Crowd Sourcing CSR Metrics

By Bahar Gidwani

 

Sustainable Brands kindly invited me to speak at their Boston New Metrics ’14 conference.  They asked me to lead a panel called “Tapping the Crowd for Insights and Solutions: Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, and the Personal Data Economy.”  I got to work with three experts: Gwen Nguyen, Cause Director, Indiegogo; Reki Hattori, CTO, Datacoup, and Dr. Thomas Malone from MIT’s Climate CoLab.  It was fun to work with them and I think both I and the audience learned something from our presentations and discussion.

 

We at CSRHub had recently posted research on the relationship between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and crowdfunding.  However, the SB folks wanted me to talk about how crowd data could influence sustainability metrics.  This is a topic we care about deeply—we have already integrated more than a quarter million pieces of crowd data into our database.

 

I started by pointing out that we already have many good sources of sustainability information.  In fact, there are almost too many for anyone to track via normal means.  CSRHub currently lists >330 sources in our system, and that number grows by three to ten sources per month.

 

sources of sustainability information

 

CSRHub gathers all this data into one place, harmonizes it, and makes it useful to sustainability practitioners.  We’ve recently grown our coverage to include more than 9,000 companies in 106 countries.

 

CSRHub Ratings

 

Ten years ago, only a few large (or very socially-minded) companies issued corporate responsibility reports or reported their performance to groups such as GRI or CDP.  These days, thousands of companies have employee-driven community service programs, recycling and carbon reduction targets, and sustainability areas on their web sites.  As you can see below, after twenty years of progress, more than 90% of the Global 250 issues CSR reports.

 

KPMG Survey of CSR Reporting 2013 Shows That Most Big Companies Have CSR Reports

 

CR reporting

 

Hundreds of thousands of middle-sized and smaller companies—many of whom are privately held or not-for-profit organizations—are starting to report their social performance to their customers (via sustainability supply chain systems) or to local or national government organizations.  In contrast to the situation with bigger companies, most of the new data that smaller companies generate is never made public.  This has left a big gap that we believe crowd data can help fill.

 

crowd sourcing fills ratings gap

 

For instance, we have already integrated sources that provide data on as many as two million companies.  (In fact, AMEE told me recently they may be able soon to track more than 10 million firms.)

 

Glassdoor, Ekobai, WeGreen, AMEE

 

Crowd sources monetize in various ways.  For instance, Ekobai charges companies to list on its site, WeGreen captures a small part of the consumer purchases it helps direct, and Glassdoor sells job ads.  To generate the traffic and attention they need, crowd sources typically cover both larger, well-studied companies, and smaller ones.

 

We already use the data on one company to standardize and normalize the data on other companies.  We can therefore use our non-crowd expert sources to understand and adjust the ratings we get from crowd sources.  As a result, we should soon be able to track at least 50,000 companies and hopefully soon have ratings on hundreds of thousands of companies, both public and private, from around the world.

 

CSRHub crowd source data

 

Sustainability ratings and metrics are vital for making a number of business decisions.  By broadening the number of companies that can be rated, we should be able to enable faster and more accurate supply chain management, improve private investment decision-making, and encourage consumers to shift their purchases towards more sustainable products.  Most people seem to feel that consumer rating and credit management systems have improved our ability to make business decisions.  Broad-based sustainability ratings, based at least partly on crowd data sources, should generate similar long-term value for everyone.

 

 


 

Bahar GidwaniBahar Gidwani is CEO and Co-founder of CSRHub.  He has built and run large technology-based businesses for many years. Bahar holds a CFA, worked on Wall Street with Kidder, Peabody, and with McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to a number of major companies and currently serves on the board of several software and Web companies. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. Bahar is a member of the SASB Advisory Board.  He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

 

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 9,200+ companies from 135 industries in 106 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 348 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

 

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People Power of Climate March Readies Supporters for Next Stage

By Carol Pierson Holding

 

Like the true-blue climate supporter that I’m aspiring to be, I attended the People’s Ban frackingClimate March in New York City last week. I stood at the corner of Central Park West and West 77th Street and witnessed families with children, old people, college students, two women in wheelchairs and young lovers carrying very different signs but all united in a common cause to save the planet. I felt joy, exhilaration, and hope. We all did.

