What is Nasdaq actually doing in terms of Corporate Sustainability?
Our sustainability achievements are mostly external. Nasdaq is a founding member of the two most prominent and effective exchange industry projects working towards sustainable development and performance in the capital markets: the UN-based Sustainable Stock Exchange (SSE) initiative and the WFE-based Sustainability Working Group. Progress thus far has been focused on issuer engagement. We regularly consult with prospects, listed companies, and investors on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns. In some cases, we have led companies to engage with a broader and more devoted investor pool by becoming more transparent on these issues.
We hosted the ESG Summit in June at MarketSite, which brought nearly 200 exchange, corporate, investor, and regulatory stakeholders together for an full-day program of expertise and dialogue. There were more than a dozen panel discussions, covering everything from renewable energy investment to innovative HR programs that help to recruit and retain talent. Jose Maria Figueres, former president of Costa Rica and board member at the Carbon War Room, was our keynote speaker.
We recently hosted a UN Regional Dialogue at our Helsinki exchange, which brought attention to the great work that the Nordic markets have done in facilitating greater corporate disclosure on sustainability matters. We hope to host another event in Europe next year, and perhaps one at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco.
So, this is about issuer outreach and communication?
Not entirely. Nasdaq is also focused on making significant improvements to its own operation. We collaborated with facility management to create an environmental action plan for the Nasdaq offices to follow. The plan covers everything from efficient lighting choices to recycling participation and measurement. It’s the kind of program that could generate tremendous cost savings for the company, perhaps $20M over the next decade.
There has been a great deal of research done on the connection between sustainability and financial performance. It may be causation or correlation, but the companies that have a robust and transparent sustainability strategy tend to outperform those that do not—in terms of financial returns, investor turnover, cost of capital, and other metrics. A number of our listed companies are overachievers in this area, and we seek to do likewise.
Is Corporate Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility the same thing?
Yes and no. Corporate Sustainability is about environmental and resource management, as well as the communication of sustainable development goals in the business community. Corporate Responsibility (CR) actually refers to a much broader and more integrated enterprise project, one that encompasses sustainability, employee volunteerism, and corporate philanthropy. In short, CR is about all the ways that our company helps to make the world a better place.
How are we making the world a better place?
Nasdaq employees gave something extra to communities and causes in 2015. For example, we created a volunteering program that allows U.S. employees to take paid time off to volunteer locally—and 15% of our employees took advantage of that. In fact, Nasdaq employees are on pace to volunteer twice the number of hours in 2015 than in any year since we started measuring performance. In fact, we began to offer a “Volunteer of the Year” award just to recognize those who do such great work in this area, and more than 20 nominations have come in.
We also launched, for the first time in Nasdaq history, a comprehensive donation matching program. This doubles the impact and value of any employee donation to a charitable cause or agency. Not only does this diversify the scope of organizations that Nasdaq supports financially, but it puts more power into employee hands to drive decisions about where corporate dollars go. The program focuses on both local and national programs. We’ve created more than $100k in impact this year for cancer research labs, kindergarten classroom projects, food banks, financial literacy programs, and so on.
With more than 300 individual donations to more than 200 charitable targets, it’s easy to see how our employees have responded to the program—and how they drive change in the world.