News & Insights

Marking Earth Day with An Initiative to Fight Climate Change

Amy Binder

When it comes to today’s battle to save the planet from climate change, Mark Twain had it right well over 100 years ago: “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.”

We have seen in recent years impressive steps toward addressing climate change in the form of corporate commitments, global initiatives, and regulation. Not surprisingly, that progress has alarmed those with competing interests who want to slow the global energy transition. They’ve stepped up anti-ESG campaigns and attacked policies critical to combating climate change.

As a result, some corporate leaders publicly are soft-pedaling their sustainability commitments and pulling out of climate-issue alliances. We just saw this with a handful of major investors deciding to change their participation in the Climate Action 100+, the world’s largest investor engagement initiative focused on climate change.

Because of the pushback on ESG, many corporations are moving away from using the term, but are still taking needed action. It may just turn out that given the present politicized environment, we will see an emergence of corporations, although using fewer words, making real commitments in areas where there is a true business case and where they must take action.

It is interesting to note that just last month, the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business released research that shows that there has been some real progress on boards specifically. Fortune 100 companies had built up substantial ESG expertise on their boards over the last five years. Of the 100 boards researched, 89 had ESG committees in 2023, compared to just 22 in 2018. And 43% of directors had relevant ESG credentials, up from just 29% in 2018. I remember a few years ago, I was on a panel for the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) discussing whether ESG was an important issue of concern for boards. There was a sentiment in the audience then that it was not clear if it was. Clearly, corporate directors now understand the importance from a governance perspective of addressing ESG issues.

As a company, RF|Binder has been involved with the conversation about the importance of ESG for over 10 years. In 2011, we started work with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) whose mission was and continues to be to standardize sustainability reporting for publicly traded companies. Today, SASB is a major player in the ESG reporting landscape. Over the years, we have worked with asset managers who pioneered investing in corporations that were leading the transition to a more sustainable global economy, companies providing sustainability solutions for corporations looking to reduce their carbon footprint and private equity firms investing in start-ups working to bring technologies to the marketplace that would have an impact on climate change. It has been a privilege to work with the leadership of these organizations as they focused on taking real action rather than just using words.

At RF|Binder, we prize clarity, and an important part of being clear is following Mark Twain’s telling observation and making sure our actions at the very least match our words. It is not enough for us to just work with clients who are making a difference on the environment but we as an organization need to do the same as well. As founder and CEO, I want to make sure that our firm is clear about our commitment to the climate. That’s why on this Earth Day, RF|Binder has joined 1% for the Planet, a global organization whose purpose is to inspire commitment and action so that our planet and future generations can thrive. As a member, RF|Binder will be donating 1% of its revenues to address the most urgent environmental issues of our time.

Started in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, 1% for the Planet is a terrific organization that has established a network of over 5,000 members in over 110 countries. Collectively, they have given hundreds of millions of dollars to 1% for the Planet’s environmental partners, located across the U.S. and around the world, such as the Billion Oyster Project, GrowNYC, and the National Audubon Society.

At RF|Binder, we have been committed to sustainability since our founding, both for ourselves and our clients. Aligned with our guiding principle that “business can be a force for good,” we are strong believers that, despite some of the pushback we are seeing today, not only here in the U.S. but also around the world, business will continue play a critical role in combatting the climate crisis. I am eager to see the collective impact we will make.

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