It is annual meeting season and as climate risks continue to grow, those working on sustainability issues need to determine the best ways to engage and respond to their corporate boards.
An important element of influencing those above you on the org chart is learning to “manage up.” Whether dealing with a difficult boss or a complicated Board of Directors, it’s always in your best interest to find a way to make the relationship work.
These relationships can be tricky, but we’ve got some tips to help you navigate this important dynamic. In Barbara Grady’s recent piece “3 ways to help your board get wiser about sustainability” she examined the challenges faced by boards to not only meet their fiduciary duties but also to understand the risks and opportunities that are associated with climate change.
So how can a company groom or recruit board members who not only understand geological and environmental sciences, but are also aware of consumer and employee concerns? These questions were addressed at Ceres Conference 2017 and the session drew a standing-room-only audience. The three key factors that were presented to help address this need were:
1. Appoint a climate scientist or someone with similar knowledge to your board
2. Assign responsibility for sustainability issues to a strategy committee
3. Teach the whole board about sustainability
If you are looking to incorporate these guidelines into your board development, remember a director with climate knowledge may educate other members about risks to operations, about the possibilities of facilities being flooded as seas rise, and about the costs of responding — or not responding — to consumer and regulatory pressures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, only one person with this focus may not be enough to influence your board to move into a more sustainable future.
Also you might think that you should assign climate risk to your audit committee, however those who are planning tend to be more thoughtful about climate and sustainability implications in future operations as opposed to those who are looking at the issue only in terms of disclosure. This is why a strategic planning committee is likely to be more effective at this point.
And remember, whether you have one climate focused board member or five, you can still manage up and teach your entire board about sustainability issues, which is likely to have the broadest impact. Apple, who is quickly achieving it’s goal to run 100% on renewable energy, and Nike, who is known for their circular economy practices and reduced waste and emissions, have both made their companies sustainability goals a board responsibility.
It’s time to examine the relationships between your board and employees in order to find the best ways to make changes and allow your company to be as sustainable as possible. Contact us for help pitching a strong business case for integrating sustainable strategies into your organization.