Fall 2021 Sustainable Business Forum

Theme: "The How and What of ESG Measurement and Disclosure"

October 19 - 22, 2021

Overview

This was an exclusive and intensive working meeting hosted by the Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) for our corporate sponsors and select invited guests. Through keynote addresses, panels and disusions with participants, we gathered the following challenges and opportunities related to this year's theme, "The How and What of ESG Measurement and Disclosure":

  • The pressure to measure and disclose is ramping up. The range of stakeholders leaning in has widened to include investors, banks, corporate boards, other companies throughout the supply chain, potential employees, and consumers.
  • There are challenges in reporting from two different sides: too broad, and too specific. For some stakeholders, universal reporting standards are helpful but are only the start of their risk assessment process, and they spend much of their time searching for more industry-specific measures that will truly elucidate a company’s climate risk. For others, there are too many ESG metrics to report on, including a number that are not at all relevant to that company. The ESG landscape is changing so quickly that companies are having a challenging time figuring out what to include, especially as all companies are different and each stakeholder is different.
  • How do you get past the numbers and tell a story? While participants agreed with the importance of measuring and disclosing ESG metrics, there are challenges in how to communicate this data more effectively. With overly simple or long sustainability reports and wonky, technical terms, companies are struggling to communicate what their sustainability journey looks like to different stakeholders.
  • Investors already look at ESG data and want more of it. Investors consider ESG metrics to be material to the financial risks of a company. They spend significant time looking through more specific information that they can use to assess risk.
  • The employees of tomorrow value people and honesty. Although youth are all concerned about climate change, their focus is on the more immediate issue of how companies treat their workers. They are also wary of climate labels and social media, valuing honesty and candor from companies on where they are succeeding in sustainability as well as where they are struggling.

Featured speakers included:

  • Lisa Ross, CEO, Edelman U.S.
  • Elena Morettini, Director, Sustainable Business Studio, Globant
  • CB Bhattacharya, CSB Director & H.J. Zoffer Chair in Sustainability & Ethics
  • Katie Schmitz Eulitt, Director of Investor Relationships, Value Reporting Foundation
  • Amir Amel-Zadeh, Associate Professor of Accounting, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  • Vanessa De La Ossa, Vice President of Sustainable Finance, ING
  • Lindsay Ross, Director, Global Client Services, Moody's ESG Solutions
  • Swami Venkataraman, Senior Vice President and Manager, ESG Analytics and Integration, Moody's Investors Service
  • Joanne (Jo) Beatty, Director, Federated Hermes International
  • Marcus Krembs, Head of Sustainability, Enel North America
  • Kurt Groeninger, Principal, Executive Pay & Governance, Korn Ferry
  • Brian Dresch, Partner, Executive Pay & Governance, Korn Ferry 
  • Paul Polman, CEO, Imagine

You can see the full list of participants at this link.

Katie Schmitz Eulitt, Industry Keynote

With 20+ years of experience spanning four continents and nine countries, Katie currently serves as Director of Investor Relationships at the Value Reporting Foundation (formerly SASB). She manages SASB's Investor Advisory Group, comprising 50+ investors with over $40 Trillion in assets and is a frequent speaker on the subject of the financial materiality of ESG factors and their contribution to long-term value creation.

Watch Katie's address here >>

Amir Amel-Zadeh, Academic Keynote

Amir Amel-Zadeh is Associate Professor of Accounting at Saïd Business School, Research Fellow at Green Templeton College, and Associate Member of the Oxford-Man Institute of Quantitative Finance, Oxford. Amir’s research can be broadly summarised as examining the role of information disclosure in capital markets. He is interested in the determinants, characteristics, and economic consequences of companies' information disclosures, including financial and non-financial reporting. He is particularly interested in applying natural language processing and machine learning techniques to analyse financial and narrative disclosures and their effects on asset prices and investment allocations. Amir's research work is characterised by a strong emphasis on practical relevance, with particular focus on the use of large datasets in fundamental and quantitative investing.

Prior to joining Saïd Business School, Amir held a position as University Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, and prior to that worked for the fixed income structured solutions group at Lehman Brothers in London. He received his PhD and MPhil in Finance from the University of Cambridge. He has taught or consulted for the financial and professional services industry in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Watch Amir's address here >>

Paul Polman, Industry Keynote

Paul Polman is Co-founder/Chair of Imagine, a B-Corp company promoting future implementation of the global goals by driving transformational leadership. He is also Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce, The B Team and Vice-Chair of the UN Global Compact. As Unilever’s CEO for ten years, he demonstrated that a long-term, multi-stakeholder model goes hand-in-hand with excellent financial performance. FT named him “The standout CEO of the past decade. Due to his commitment to a more responsible form of business, Polman was appointed to the UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel to develop the Sustainable Development Goals. Polman engages across industry sectors and global organisations to build coalition to drive transformative change to achieve the Global Goals.

The recipient of many awards including the prestigious Oslo Business for Peace award, Climate Visionary Award, Appeal of Conscience Award, Rainforest Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award and the UN Environment Programme’s Champion of the Earth Award, Polman received Singapore’s Public Service Star, France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur for his role in the Paris Agreement, and is an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Watch Paul's address here >>

Access a few of the relating readings from the Forum:

(1) Barby et al. 2021. "Measuring Purpose: An Integrated Framework." SSRN. Available here.

