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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

General

This category includes articles that apply to social good in general and may include policy, practice and other stories relevant to everyone.

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Breakthrough As World’s Largest Palm Oil Trader Gives Forest Destroyers Nowhere To Hide

After an intensive global campaign by Greenpeace, Wilmar International has published a detailed action plan to map and monitor its palm oil suppliers.

Press Release – Washington, D.C. – The world’s largest palm oil trader, Wilmar International, has published a detailed action plan to map and monitor all of its suppliers. If implemented, this would put the palm oil giant, which supplies 40% of the world’s palm oil, one step closer to finally eliminating deforestation from its supply chain and would have a major impact on the rest of the industry.

“Wilmar supplies palm oil to most of the world’s major food and cosmetics brands. So today’s announcement is a potential breakthrough. If Wilmar keeps its word, by the end of 2019 it will be using satellites to monitor all of its palm oil suppliers, making it almost impossible for them to get away with forest destruction. Greenpeace will be watching closely to make sure Wilmar delivers,” said Kiki Taufik, Global Head of Indonesian Forests Campaign, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The move follows an intensive global campaign by Greenpeace that aimed to end deforestation for palm oil across the supply chain of the biggest household brands and palm oil buyers in the world. Over 1.3 million people signed a Greenpeace petition calling for an end to deforestation for palm oil.

In the past three months, activists occupied Wilmar’s refinery in Indonesia and twice boarded a tanker ship carrying Wilmar’s palm oil products. Greenpeace Italy blockaded the factory of one of its major customers, Mondelez (owner of Oreo, Cadbury and Ritz). Activists across the world also brought scenes of forest destruction to Mondelez HQs around the world, including the office in Deerfield, Illinois.

Greenpeace is now pausing its campaign to give Wilmar space to put this plan into action.

Forest destruction for commodity production is fuelling a climate and extinction crisis. Scientists warn that keeping global warming below a 1.5ºC rise means ending deforestation and restoring forests. Brands and traders promised to clean up their supply chains by 2020. [1.] However, with less than 400 days to go companies are still failing across the board, in part because traders and their customers failed to gather the maps of their suppliers’ plantations needed to monitor what happens on the ground.

Wilmar’s new action plan is designed to address that gap: it commits Wilmar to map its suppliers’ entire landbank by the end of 2019, including concessions from which it does not yet source, and to use high-resolution satellite monitoring to check for deforestation. Companies caught clearing rainforest are to be immediately suspended.

Wilmar’s announcement puts pressure on the rest of the sector, including other major commodities traders like Golden Agri Resources and Musim Mas that also source palm oil from forest destroyers. Household brands like Mondelez, Nestlé and Unilever, source from many different suppliers and have a responsibility to see equivalent commitments rolled out across the industry.

“As the world wakes up to the climate and extinction crisis, inaction is not an option. Wilmar has taken an important step and must now put its plan into action immediately. Stopping deforestation requires industry-wide action. Other traders and brands must now follow with credible plans to map and monitor all of their suppliers. Equally important is action to end exploitation and human rights abuses in the palm oil sector,” said Taufik.

[1] In December 2010, members of the Consumer Goods Forum, an industry association comprising 450 of the biggest consumer-facing brands, committed to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains of agricultural commodities by 2020, including cattle, palm oil, pulp and soya products.

In December 2013, Wilmar became the first palm oil trader to adopt a ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ policy that applied to its own plantations and those of its suppliers. By the end of 2014, all major palm oil traders had adopted similar policies. Yet deforestation for palm oil continues because traders and their customers lack the maps needed to monitor what happens on the ground.


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Business Must Scale Up Efforts To Avoid Environmental Calamity, Says Top Bluewater Executive At UN Climate Change Conference

Press Release – Katowice, Poland, December 9, 2018 – Anders Jacobson, President of Bluewater, a world leader in game-changing water technologies and solutions, today told over 600 environmental policy-makers and climate technology innovators that the business community must scale up and speed efforts to help find solutions to tackle a looming plastics calamity.

