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Posted: September 07, 2012

The business value of sustainability

The financial markets are taking notice

Martha Young

First Data Corporation, a leading Colorado employer, is hosting a conversation later this month on the business value of undertaking sustainability initiatives within the company’s business practices. First Data, wholly owned by private equity company Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. LP (KKR), provides electronic commerce and payment solutions to consumers, companies of all sizes, governments and financial institutions.

Here's why this conversation is important:

Over the past few years, there have been significant information flows on the business value of implementing sustainability initiatives; however, the companies being highlighted have most often been large, publically traded entities such as WalMart, Ford Motor and Proctor and Gamble. Their sustainability initiatives almost always tie directly to their CSR (corporate social responsibility) metrics and reports. These are, plain and simple, marketing tools designed to appeal to the emotions of buyers.

What is unusual about the upcoming First Data – KKR discussion is the role of private equity in the sustainable business practices conversation.  KKR joining the conversation strongly suggests the recognition of the business value of implementing sustainability within a company has finally reached Wall Street.

This means that the financial markets are attributing additional value to companies that are tackling and reporting on sustainability practices. We aren’t talking small potatoes here like changing light bulbs. We are talking about big, bold initiatives that are meaningful and impactful: Initiatives like waste reduction, water use reduction and emissions measures.

Consider this: KKR is one of numerous, large, Wall Street-based companies actively backing the newly formed Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). The SASB is working with the investment community including financial firms, NGOs, and publically traded companies to create standard methods of reporting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) data. Standardized reporting makes easy work of comparing companies within a sector.

Implementing sustainability initiatives has finally moved from the Early Adopter phase to the Early Majority. Getting reluctant stakeholders on board will become a whole lot easier once stock prices begin to reflect ESG data.

Register to attend the conversation on the business value of undertaking sustainability initiatives on Sept. 26 from 7:30 to 10 a.m., on the University of Colorado, Denver campus.Hear Ellen Sandberg from First Data and Elizabeth Seeger (via weblink) from KKR discuss the principles of sustainable business, the challenges they encountered and how they overcame them and the significant results they achieved. This is an interactive discussion with a Q&A session with the panelists.

Martha Young is principal at NovaAmber, LLC, a business strategy company based in Golden. Young has held positions as industry analyst, director of market research, competitive intelligence analyst, and sales associate. She has written books, articles, and papers regarding the intersection of technology and business for over 15 years. She has co-authored four books on the topics of virtual business processes, virtual business implementations, and project management for IT. Young can be reached at myoung@novaamber.com or on Twitter @myoung_vbiz

 

 

 

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Readers Respond

George, thank you for posting additional sources of sustainability information. The more we can share and solicit engagement, the faster the adoption rate for firms of all sizes. Best, Martha By Martha on 2012 09 11
It is great that sustainability is hitting more companies of any size. You mentioned Walmart, who has started a Green Student Challenge to build upon ideas to make the supply chain more sustainable. For the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP) member companies, Nike, Starbucks, Timberland and more, are working to reduce greenhouse gases by using renewable energy. At MIT, they have formed the Sloan Social Impact Club to help world organization create a socially sustainable impact. Competitors has formed the Sustainability Consortium to work on sustainable food supplies. Thank you for telling people about about this event. Sustainability is good business. By George Tyler on 2012 09 07
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