Sustainability News Roundup

The TakeAway: This week’s notable news features items on advances in integrated reporting, clean energy, sustainable investing, and women in business

Despite the Monday holiday here in the US, it’s been another busy week on the sustainability front.  Among the highlights: a major workshop at Harvard Business School, Google’s continued expansion into alternative energy, a report from Eurosif, and a new series on women from the Financial Times.  Here’s an overview:

Harvard Business School workshop on integrated reporting | More than 90 corporate reporting experts from around the world convened at Harvard Business School yesterday and today to consider a global framework for integrated reporting, which blends financial and sustainability disclosure.  Organized by HBS Professor Robert Eccles, the gathering’s goal: develop an action plan for rapid and broad integrated reporting globally.  Among the agenda items: How can the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – which opened up its “Focal Point USA” office in New York City on Wednesday – best help sustainability reporting to converge with financial reporting?  After hearing a case study of Southwest Airlines, small group discussion focused on integrated reporting from the perspectives of companies, analysts and investors, stakeholders, technology and data vendors, and regulators and standard setters.  We’ll continue to report on this as the story evolves.

Google and clean energy | Google continued to extend its innovation and reach beyond search engines with the announcement earlier this week that it is investing heavily in a proposed $5 billion Atlantic underwater network to power future offshore wind farms and transform the region’s electric grid.  “This project is Google’s signal that we want to have some real impact as we are also making serious financial returns in our energy project investing,” said Dan Reicher, Google’s Director of Energy and Climate Initiatives.  Google is partnering with renewables investment firm Good Energies, according to The New York Times.  Google created its clean energy initiative in 2007, and made its first direct investment last May when it bought stakes in two North Dakota wind farms.  In July, it entered the wholesale energy market through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with NextEra Energy Resources, which operates wind turbines.  Add to this Google’s development of the driverless car, and you begin to realize the magnitude of clean energy opportunities that lie ahead.

Rapid growth in European Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SRI) | Despite the financial crisis, sustainable and responsible investing (SRI) in Europe exhibited “spectacular growth” over the past two years, according to a study released Wednesday by Eurosif (the professional association of European social investors).  Assets invested according to sustainability criteria grew 87% since 2008, from €2.7 trillion ($3.79 trillion) to roughly €5 trillion ($7.02 trillion) now.  Among asset classes, bonds now represent about 53% of SRI investments, while equities dropped to 33%.  The study covers 19 countries, including Poland, Greece, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Financial Times series on Women at the Top | “The global economic crisis has given new urgency to the need for business to capitalize on the contributions women can make, as companies rethink and reshape management practices,” according the Women at the Top project The Financial Times launched yesterday. The series, which runs through February 2011, will be a hub for coverage and debate about the role of women in business, their increasing participation in global economic growth, and their legacy of innovation in the emerging world.  First up: Wednesday’s article on “Gender Equality: A Nudge in the Right Direction” by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Iris Bohnet, Director of the Women in Public Policy Program.  You can follow it on Twitter @ftwomenatthetop.

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