Joel Makower

The New Sustainability Language: Materiality and Risk

"Materiality” is becoming part of the fabric of sustainable business.

For the uninitiated, materiality is an accounting or auditing term that refers to the estimated effect that a given piece of information may have on a company’s value—its current or future stock price, for example. If a CEO has been diagnosed with a terminal disease; if a company is being investigated for bribery by a government agency; if its profit or loss needs to be restated by a significant amount—all are examples of something that is “material,” from an investor or stakeholder point of view.

So, when does sustainability become a materiality issue?

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Why Wells Fargo Is Banking On Sustainability

Today, Wells Fargo announced a major environmental commitment consisting of three 2020 goals: $30 billion in loans and investments in clean technologies, energy-efficient buildings, environmental innovation; $100 million in community grants and increased volunteerism for grassroots environmental initiatives; and energy-efficiency, waste-diversion, green building, and greenhouse gas targets.

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How Many Patents Does It Take to Reinvent the Automobile?

General Motors received more clean-energy patents in the past year than any other company, according to data released a few weeks ago. The data comes from the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index, published quarterly by the law firm Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti (which also provides data for our annual State of Green Business report).

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Henkel's 20-Year View of Sustainability Reporting

I got a PR pitch recently about a multinational company’s just-published sustainability report. Nothing new there; I get those dozens of times a year. They’re sometimes interesting, though only rarely newsworthy.

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Earth Day and the Polling of America 2011

It’s become a rite of spring: a bumper crop of data, surveys, polls, and analyses about the green market space. Each year, as Earth Day comes into view, a picture emerges about U.S. consumer attitudes toward green business and green shopping. It’s a murky picture at best.

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Autodesk and the Future of Sustainable Design

If you start with the premise that many of the solutions to our global sustainability challenges require smart design and systems thinking, it doesn’t take long before you find your way to Autodesk. The 29-year-old design software company has made a series of impressive moves into the sustainability realm over the past few years.

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Storytelling and the Power of One Great Idea

A couple years ago, at a meeting of the GreenBiz Executive Network — my company's membership-based learning forum for chief sustainability executives — we began the meeting by asking each attendee to present “one great idea” from their company. It was an ice-breaker of sorts, a way for everyone to weigh in on something they were doing that was exciting, different, making a difference.

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California’s Bold Move to Legitimize Sustainable Business

A bill introduced in California’s state Senate last week holds enormous potential to give sustainable business a push by making it — well, legal.

Under current law in California and most other states, companies can be sued by their shareholders or investors for taking environmental or social measures that negatively affect shareholders’ financial returns. The proposed bill would enable a new form of for-profit corporation, encouraging and expressly permitting companies to pursue other things besides simply making money.

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The State of Green Business 2011

Today, we publish our fourth State of Green Business report,'s annual effort to take the pulse of what and how the world of sustainable business is doing.

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Why Dow is Putting Nature on the Balance Sheet

Today’s announcement by Dow Chemical that it will launch a multi-year effort to measure and track the business value of ecosystem services represents a small step for a company, a giant leap for critters of all kinds.

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