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Will Day, PwC: the companies that deserve to succeed call sustainability ‘common sense’

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Many who know the man will find this hard to believe but, by his own admission, Will Day describes himself as a slow learner. In fact, he claims to have only learnt two things in his impressive career. One is that contrary to popular belief, the opposite of poverty is prosperity – and not charity – which came to him in the 1980s. The second penny dropped a few years later, during his stint as chief executive of the charity CARE International.

I was visiting a project we were supporting in Bolivia, Latin America, around the edge of a national park, where we were working with poor farmers”, he recalls.

The first ones I visited were actually in hospital because they’d been shot by the park guards. The park guards were effectively being supported by WWF, and the farmers were effectively being supported by CARE. That felt like a very weird thing. Here we were, two NGOs with presumably common purpose, and we ended up shooting at each other rather than collaborating and getting things done.”

It became clear to him that getting people, charities, NGOs, businesses and governments to work together, each doing what they do best, was the way forward for social, environment and economic development. “We needed to stop having parallel, silo-based responses to these things”, he says.

A number of years later, he left CARE to take advantage of these two crucial bits of learning he had acquired. He started working as an adviser to the UN, joined the faculty of the University of Cambridge’s Programme for Sustainability Leadership and also became chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, a now-defunct government advisory body. He was also part of a group responsible for setting up a water company, bringing together Unilever, Thames Water, Halcrow, CARE, WWF, WaterAid and Cranfield University to deliver water and sanitation at scale to slums in the developing world.  Each brought a complementary specialism to the party, in a nod towards the second important bit of knowledge.

Very few CVs match Day’s in terms of experience. In the early 80s, while helping run refugee camps in east Africa, it became clear to him that by providing local people with food and shelter, they were only solving immediate problems. He recalls how he had just ordered a load of cotton material, to be used as burial shrouds because of the high death rate in the area, when a visitor came to ask what comedians could do to help the relief efforts.

Despite understandably not being in a very comic mood, Day said there were two things they could assist with: raising money and communicating why the sorts of horrible things that were happening didn’t need to happen. They agreed, and came back to the UK to launch Comic Relief – which remains one of the most popular charities in the UK.

The first fundraising events were relatively small, but the cause was boosted exponentially when it made it onto television in the form of a one-night comedy extravaganza on the BBC.

Day’s job was to allocate the funds. If they weren’t careful, he says, they could have spent the whole amount responding to disasters. Instead, they began making concerted efforts to focus on longer term investment in development, setting themselves an initial  threshold of assigning no more than a quarter of their funds to emergencies.

Given his background in social development and charities, it may seem odd that he is now an adviser to the sustainability team at PwC. Day admits that his 19-year-old self would have recoiled at the thought of working for one of the ‘big four’ management consultancy firms, but says that the transition from sustainability to big business is commonplace nowadays.

PwC in particular, though, has made great strides in the sustainability world in the last five years. Its Low Carbon Economy Index report, which it first produced in 2009, is now one of the most important bits of economic analysis in the space.

Several years ago, over 220 PwC partners (more than a quarter of the entire partner group) attended sessions at the University of Cambridge, where Day worked for the Programme for Sustainability Leadership. They learned about climate change, population trends, energy, water, waste and carbon, and heard from scientists, economists, historians and other academics about why sustainability was something the firm and its clients needed to take very seriously.

On the basis of that shared understanding, PwC decided to expand its sustainability team. Day was asked if he was interested in joining them.

It was very flattering in some ways because this is a very competitive environment”, he explains.

I said, ‘Good Lord. I would like to, but I’ve got one caveat, and that is that my sense is you probably need to change everything you do.’ They said, ‘Funny thing, that. We think that’s probably right. If that’s your only requirement, please come and help us do it.’”

One thing that becomes abundantly clear during my conversation with Day is that PwC really does get sustainability – proven in no large part by the setting for our interview, the firm’s impressive London Bridge office at  7 More London Riverside, on the banks of the Thames.

The nine-storey building, which opened in April 2011, is rated Outstanding by BREEAM, the environmental assessment standard – the first building in London to achieve this rating, and still one of only a handful in the country. It is a fascinating blueprint for sustainable architectural design – but find a hair shirt, a pair of sandals or a tipi within the vicinity, you will not.

