speaking about how corporations can capture the 4 carrots of emerging business opportunities, while reducing their negative environmental and social footprints. I’ve decided to click into a different gear and to lead with a “burning platform” stick of environmental and social risks that businesses must mitigate if they want to be fit for the future. There are 5 reasons that it’s time for me―and perhaps other frustrated sustainability champions―to change tactics.

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4 Improvements in Future-Fit Business Benchmark: Public Draft 2

As many of you know, Geoff Kendall, CEO of the Future-Fit Foundation, and I are co-authoring the Future-Fit Business Benchmark. We received valuable input from dozens of experts on our first public draft, published in October 2014. Based on that feedback, we have refined our document and have just posted Public Draft 2 on the Future-Fit Business website. Following this second and final round of feedback and suggestions, we will publish Release 1 later this fall. Below are 4 improvements in Public Draft 2.

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Wisdom from Kindergarten for a Future-Fit, Sustainable Life

In the Future-Fit Business Benchmark, we are using five social system conditions for a healthy, resilient society developed by Merlina Missimer with guidance from others in The Natural Step (TNS) network. Here is how the 16 lessons from kindergarten might align with her five social system conditions for a sustainable society.

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3 Reasons I’m Excited about My New Website

click to enlarge Ta dah! I am delighted to announce that my new website is ready for prime time. After months of ingenious design and coding work by a couple of very talented folks, Joanne Burgess and Andrew Gray, it looks fabulous. It has great graphics in the homepage slider, rotating graphics on other pages, […]

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Future-Fit Companies Require Future-Fit Boards

The FFBB takes a different approach, more in keeping with the long-term view the board must maintain. Building on best-available science, the FFBB tackles two key questions. First, what would a truly sustainable, fit-for-the-future business look like? And second, how might we measure progress toward that point? The answer to the first question takes the form of a suite of future-fit goals, covering all major environmental and social issues. These goals define the performance threshold beyond which the company stops simply being ‘less bad’ and starts contributing to society in a net positive way. In a recent article, Helle recommended five things that boards can do to improve their support for sustainability. Here’s how the FFBB can help with each one:

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Sustainability – Announcing the Future-Fit Business Benchmark

The Future-Fit Business Benchmark is now available for use and feedback. This free, open-source resource defines science-based, aspirational, sustainability goals for a company that desires to be fit for the future on a scarcer, more crowded, and hotter planet. We invite your feedback on the goals and your ideas on appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) by which to assess progress toward each goal.

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Future-Fit Business Benchmark… It’s Time

To circumvent the flawed incrementalism that dominates current corporate sustainability discourse, companies need quantifiable, science-based benchmarks for key environmental, social, and governance indicators to illuminate their performance gaps. Without such benchmarks, we will remain stuck in the trap of focusing solely on how to make companies less unsustainable, rather than truly fit for the future. We’re working on it.

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Frankly, a Low-Carbon Economy Creates Jobs and Growth

So, Mr. Harper should take his own admonition to heart – that “no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country.” Happily, we can deal with climate destabilization in a way that will “protect and enhance our ability to create jobs and growth, not destroy jobs and growth.” The transition to a low-carbon economy provides more jobs and better growth than continuing to support a fossil fuel-based economy. Surely, this transition will be embraced by Mr. Harper as a job creator and growth stimulant. Otherwise, people may distrust his economist credentials and question his motives for continuing to support the irresponsible agenda of the fossil fuel sector. Frankly.

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7 Ways to Get Credible and Stay Credible

Decide in which sector you want to devote your energy. If it is the public sector, specialize in sustainability approaches at the municipal, provincial / state, or federal level. If it is academic sector, choose the K-12 arena or post-secondary colleges and universities. If it is the private sector, decide which of the numerous sub-sectors you have a passion to change, such as the financial, manufacturing, retail, services, healthcare, food, mining, or chemical sub-sectors. Once you have selected your target sector, learn its business model.

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7 Bold Strokes to Avoid Climate Destabilization

What would we expect governments to commit to at the 21st United Nations climate summit in Paris in December 2015 if they are serious about avoiding climate destabilization? In this blog post, we’ll discuss 7 bold strokes they could and should consider.

