Shared on Jan. 8, 2019 from the Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility (CCSR) program offered by the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder in partnership with B:CIVIC

The CCSR spring 2019 cohort welcomed guest speaker John Heckman on January 30. John serves as Executive Director at Anthesis Group in Boulder, CO. He holds a Ph.D. in Restoration Ecology from Virginia Tech. John spoke about the environmental side of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). 

He started by asking the class to name the biggest environmental challenge faced by humanity today. Students suggested climate change, water shortages, soil health, plastics in the oceans, species extinction,and more. John acknowledged all these, and then focused in on climate change the decarbonization of the economy, starting with the power grid, and moving to transportation. He went on to define global sustainability in terms of a closed loop system, with only energy going in (from the sun) and out (reradiated into space), while energy and matter circulates (flows) in the lithosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere.

Our guest speaker went on to make the case that sustainability can and should be a competitive advantage for businesses – and that business is about competing and winning. Using arguments advanced by Michael Porter and others, John shared several methods for creating competitive advantage. He guided students through a process for assessing the materiality of sustainability issues, and for using the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for selecting issues to address. 

John concluded by providing a framework for expressing the business case for CSR to the C Suite. The framework categorizes all CSR initiatives as striving to contribute to one of four objectives: increasing revenue, decreasing cost, improving brand reputation, or reducing risk. The revenue and cost objectives are near-term, while the brand and risk objectives are longer-term. 

John was one of 15 guest speakers to be featured this semester.

Interested in learning more about the CCSR course or applying? Learn more here.