Global Executives Say Greenwashing Remains Rife
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Global Executives Say Greenwashing Remains Rife

Nearly three-quarters of corporate leaders say most organisations in their industry would be caught greenwashing if they were investigated thoroughly

By ROCHELLE TOPLENSKY
Tue, Apr 25, 2023 8:00amGrey Clock 3 min

Most global executives think greenwashing is widespread in their industry, and despite customers becoming more vocal about preferring sustainable brands, many companies are cutting corners on their environmental, social and corporate governance initiatives.

Nearly three-quarters of executives said most organisations in their industry would be caught greenwashing if they were investigated thoroughly, according to a survey of nearly 1,500 executives across 17 countries and seven industries conducted in January by the Harris Poll on behalf of Google Cloud.

The risk of greenwashing is increasing with crackdowns on overstated green claims on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite that threat, the figures are consistent with last year’s findings: Nearly 60% say their own organisation is overstating its sustainability methods. While for some it may be intentional, most say it is instead often due to setting sustainability goals or pledges without a concrete plan to reach them.

“There are actors that are maybe intentionally overstating what they’re doing, but I honestly think for the most part, companies are sincere—they’ve set their goals, they’re working towards them, but they don’t always have the data to be transparent,” said Kate Brandt, chief sustainability officer at Google.

The survey gives insight into where companies are in their sustainability efforts. A little more than a quarter are developing their sustainability programs, 22% have a plan they are implementing, another 22% are able to measure its impact, and 14% are in the final stage of optimising their plan based on measured outcomes. In contrast, nearly a tenth plan to start developing their sustainability plan in the near future, while the remaining 6% don’t have a plan or any intention to come up with one soon.

Nearly three-quarters of executives said they want to advance sustainability efforts but don’t actually know how to go about doing it. Top tools identified to improve their ability were having a dedicated sustainability leader, support from senior management, advanced measurement tools, and education for employees and executives. And the two main ways they expect advancement is through technology innovation as well as investment in sustainable operations or services.

With nearly a decade of experience as a CSO, Ms. Brandt said the survey findings reinforced her point of view on how a company can set itself up to be successful. Businesses need strong governance powered by good data and metrics and a dedicated sustainability leader to be the center of gravity but one who can also embed sustainability inside business functions.

Most executives surveyed—85%—said customers and clients are becoming more vocal about their preference for engaging with sustainable brands. However, economic uncertainty means that business leaders have increased their focus on customers, revenue and growth, although ESG issues remain one of businesses’ top three priorities.

While an earlier survey by industrial conglomerate Honeywell International Inc. found that sustainability budgets at most companies were relatively insulated from cuts, the more recent Google Cloud survey indicates things may have changed. Two-thirds of executives in the latest survey said they are having to cut corners on sustainability initiatives and 45% said the economy is negatively affecting their organisations’ sustainability efforts.

Essentially when times are getting hard, you get to see who’s serious about this agenda and those who are paying lip service or perhaps accidentally overstating their efforts,” said Justin Keeble, managing director of global sustainability at Google Cloud.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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