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Examples of Long-Term Thinking

Question: Are companies beginning to think in more long-term \r\nway? 

Robert Eccles: A great example to look \r\nat is Ricoh, the copier company in Japan. Now, they’re not practicing \r\nintegrated reporting, they may in the future, I can’t speak for what \r\nthey’re going to do, but I have met with the executives of Ricoh, I have\r\n written a case on Ricoh that we’ll be teaching in our advanced \r\nmanagement program here, and Ricoh has developed a, what they call extra\r\n long term strategy, a 40-year strategy, where they have publicly \r\ncommitted to reducing their environmental impact, so its broadly \r\ndefined, it’s carbon, it’s water, it’s, you know, other emissions. They \r\nhave committed to reducing their, the environmental impact to one-eighth\r\n of what it is today, including growth. So this is including anticipated\r\n growth in the future, and they have done a very careful internal \r\nanalysis and came up with what they call their no regret policy, which \r\nwas they would be happy that they made this decision, even if not forced\r\n to do so by regulations or by stakeholder pressure, they convinced \r\nthemselves through very careful analysis that this was the correct thing\r\n to do for the company, that it was the correct thing to do for society,\r\n because they are very concerned. Obviously if Ricoh is the only company\r\n that commits to an extra long term plan, then that’s not going to \r\nchange the world, but I think they’re a leading example. 

So then\r\n the question becomes, how is the market reacting? Well, I’ve talked to \r\npeople on the sell side, I’ve talked to people on the buy side, they \r\nrecognize what Ricoh is doing, they would admit that it isn’t being \r\nfactored into their stock price today, they suggest that over the long \r\nterm, as these issues, environmental and so forth, become more \r\nimportant, that this will be to an advantage of the company. 

But\r\n it’s the problem that you’ve talked about with Peter, the sell-side \r\noriented, six months, maybe at the outside, buy-side, year or two years \r\nand this tension between a two-year timeframe and a 40-year timeframe is\r\n hard to reconcile. To Ricoh’s credit, they are still doing the right \r\nthing. You can clearly say their stock price isn’t being punished by it,\r\n but I think if you have more companies like Ricoh taking responsibility\r\n for a longer term view and then ultimately practicing integrated \r\nreporting, and taking a more multiple stakeholder point of view, then I \r\nsuspect that you’ll start to see changes in the shareholder community. \r\nNot all shareholders have the short-term orientation. There’s ones that \r\nyou can point to, largely the big pension funds, CalPERS, APG, Norwegian\r\n Pension Funds, they’ve been very supportive of integrated reporting, \r\nthey’ve been supportive of sustainable strategies and as they start to \r\nfocus their investments in companies that have this kind of commitment, I\r\n think you’ll start to see a benefit in terms of shareholder return.

Recorded\r\n on April 19, 2010

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

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