Encouraging news on sustainability from the corporate world
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Corporate responsibility 'now being embraced around the world'
by HEATHER WOOD
TOP companies around the world are today looking at non-traditional
factors to determine whether or not their objectives are being met.
As pointed out in a seminar given by The Institute of Directors'
(IoD) Bermuda branch this week, social, environmental and ethical
issues are increasingly included in business strategies by companies
as eager to contribute to their community as their bottom line.
The presentation was the first in a series of three presented in
conjunction with KPMG.
George Molenkamp, a partner of KPMG Netherlands and chairman of the
company's Global Sustainability Services group, told those present
that corporate responsibility is now being embraced around the
world, with its contributions evident in all aspects of a community.
"In the last few years, more and more companies have been busy with
the question, 'Who are my stakeholders and what do they require from
me'?," Dr. Molenkamp explained.
"Of course, this question is not new. But new is that companies in
the past dealt with these questions in a rather qualitative,
unorganised way. Now they take a more structured approach."
Dr. Molenkamp has worked in the field of environmental consulting
and sustainability since 1974. He has experience in more than 35
countries and at present, is closely involved in work in the field
of corporate responsibility for multinational corporations in Europe
Using a definition given by the World Business Council for
Sustainable Development, a coalition of the 190 of the world's
largest multinationals, Dr. Molenkamp described corporate
responsibility as "the commitment of business to contribute to
sustainable economic development, working with employees, their
families, the local community and society at large to improve their
quality of life".
Such is the role he plays at KPMG.
"Corporate responsibility is an issue I'm responsible for in KPMG.
We have a group of a few hundred people who are active as
professionals in advising organisations and companies in this field.
Corporate responsibility means that you as a company, as an
organisation that you feel yourself responsible for the
environment, for social issues and for the community and that when
you do your business you take all those issues into account.
"You not only look at money, the economy, profits, you also look at
your impact on the environment. You look at how you're dealing with
your employees, with equal opportunity and the diversity of your
"You look at satisfaction of not only people within your company but
also the people outside the suppliers, the communities you are
living in. You consider how you can integrate with the community,
what can you do for the community.
"If you are a rich company it's not only about making money but also
giving something back to the community."
Dr. Molenkamp added that a number of KPMG's clients are very active
in the field helping their communities establish an efficient water
or electricity supply, helping set up health systems for HIV.
"Basically, they're giving something back to the community."
Asked how such measures might benefit a developed society such as
Bermuda, he said: "I must be honest, I don't know that much about
Bermuda but I've read a little bit about it. There are, if you're
talking about corporate responsibility, you have to deal with a
number of big topics here.
"I'm talking about the environment, for instance. I have the
impression you don't have much drinking water here, there's more
demand for water than there is supply, you depend on rainwater. So
resources are fairly scarce.
"Energy is a big topic for Bermuda as well. Not only the energy
supply but how to deal efficiently with energy. If you are looking
at climate change issues, well for Bermuda, it's really important.
"You are an island. You know what will happen if the level of oceans
rise it has an impact on many countries, including Bermuda. We're
talking about waste. What are you going to do with it? You have
limited space. You have to look at sustainable tourism. Cars are a
"What I do with companies is to help them to think about what their
responsibilities should be as a company. I look at the impact of
those companies or those organisations on society environmentally,
socially, what are their biggest challenges? and then see what is
important to do.
"That is the interesting thing. You can talk the talk, but you have
to walk the talk. At KPMG we help companies walk the talk. We see
what is necessary and help them integrate it into their
In 2005 KPMG published a survey on the subject in conjunction with
the University of Amsterdam. The International Survey of Corporate
Responsibility Reporting examined more than 1600 of the biggest
companies around the world including the top 250 Fortune 500
companies and the top 100 businesses in 16 countries.
"The results for us were really striking," said Dr. Molenkamp. "In
the last few years we have seen a breakthrough in the developments.
We found that CR reporting is now mainstream among the big
companies, with more than half of the top 250 companies issuing
separate CR reports besides their financial report."
KPMG director Steve Woodward expressed his delight at Dr.
Molenkamp's participation, saying it was especially valuable because
the issue of sustainable development has been under debate for some
"We are delighted that Dr. Molenkamp has agreed to present this
seminar in Bermuda at this time, given the current debate generated
by the Government's recently-published Draft Plan for Sustainable
Development, and the high level of interest in philanthropy,
corporate responsibility and similar initiatives shown by corporate
"We just thought it was a relevant topic for Bermuda. We have an
association with the IoD through these general business seminars and
we asked Dr. Molenkamp to come over to present.
"We're talking more of a holistic approach looking at the whole
policy of what companies do."
While here, Dr. Molenkamp also met with philanthropic groups and
"We just felt it was something of general interest to Bermuda," said
Added Dr. Molenkamp: "I've been working for a long time in this
field with many countries and really have just brought a little bit
of my experiences to Bermuda.
"Bermuda has been thinking about it already but having someone take
a fresh look at it and tell what happens in other countries and
other companies is sometimes I hope refreshing."
As such it could be of benefit to companies considering developing
their own corporate responsibility strategy, he said.