“Business can and must provide the thought-leadership to create and drive the innovative technologies and solutions required to disrupt an industry that today sees 1.4 billion plastic bottles produced every day, many of which end up in landfill and our oceans,” Anders Jacobson said. He added one consequence is that 83 percent of all tap water on average around the world has been shown to contain micro plastic particles, according to research.

Mr. Jacobson was speaking at the Sustainability Innovation Forum, the largest business-focused event taking place during the United Nations climate change conference underway in the Polish city of Katowice.

Following his keynote presentation, Mr. Jacobson was joined by environment ministers from the UK, Finland and Iceland for a panel discussion on how to tackle single use plastic and its impact on the planet’s oceans.

Noting that pervasive micro plastics are now found literally everywhere on the planet from the water we drink to the food we eat and the air we breathe, Mr. Jacobson said Bluewater daily demonstrates how human ingenuity can deliver tech solutions dramatically cutting the need for throwaway plastic bottles.

Bluewater is a Swedish water technology company, founded in 2013, on a belief that clean water is a basic human right, made sustainably at the source and free from toxic single-use plastics.

Designed for use in homes, businesses and public spaces, Bluewater’s purifiers are today deployed in diverse environments to provide alternatives to plastic bottles at marathons, football matches, music and large-scale yoga events across Asia, the USA, Europe and Africa.

Bluewater does not stop at innovating, making and selling its unique reverse osmosis water purifiers, the company is also spearheading a global movement to enhance human and planetary health by eliminating single-use plastics.

“This action model has already forged high impact partnerships with a range of nonprofits in affected communities like Flint, MI and with global sporting actors like Volvo Ocean Race that produce meaningful and tangible benefits to communities and demonstrate there are technologies and solutions already available today to avoid single-use plastics,” Anders Jacobson said.

Background

Joining Anders Jacobson on the Sustainable Innovation Forum panel discussing how to tackle single use plastic and its impact on the oceans were Dr. Therese Coffey, UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment, Gudmundur Ing Gudbrandsson, Iceland’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, and Hanna Pokka, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Finland.

Bluewater is a world leading water purification company with its global headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden. Bluewater innovates, manufactures and comercializes compact water purifiers for residential, business and public use that harness the company’s patented reverse osmosis technology to remove virtually all pollutants from tap water, including lead, bacteria, pesticides, medical residues, chlorine and lime-scale. Please visit us at www.bluewatergroup.com

Follow us for water-related news on Facebook, Twitter and Wechat (Search ID: Bluewater). Journalists and bloggers can follow our press releases and blogs at http://www.mynewsdesk.com/us/bluewater. And everyone is welcome to enjoy our themed Bluewater music playlist on spotify at BluewaterPure Radio.


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National Park Foundation and Nature Valley® Increase Access to 10,000 Miles of National Park Trails

IN CELEBRATION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF NATIONAL TRAILS AND WILD & SCENIC RIVERS ACTS, FUNDING SUPPORTS TRAIL RESTORATION PROJECTS ACROSS NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM

Press Release – WASHINGTON (December 10, 2018) National park programs and trails will benefit from the National Park Foundation’s partnership with Nature Valley for the Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque movement. Announced in January, Nature Valley’s support includes a three-year commitment and a donation of $3 million. This donation, in part, will provide funds to improve and restore critical parts of trails, resulting in better access to experience 10,000 miles of trails throughout the National Park System.

“When you restore trails, you open up endless opportunities for recreation and learning,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “Nature Valley’s generous support enhances people’s national park experiences now and in the future.”

The commitment consists of a number of projects, including:

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Restoring 27 miles of the 100-mile Guadalupe Ridge Trail that extends from Carlsbad Caverns National Park into Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Natchez Trace Parkway (Tennessee)

Restoring 25 critical miles of the Highland Rim Section of the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway.