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4 Fixes for Risky Income Inequality

A companion debate to how much employees should be paid (see my last blog) is what the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay should be. The debate usually centers on three questions: what is the ratio now, what should it be, and what steps can be taken to get us closer to what it should be? There may also be a fourth question: how large can the ratio become before the inequity damages economic growth and social cohesion? In this blog, I’ll discuss 4 fixes for this risky income inequality.

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Pay Employees at Least a Fair Living Wage

A living wage would not only have a positive effect on employee well-being, which improves productivity and reduces employee turnover; it also would increase the buying power of citizens, which is good for the economy and the company itself. Minimum wage and living wage earners are more likely to immediately spend their money locally on essentials, pumping it back into the economy rather than stashing it in an off-shore tax haven. In 2011, the last year for which statistics are available, 9% of Ontario workers earned minimum wages. That’s almost 1 in 10 people who would immediately stimulate the economy if they had more to spend.

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A Wild and Crazy Corporate CSR Idea: Pay Your Taxes

Corporations pride themselves on being socially responsible corporate citizens. Their annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports describe their worthy efforts to improve the social well-being of their communities. They often cherry-pick high-profile causes to support, like an annual breast cancer race, Movember contests, annual United Way campaigns, Christmas help at a local food bank, or sporadic tree planting. They assume that cash-starved governments will diligently look after messier issues, like potholes, bridges, homelessness, basic health care, police and fire protection, and quality education. That is an increasingly problematic assumption.

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3 Reasons to Screen Energy Companies from Rankings

The Global 100 methodology rates companies on their carbon productivity. This metric divides a company’s total revenue by its total GHG emissions, so if a company has very large revenues, it has high “carbon productivity.” Oil and gas companies like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Phillips 66 are in the top five on the Fortune 500 list of companies by revenue. Their carbon productivity ratio benefits from their huge revenue streams. Nature doesn’t care if the company is making a lot of money while it destabilizes the climate; it cares if it has high absolute GHG emissions. A sustainability ranking methodology that celebrates companies that are doing well while they trash the planet is flawed.

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CO2 – Why 450 ppm is Dangerous and 350 ppm is Safe

The only thing missing is political leadership to make it happen. How long will we tolerate that witting abdication of responsibility? When threatened by terrorist bombings, countries declared a War on Terror. When threatened by rampant drug addiction, countries declared a War on Drugs. Climate change is biggest threat ever faced by humanity. Isn’t it time we declared a War on Climate Destabilization?

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A 12-Step Program for Our Fossil Fuel Dependency

PwC released its Low Carbon Economy Index 2013 last week. It confirms that we will reach the tipping point for climate destabilization by 2034 unless we end our fossil fuel addiction. And, in an interview with Alternet last month, Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Network, said: “It feels like the world has gone from ‘there’s no problem’ to saying ‘it’s too late,’ without the bit in the middle: ‘maybe we can actually do something.’” This blog is about the bit the middle. It lays out a 12-step program that will transition us to a clean energy economy if we are serious and smart about how we stage the steps during the transition.

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7 Reasons That it’s Time for a Gold-Standard Benchmark

In my last blog, I outlined five benefits of a gold-standard ESG benchmark for sustainable companies. Ten years ago, it would have been too soon to develop this benchmark. Ten years from now, it may be too late. Here are at least 7 reasons that now is the right time to create a gold-standard benchmark for ESG performance.

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5 Benefits of a Gold-standard ESG Benchmark

Let’s suppose we could define a small set of science-based key performance indicators (KPIs) for that ESG benchmark. Would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Here are five benefits of having a gold-standard benchmark for a truly sustainable business.

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It’s Time We Measured What Matters

My plenary talk at Sustainable Brands ’13 in San Diego earlier this month was entitled, “Enabling the Renaissance: The Perfect Storm in True Cost Accounting.” Using the metaphor of the Iceberg of Company Value, I explained why we need to get better at measuring and tracking the intangible reputational value of companies, since it represents about 80% company market capitalization. It’s too big to ignore, especially as we migrate to Capitalism 2.0. Measuring how the company is protecting and enhancing human, social, and natural capitals will help us better assess its “non-financials.”

