Women leaders and sustainability

Yesterday I attended a seminar organised by the UCD School of Social Justice, featuring Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington, a NUI Galway academic who recently won an Equality Tribunal case against her University. Dr Sheehy-Skeffington took the case against NUIG after she was unfairly overlooked for promotion in favour of her male colleagues, some of whom were less qualified. In her talk, she drew attention to the persistent gender imbalance in academia, government and business.

In a roundabout sort of way, this brought to mind a recent article in Business Strategy and the Environment on female corporate leaders and sustainability. I’ve always had a sneaking feminist suspicion that we females might be more attuned to matters ecological and social (I mean they don’t call it Father Nature!) and this paper by Glass et al puts my bias to the test. The authors hypothesise that firms with female CEOs and female Board members will have greater “environmental strengths”, and use Fortune 500 data from a 10 year period to test their theory.

The interesting thing that comes out is that there is no overall difference between the “environmental strengths” of firms with male and female CEOs and/or board members. However, Glass et al did find that environmental strengths were enhanced when female board members are “interlinked” i.e. they are members of the boards of other firms too, and when male CEO are supported by a gender diverse board.

So although the impacts may be subtle, female board members in particular can make a difference to an organisation’s environmental policy. Now all we need is more of them! Here’s the article link, and you can read about Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington’s case in the link below that:



Queens Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development

Sustainability-related business awards are an interesting concept. How do you measure a organisation’s contribution to “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland report, UNWCED, 1987)?

When I was selecting a sample for the empirical portion of my PhD, I was looking for “best practice” organisations, so I chose those which had won one or more sustainability-related awards. One of the awards I used was the Queens Award for Enterprise – Sustainable Development, which rewards organisations that:

“demonstrate commercially successful products, services and approaches to management which have major benefits for the environment, society and the wider economy” (Queens Awards Office, 2015, see below)

This is a fairly loose triple bottom line sort of standard, but the focus on product/service means that the awards throw up some interesting organisations, often some smaller businesses. This makes the Awards a good way of drawing our attention to lesser-known organisations, with an eye to future research. The 2015 Awards, which were announced last month, are detailed in the below document. Twelve organisations were given a Sustainable Development Award, and they’re on pages 13, 19, 28, 35, 50, 59, 62, 68 (2), 69 and 75 (2):


Ice and the Sky

The Cannes film festival closed yesterday with a new climate change documentary from the director of March of the Penguins. The film, Ice and the Sky, follows the life’s work, using some recreated footage, of climate scientist Claude Lorius. It won’t be in cinemas until the Autumn, but in the meantime here’s the Guardian’s review:


This article in the Independent includes a bit of an interview with the director where he talks about his experiences filming in Antartica and the impact of climate change there:


Finally, I couldn’t find an English language trailer, but here’s a French one, and the film looks great anyway!


Eco Eye

We have a great series on Irish TV called Eco Eye, a regular 30min documentary dealing with ecological issues. In recent times they’ve devoted programs to energy, waste, climate change and co-ops. The tone is considered but not preachy.

I’ve just discovered that Eco Eye now has a YouTube channel so their programs can be viewed anywhere in the world, and they also post links to other events and items, usually in Ireland. It’s well worth checking out the link:


Supermarket food waste

An interesting law will soon be passed in France banning supermarkets from “deliberately spoiling” unsold food. Large supermarkets will also have to sign contracts with charities to take their unsold food:


I couldn’t find any evidence of similar laws in Ireland or the UK, and most of the food “waste” recycling by supermarkets seems to be done on a voluntary basis. The article below from the Irish Times gives a good idea of the situation in Ireland, and also contains some useful links, while the BBC article talks about the UK situation and also has some really interesting stuff on what types of food are most likely to go to waste. Bakery items, fruit and bagged salad are the big offenders apparently. It might be worth mentioning here that I’ve been known to take full advantage when the supermarkets mark down their bread at c. 6-7pm in the evenings… There’s usually a few of us hovering near the doughnuts waiting for the shop assistant to come along with their magic yellow stickers! Ah free bread – no calories…



Finally, and for businesses, there are a couple of great social enterprises that link organisations with surplus food to local charities that might need it. FoodCloud operates in Ireland and FoodCycle in the UK:



Shell’s climate change rhetoric

Last month I highlighted the Guardian’s “keep it in the ground” climate change campaign. Here’s a really interesting article in that series from the Observer on Sunday, which highlights the dissonance between Shell’s talk of climate change and their recent purchase of a large chunk of British Gas:


It also reminded me of some of the great work done by social and environmental accounting researchers on Shell’s public utterances over the years. Here’s a couple of my favourites:



Recycling and more sustainable fashion

It’s cleaning out my closet time this weekend (I’ve said it so now I have to do it..!) and the piles of clothes awaiting me have inspired me to think about “sustainable” fashion. The local charity shop is still my preferred option, but it’s worth nothing that both H&M and Marks and Spencer offer a clothes recycling service. H&M will give you a voucher in exchange for your clothes and make a donation to charity too, while M&S is doing its scheme, unwisely called “shwopping”, in partnership with Oxfam. Here are the links:



For a more academic take on the subject, the Journal of Corporate Citizenship has recently published a special issue on “sustainable fashion” with some really interesting contributions:


Globescan and SustainAbility webinar

In a couple of weeks, consultancies Globescan and SustainAbility are hosting a webinar to launch their 2015 “Sustainability Leaders” Report. The Report asks a range of academics and practitioners which companies they view as leaders in sustainability. An interesting concept, and perhaps it would be even more interesting to compare perceived sustainability “leadership” with actual sustainability engagement…

Here’s the link to register for the webinar on the 28th of May:


And the link to last year’s report, to give us an idea of what to expect:


Accounting and Sustainable Development – Bebbington and Larrinaga (2014)

I really like this 2014 article in Accounting, Organizations and Society by Bebbington and Larrinaga. They review the social and environmental accounting (SEA) literature and then integrate it with “sustainability science”. The article includes a couple of case studies, one starting from an SD perspective and applying SEA and the other starting with accounting and applying sustainability science. It’s part of a special issue of AOS on sustainability accounting which contains some other really good papers too.