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Restoring key access points along 15 miles of the 2,180-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail that weaves through Shenandoah National Park.

For the above-mentioned projects, the National Park Foundation provided funding to Conservation Legacy, a nonprofit conservation corps program.

“At the very core of our brand is our belief that nature makes us better,” said Angela Rassi, director of marketing for Nature Valley. “As part of that belief, we seek to make the best of nature accessible to everyone. Increasing access to 10,000 miles of trails not only ensures that people can see the beauty of the national parks now, but future generations will have access to some of the most beautiful spaces in our country.”

The projects create a conservation and stewardship legacy, modernize infrastructure, increase access to recreational opportunities, and support partnerships with local communities.

Beyond funding these much-needed site-specific projects, the National Park Foundation and Nature Valley are also inspiring more people to #FindYourWay along trails and rivers across the country.

#FindYourWay is an extension of the #FindYourPark/#EncuentraTuParque movement and invites the public to discover their own personal connections to thousands of trails across the National Trails System and more than 12,000 miles of rivers protected by the Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

Learn more about the National Park Foundation at www.nationalparks.org and Nature Valley at www.naturevalley.com.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION

Celebrating 50 years, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help PROTECT more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts, CONNECT all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history, and ENGAGE the next generation of park stewards. In 2016, commemorating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, the Foundation launched The Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, a comprehensive fundraising campaign to strengthen and enhance the future of these national treasures for the next hundred years. Find out more and become a part of the national park community at www.nationalparks.org.

ABOUT NATURE VALLEY®

Nature Valley created the granola bar category in 1975 and is the #1 granola brand in the U.S. Bringing great taste to active consumers looking for wholesome snacks, Nature Valley offers 10 varieties of great-tasting granola snacks: Crunchy Granola Bars, Breakfast Biscuits, Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bars, Protein Bars, Protein Granola, Greek Yogurt Protein Bars, Soft-Baked Oatmeal Squares, Granola Thins, Chewy Trail Mix Bars, Roasted Nut Crunch Bars, and Yogurt Granola Bars. Nature Valley® is part of the General Mills family of brands. General Mills has been making food people for over 150 years. Find out more about our efforts to take care of the earth for the next generation at www.generalmills.com


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Families Aid Discovery Of A Sensory-Processing Disorder Gene In Children With Autism Traits

Press Release – JUPITER, FL—Nov. 26, 2018—A concerned Texas mom finally has answers about the cause of her son’s sensory-processing problems thanks to a special collaboration among her patient-advocacy group and the lab of Scripps Research Neuroscientist Gavin Rumbaugh, PhD.

Monica Weldon of Cypress, Texas, says her son Beckett, a 10-year-old fraternal twin, has never experienced pain the way his sister, or other children, do.

“His pain threshold was so high,” Weldon says. While he had signs of autism, he had other symptoms that were not typical. “He walked around with a broken finger for four days and we didn’t know it was broken.”

Beckett has a genetic mutation that results in deactivation of a gene called SYNGAP1, which is critical to healthy brain development. Rumbaugh’s research, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, for the first time links disordered touch and pain processing to SYNGAP1 mutations. Rumbaugh and his co-authors note that children born with only one working copy of the gene are known to exhibit a wide range of symptoms, including autistic traits, epilepsy and intellectual disability. Analysis of a patient registry that Weldon helped assemble, plus a series of experiments in an animal model of the condition, led to the discoveries.

“We knew SYNGAP1 was critically important for synapse plasticity,” or experience-driven changes in neural circuitry, says Rumbaugh, the study’s senior and corresponding author. “What we found is in addition to that, it also seems to regulate how many connections are made in the brain’s primary somatosensory cortex, in how we process touch-related sensory information. That was a surprising finding.”

It was surprising, in part, because previous research showed that SYNGAP1 mutations cause hyper-sensitivity in the other senses. The processing of hearing and sight may be on overdrive, and yet they found that touch awareness and pain sensation barely register in somatosensory circuits.