Instead, the building is home to a biofuel combined cooling heat and power (CCHP) system, essentially powered by chip fat from local businesses and restaurants. Other features include solar thermal heating, waterless urinals and smart lifts that use 50% less energy than conventional ones.

The result is a dramatically reduced carbon footprint – estimated at somewhere around 58% – and a working environment that is comfortable, attractive and welcoming.

Day introduces some of 7 More London Riverside’s sustainability credentials in the above video.

The more sceptical among you may be reading this thinking that PwC’s apparent brilliance in sustainability terms is just greenwash. Many good initiatives by big business, when scrutinised, sadly are. Indeed, the firm has had its fair share of criticism in the past – perhaps most notably to do with tax avoidance.

On this, Day questions the fine line between legality and morality: “I think we have got a problem, which is how we are assessing performance. Are we assessing performance on the basis of legality? In which case, close the loopholes and make it clear which things are legal activities and which are not.

Apart from any rotten apples that may be in anybody’s barrel, there’s no way a firm such as this – whose license to operate depends upon a relationship built on trust and confidentiality – is going to recommend an activity that is in breach of anybody’s law. There’s no way.”

He describes the apparent stigma against big business as “intriguing”, adding, “There are plenty of businesses that do deserve, I think, to have their bins gone through and to be asked very hard questions.” But the likes of Unilever and Marks & Spencer, two firms leading the way in sustainability, are both right in their approaches to sustainability, he adds.

It’s sort of a precondition that the chief executive sees value in sustainability. They absolutely don’t have to be signed up members of Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, because actually it’s not an environmental issue, this is a business issue. So if they don’t see the business imperatives, and the drivers and the risks and therefore the opportunities, then they will treat sustainability like an environmental thing.

Generationally, younger people get it because they inherit this mess. And they haven’t had the life beaten out of them yet, or the rough edges removed. And they haven’t been institutionalised. In the middle and towards the top, you’ve got incentives that are about shifting products; you’ve got a set of incentives that often don’t include sustainability.”

In Day, PwC has a sustainability adviser not only switched on to the most pressing issues facing society, the environment and the economy, but with vast expertise in helping businesses understand them.

Asked about how he saw the future playing out, he describes our climate as “remorseless” – adding a caveat that while he isn’t a climate scientist, he listens to people who are. He admits he is panicky about the likelihood of the world staying within the 2C warming limit of global average temperatures. His biggest concern is that the “panic in the eyes of climate scientists” is not articulated properly.

But rather than being gloomy about the impending threat and humanity’s response, Day is infectiously optimistic – particularly when it comes to the business reaction.

The companies that I think deserve to succeed, prosper and profit in the future will be ones who recognise that this isn’t an activity that happens with a little budget and a sustainability officer; it will be organisations that don’t call it sustainability, but recognise  it as ‘common sense’”, he says.

These are companies that invest in understanding the context within which they operate; understand and know who their wider stakeholder group is; have looked at the big changing trends in the world – water, waste, energy; have worked out which of those impact them now and will do in the future; and are positioning themselves – both in their products and services and in their own operations – to be resilient to the change which we know will come.

That’s simply good management. I don’t think we need to call it anything, or punish organisations that don’t call it sustainability. The good ones will make better informed decisions and thrive, and the bad ones will not.”

***

Will Day is sustainability adviser to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and chairman of Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), a non-profit company bringing together private sector and NGO member organisations to pursue the millennium development goal for water and sanitation in the poorest parts of the world. He is a member of the Council of Ambassadors of WWF (UK), the advisory board of the ICAEW, and the corporate responsibility panel of British Land.

He was previously chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, chief executive of CARE International UK, chairman of the BBC Children in Need appeal, an assessor for the public appointments process of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and a special adviser to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He has worked with a range of relief and development NGOs including Save the Children, Oxfam and Opportunity Trust in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan, and was involved in the establishment of Comic Relief.

Further reading:

Highest BREEAM score awarded to PwC’s refurbished London HQ

Leo Johnson and the power of people

Why businesses must ‘shape and innovate’

Success means seeing ourselves as part of the bigger system

What gets measured gets managed: sustainability in 21st century business

Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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