 

Post-March announcements seemed to confirm the March’s effectiveness:

  • Meeting organizers’ goals, UN Climate Summit speakers acknowledged the March and the people power that it represented. As President Obama said, “Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them.”
  • A group of institutional investors that includes the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and collectively manages $50 billion announced they will divest entirely from fossil fuels.
  • Yahoo and Yelp pulled support from climate-denying American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
  • A dozen corporations led by founding sponsors Ikea and Swiss Re “got the ball rolling” for REE100, an effort to convince 100 of the world’s largest businesses to run completely on renewable energy by 2020.
  • The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) vowed to ramp up renewable energy investments from $1.4 billion now to $3.7 billion within five years.

 

But when I came back to Seattle I wondered, did the March or any of these subsequent accomplishments make a difference? The actions I listed above are largely symbolic in the face of our ever-increasing carbon emissions, which rose 6 percent since 2011 in the U.S. alone.  What did the March really do?

 

Some are blaming lackadaisical media coverage for the March’s seeming lack of relevance. But really, what was there to report? There was no conflict, no adversary, no indignation, and very little risk for participants.

 

Where was the story? Wasn’t it just a big pep rally for those already converted?

 

In contrast, the Keystone Pipeline protests had it all – conflict, bad guys, anger, clear demands – and yes these protests were covered in the media and yes they were effective in pushing closer to specific goals. Yet anti-Keystone protests never came close to the size of the March. The original Hands Around the White House action in 2011 was just 10,000 protesters. Fewer than a thousand students demonstrated in front of John Kerry’s home last March in a “human oil spill.” In April, 60 members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance set up camp on the National Mall in Washington DC. And these actions got results, delaying the Pipeline approval process for years.

 

It is truly amazing how effective protests can be if they’re directed at a single cause and deliver specific demands. I’ve seen it here in the Pacific Northwest, where protestors have shut down plans to build coal ports that would ship the filthy fuel from multiple points along the Pacific Northwest to Asia. As of last week, four of the six proposed ports have been forced to withdraw their plans. The crash in coal prices helped, but protests made development that much more uncertain and expensive.

 

The People’s Climate March was a love-in, a successful pep rally to recruit new volunteers and ready faithful supporters for the next stage, where to stop climate change, protests must be mounted against each specific threat in each of our own back yards. It’s the only way climate solutions can work: in conjunction with regulatory changes, an end to emitters through thousands of actions. Three cheers to the People’s Climate March for getting us ready.

 

Photo courtesy of Carol Pierson Holding.

 


Carol Pierson HoldingCarol Pierson Holding writes on environmental issues and social responsibility for policy and news publications, including the Carnegie Council’s Policy Innovations, Harvard Business Review, San Francisco Chronicle, India Time, The Huffington Post and many other web sites. Her articles on corporate social responsibility can be found on CSRHub.com, a website that provides sustainability ratings data on 9,300+ companies worldwide. Carol holds degrees from Smith College and Harvard University.

 

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 9,300+ companies from 135 industries in 106 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 343 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

 

 

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UN Figueras to HBS Alums: Elites Can Change the World…And Invest in Change

By Carol Pierson Holding and Cynthia Figge

 

We are inspired by a call with Harvard Business School alumni, Dan Abbasi, low carbon Harvard Business Schoolinvestor and executive producer of the Emmy-winning television series on climate change called “Years of Living Dangerously,” and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Fifty of us listened as Figueres briefed us on the status of climate change action and expectations for the UN talks this week. She and Dan Abbasi were engaging with elite members of the business community to encourage us to apply pressure wherever possible to global leaders coming together on Tuesday to tackle this issue. It was meaningful to us because it marks the first time we’ve been networked with other HBS grads for social action related to climate change.

 

Why start with an NGO effort like the UN climate talks? In Abbasi’s words,

 

“The climate change issue has suffered from a serious diffusion of responsibility and resulting inaction – business is waiting for government to act, and government is waiting for business to give them permission.”

 

In other words, we need to move both at once to effect timely action on the climate, to keep global temperatures within the limits of human safety.

 

We have to say, it’s heartening to hear from this contingent when so many of our fellow graduates seem to be deep in the deny or postpone camp.