Weldon says that paradox describes her son’s challenges exactly. While he ignored dog bites or skin burns, the sights and sounds of a simple trip to the grocery store overwhelmed him.

“Nothing could relieve him of the over-stimulation,” she says. “He was constantly screaming in the car. You couldn’t go anywhere because of the screaming. We had ear plugs in the house.”

That paradox may also may explain why it’s challenging for doctors to prescribe medications to regulate the children’s symptoms, Rumbaugh says.

Many different mutations can lead to inactivation of one copy of the SYNGAP1 gene, Rumbaugh says. Two inactivated copies of the gene are lethal in the laboratory, he adds. The next step will be developing therapies to restore the missing SYNGAP1 gene product, he adds. That work is underway at Scripps Research in Jupiter, FL now. He’s hopeful that catching the disorder and treating it early may make it possible to prevent some of the developmental and intellectual disabilities, or to avoid the seizures.

“We think that it’s likely that the sensory deficits that these children experience contribute to their altered learning and thinking,” he says. “If the who, what, where, and when information is coming in incorrectly, you would expect it is going to affect behavioral responses to touch, as well as thought processes that are generated from touch experiences.”

For Monica Weldon, learning the source of her son’s developmental challenges has been life-changing. A former science teacher, she shares authorship of the Nature Neuroscience paper. The patient-advocacy group she founded, Bridge the Gap – SYNGAP – Education and Research Foundation, has spent years working with Rumbaugh’s lab to build a scientifically valid patient registry, and develop and distribute questionnaires.

Weldon recalls the difficulty of learning why Beckett was so different from his twin. The identification of the SYNGAP1 gene as disease-causing wasn’t discovered until Beckett was 1 year old. She visited more than a dozen doctors trying to find a cause. She finally had to take out a loan to pay the $13,000 whole-genome exome test that her doctor ultimately suggested. On learning of Beckett’s status, she created the firstSYNGAP1 Facebook page in the hopes of finding others. That group eventually grew into the non-profit. Beckett and his sister are 10 years old now. Nearly 200 families have joined the patient registry used for the study, and 48 different families uploaded detailed medical history data, including answering detailed questions about sensory function in their children. Of those, 45 of 48 described obvious sensory processing impairments, Rumbaugh says.

SYNGAP1 mutations are rare, but recent studies have estimated that tens of thousands of individuals globally may live with it, Rumbaugh says. Families learn of their child’s SYNGAP1 status only after pediatricians notice missed milestones and then order genetic tests, he adds.

Thanks to the internet and Bridge the Gap, families are finding each other and sharing such vital information. The new findings show how powerful these connections can become when families partner with scientists like those at Scripps Research, Weldon adds.

“The families educate the scientists on the specifics of how their children are affected, and they educate us on how the gene mutations impair brain function at the cellular and molecular level—it’s a win-win for everybody,” Weldon says.

“This open communication is getting us closer to understanding what this gene really does and possibly developing precision medicine approaches for treating these kids.”

In addition to Rumbaugh and Weldon, authors of the study, “SYNGAP1 heterozygosity disrupts sensory processing by reducing touch-related activity within somatosensory cortex circuits,” include first authors Sheldon D. Michaelson and Emin D. Ozkan of Scripps Research. They also include Massimiliano Aceti, Sabyasachi Maity, Nerea Llamosas, Elisa Mizrachi, homas Vaissiere and Courtney A. Miller, of Scripps Research; Michael A. Gaffield and Jason M. Christie of the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, and J. Lloyd Holder Jr. of the Baylor College of Medicine.

This work was supported in part by NIH grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH096847 and MH108408 and MH105400), the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NS064079 and NS083894), and the National Institute for Drug Abuse (DA034116 and DA036376). J.L.H. is supported by a National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award (NS091381). The SYNGAP1 Natural History Study and Patient Registry is supported by a grant from The National Organization of Rare Disorders.


