A US State Just Out-reported
Corporations on the Key Issue Facing Humankind

October 1, 2019     Colin Grant     4 min read

I think it is fair to say that most corporate sustainability professionals believe that corporations are more innovative than cities in reporting sustainability.  In fact, it is seen to be so important that corporations seem to need a small dictionary worth of terms to describe what “it” really is. 

  • Sustainability
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Sustainability & Corporate Sustainability
  • Environment, Health & Safety, (with another “S” for Sustainability bolted on for good measure to create the Monty Pythonesque EHS&S)
  • Corporate Citizenship
  • ESG
  • We could go on, but you get the idea

And the over-arching term for all of this is perhaps the drabbest term of all – Non-Financial Reporting.  Could we have come up with anything to sound even duller than Financial Reporting if we tried?

Whatever we call it, it’s accompanied by a plethora of reporting frameworks and yet more acronyms – GRI, CDP, SASB, UN SDGs, and many more.  And out of all of this, comes a small book published annually that focuses on what the company did up to 18 months ago from the date of publication, and people wonder why stakeholders (or people as I prefer to call them), other than shareholders and analysts, are not poring through every page.  This creates a huge vacuum around a company’s brand, which is how most people perceive the company’s ethics and trustworthiness, that is,  whether it’s a “good” company, aka a “sick” one which is the adjective my 15-year-old (and consumer of most of my “disposable” income), gave when I asked him to describe companies like Patagonia.

In a previous blog, Hablo CSR?, I described my highly un-scientific but still, I believe, valuable experiment that, again I believe, shows that corporations’ CSR/etc./etc. messages are just not getting through. So, if current Sustainability/CSR, (gets tiresome to read all the /’s doesn’t it?), needs a reboot in the age of Greta and planetary meltdown, where would we look to for an example of leadership?  How about a US state?

Around the world, often in places where a certain Swedish teenager has just opened a can of “whupass” on a group of politicians, countries, cities, and communities around the world are declaring climate emergencies.  In the UK, within a few days of Greta asking UK politicians if there was something wrong with her mic, the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a climate emergency.  A few days later, the Welsh assembly did likewise.  Perhaps feeling surrounded and overpowered by a smaller group of angry Celts demanding FFRRREEEEEDOOOOM from climate catastrophes, the UK parliament managed to extract its collective head from its proctological Brexit document examinations long enough to follow suit.  Over 400 UK local authorities have now recognized the climate emergency and recent article puts the global count at  1,039 jurisdictions and local governments representing about 266 million citizens.

So, what now?  Well, a plan seems to be in order.  But this is where we immediately shatter the golden rule that Einstein may or may not have given us and which gets trotted out at every sustainability/CSR/OK, you’ve got the message…conference. You know, the one about the type of dumb thinking that got us into the mess not being the type that can get us out of it.  Yes, the one we all chuckle knowingly about in our audience seats before flying back to our offices to continue working on the rear-view mirror, non-financial report.  The 2020-2030 sustainability revolution will not be documented in Word/PDF, full of graphically designed charts created in Excel, which you will summarize in your PowerPoint (DOB sometime in 1987) deck the next time your present at a sustainability/… conference.

OK, yes, I’m a little jaded after two decades in this (whatever we call it) game, attending many dozens of conferences, looking at how many thousand slides and even more bullet points, feeling all too often that I was watching presentations about well laid out deck chairs on the Titanic. 

So, I’m thrilled to inform you that FigBytes has empowered the State of Minnesota, (one of 25 US States united around climate protection and the Paris Accord through the United States Climate Alliance), to create what we believe to be the world’s first “living” sustainability plan.  Now it’s quite easy to say it’s a world-first because we invented the term but here is what we mean.  The State has chosen six pillars of sustainability with future targets set up to as far as 2030.

About the Project

In late 2017, the FigBytes platform was chosen to create data feeds from 24 government departments and to send data directly to a bespoke, public-facing website.  Data are updated monthly and performance progress by each government department is displayed transparently against milestones on the journey to 2030.  Progress is summarized on the site’s home page with proxy summary metrics of CO2 and dollars saved, driven by real-time calculations.  Future steps envisioned are to bring on cities, schools and hospitals to join the real-time action and reporting party.   Learn more in our October 1, 2019 news release.

Now imagine if at COP 26 in Glasgow next year, we could show Greta a similar joined-up plan for Scotland, and the rest of the UK if it’s still in one piece by then.  Imagine as Scotland races with other countries.  Imagine cities and communities within Scotland collaborating and competing (it’s a very tribal place), towards a climate neutral 2050, (and hopefully sooner).  And imagine if Scotland/the UK joined its efforts with Minnesota, another 24 (and maybe by then 50) US states and heck, everywhere.  Let’s face it, it might be too little, too late – but at least Greta would know her mic is working.

Imagine it.   We are.

Join us for a webinar where we’ll thrash this out:

Wednesday October 16, 2019

9:00 am MDT / 4:00 pm BST

Register here https://www.figbytes.com/webinars/webinars-landing-page