 

Abbasi’s main carrot for calling this group together was to show “the huge opportunity to put capital to work very profitably” and to “use the HBS network to be a force for social change that it already is.” And of course the stick will be carbon pricing. Along the way, Figueres was able to make several points that elucidated these motivational pillars:

 

  • $9 trillion is needed for clean energy infrastructure – the largest investment opportunity in our history.
  • China is in the lead in this transition with huge wind and solar commitments for the future. Even now, it produces double the European Union in energy from wind and has started development of a solar plant that will yield as many gigawatts as a nuclear facility. China is also helping other countries to make the transition, investing in Australia’s plan for renewables in the Pacific Islands.
  • Being the most vulnerable to climate change, ocean-dependent nations are the first to make the transition. For example, Samoa will be completely transitioned to renewables by 2016, proving it can be done.
  • Forty countries have carbon pricing in place now, plus seven pilots in China, several around the US (California for one) and elsewhere. Global carbon pricing should happen quickly once China aggregates its regional carbon pricing plans into a single national price, a price that will be easy for others around the globe to adopt as well.
  • Public opinion and an engaged citizenry is critical to these efforts. It was the outrage of China’s public over health risks of its extreme air pollution that moved that country. Here in the U.S., the People’s Climate March on Sunday the largest call for climate action in history, makes it visible to our government and UN representatives how widespread public support is.
  • The elite can exert their influence in targeted calls to government leaders and in sustainable business practices in their personal and professional lives, changes that will move sustainable behavior to the mainstream.

 

Abassi closed with a statement that climate change should not be a political issue, but an investment issue. The stick was left hanging, but as we learned years ago at the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future, smart companies like Dupont have been using their own internal carbon pricing for years, preparing for what they believe is the inevitable future. And by examining CSRHub’s ratings on Energy and Climate Change, as businesspeople, we can compare how companies are performing in this area, and take action.

 

Why was this confab so important? This is the start of an organized effort by the business elite to tackle the issue of climate change. That a small band of HBS alumni has started to build a movement is as thrilling as the global climate march. Climate change advocates already include such prominent business leaders as Michael Bloomberg and Henry Paulson, but they are outliers among Wall Street Journal readers who roundly deny or even mock efforts to address climate change. This inaugural meeting of HBS supporters could eventually change minds, moving our work to the mainstream of the business elite as well.

 

 

 


Carol Pierson HoldingCarol Pierson Holding writes on environmental issues and social responsibility for policy and news publications, including the Carnegie Council’s Policy Innovations, Harvard Business Review, San Francisco Chronicle, India Time, The Huffington Post and many other web sites. Her articles on corporate social responsibility can be found on CSRHub.com, a website that provides sustainability ratings data on 9,300+ companies worldwide. Carol holds degrees from Smith College and Harvard University.

 
Cynthia FiggeCynthia Figge is a forerunner and thought leader in the corporate sustainability movement. She is COO and Cofounder of CSRHub, the world’s largest database that aggregates and organizes data and knowledge on the social, environmental, and governance performance of 9,300 companies to provide sustainability ratings to the marketplace. In 1996 she co-founded EKOS International, one of the first consultancies integrating sustainability and corporate strategy. Prior to founding EKOS, she was an officer of LIN Broadcasting / McCaw Cellular, and led new businesses and services with Weyerhaeuser, New York Daily News; and with New Ventures. Cynthia is Board Director of the Compassionate Action Network International. Cynthia received her bachelor’s degree in Economics and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. She lives in the Seattle area.

 

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 9,300+ companies from 135 industries in 106 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 343 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

 

 

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CSRHub’s Bahar Gidwani Speaking at Sustainable Brand’s New Metrics ‘14

CSRHub CEO and Co-founder Bahar Gidwani will be speaking at Sustainable Brand’sSustainable Brands '14 New Metrics ‘14, September 24-25, 2014 in Boston, MA.  Bahar will be on a discussion panel, Tapping the Crowd for Insights and Solutions: Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, and the Personal Data Economy, along with executives from:
 
Reki Hattori, CTO, Datacoup

Thomas Malone, Director, Climate Co-Lab

Gwen Nguyen, Cause Director, Indiegogo

Bahar Gidwani, CEO, CSRHub

 

 

Tapping the Crowd for Insights and Solutions: Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, and the Personal Data Economy

 

There is currently a boom in tech advances enabling companies to tap the crowd for multiple new types of data and solutions to complex business problems. Whether we’re talking about new ways to collect, store and trade personal data, or new tech vehicles for pooling collective intelligence in response to climate change, or creative applications of crowdfunding platforms – there is a lot of valuable knowledge in this field for sustainability, marketing and finance professionals!