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Noted Water Strategy Expert Will Sarni To Serve on Project WET Foundation Board of Directors

Press Release – BOZEMAN, Mont., Dec. 7, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Will Sarni, a global thought leader on water strategy and innovation, has joined the Project WET Foundation Board of Directors. The founder and CEO of Water Foundry, which advises companies on water-related risks and invests in digital water technologies that address water scarcity and quality issues Will becomes the ninth member of the global water education nonprofit’s Board of Directors.

“Will Sarni is an internationally recognized water sustainability expert known for his ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and practical solutions for solving the complex water issues facing our world,” said Tom Cooper, Project WET Foundation Board Chair and Senior Environmental Health and Safety Manager for Lam Research Corporation. “We are absolutely thrilled to have him join us as a board member, and we look forward to having Will’s help in furthering our mission of educating the world about water.”

Before launching Water Foundry Will founded and led DOMANI, a sustainability strategy firm that was acquired by Deloitte Consulting. At Deloitte, he founded the water strategy practice which provided services to U.S. and non-U.S. multinationals on quantifying and mitigating water-related risks.

Will has authored numerous books and articles and presented on such topics as the value of water, innovations in digital water technology, the circular economy and the energy-water-food nexus. He is also the author of a forthcoming book, Digital Water: New Technologies for a More Resilient, Secure and Equitable Water Future, which Routledge will publish in 2019.

Will joins a Board that reflects the Project WET Foundation’s core beliefs that water is for all water users and that water resources management and education are crucial to a healthy and sustainable environment and economic prosperity. All water user categories and diverse geographic regions as well as government agencies and private enterprise are represented. Other members of the Board include a NASA astronaut recently returned from the International Space Station, senior executives from the mining and semiconductor industries, a university water education expert, and retired leaders from Black & Veatch, Nestlé Waters, USAID and USDA.

About the Project WET Foundation:

Since 1984, the Project WET Foundation has been dedicated to reaching children, parents, teachers and community members with action-oriented water education to enable every child to understand and value water, ensuring a sustainable future. Project WET (“WET” stands for “Water Education for Teachers”) is active in all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries worldwide. Learn more at http://www.projectwet.org.


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Statement From Fistula Foundation CEO Kate Grant On The December 10 Nobel Peace Prize Awarded To Dr. Denis Mukwege

On December 10, an extraordinary person and personal hero will receive the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. It is an award much deserved by a man who has put his own life at risk, for decades, in order to aid the voiceless victims of wartime violence.

I have been privileged to know Dr. Denis Mukwege for nearly a decade. When Fistula Foundation adopted a global mission in 2009, he became our very first partner. We have been proud to support his work with more than $2.3 million in grants that help him restore health to thousands of women who have suffered from traumatic fistula incurred as a result of sexual violence.

Since the announcement in October that he would receive the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Fistula Foundation has established the Denis Mukwege Fistula Fund to support his future work, for which nearly $200,000 has already been raised. Our community has also celebrated this news, sending in more than 700 messages of congratulations, well wishes and support via an e-card that Fistula Foundation established, which now features signatures from grateful champions of his work from 36 countries around the world.

He is truly a remarkable man, and it has been a pleasure to get to know him well over the last decade. The son of a Pentecostal minister, Dr. Mukwege is a quietly devout man who told me at our very first meeting that he wanted to do with his hands what he felt that his father had done with his words: make the world a better place.

And he truly has. His 400-bed Panzi Hospital is a beacon of healing and hope to women who have been traumatized by decades of war. It has been said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the worst place in the world to be a woman, and if you hear Dr. Mukwege share stories of women and young girls whose bodies have been literally torn apart by sexual violence, you will know this is true. He and his staff work day and night to heal these voiceless victims, body and soul.

What Dr. Mukwege does is important, and dangerous. He is a global force, using his voice beyond the walls of Panzi Hospital to speak on the world stage to denounce the crimes of armed groups that have operated in DRC for more than two decades. He has been targeted by assassins who took his daughters and wife captive. Yet, this remarkable man and champion of women perseveres.

