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Robert Eccles is a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School. He does research on corporate reporting, and has written three books on the subject, including his latest "One Report: Integrated[…]

Companies that are leading the way in reducing their environmental impact.

Question: Are companies beginning to think in more long-term rnway? 
Robert Eccles: A great example to look rnat is Ricoh, the copier company in Japan. Now, they’re not practicing rnintegrated reporting, they may in the future, I can’t speak for what rnthey’re going to do, but I have met with the executives of Ricoh, I havern written a case on Ricoh that we’ll be teaching in our advanced rnmanagement program here, and Ricoh has developed a, what they call extrarn long term strategy, a 40-year strategy, where they have publicly rncommitted to reducing their environmental impact, so its broadly rndefined, it’s carbon, it’s water, it’s, you know, other emissions. They rnhave committed to reducing their, the environmental impact to one-eighthrn of what it is today, including growth. So this is including anticipatedrn growth in the future, and they have done a very careful internal rnanalysis and came up with what they call their no regret policy, which rnwas they would be happy that they made this decision, even if not forcedrn to do so by regulations or by stakeholder pressure, they convinced rnthemselves through very careful analysis that this was the correct thingrn to do for the company, that it was the correct thing to do for society,rn because they are very concerned. Obviously if Ricoh is the only companyrn that commits to an extra long term plan, then that’s not going to rnchange the world, but I think they’re a leading example. 

So thenrn the question becomes, how is the market reacting? Well, I’ve talked to rnpeople on the sell side, I’ve talked to people on the buy side, they rnrecognize what Ricoh is doing, they would admit that it isn’t being rnfactored into their stock price today, they suggest that over the long rnterm, as these issues, environmental and so forth, become more rnimportant, that this will be to an advantage of the company. 

Butrn it’s the problem that you’ve talked about with Peter, the sell-side rnoriented, six months, maybe at the outside, buy-side, year or two years rnand this tension between a two-year timeframe and a 40-year timeframe isrn hard to reconcile. To Ricoh’s credit, they are still doing the right rnthing. You can clearly say their stock price isn’t being punished by it,rn but I think if you have more companies like Ricoh taking responsibilityrn for a longer term view and then ultimately practicing integrated rnreporting, and taking a more multiple stakeholder point of view, then I rnsuspect that you’ll start to see changes in the shareholder community. rnNot all shareholders have the short-term orientation. There’s ones that rnyou can point to, largely the big pension funds, CalPERS, APG, Norwegianrn Pension Funds, they’ve been very supportive of integrated reporting, rnthey’ve been supportive of sustainable strategies and as they start to rnfocus their investments in companies that have this kind of commitment, Irn think you’ll start to see a benefit in terms of shareholder return.
Recordedrn on April 19, 2010