Speaker Insights

Sustainable Business Summit Bill Sisson Q&A New York

A Conversation with Bill Sisson, WBCSD

Bill Sisson is the executive director for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)’s North America operations. In his role he oversees WBCSD’s regional strategy, relations and growth efforts, sustainability focused member projects, and strategic engagements. Here he tells us more about WBCSD’s efforts to help companies align their retirement assets with their sustainability goals.

Hear more from Sisson at the Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit in New York on October 22, where corporate executives, influential investors, and prominent experts will discuss emerging trends and opportunities in sustainability.

What is the greatest challenge companies face today when it comes to developing their sustainability strategy?

The greatest challenge facing companies today is managing the tension between delivering short-term shareholder financial performance versus focusing on the long-term health of a company for all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and investors. Increasingly, a longer-term approach is expected and takes into account both financial performance combined with social and environmental considerations that, if not addressed, could materially impact the company’s performance. WBCSD works with member companies to better understand these issues that ultimately will impact performance and benefit its long-term health and success.

What are some of the first steps companies can take if they are interested in aligning their retirement offerings with their corporate purpose?

Comparing their mission and vision statements with the funds represented in their 401(k) or pension funds would be a good start. WBCSD created an initiative to help companies better align their retirement assets with their overall sustainability goals by incorporating Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations into their investment strategies. It brought together top asset management and investment consulting firms to help member companies align their sustainability commitments with their retirement plans. Two WBCSD toolkits are available to guide sustainability professionals, benefit officers, and fund managers in making this transition.

How can employees of companies without responsible investing options in their retirement plans take steps to make their investments sustainable?

We just finished Climate Week, where companies spoke about their actions to help mitigate climate change. Employees can help too. As a first step, they should inquire to HR departments if their companies provide responsible investment options in their retirement plans.  Employee demand and a company’s commitment to sustainability often assist the fiduciaries to make quicker decisions. WBCSD’s Vision 2050, to be refreshed in 2020, offers a comprehensive pathway to provide a world where all will live well within the boundaries of the planet. Employees that shift their capital to responsible investment options are a vital part of this vision.