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Sustainability and the C-Suite

In general, C-suite leaders care about two groups:  customers and shareholders.

Traditionally, the soft, story-focused, intangible sustainability or corporate social responsibility report targeted customers.  While it might include some metrics and performance targets, its primary goal was to communicate with customers, helping them see a brand as more well-rounded and identify with that brand’s story.  These kinds of sustainability reports might have effectively communicated with your customers, but they are pretty much useless to investors.

jetBlue found another way.

For 2016, jetBlue published its traditional story-telling focused responsibility report on a “microsite” but also prepared a report targeted directly to investors.  jetBlue, led by Sophia Mendelsohn its Head of Sustainability, prepared an investor-focused report using standards developed by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (“SASB”).  SASB standards are industry specific, so the standards used by jetBlue are different from the standards used by a bank or a pharmacy company.  That’s because different industries have different sustainability challenges.   SASB standards are also based on evidence of impact – if there is no evidence that a given issue materially impacts business value then there isn’t a standard on that issue.

This is why reporting on SASB standards can help you speak your investors’ language.

On an April 19, 2017 webinar, Mendelsohn explained that sustainability is about long-term business value and return on equity.  jetBlue integrates sustainability into its core strategy because it is good business.  It is as simple as that.

“We used to think of corporate responsibility as the right thing to do, then it was the right thing to do and good for business.  Now we just think of it as business.”

~ Robin Hayes, President & CEO, JetBlue

I served on SASB’s advisory board, as a member of the Consumption Working Group that created standards for consumption-based industries, and helped write SASB’s FSA Level 1 and Level 2 credentialing exams.  If you are wondering what SASB means for your business, I can help.

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