(2) Grewal, Hauptmann and Serafeim. 2020. "Material Sustainability Information and Stock Price Informativeness." Journal of Business Ethics. Available here.

(3) Murray. 2021. "Measuring What Matters: The Scramble to Set Standards for Sustainable Business." Financial Times. Available here.

(4) Amel-Zadeh et al. 2021. "NLP for SDGs: Measuring Corporate Alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals." SSRN. Available here.

Agenda

DAY 0 - Tuesday, October 19th 

1:30-2:00 PM – LinkedIn Live with Lisa Osborne Ross - Building Sustainable Business Models with ESG 

Lisa Ross, U.S. CEO, Edelman  

Elena Morettini, Director - Sustainable Business Studio, Globant 

CB Bhattacharya, CSB Director & H.J. Zoffer Chair in Sustainability & Ethics 

Join for a conversation about how business leaders are approaching Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards and strategies in our increasingly purpose-driven society. 

DAY 1 - Wednesday, October 20th

12:00-12:30 PM – Priming 

Group Introductions 

Opening Remarks & Presentation 

CB Bhattacharya, CSB Director & H.J. Zoffer Chair in Sustainability & Ethics 

12:30-12:50 PM - Industry Keynote Address 

Katie Schmitz Eulitt, Director of Investor Relationships, Value Reporting Foundation (fmr. SASB) 

12:50-1:10 PM - Academic Keynote Address 

Amir Amel-Zadeh, Associate Professor of Accounting, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford 

​1:10-1:30 PM - Keynote Panel Discussion 

Moderated by Chris Gassman, Associate Director, Center for Sustainable Business 

1:30-2:15 PM - Break 

2:15-2:45 PM - Peer Breakouts - “Taking Stock of Existing Initiatives: Establishing a Baseline” 

  1. Where are you facing challenges? 
  2. What is working? 
  3. What would you like to know more about, and where do you think your company has room to grow? 

2:45-3:35 PM - Break 

3:35-4:15 PM - Panel - "Insights from the other side – what investors want and why" 

Vanessa De La Ossa, Vice President of Sustainable Finance, ING

Lindsay Ross, Director, Global Client Services, Moody's ESG Solutions

Brendan Sheehan, Vice President, Senior Credit Officer: Environmental, Social and Governance, Moody's Investor Service

Respondent: Joanne (Jo) Beatty, Director, Federated Hermes EOS

  1. ESG-related financial disclosures, why do these matter to you? 
  2. What methods or communication work best? What hasn’t worked as well? 
  3. Which frameworks in the alphabet soup of GRI, SASB, TCFD, TNFD, WEF Stakeholder Capitalism, UNGC, UNPRI et al do you use for what purposes?  Which gaps remain? 
  4. What resources help you align to the long game and de-conflict short-term incongruent goals? 
  5. When do you move from Engaging to Divesting? 

4:15-5:00 PM - Our Future is Now: Hearing from the Next Generation of Employees 

As the next generation enters the workforce, one thing is clear – they are prioritizing purpose over profit. In this innovative panel discussion, the Center for Sustainable Business will be flipping the script to hear directly from young people about their expectations for employers. Our panelists are already making strides in sustainability, whether that be through activism, student employment, extracurriculars, or academics. Through this panel discussion, our corporate partners will have the opportunity to hear from the experts themselves on what it is companies need to do and then communicate about ESG to attract top talent and earn the trust of young people moving forward. 

5:00-6:00 PM  

In Person: Transit to University Club for Open Air Dinner Reception

Digital: Cocktail Reception & Networking 

6:00-7:00 PM – In Person Open Air Dinner Reception at University Club Rooftop Terrace

DAY 2 - Thursday, October 21st 

8:30-9:40 AM – Workshop Discussion of Hot Topic(s) in ESG Disclosure 

  1. How to assess climate risk and build consensus - internally and with your external stakeholders - around publicly disclosed Ambitious Climate Goals? 

Marcus Krembs, Head of Sustainability, Enel North America 

  1. How to incentivize success?  ESG is being added in to today’s incentive plans and companies across various industries are in different stages of their corporate evolution as it relates to overall adoption as part of their executive compensation strategy and framework. 

Brian Dresch, Partner, Executive Pay & Governance, Korn Ferry 

Kurt Groeninger, Principal, Executive Pay & Governance, Korn Ferry

9:40 AM-10:00 AM – Break 

​10:00 AM – 10:40 AM Industry Keynote Address 

Paul Polman, CEO, Imagine 

10:40 AM-11:00 AM – Break 

11:00-11:40 AM - Key Takeaways - "A Rosetta Stone for ESG" 

  1. What did you learn? 
  2. What do you still have questions about? 
  3. What will you take back to your organization and do differently on Monday? 
  4. Themes for future meetings? 

11:40 AM-12:00 PM - Survey and Feedback 

DAY PLUS – Friday, October 22, 2021 

2:00-4:00pm – OPTIONAL outdoor Sustainable Business Field Trip for Members 

As an optional additional session, we are offering a field trip to the Pittsburgh International Airport to tour their microgrid and solar field.

Our Corporate Sponsors

 

Pitt CSB corporate sponsors