2019 CSE Research finds Silicon Valley Geniuses are Sustainability Dullards
September 2019 – The Center for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) announces its 2019 research into the state of Sustainability Strategy and Reporting in North America. This year’s research, Sustainability Reporting Trends in Silicon Valley 2019, is a follow-up to CSE’s 2016 research. Except for certain large multi-nationals, the report finds limited sustainability leadership from the world’s largest concentration of tech companies.
CSE’s 2019 research provides an analysis of the current state of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting by Silicon Valley based companies Of the companies analyzed in 2019, 60% have a sustainability report, up from 29% in 2016. CSE’s 2016 report found Silicon Valley did not include sustainability as a key to corporate strategy despite dominance by purpose-driven Millennials and belief in technology’s ability to address global challenges,
This year’s research found that 37% of companies analyzed reported climate change performance. 23% included reference to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, ranging from a simple statement of support to a full integration. 22% have been externally assured, significantly increasing reporting accuracy and credibility, key for investors and ESG ratings.
Only 23% of all companies in the study displayed a sustainability strategy that involves all main focus areas deemed critical to their impacts.: Community, Environment, Ethics, Employees, Supply Chain and Philanthropy. Among all companies, Environment and Ethics were the most reported focus areas .
Of the companies analyzed, 98% have an ESG (environment, social, governance) ratings profile, which shows the importance of ratings to sustainability strategy and approach. In 2016, most VCs looking to finance the Next Big Thing were not using sustainability metrics in their analysis. With the rise of ratings agencies, the use of sustainability due diligence has increased significantly, and companies are taking notice. Beyond the improvements, Silicon Valley still lags significantly behind the national average of women in the workforce and in setting up comprehensive Sustainability Strategies for reducing carbon and addressing social challenges.
From a technology perspective, Blockchain applications promise to address reduced environmental impact and better assurance of human rights and fair work practices. While there are many possible applications for AI (artificial intelligence) in sustainability, there are many risks associated with bias, poor decision making, low transparency, job losses and malevolent use.
Overall, CSE’s research indicates that Silicon Valley has made some improvement in sustainability strategy and impacts over the past three reporting cycles. Despite improvement, much work remains to raise the region to national averages compared to CSE’s latest research findings on Sustainability Status of North America.