Every day, he serves as my North Star. His portrait has hung on the wall next to my desk for nearly as long as I’ve known him. In a white doctor’s coat and a lapel pin that says “Do not stand idly by,” he reminds me every day of the sacrifices he’s made to give the voiceless a voice, and to return their health and their hope.

In this age, and at this time, the Nobel Committee could not have selected a more deserving, more inspiring recipient. I could not be proud to call him a partner, and a friend.

To join the 700+ others around the world who have already left a message for Dr. Mukwege on Fistula Foundation’s e-card, add your name and message at this link. Messages will be compiled and delivered to Dr. Mukwege after the Nobel Ceremony on December 10.

Fistula Foundation believes no woman should suffer a life of isolation and misery simply for trying to bring a child into the world, which is why we are dedicated to ending the suffering caused by obstetric fistula. We’re working with local partners in more than 20 countries, funding more fistula repair surgeries worldwide than any other organization. Based in San Jose, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, Fistula Foundation is honored to have received 13 consecutive four-star ratings from Charity Navigator; only 1 percent of charities have received this designation.


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RSM Survey Highlights Social Responsibility and Diversity & Inclusion in the Middle Market

Support is high, yet middle market can benefit from more formalization of programs

Press Release – WASHINGTON, D.C.RSM US LLP – the nation’s leading provider of audit, tax and consulting services to the middle market – recently announced, in collaboration with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, results from its RSM US Middle Market Business Index (MMBI) Social Responsibility, Diversity & Inclusion special report.

The report finds the majority of middle market companies (nine out of ten) actively support social, community, and philanthropic causes, and 88 percent are focused on diversity and inclusion, reflecting the evolution of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the middle market. However, despite the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) for middle market business leaders, the survey shows the way they formally address these causes varies.

In fact, only a little over a third (38 percent) of organizations indicated they had a formal social responsibility plan in place, and just over half (55 percent) have a highly or somewhat formalized diversity and inclusion plan. While larger middle market businesses tended to have more formal programs, smaller middle market businesses – while no less engaged with the causes they support – have fewer processes and documentation around their related initiatives (50 percent versus 26 percent).

“Corporate social responsibility strategies have evolved as a vital way for businesses to connect with their communities, demonstrate commitment to core values and deliver on brand promises,” said Sara Webber Laczo, principal and corporate communications leader with RSM US LLP. “At the same time, today’s consumers and employees are demanding more transparency from the companies they engage with, compelling more businesses to ‘walk the talk’ of CSR.”

While middle market companies might have strong CSR initiatives in place, the lack of more formalized planning and ongoing communications might present a missed opportunity to fully reap the benefits of such efforts. Organizations demonstrating a vital and strategic CSR plan and diverse culture can be more appealing to employees, fostering alignment with their organizations’ core values. Moreover, the culture fortifies their own beliefs and passions, and shows how they, through their companies, can have a social impact.

“Diversity spurs creativity and innovation, which lead to business growth and success,” said Rick Wade vice president, strategic alliances and outreach at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Research shows that companies with greater gender and racial diversity consistently outperform their peers on measures like profitability and value creation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recognizes that this is imperative for business success, and we are fully committed to promoting diversity throughout our nation’s economy.”

In today’s tight labor market – where there is currently less than one unemployed person for each job opening – CSR is critical, especially among millennials who by 2025 will make up 75 percent of the workforce. These employees hope to improve the world through compassion, innovation and sustainability, with their professional lives integrated into these efforts. In fact, 50 percent of millennials say they would take a pay decrease to find work that aligns with their values, while 90 percent indicate they want to use their skills for good.