 

Use the code NWSPKNM14 for 20% off  your pass and join us in Boston, Sept. 24-26.

 

 


 

Bahar GidwaniBahar Gidwani is CEO and Co-founder of CSRHub.  He has built and run large technology-based businesses for many years. Bahar holds a CFA, worked on Wall Street with Kidder, Peabody, and with McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to a number of major companies and currently serves on the board of several software and Web companies. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. Bahar is a member of the SASB Advisory Board.  He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

 

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 9,100+ companies from 135 industries in 104 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 339 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

 

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Climate Change Advocates Need Positive Branding

By Carol Pierson Holding

 

The idea of branding climate change seems like another exercise in navel-gazing until you China pollutionconsider the effectiveness of the opposition. They’ve got branding down, relentlessly repeating the mantra, “science is inconclusive and solutions are exorbitant and unproven.” On the other hand, environmentalists repeat vague Cassandra-like warnings of “climate change” and “global warming,” supporting dire predictions with confusing statistics, hard-pressed to come up with simple, relevant messages.

 

Even relatively green media like the New York Times end up reinforcing the fossil fuel messages, especially in their business sections. In an unfortunately common example, Friday’s Huffington Post called out the New York Times for “overhyping the benefits of fracking…(claiming that it was) changing the economic calculus for old industries and downtrodden cities alike.” Fracking equals jobs and a better economy, the article claimed. But Huffington Post reporter Mark Gongloff quoted Dean Baker, co-director of the Center For Economic And Policy Research, who found that in fact fracking communities had a worse record for factory jobs than the U.S. as a whole. Still, when it’s reported in the New York Times

 

Climate deniers are brilliant at setting up simple, memorable and scary financial calculations that brand climate change activists as prioritizing the environment against the economy. They pit environmental health against jobs. They equate renewable energy with sky-high utility bills. They warn electric cars have no range and will leave you stranded and solar panels will burn your house down. And my favorite, heard quite a bit in the halls of Congress: why should the U.S. pay to clean up the atmosphere when China now emits more greenhouse gas than we do?

 

Again, even environmentally-friendly media reinforce this trope. The latest is last week’s Rolling Stone article titled “China, the Climate and the Fate of the Planet.” The article is rife with fodder for climate solution obstructionists, starting with author Jeff Goodell’s front page called-out quote:  “If the world’s biggest polluter doesn’t radically reduce the amount of coal it burns within the next decade, nothing anyone does to stabilize the climate will matter.”

 

True, China’s contribution to atmospheric CO2 is now over 10 billion metric tons a year, and 25 years of climate negotiations have failed utterly. But Goodell’s article did not have to lead with the negative. He could have highlighted that China is now the largest consumer of solar power and that this year, 60 percent of its new energy production was from renewable energy sources, even higher than the U.S. at 53.8 percent. That it’s making every effort to close coal plants. Or that even in the face of beatings or worse, its citizens are still rioting in the streets against fossil fuel production.

 

Iconic graphic designer Milton Glaser, creator of the “I Love New York” logo, developed a climate change branding campaign with buttons and billboards that feature a black circle fading to a small green strip at its bottom edge over the slogan “IT’S NOT WARMING. IT’S DYING.” Position this message against one of the current denier billboards that proclaims “’Green’ Climate Policies: Probably unnecessary. Certainly ineffectual. Ruinously expensive.” Which one sounds more rationale? More persuasive? Easier to adopt? Commenting for Fast Company, Adele Peters questions Glazer’s negative approach but remains hopeful that he’s tackled the challenge. Her closing thought is absolutely correct: “We need more brilliant designers and marketers tackling the messaging about climate change in different ways–especially in the U.S., which leads the world in climate denial.”

 

Photo courtesy of DaiLuo via Flickr CC.

 


Carol Pierson HoldingCarol Pierson Holding writes on environmental issues and social responsibility for policy and news publications, including the Carnegie Council’s Policy Innovations, Harvard Business Review, San Francisco Chronicle, India Time, The Huffington Post and many other web sites. Her articles on corporate social responsibility can be found on CSRHub.com, a website that provides sustainability ratings data on 9,100+ companies worldwide. Carol holds degrees from Smith College and Harvard University.

 

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 9,100+ companies from 135 industries in 104 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 339 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

 

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