Room to Improve Shareholder Communications as Sustainability is Now Considered Smarter Business

The following post was written by Jane Madden, Managing Director, U.S. Corporate Responsibility, and Elizabeth Woodworth, Manager, U.S. Healthcare Practice.

In 2016, Burson-Marsteller’s Corporate Responsibility Practice, together with our sister firm PSB, published the research report, “Is Your ESG Report Getting Noticed by Investors?” which found that institutional investors say a company with strong ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance, the three main factors that measure the sustainability and ethical impact of a business) initiatives is a more attractive investment.

At last week’s Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit in New York City, we found that investors were the topic of discussion. We heard from leaders that more institutional investors are now thinking of ESG less as a separate investment evaluation input and more as data that provides additional insights into to how businesses operate and their growth trajectory. In fact, ESG is being viewed more closely in line with traditional financial data than ever before.

The theme of the summit was “Sustainability is Good Business,” a sentiment held by many in the business community. In fact, Burson-Marsteller and PSB’s research found that 77 percent of surveyed investors say building ESG initiatives into a company’s business model – the associated costs, risks and benefits of these issues – is a smart business decision. But surprisingly, leaders across various sectors noted there are gaps that hamper investors’ understanding of the value ESG initiatives bring to the business. As Morgan Stanley’s Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer Audrey Choi noted, “There’s an epidemic of silent interest in ESG among investors.” So, why is the interest silent?

Three themes we identified throughout the two-day summit are, in our view, important in understanding how investors are thinking about sustainability and where the communications opportunities are to improve the dialogue between businesses and their shareholders.

1) Speaking the Same Language: While consumers now demand more “sustainability” efforts from companies, investors as a broader group do not yet speak the language of sustainability. There is a lot of room to improve communications around how ESG is related to financial performance. A more open and proactive dialogue with investors is critical to clarifying that many of the issues they are already thinking about –the cost of carbon, to board diversity. human rights issues – are also sustainability issues, they just aren’t using the same terminology as the Chief Sustainability Officer. In addition, using the right financial vocabulary helps investors understand material ESG data, risks and opportunities.

2) Combine Short and Long-Term Outlooks: Aligning the short and long-term views of standard financial and ESG reporting by coordinating Investor Relations and Sustainability departments is another key theme. While investors and IR teams usually think quarter to quarter and by fiscal year, sustainability and ESG operate on longer timelines. If you are lucky, as Jay Gould, President & CEO of Interface said, you have a board of directors who thinks on a 20-30-year timeline. But both short-term financial performance and longer-term sustainability should be communicated to investors in parallel to illustrate healthy performance, identify opportunities that lead to innovation and note risks that can be mitigated. Sustainability leaders ranging from Dave Stangis, VP-Corporate Responsibly and Chief Sustainability Office of the Campbell Soup Company to JetBlue’s President and CEO Robin Hayes spoke about a greater need to coordinate Investor Relations and Sustainability teams to align the short and long-term nature of these analyses, which can then improve value reporting to shareholders and other stakeholders.

3) Engage to Control Your Message: As Ingrid Dyott, Managing Director at Neuberger Berman noted, ESG are business issues, which are issues investors should care about. But ESG is still a subtle concept for many, so you need to get ahead of your communications before someone else does it for you. From an institutional perspective, look closely at who is behind the investment. Dyott noted, for example, that pension funds are a bourgeoning area for ESG investing because teachers, firefighters and police officers inherently care about sustainability issues and the impact of their investments. And now with a growing Millennial population making investments (by 2025 they will make up 75 percent of the workforce and are two times as likely to back an investment product that aligns with their values, says Morgan Stanley’s Audrey Choi), asset managers should be thinking of these investments not only according to financial risk and reward – but also impact, and what the nature of that impact is. These investor groups have certain expectations and asset managers and IR teams should insert their POV into the narrative before investors do it for you.

There is a rapidly growing consensus that sustainability is good business and drives innovation. Now the opportunity is to further integrate investor relations, sustainability planning and ESG into standard financial reporting and cohesive investor communications. Doing so can help clarify the material and non-material value of these initiatives in the language your investors speak and illustrate the trend that purpose and performance are increasingly one in the same.

Amazon Gets 238 Proposals Across North America for ‘HQ2’

Amazon’s second headquarters, dubbed HQ2, has lured 238 proposals extending across 54 states, provinces, districts and territories in North America, the company said Monday. Only seven U.S. states refrained from bidding: Arkansas, Hawaii, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Vermont, according to a map Amazon published on its website.

Cities are battling for Amazon’s investment of $5 billion in construction and 50,000 high-paying jobs spread over the next two decades: New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered landmarks around the city lit up in “Amazon orange” before the bids were due last week. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau penned a personal letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos advocating for HQ2. Newark, New Jersey, has offered $7 billion in potential tax credits.

