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New “sSWOT” Guide Can Help Boost Corporate Sustainability

Sarah Cohen, an intern with WRI's Markets and Enterprise Program, also contributed to this blog post.

Do you have colleagues who roll their eyes when they hear the words “environment” or “sustainability?” The sad truth is that environmental issues are not always a passion for everyone at every organization. However, climate change and other environmental challenges are shaping tomorrow’s markets—so how do you draw connections between sustainability and business value for those who may not see it right away?

Today, WRI is releasing a guide to address this question and many more related to corporate sustainability. The guide—which was road-tested this summer by a dozen major companies like Target, Method, and Staples—adds a sustainability component to the traditional Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis that corporations have relied on for more than 50 years. Our sustainability SWOT, or “sSWOT,” is designed to help corporate sustainability champions engage colleagues, customers, suppliers, and even competitors to identify links to business risks and brainstorm new business opportunities.

A Closer Look at Aqueduct's Forthcoming Global Water Risk Maps

This story is part of the “Aqueduct Sneak Peek” series. Aqueduct Sneak Peek provides an early look at the Aqueduct team’s updated global water risk maps, which will be released in January 2013.

New reports and articles are increasingly pointing to water risk as one of the biggest issues associated with climate change, energy production, food security, and human health. In an effort to better understand how and where these water risks are emerging, WRI published the first-ever Aqueduct water risk map two years ago.

Today, the need for better information on where and how water can create risks for companies, investors, and communities is more apparent than ever. To address this need, the Aqueduct team has been working with our hydrological modeling partner, ISciences, on producing a brand new set of global maps of water risk.

We’ll make this new data available in January 2013. A few of the improvements and refinements that make these new Aqueduct global maps the best available picture of water risk around the world include:

3 Companies that Are Making Money by Embracing Sustainability

Superstorm Sandy and the subsequent Nor’easter were the biggest news this week and last. The combination of two powerful forces resulted in unprecedented and widespread damage. Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted.

I can’t help but draw the connection between our recent extreme weather and businesses today—corporations are increasingly recognizing that they, too, are navigating two powerful forces. One force demands financial results, while the other requires increasingly sophisticated techniques to respond to climate, energy, resource scarcity, and other sustainability risks. The ways businesses navigate both these forces will determine whether they are truly viable over the long-term.

3 Pioneering Businesses Focused on Profits and Environmental Stewardship

On the eve of Hurricane Sandy, I moderated a Net Impact conference panel titled “Driving Bolder Investments in Sustainability.” This panel brought together representatives from Waste Management, Intel, and Pepsi to discuss how sustainability is no longer an add-on, but is becoming core to business planning. These three companies are incorporating environmental initiatives in order to shield themselves from business risk and boost their profits.

Companies and MBAs Test New Sustainability SWOT

At last week’s Net Impact conference, WRI challenged teams of attendees to come up with what was essentially a “mashup” of megatrends and environmental challenges. The teams then engaged in a friendly competition to see who could create the most innovative corporate sustainability strategies for a hypothetical company modeled after LEGO.

The teams began by looking at global environmental challenges (like clean energy, climate change, and waste removal); then connected these hurdles to other big trends (such as urbanization and social inequality); and finally, assessed strategic actions for the model company. The result was a handful of very clever corporate sustainability strategies. One team suggested that 3D-printing and materials science could enable the company to produce toys in growing markets using bio-based plastics, thereby reducing shipping costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Another team thought that creating visual instruction guides could help overcome language barriers and promote affordable green building design and construction. And the winning team proposed partnering with companies like Coca-Cola and non-profit organizations like 5 Gyres to reuse plastic waste in the world’s oceans (similar to what Method and United by Blue are currently doing).

The proposals varied greatly, but all the teams had one thing in common: They used WRI’s new Sustainability SWOT (sSWOT) as a guiding framework to shape and communicate their strategies.

Why Businesses Must Focus on Climate Change Mitigation AND Adaptation

This week, Hurricane Sandy drew attention to the increasing climate-related risks for communities and businesses.

More and more companies are recognizing and reporting on actions they’re taking to “mitigate” climate change, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through energy efficiency, renewable power, and cleaner vehicles. Now, businesses are finding they’ll also need to “adapt” to more volatile conditions and help vulnerable communities become more resilient. Adaptation means recognizing and preparing for impacts like water stress, coastal flooding, community health issues, or supply chain disruptions, among other issues.

WRI discussed why businesses need to embrace mitigation AND adaptation strategies at the recent Net Impact conference, where I sat on a panel entitled: “Climate Change Adaptation: Mitigating Risk and Building Resilience.” Dr. David Evans, Director of the Center for Sustainability at Noblis, moderated the panel. Other panelists included Gabriela Burian, Director for Sustainable Agriculture Ecosystems at Monsanto, and John Schulz, Director of Sustainability Operations at AT&T.

