In the past several years, publicly traded companies increasingly have taken very public positions on sustainability issues. One of the most prominent examples of massive action has been in the climate space, where the We Mean Business coalition mobilized in the run-up to the Paris Agreement in 2015, and where we’ve since seen hundreds of companies make plain that they are “still in” on the climate, regardless of the U.S. government position. This activism hasn’t been limited to environmental issues, though: Last year, we saw CEOs from a range of companies stand up against immigration bans and transgender bans, and companies committed to women’s empowerment through efforts such as Planned Parenthood’s Business for Birth Control initiative.
At BSR, in our recent report, Redefining Sustainable Business: Management for a Rapidly Changing World, we assert that “influence” is an increasingly important component of creating and executing a resilient business strategy. Moreover, to be effective in helping your companies be fit for the future, sustainability professionals increasingly will need to act as coalition-builders and change agents, both inside and outside your organizations. This means that your colleagues in government affairs can be critical allies in advancing your sustainability agenda.
That said, your government affairs colleagues also can take policy positions that undermine the sustainability agenda and leave your company open to charges of mixed messaging or hypocrisy. It was not so long ago (2012) that the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable — major U.S. business associations — filed a lawsuit against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the final conflict minerals rule in Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which sought to increase supply chain sustainability and transparency and reduce armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding areas. (…)
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