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Five ESG Standards Will Awaken Capital Markets

Last week’s blog outlines my four strategies to help capital markets embed environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies into the mindset of executives. I briefly referenced five concurrent ESG standards initiatives that are in play in capital markets to make this happen. They will lead to an ESG mindset in lenders and investors. Following the axiom that “what interests capital markets fascinates executives,” this will precipitate an ESG mindset in company executives.

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Four Strategies to Use Capital Markets as a Force for Good

My focus for the next two years will be to support these game-changing efforts in conjunction with my work with TNS Canada on a Gold Standard for a truly sustainable enterprise. I plan to align the Gold Standard criteria with the harmonized ESG KPIs developed by the above standards efforts. Where appropriate, I will encourage “zero” and “100%” metrics as goals against which company performance is assessed. For example, rather than rate companies on how much they have reduced their carbon emissions compared to their previous footprint, rate them against the aspirational “zero carbon footprint” benchmark in the Gold Standard, to spur quantum leap thinking and action.

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5 Reasons I Low-Ball Employee Productivity in the Business Case for Sustainability

If that is the case, why do I assume only a 2% improvement in employee productivity in the business case for sustainability described in The New Sustainability Advantage? Shouldn’t the six sustainability-related contributors to increased employee productivity that are summarized in the adjacent figure add up to more than 2%? Yes, they really add up to at least 20%, but there are five reasons that I deliberately forced them not to.

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Sustainability Business Case # 3: Share Price

The Domini 400 Social Index, Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Sustainalytics’ Jantzi Social Index (JSI), and the Financial Times (London) Stock Exchange Index all track companies rated as sustainability leaders. These indices perform as well as, or slightly better than, indices for the rest of the market. Sustainability leaders do not seem to sacrifice financial market value for their efforts, nor are others missing market gains.

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Sustainability Business Case #2

First, funds for many sustainability efforts are already in departments’ operating budgets. We are simply finding new ways to use those existing allocations, rather than requiring more “investment” money. If the payback period is less than a year, the dollars can be treated as a cost rather than a capital investment, and a cash flow-based internal rate of return (IRR) would be a more appropriate calculation.

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Sustainability Business Case #1: More Profit

How does a company justify doing anything different from, or in addition to, what it is already doing? There are basically three kinds of financial rationale or business cases. To be credible, a compelling sustainability business case must be built around one or more of these financial key performance indicators (KPIs).

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New Sustainability Advantage DVD Increases my Ripple Effect

The DVD completes the 5-resource tool kit about the new / improved business case for sustainability: the book, the dashboard, the worksheets, the slides, and now the DVD. For some, my live talks might be considered a sixth resource, if they are able to attend one. These resources are the training kit for sustainability champions who want to be able to more effectively articulate the potential bottom-line benefits if their company were to improve its environmental and social impacts.

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Four New Resources for Sustainability Champions

March was a great month. I’ve been counting backward from that date for two years. I wanted to co-release four new interrelated business case resources for sustainability champions. It worked.

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Seven Business Case Benefits of a Triple Bottom Line

The New Sustainability Advantage has a recalibrated, and more compelling business case for sustainability strategies than described in its 2002 version. Based on recent case studies, it shows that if a typical company were to use best-practice sustainability approaches already being used by real companies, it could improve its profit by at least 51% to 81% within three to five years, while avoiding a potential 16% to 36% erosion of profits if it does nothing.

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End of Bob Willard’s Blog

In addition to the new book, dashboard, worksheets, and slides that will be released together in March, I’m also creating a new Sustainability Advantage DVD that will encapsulate my talk these days on new business case for sustainability. It will be ready in the summer and will include footage of several talks that I am doing between now and then. I’m still on track to do another 80-100 talks this year. Last year, I did 93 plus wrote the new book, so paying attention to the bi-weekly blog was a bit of a challenge. For people who are unable to attend one of my talks, the DVD will provide an opportunity for them to experience it virtually.

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Further on the Robin Hood Tax

So what? Compare that to the $700 billion in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) approved by Congress to bail out “Too-Big-Too-Fail” (TBTF) financial institutions. If there had been a reserve built from an FTT, the financial institutions could have bailed themselves out without tapping into taxpayers’ funds.

