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How ESG Transforms Good to Great

2020 has been a challenging year for many of us, but also for our environment.

In the United States, California wildfires have burned more than 4 million acres, turning skies in many Golden State communities an ominous red. These and other wildfires across the West have also created dangerous air quality for one in seven Americans.

Additionally, an unprecedented storm season disrupted the Gulf Coast of the United States. The Louisiana coastline was struck by one of the most powerful storms in the nation’s history, Hurricane Laura. The severe winds and flooding left widespread destruction of homes and businesses in the surrounding community as hundreds of thousands were without power or water.

This environmental distress spreads across the globe as well. Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland, was severely impacted by catastrophic wildfires. More than 7 million acres were lost due to the smoke destroying the community’s plant and wildlife population.

Air pollution continues to threaten our present and future. The overload of carbon emissions in our atmosphere through the consumption of fossil fuels will further disrupt our health as well as that of our environment.

Taking care of one another

Yet amid these challenges, the ability to lend a hand can make a difference. This year, more than any other in recent history, puts a spotlight on the importance of taking care of one another and the world in which we live.

In response to Hurricane Laura, companies and organizations quickly looked to help those who had been affected. Wells Fargo, Target and the NFL Foundation, among others, donated funds to aid relief efforts and assisted with providing essential supplies such as food, water and shelter. After the record number of California wildfires, Airbnb assisted those who had lost their homes and emergency responders by offering free shelter through their Open Homes program.

These stories of support remind us that our work must go beyond the products and services we provide to clients. Our businesses must also provide support to one another, local communities and our environment.

The need for ESG

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts are one way that businesses can do their part to make the world a better place. More and more, investors, clients and prospective clients and hires are taking sustainability efforts into account as they assess how businesses are responding to the most pressing challenges facing society today.

Philip Kotler, in "Corporate Social Responsibility: Doing the Most Good for Your Company," wrote, "A good company offers excellent products and services. A great company also offers excellent products and services but also strives to make the world a better place."

I couldn’t agree more. That’s why Unisys – which has long understood the importance of protecting the environment, giving back to our communities and being socially-conscious – recently released its first sustainability report. Our sustainability report highlights our commitment to sustainability, environmental accountability and social governance.

In recent years, we have instituted multiple social- and governance-related initiatives. For example, in 2018, Unisys established our Global Inclusion and Diversity Council, which works to drive awareness and equity related to disability, ethnicity, gender and racial issues.

We participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project, an international effort to increase transparency around carbon emissions. In addition, Unisys has focused on decreasing our emissions for more than a decade. In 2006, we set a goal to reduce our carbon footprint by 75% by 2026. We have reached 96% of our target and will meet our goal years earlier than expected.

Not only have we examined our carbon footprint, but also our own outflow of waste. For the past 20 years, Unisys has reduced our hazardous waste generation by 99%. In fact, in 2019, we generated zero hazardous waste across our U.S. operations. Additionally, our End-of-Life Product Disposition Program minimizes the impact of waste products on the environment and local communities. Since launching this program in 1997, we have recovered more than 45 million pounds of obsolete products. We have also asked our key suppliers to disclose their own ESG efforts. Our goal is to drive 75% of these suppliers to participate this year.

ESG makes sense from both a business and a world view. As McKinsey & Company notes, there’s a solid link between ESG and higher value creation.

With a reference to Kotler, I encourage all of us to go beyond being good and rather, be great.