Many of TSL’s posts thus far have been about how to make a difference on a small scale, replacing lights in exit signs, tips for making your Valentine’s Day greener, ideas for a more sustainable 2012 and so on. This week’s different. TSL spoke with Chris Davis, Director of Investor Programs at the Boston based nonprofit Ceres to learn more about its work.
First, a brief history. Ceres is a nonprofit organization founded 1989 by Joan Bavaria (right after the Exxon Valdez oil spill) with a goal of creating a network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. In 2012, Ceres boasts a strong corporate commitment (more on that later) and an investment network of 100 institutional investors and asset managers that control more than 10 trillion dollars. Ceres holds sustainability summits at the United Nations, has received countless awards and one of its first initiatives, the Global Reporting Initiative, is now its own non-profit and is lauded as the “standard for sustainability reporting.”
Now, that’s all well and good, but to be frank, TSL is more interested in actions and results than accolades and rewards. While taglines such as “advocating for a sustainable economy” and “environmental thought leader” sound great, what TSL wants to focus on is what Ceres actually does. We couldn’t touch on all of Ceres work in one blog post, but here are three major reasons why Ceres is so successful:
1) Ceres created the “Ceres Principles,” a ten-point code of corporate environmental conduct that they ask companies to publicly endorse as an environmental mission statement or ethic. Sunoco became the first Fortune 500 Company to sign on in 1993, and many more have followed, include Ford, Bank of America and Timberland. Today, Ceres works with more than 80 large companies on integrating sustainability into their business strategies. See all members of Ceres Company Network here.
2) Ceres uses the considerable clout of its investor network to influence both policy and corporate practices, especially when it comes to risk reporting. Want some examples? No problem:
- Ceres was a key force in getting the SEC to issue guidance on climate risk disclosure, which requires companies to report material risks to business from climate change as part of their annual risk reporting.
- Ceres also worked with insurance regulators in New York, California and Illinois to to require insurance companies comprising 90% of the property and casualty market to report on the risks posed by climate change to their businesses” (in 2011 there were 14 extreme weather events in the US potentially linked to climate change that each caused over $1 billion in losses).
3) In 2010, Ceres created the “21st Century Corporation: Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability” which provides a comprehensive platform to create a sustainable business strategy. The roadmap includes more than 200 best practice examples in 20 sectors and features more than 250 resources and tools from experts and thought leaders.
Oh, and did we mention that Ceres is a 60 person organization? Talk about punching above your weight.