There are pockets of EHS & Sustainability excellence in almost every company NAEM works with, and Sandy Nessing’s work on American Electric Power’s integrated corporate accountability report is an example of that excellence. It represents one environmental manager and her success in articulating the value of meeting stakeholders, being transparent and encouraging the company to look beyond its current paradigm.
This is no small feat.
While many thought-leading companies have provided sustainability reports for about a decade now, few have taken the next step by combining these reports with their annual report. AEP’s report, which merges these two statements is a giant leap forward and a great example of the kinds of “improved sustainability communications” Dan Esty recently challenged companies to do. Not only did AEP put itself in the hot seat by going out and talking to the full range of stakeholders — whether they’re skeptics or supporters or folks who believe in corporations or not — but Sandy developed a thoughtful process through which the company leadership communicated its values to the outside world.
The utility industry is often the center of attention in the current discussions about climate change yet we are dependent on the utilities for the quality of life we enjoy in this country. There is a disconnect, therefore, between our expectation for utilities to limit their impact on the environment and our need for the electricity they produce. So what makes AEP’s report so groundbreaking is that it begins to bridge that gap between what we want and what we need.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, though. As the demand for greater transparency grows, companies need to enhance their communications to reflect their environmental and social performance in the reporting that goes to Wall Street. In return, the investment community needs to become more knowledgeable and conversant about the kind of information that truly measures a company’s environmental and sustainability progress. So what’s great about AEP is that it created an opportunity for investors, the government and the public to participate in this conversation.
Following in their footsteps, what are some examples of ways in which you could have a material impact on your company’s environmental and sustainability communications?