The problem with corporations trying to do the right thing is that even if they were actually being socially and environmentally responsible, who would know? I mean, everyone knows that it's written into our country's laws that corporations must be sociopaths who care about nothing beyond enriching themselves.
So it's refreshing to see Eric Roston, editor at Bloomberg's new sustainability blog The Grid, put some blunt questions to Bart Alexander, chief corporate responsibility officer for Molson Coors.
[Roston]: Yeah … That’s an issue with this whole space: It all sounds like do-gooder pablum. But really, how does this affect the stock price?
[Alexander]: Financial stakeholders ask if a company is looking at risks and opportunities in a qualitative way.
At the start, we really couldn’t show our return on investment for our company itself. We did some benchmarking and had generic data. There’s some evidence that companies with corporate responsibility programs outperform the wider market.
Right, so there's some evidence that being vaguely responsible about one's environmental impact positively affects the bottom line. But here's where it gets interesting — before Molson Coors started looking at its impact, it had no idea just how much money it was wasting. Turns out a lot! Energy, water, you name it — it was money down the drain.
Then they started looking at the really big issues — how are the rapacious appetites of 7 billion people affecting the price of all the goods they need to make beer? That's when they realized, yep, the fate of the planet is the fate of their company.
[Roston]: Commodity prices are trending up globally. There are more consumers, but also staples cost more. How does that long-term trend factor into long-range planning?
[Anderson]: The beer business has fairly low profit margins, so the cost of goods is a huge driver of whether we have a good year or bad year. Not only in grains but aluminum and glass and other things.
Risks in our supply of commodities are important. You look beyond just potential price and quality variations, and ask: What are some of the underlying factors that tell us a supplier has a handle on the future?