What We Don’t Know About Water Can Hurt Us

This story is part of the “Aqueduct Sneak Peek” series. Aqueduct Sneak Peek provides an early look at the Aqueduct team’s updated global water risk maps, which will be released in January 2013.

The days leading up to Hurricane Sandy’s landfall were a testament to the power of global data systems in helping to understand and manage risks that natural phenomena can create. A vast, worldwide network of weather monitoring stations and sophisticated remote sensing allowed meteorologists to track and predict Sandy’s progress—and give ample warning to those of us in the hurricane’s path.

The map below is one way to visualize the global data network that makes such analysis possible. It shows Integrated Surface Database (ISD) stations, a widely distributed network of weather stations that all report regularly to a centralized hub.

4 Key Issues Surrounding Climate Policies, Carbon Markets, and Competitiveness

Even in the absence of an international framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, several countries, states, and provinces are developing and implementing climate policies. A growing number of these policies include market-based programs, some of which aim to link to each other through regional and global carbon markets. Countries like the United States can learn a lot from the economic and political experiences of these climate policy “first movers.”

Earlier this week, I sat on a panel at Carbon Forum North America entitled “International Trade and Carbon: It’s a Competitive World.” At this session, we considered current issues and concerns involved with implementing climate policies, especially how pricing carbon pollution can impact economic competitiveness.

4 Key Issues that Came Up During Our Discussion:

  1. Carbon markets are on the rise. According to Jeff Hopkins, a fellow panelist and principal adviser for international energy and climate policy at Rio Tinto, by 2014, roughly 25 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions will be covered under market-based emissions-reduction programs. Hopkins also estimates that by 2014, 75 percent of emissions from Rio Tinto’s operations will occur in jurisdictions that have enacted market-based emissions-reduction policies.

Pavan Sukhdev Discusses 4 Ways to Create More Sustainable Corporations

“To tell the story of the corporation is to tell the story of a grand bargain gone awry,” says Pavan Sukhdev in his new book, Corporation 2020: Transforming Business for Tomorrow’s World. It’s a bold statement, but he backs up his claim persuasively. While many companies are reaching record profits, they’ve oftentimes come at the expense of ecological degradation, rising greenhouse gas emissions, unemployment, spikes in food and fuel costs, and social inequalities.

But Sukhdev has developed what he believes is a framework for shifting the private sector towards a greener, more equitable economy. WRI recently hosted Sukhdev at our Washington, D.C. office to discuss his new book and his vision for the future. The founder of GIST Advisory and former head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative joined a panel discussion with WRI’s Managing Director, Manish Bapna, and Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility.

“Pavan has written a remarkable new book,” said WRI’s president, Andrew Steer, who opened Wednesday’s event. “It not just a book, but really a campaign to change corporations in four viable ways.”

The 4 “Planks” for Corporate Sustainability

Sukhdev’s framework for shifting the private sector towards greater social and environmental sustainability includes what he calls the “four planks of change:”

Collaboration Trumps Competition for Developers of Water Risk and Stewardship Tools

This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues. Read more posts in this series.

This piece was co-authored by Anne-Leonore Boffi, Program Officer with the WBCSD, and Ruth Mathews, Executive Director of the Water Footprint Network.

The unsustainable use of water and the risks it creates is on the minds of many of the thousands of water experts from the corporate, NGO, and government worlds who convened in Stockholm this week for World Water Week. As companies increasingly view water as not just an environmental issue, but a complex driver of very real risks to their businesses, the appetite for better information on how to manage these risks and become good water stewards has grown substantially. In fact, many organizations have put tremendous effort into developing tools and methodologies and compiling the best publicly available water information so that companies can manage their water use in sustainable, efficient, and equitable ways.

This week in Stockholm, teams from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), World Resources Institute (WRI), and Water Footprint Network (WFN) convened a seminar called “Towards Sustainability: Harmonising Water Tools for Better Water Governance”. The event focused on providing an overview of each tool and highlighting areas requiring better harmonization and coordination efforts to help drive companies towards better management and stewardship of water resources. The seminar also included Ceres, DEG (a German development finance institution), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the UN CEO Water Mandate. The goal of the seminar was to explain how our organizations are striving to provide companies with a clear, easy-to- understand, and compatible set of water management tools—not a variety of competing efforts, but rather an organized and coordinated front.

Water Management Requires Global Perspective, Local Solutions

This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues. Read more posts in this series.

This piece was co-authored by Stuart Orr, Freshwater Manager, WWF. It also appears on the WWF Freshwater Programme blog.

There is no shortage of troubling statistics to prove that water management is a global challenge. About 1.2 billion people currently face water scarcity, and a population expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050 will put increased strain on already pressured water supplies worldwide.

But while the water challenge is truly global, it also demands solutions that are tailored to local conditions. Availability, use, and quality of water vary dramatically from place to place.

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