At its core, the #NewMetrics series of events has always been about quantifying previously ignored risks, costs and revenue potential associated with sustainability impacts. Over the years, we have explored important new metrics related to the whole range of vital capitals — natural, human, social, relationship, intellectual and financial — with the same end goal of helping businesses understand the full picture of their presence in the world, so they can then improve it in informed, holistic ways.
Some aspects of this #NewMetrics journey, now in its 8th year, have been constant. Each year brings an ever-growing number of ways to show the positive ROI of sustainability — through new research studies, case studies and tools. We also consistently cover the latest and most helpful practices in sustainability goal-setting, accounting and reporting. This year will be no exception.
Other parts of the program keep changing, as the field naturally continues to evolve in the context of a complex and rapidly changing world. Below are eight such timely topics executives are currently grappling with that are prominently featured in this year’s #NewMetrics agenda.
1. Risks and opportunities in taking a stand on controversial social issues
2. Lessons in transparency and trust resulting from unethical management
3. Action toward the Sustainable Development Goals is getting stronger and more diverse
4. The tremendous value of gender equality and inclusion
Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions, despite growing and overwhelmingly clear evidence of the value of gender diversity and inclusion. Research by McKinsey Global Institute found that the global economy could gain between $12 and $28 trillion by 2025 by fixing the gender gap. In addition, companies with at least one female board member consistently yield higher income growth and higher return on equity than those that do not have any women on the board, and female managers have been shown to be better at engaging employees than male managers.
5. The emerging ‘Science of Wellbeing’
The ‘science of wellbeing’ may not be fully recognized as its own field yet, but it is coming together and on a quest to evaluate a wide range of impacts that businesses are having on human health. Some of the main ‘branches’ are studying the impacts of technology on wellbeing and mental health, the impacts of spending time outdoors vs. indoors, the impacts of corporate culture and norms on employees’ lives, and the impacts of ‘greening’ office buildings and urban environments, among others. Forward-looking brands would be smart to align their innovation and employee engagement plans with this new type of intelligence.
6. Purpose-led management continues to trend, giving rise to ‘purpose accounting’
Everyone’s heard of financial performance, asset performance and sustainability performance. Now comes ‘purpose performance’ — a new measure of organizational performance that assesses impacts relative to the commitments organizations make to provide public benefits, contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, or to generally pursue beneficial purposes of one kind or another. Leading experts are calling performance accounting for purpose ‘purpose accounting’ and a few forward-looking companies are already implementing it.
7. Driving employee engagement and productivity through the use of sustainable 401(k) plans
Rating the sustainability of a company’s 401(k) plan is a new way to boost employee engagement, increase productivity through employee satisfaction and spur people to save more for a better future. Higher-impact portfolios — which can reduce future risk and enhance future return — are possible when employees see the true impact performance of the holdings inside their 401(k) fund choices. Fueled largely by Millennials, this trend will only gain further momentum from here.
8. The seemingly unstoppable rise of blockchain and digital currencies