Amazon’s preferences for HQ2 include a metropolitan location with a population of more than 1 million, mass transit, proximity to an international flight hub and the potential to retain and attract technical talent. The new home will be a full equal to the Seattle headquarters, said the tech giant. In addition to direct hiring and investment from Amazon, HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in investment in the surrounding community.

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Creating A Racebets Experience at Fontwell Park Racecourse

This month, RaceBets and PrettyGreen delved into the world of horses to deliver an on–course experience at Fontwell Park Racecourse in West Sussex. RaceBets, the world-leading horse racing bookmaker, sponsored the race meet and wanted to encourage sign-ups on the day and give some of the most competitive odds, bonuses and special on-day promotions for new recruits.


So, using the Bavarian theme of Oktoberfest (capitalising on its popularity across the country) we hit the race course and invited guests to don their best Lederhosen and dirndls and get them psyched up for a big day at the races, with the best odds and a few steins of beer and a schnitzel in tow.


Roaming around the Paddock area, our RaceBets cockney ‘tipster’ actors enticed our guests in for a quick de-brief, giving out secret tips and sharing information on the odds Racebets offered that day.  Suited and booted like any traditional tipster they were hard to miss and it’s safe to say the entertainment was rife. Games including ‘Best Turned Out’ and ‘RaceBets Jock Mastermind’ saw lucky guests win some irresistible prizes.


For a real taster (and see if you have the skills of our racecourse whizzes) let’s see if you can answer some of our jockey mastermind questions… (If you beat 3 in 90 seconds, you would have won our RaceBets engraved trophy and bottle of champers!..)


Challenge accepted? Start the timer..

  1. What is the name of a type of German Sausage being served up here today?
  2. What does Lederhosen mean?
  3. What is the name of the traditional female dress worn at Oktoberfest?
  4. Where does the original Oktoberfest take place?
  5. How many times did Red Rum win the Grand National?
  6. How many people watch the Grand National on TV? 20 million / 100 million/ 600 million
  7. What colour is the flag used by the starter to bring the horses into line for a race?
  8. Name the first female jockey to ride in the Grand National in 1977?



8. Charlotte Brew, 7. White, 6. 600 million, 5. 3 times , 4. Munich, Germany, 3. A Dirndl, 2. Leather Breaches 1. Bratwurst


The day was in full swing, last minute scramblings to place bets, gamblers checking their winnings and the cry of delight or despair filtered throughout the racecourse and punters who left the course either ‘up’ or ‘down’, would still look forward to the upcoming racing season.


To place your bets, go to

Virtual Reality’s Biggest Misconceptions

For more than 25 years Virtual Reality has often been viewed as an expensive gimmick to make dinosaurs come to life or make video games more immersive. Despite the fact the VR can be a powerful tool, preconceptions about VR are still holding people back from taking full advantage of it. So let’s bust some of the misconceptions about Virtual Reality, right here, right now:  


  1. It’s too expensive – For years now, VR has been way too expensive for general use. However, headsets are actually getting cheaper – the Daydream is only around £70 and Samsung Gear VR just over £100. Also major tech companies WANT NGO’s and charities to make VR content. Facebook has founded ‘VR for good’ encouraging charitable projects involving VR  and the ‘Lighthouse Programme’ by Google offers funding, use of halo cameras and stitching services.


  1. No one can watch it –  Many think that VR has a high barrier to entry but even distribution is improving thanks to the continued progress of Facebook and Youtube’s 360 platforms and the popularity of Google Cardboard.


  1. Motion Sickness – There’s been reported issues of motion sickness due to time lag and movement. However, in our film for Rotary we used a teddy bear as a device to mitigate against issues of movement and motion sickness.


  1. Complex Production –  Capturing 360 degrees around you is more like theatre than film in terms of how you capture and choreograph it, but this can be overcome by planning. There’s also the opportunity to shoot a traditional film at the same time in order to maximise on assets and use one to promote the other.


  1. What’s the point? – Virtual reality gives us a unique opportunity to build empathy, deepen emotional narratives and really put viewers into someone else’s shoes. We proved this with our VR experience for NAS.


VR is no longer just a fad, it’s a powerful piece of technology that has unfortunately been overlooked and misused, never reaching its full potential. We are now in a position of understanding of being able work at the forefront of VR, keep narrative at the heart of experiences and really make a difference.

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What #MeToo Is Teaching AI

Artifical intelligence is getting smarter every day. Google’s AutoML project has learned to replicate itselfearly steps on the path to superintelligence. Just down the hall at Google parent Alphabet, DeepMind’s AlphaGoZero trained itself to beat the human-trained AlphaGo 100 games to zip! As we move closer to a world where machines train themselvesbut think for uscomplicated questions about fairness and biases arise.


In response to the Harvey Weinstein allegations, the hashtag #MeToo began to surface on social media. The Twitter and Facebook posts were heart-wrenching and, in some cases, gut-wrenching. Not surprisingly, many of the personal stories included words, phrases, and concepts not usually associated with the profiles, the previous behaviors, or even the genders of the authors.

