Ce matin, je vous propose une réflexion basée sur une discussion parue dans le groupe Board of Directors Society de LinkedIn.
Les propos sont publiés par Kimiharu (Kim) Chatani, Directeur-Conseil chez KPMG; ils mettent en lumière l’importance, pour le conseil d’administration et le management, de se doter d’un plan d’affaires qui prend en compte les activités reliées au développement durable.
Les commentaires font ressortir le caractère irréversible des activités de surveillance amorcées par les CA ainsi que la sensibilité accrue des grandes entreprises américaines à l’égard de la gouvernance à long terme, laquelle est beaucoup plus axée sur les besoins des diverses parties prenantes et sur l’analyse en profondeur des grands changements sociaux.
L’auteur souligne que 95 % des 250 plus grandes entreprises mondiales divulguent des rapports de développement durable (sustainability reports).
Bonne lecture !
Value creation, long-term business resiliency, strategic risk management, and stewardship represent the essence of the board’s role in overseeing corporate sustainability activities. Sustainability oversight is increasingly becoming a board-level issue for several reasons.
First and most fundamentally, boards are meant to safeguard the assets of the companies they serve, and one of the trickiest “assets” to understand, let alone protect, is the company’s social license to operate.
Second, the ways in which a company affects, and is affected by, global mega-trends such as population growth, an expanding urban middle class in emerging markets, demographic change, resource scarcity, climate change, and transformative technologies —all of which fall under the rubric of sustainability issues — are often at the core of board-management discussions about strategy, risk, and performance.
Thus, understanding how a company executes its business model within a changing operating context, and with an eye toward long-term profitability, is squarely a board issue and a director’s responsibility.
The Current State of Sustainability Governance
Many companies still see sustainability as a set of “softer” issues that can be relegated to marketing or public relations departments. The links between environmental and social issues, core business operations, and corporate reputation are becoming increasingly material, however.
On one recent survey, the number of companies reporting that their sustainability activities contributed to profits rose by 23 percent year over year, and nearly half of the respondents reported changing their business models in response to sustainability-related opportunities.
Companies are highlighting their place on global sustainability indices including the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, FTSE4Good, and Corporate Knights’ Global 100, which saw 31 new honorees in 2014.
Ninety-five percent of the world’s 250 largest companies, and 86 percent of the largest U.S. companies, produce sustainability reports.
Shareholder interest is growing: nearly half of shareholder proposal submissions in 2014 related to environmental and social matters.
According to one report, companies that fail to connect their sustainability activities to financial and operational performance are missing out on potential opportunities to better understand how sustainability can identify and reduce risk and boost returns. As David Kiron, executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review, put it, leading-edge companies “don’t dwell on [sustainability] as a cost issue. They focus on how their efforts can increase market share, boost energy efficiency, and build competitive advantage.”
Despite these trends, the extent of board-level oversight of sustainability issues varies considerably. Studies from organizations such as the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi) and Ceres show that a notable and growing proportion of large, publicly traded companies have explicit, board-level oversight of sustainability and corporate responsibility activities: indeed, they are three times more likely than smaller companies to have board oversight of environmental and/or social issues.
But the overarching message of the IRRCi and Ceres reports, as well as similar studies, is that there is considerable room for improvement. At many companies, the level of board-level oversight of environmental and social sustainability activities is not consistent with the link between these activities and the firm’s strategic imperatives, or with the attention that key stakeholders are placing on the underlying issues.