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New Metrics

The new and evolving metrics that are helping expand the way businesses create, quantify, manage and report their impacts, and the value they deliver.

G4 Revamps Materiality While Staying True to Its Roots

If the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) created a semantic “heat map” of the most-used terms at its Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting this week, Materiality would win hands-down.

What I Learned About Sustainability At REI, Part 2: Metrics Over Intuition

This is the second in a series of posts on things I learned while leading Corporate Social Responsibility at REI for the past seven years (read part one).

Run Up to SB '13: John Havens Crowdsourcing Happiness To Save the World

John C. Havens is founder of the H(app)athon Project, a contributing writer for Mashable and

New Tool Kit Helps Companies Make Better Natural Capital Decisions

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) last week released a new toolkit to help businesses assess, measure and value the natural capital used throughout their operations.

Crossing Thresholds: From Fossil Fuel Divestment to Sustainable Investment

Three cheers to Bill McKibben and for raising much-needed awareness through their campaign urging university endowments and pension funds to divest from fossil fuel-producing companies.

eBay Launches Standard for Measuring Costs, Impacts of Online Transactions

eBay has released a new Digital Service Efficiency (DSE) dashboard to monitor and analyze the cost, performance and environmental impact of customer buy and sell transactions in an effort to balance and tune its technical infrastructure, according to a recent announcement.

UK Task Force Report Explains Why Businesses, Government Should Prioritize Environmental Preservation

Today, the Ecosystem Markets Task Force (EMTF), an independent task force aimed at finding new opportunities for UK businesses to drive green economic growth, released its Final Report stating the opportunities available for businesses that properly value nature

Shell’s ‘New Lens Scenarios’ Predict Near-Zero Global Carbon Emissions by 2100

Shell released new scenarios last week that explore two possible futures with dramatically different implications for society and the world’s energy system. One scenario sees cleaner-burning natural gas becoming the most important energy source globally by the 2030s and early action to limit carbon dioxide emissions. The other sees solar becoming the top source by about 2070, but with slower action to address the threat of climate change.The New Lens Scenarios look at trends in the economy, politics and energy as far ahead as 2100, and underscore the critical role government policies could play in shaping the future.

Heinz, Colgate Divulge Forest Footprints, But Many Firms Falling Behind, Report Says

Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Gucci and Heinz reported their forest impacts for the first time this year, but the gap between leading companies and laggards is growing, according to the fourth annual Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD) Report.Every year FFD asks the world’s biggest firms to reveal their impact on forests based on the use of five chief commodities — soy, palm oil, timber and pulp, cattle products and biofuels. According to FFD, last year 100 companies disclosed their forest footprints, a 15 percent increase over the previous year.

EnergyPoints' Universal Metric Is Linchpin for New Integrated Reporting Application

Software company EnergyPoints unveiled a new application this week designed to enable businesses to issue a single, integrated sustainability report that conveys both the financial and environmental impact of a company’s energy and resource consumption.

Groundbreaking Cabot Study Reveals Shortcomings of Conventional Sustainability Metrics

A new study of carbon emissions highlights striking differences between conventional and new, context-based sustainability metrics. Cabot Creamery Cooperative, a well-known dairy company, last month concluded a retrospective study in which the reliability and usefulness of both varieties of metrics were examined. The Center for Sustainable Organizations in Vermont conducted the study.

Let’s Value People as an Asset, and Bring Financial Statements into the 21st Century

What is your organization’s most important asset? CEOs often respond that the organization’s people are its greatest asset. But if this is true, where are people accounted for in the financial statements? Today, people are generally classified as expenses on the income statement and liabilities on the balance sheet – not as an investable asset. Thus, when CEOs seek to increase profit, they cut costs – like people – rather than investing in assets – like people – that can appreciate. What Is Your Organization’s Most Important Asset?

GRI’s G4 Exposure Draft Undermines Sustainable Global Economy

We’re scratching our heads over the Global Reporting Initiative’s recent release of the Exposure Draft of its fourth generation of Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (dubbed “G4”).

GRI and Sustainability Context: Explain It Like We’re Four

“Now, explain it to me like I’m a four year old,” says Denzel Washington to Tom Hanks in the 1993 film Philadelphia. We pose this same question to the Global Reporting Initiative, the standard-setter for sustainability reporting.

Clarifying the Business Case for Sustainability and CSR

Michael Porter and Mark Kramer once wrote: "No business can solve all of society’s problems or bear the cost of doing so." Striking a similar chord, Aneel Karnani later said: "...the idea that companies have a responsibility to act in the public interest and will profit from doing so is fundamentally flawed."

Are Materiality Matrices Really Material?

While it is common practice now for corporate sustainability reports to include materiality matrices, whether or not they actually serve their purpose is debatable. Indeed, we (the Center for Sustainable Organizations) don't think they do, and have some suggestions for how to improve them.

GRI Responds to "Enforce or Explain"

GRI has now formally responded to the Enforce or Explain campaign we (the Center for Sustainable Organizations) launched last month in which we suggested that it either enforce the ‘sustainability context’ principle in its Guidelines, or explain why it doesn’t. Motivated, in part, by GRI’s own Report or Explain Campaign, in which GRI exhorts businesses around the world to issue sustainability reports or explain why they don’t, our campaign was aimed at GRI itself.

A Public Plea to GRI: Enforce or Explain

Earlier this month, we (the Center for Sustainable Organizations) issued a press release in which we called for GRI to either enforce the ‘sustainability context’ requirement in its standard, or explain why it doesn’t. Motivated, in part, by GRI’s own Report or Explain Campaign, in which GRI exhorts businesses around the world to issue sustainability reports or explain why they don’t, our campaign is aimed at GRI itself.

Do LCAs Measure Up To Sustainability?

Despite the growing use of LCAs (life cycle assessments) to measure the sustainability of products, a strong case can be made that the one has less to do with the other than most people think. By design, LCAs provide a way of quantifying the environmental impacts of products and services from cradle to grave.

Sustainability Context – What Is It?

As some readers of this column may already know, I have for the past several years been advocating for the adoption of an approach to sustainability management known as context-based sustainability, or CBS. CBS is not only the most intellectually rigorous form of sustainability management, it is the one upon which the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) explicitly relies in the form of what it refers to as sustainability context.