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We Are Social’s Monday Mashup #373

Facebook rolls out the Explore Feed
If you like reading awkward sex advice columns as much as I do, you’ll be happy to hear that you should now be able to find them all in one place – Facebook’s brand new Explore Feed, an ad-free area exclusively held for publishers and their content. The down side of this is that is that it looks like Facebook is almost completely killing organic reach for pages. So you’re either A) a publisher and in the Explore Feed or B) a brand/business and you have to pay to get into people’s regular feed, along with all the out-of-focus selfies done by my mum where 90% of participants are not looking at the camera #nailedit!

Facebook enters into Pinterest power struggle with new Sets feature

Not very surprising: Facebook has brought out a new way to group content together in order to take on the Pinterest style of posting. I know what you’re thinking: “Facebook eats platforms like Pinterest for breakfast!” and you may be right. ‘Sets’ lets users group photos, status updates and videos together based on interests, so maybe it’s food, or I don’t know, cos-play (it’s where adults dress up as their favourite characters – look it up Karen!).

Facebook tests the disappearing status
Remember the days when all Facebook statuses started with ‘is’ e.g. Laura is eating a sausage roll (pack of sausage rolls) etc.? Well, Facebook wants to bring those glory days back! And to do this, it is testing disappearing statuses, to encourage people to post (in 101 characters of text max) what they’re doing or feeling ‘in the moment’.

Facebook lets 10 publishes introduce a paywall
Ugh, is there anything more joyless than the concept of the paywall? When you’re well and truly clickbait hooked and you forge head first into one? Anyway, I digress, Facebook is allowing a chosen 10 publishers to have them on the platform after users have read 10 articles in a month and they’re not even taking a cut of the profits. How very magnanimous of them, I do hope they manage to make rent this month.

You can now PayPal using Messenger (if you’re in the U.S.)

PayPal users in the U.S will now be able to select PayPal as a payment option on Facebook Messenger to send person to person payments. If you get stuck while doing it you also have a friendly bot who can talk you through it all. Just don’t expect it to spot you the week before payday.

Facebook acquires teen compliment app tbh

Facebook has announced that it’s bought tbh, the app that’s taking the teen world by storm, which polls your peers and feeds back the results as a lovely compliment – aahhh. The app is going to be able to work independently, so will keep its own branding and leadership team.

Twitter introduces a new video ad format

Slightly less sexy but ultimately important news from Twitter HQ. They’re launching a new video ad format which pushes people to visit a website in the moment. How it works is that a video will auto play, ideally a tempting and eye-catching video. Alongside the video a preview of the website will be displayed, harnessing the power of video to drive action.

Brands of all sizes can now run Search Ads on Pinterest
Pinterest has announced that anyone can now run a Search Ad on its platform using its ads manager. The site receives two billion searches every month and any brand can now capitalise on this by searching for keywords, broad matches, phrases and exact matches to run their ads against.

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Tech’s Duel With Law Enforcement Won’t Be Settled By The High Court’s Review Of The Microsoft Data Case

The high court will review a lower court decision saying Microsoft is not obligated to provide the DOJ with the emails of a suspected drug trafficker stored on a server in Ireland.

For tech companies walking the line between cooperating with law enforcement and protecting user data privacy is a lingering headache, and the Supreme Court’s decision to review the matter in United States v. Microsoft Corporation isn’t likely to provide much relief.

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Tech’s Duel With Law Enforcement Won’t Be Settled By The High Court’s Review Of The Microsoft Data Case

The high court will review a lower court decision saying Microsoft is not obligated to provide the DOJ with the emails of a suspected drug trafficker stored on a server in Ireland.

For tech companies walking the line between cooperating with law enforcement and protecting user data privacy is a lingering headache, and the Supreme Court’s decision to review the matter in United States v. Microsoft Corporation isn’t likely to provide much relief.

Read Full Story

What You Need to Know About the New $32M Bill O’Reilly Scandal

It’s not often that the words “gay pornography” appear in The New York Times, let alone on its front page. (A quick search reveals that the phrase last appeared on Oct. 23, 2016today’s the one-year anniversary!in a “What’s on TV” story that briefly mentioned “a low-budget, all-male variation of sorts on ‘Boogie Nights'” starring Christian Slater and James Franco.) Anyway, per Steel and Schmidt,

In response to questions about why he sent sexually explicit material to Ms. Wiehl, Mr. O’Reilly said that during his time at the network, he had been sent threatening messages almost every day, including some that had obscene material. To deal with this problem, Mr. O’Reilly said, he set up a system in which the material would be forwarded to his lawyers so they could evaluate whether he needed to take any legal action. Mr. O’Reilly said Ms. Wiehl was among those lawyers.

Um, OK. Now back up to Fox News. What does this mean for the network?

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