Sustainability – people, planet, profits

I loved the title of this AMCHAM Women in Management seminar and I enjoyed the content and the format. The speakers gave great insights into what organisations are doing to contribute to sustainability, they also gave us their personal stories and the format gave us time to engage with our table groups rather than just passive listening. Three big ticks from me.

On the “people” front, Siobhan Toohill told us about a number of initiatives to engage Stockland employees in sustainability, including introducing a balanced scorecard for all employees. What a way to embed the corporate balanced scorecard – with a 10% KPI requires each employee to identify what they are doing to contribute to sustainability.

The flow-on benefit for Stockland is that employee engagement scores are way up, confirming that sustainability is good for business.

Gemma Poppett from Energy Australia (and also a passionate Al Gore-accredited speaker) spoke persuasively about what we can each do on the planetary front. This generated lots of discussion at our table 13, including commitments to take action on personal and business initiatives that are within our control. I particularly liked Gemma’s comment that women tend to think more about the common good – so I will be thinking about how to use the power of this knowledge now that the tide is turning in favour of sustainability discussions in organisations.

Amanda McClusky from Colonial First State, showed a different perspective on “profit” through distinguishing sustainable and responsible investing from ethical investing. The former identifies the environmental, social and governance issues with the potential to materially impact the companies they invest in. In comparison, ethical investment analysis takes a view on whether investments are good /bad, based on the products and services they produce, or the social and environmental impact they have.

I also liked her comments about the leading edge indicators of success from analysts’ point of view -being audit structure and governance structure (based on research from Goldman Sachs). Fifteen years ago the leading edge indicator was the quality of management / leadership within the organisation. Now the leading edge has shifted to the quality of governance and audit. Interesting!

And let’s not forget the sponsor GE. I’m not usually a fan of sponsor “infomercials” but I liked Linda Davis’ insights into the GE Eco-magination program and and the huge amount of money they are spending on eco initiatives.

All in all, a very informative, enjoyable and worthwhile networking night.

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