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3 Punchy Videos on How to Span the Wealth Chasm

The Occupy / We Are the 99% movements have awakened many people to unsustainable economic inequities. There has always been a gap between the have’s and the have not’s. It’s the widening of that wealth chasm during a recession and the co-opting of the political process by corporations that has aroused recent global protests.

Protestors are accused of being heavy on criticism and light on solutions. However, when they put forward well-thought-out proposals, they are ridiculed for being naïve and out of touch with “reality.” That is, they don’t have any good ideas. Oh, really? These three videos cleverly capture concrete proposals that would help address the underlying causes of unjust and dangerous wealth inequities.

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3 Options for a More Sustainable Society

In September, 165 university and college student leaders from across Canada came together for three days with national business and sustainability leaders to explore real sustainability solutions. The Co-Operators Group convened this amazing IMPACT! conference at the University of Guelph, Ontario. I was on an opening night panel with three other cross-sector panelists.

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Risk to Revenue from Sudden Supply Chain Disruptions

Extreme weather events are happening more frequently, can damage the company’s facilities, and may require extensive time and money to rectify. The homes of employees may be severely damaged, or infrastructure providing access to the company site may be destroyed. Supply chain resilience after severe weather events is a growing issue for companies with far-flung global operations and suppliers. Storms at supplier locations or en route can jeopardize supply and force the company to use more expensive alternative sources.

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The Risk to Revenue From Less Competitive Prices

First, it is one thing to be expensive; it is another to be more expensive than competitors. The adjacent slide shows the concerns that drive companies’ climate change strategies. Pricing worries are behind the top three. If competitors are quicker to harvest the benefits of materials, energy, and water efficiencies, they could gain a price advantage and attract customers away.

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5 Reputational Risks to Revenue without Sustainability Strategies

Using the above very conservative assumptions to quantify potential percentages of revenue at risk and the probabilities of this happening in the next three to five years, these five risks could put $20,250,000 of the company’s current $500,000,000 of revenue at risk. That is about 4% of its revenue. That’s huge. This methodology yields similar results, regardless of the company / size.

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7 Risks to Revenue without Sustainability Strategies

Convincing a company executive to fully embed sustainability into its strategies and operations therefore requires a compelling two-part business case. This case must include the risks of what might happen if the company does not take action, as well as the benefits it can reap if it does.

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4 Contributors to Revenue from Services and Leasing

In my last two blogs, we looked at how company sustainability efforts can help generate more revenue because of its enhanced brand image as a responsible corporate citizen, as well as more revenue from new products and new markets. This week, we will look at additional revenue from selling services and leasing products.

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New Revenue from New Products and New Markets

In my last blog, we outlined how companies can gain more Business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) revenue from a more responsible company brand. This week we will look at a second way that sustainability strategies bolster revenue: the green attributes of the company’s products and services become differentiators.

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More B2C and B2B Revenue From a More Sustainable Brand

People buy from companies they trust. More and more, customers prefer to do business with companies that are doing good things and are responsible. The responsible image of the company builds loyalty with customers who identify with the values of the company – their loyalty is more to the company than to its products. Even […]

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3 Sustainable Ways to Rev-Up Revenue

We want leading sustainable companies to win. We want them to take market share away from unsustainable competitors — to take a bigger slice of the existing market pie. The payoff to a company for featuring the reduction of its product’s energy requirements and environmental impacts is improved brand image and reputation. This increased mind share is furthered by endorsements by external environmental agencies, generating beneficial “noise” around the products attributes and free publicity. That contributes more momentum to the revenue gains.

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4 ESG-Friendly Findings about Borrowing Rates

So the credit standing of borrowing firms is influenced by legal, reputational, and regulatory risks associated with environmental accomplishments. Companies with weaker environmental performance pay a premium for debt financing and companies with better scores pay less for debt. The study found that spread can be as much as 64 basis points (0.64%) and it is growing.

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3 Reasons Banks Fear ESG Laggards

How lenders respond to a company’s request for financial assistance is somewhat driven by the applicant’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) track record. Borrowers require financial capital in order to purchase equipment or new premises in which to produce its goods or services.

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