“In a marketplace where recruiting and retaining skilled talent is challenging, particularly for middle market companies, CSR and culture, diversity and inclusion can be a differentiator,” said Tracey Walker, culture, diversity and inclusion co-leader with RSM US LLP. “New employees are increasingly drawn to companies dedicated to relevant issues, and current employees feel a sense of belonging because their values align with their organizations’. They feel respected, see themselves in the diverse co-workers they work with, and see a future with that company.”

While CSR’s impact can address a variety of factors for middle market businesses, some believe the strategy can also deliver significant business dividends. Many Fortune 500 businesses have incorporated formal environmental, social and governance (ESG) measures to demonstrate to current and would-be investors and other key constituents a commitment to ethical practices and sustainability. In turn, some investors use the ESG criteria standards to determine potential company valuation and investment-level interest by assessing a business’s environmental stewardship; employee, supplier and community relationship management; and how the company leads and governs itself. Currently only 39 percent of middle market businesses are familiar with ESG measures, with larger middle market businesses being far more familiar than smaller (52 percent vs. 28 percent). Of those familiar 83 percent are using ESG to evaluate their own or others’ performance.

Against the backdrop of heightened transparency in the corporate arena, the absence of formality represents significant opportunity for many middle market businesses to improve their public profiles and their value in the marketplace at a time when both the general public and investors are placing a premium on businesses with strong social integrity.

The survey data that informs the index reading was gathered between July 16 and August 3, 2018. To learn more about the middle market and the MMBI, visit the RSM website.

About the RSM US Middle Market Business Index

RSM US LLP and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have partnered to present the RSM US Middle Market Business Index (MMBI). It is based on research of middle market firms conducted by Harris Poll, which began in the first quarter of 2015. The survey is conducted four times a year, in the first month of each quarter: January, April, July and October. The survey panel consists of 700 middle market executives and is designed to accurately reflect conditions in the middle market.

Built in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics, the MMBI is borne out of the subset of questions in the survey that ask respondents to report the change in a variety of indicators. Respondents are asked a total of 20 questions patterned after those in other qualitative business surveys, such as those from the Institute of Supply Management and National Federation of Independent Businesses.

The 20 questions relate to changes in various measures of their business, such as revenues, profits, capital expenditures, hiring, employee compensation, prices paid, prices received and inventories. There are also questions that pertain to the economy and outlook, as well as to credit availability and borrowing. For 10 of the questions, respondents are asked to report the change from the previous quarter; for the other 10 they are asked to state the likely direction of these same indicators six months ahead.

The responses to each question are reported as diffusion indexes. The MMBI is a composite index computed as an equal weighted sum of the diffusion indexes for 10 survey questions plus 100 to keep the MMBI from becoming negative. A reading above 100 for the MMBI indicates that the middle market is generally expanding; below 100 indicates that it is generally contracting. The distance from 100 is indicative of the strength of the expansion or contraction.

About The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. For more information, visit uschamber.com and FreeEnterprise.com, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

ABOUT RSM US LLP

RSM’s purpose is to deliver the power of being understood to our clients, colleagues and communities through world-class audit, tax and consulting services focused on middle market businesses. The clients we serve are the engine of global commerce and economic growth, and we are focused on developing leading professionals and services to meet their evolving needs in today’s ever-changing business environment.

RSM US LLP is the U.S. member of RSM International, a global network of independent audit, tax and consulting firms with more than 43,000 people in over 120 countries. For more information, visit rsmus.com, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and/or connect with us on LinkedIn.


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Over 150,000 People take the Palau Pledge in its first year

Press Release – The Republic of Palau, December 7, 2018: The Palau Pledge, (palaupledge.com), the landmark eco-initiative that stamps an environmental Pledge to Palau’s children directly into the passport of every visitor upon entry, celebrates its year anniversary today by demonstrating the program’s success and progress in the Republic of Palau and around the world.

Since launching on December 7, 2017, over 150,000 people have signed the Palau Pledge including every visitor to the country, along with high-profile people from the worlds of entertainment, conservation, business and politics. Former United States Secretary of State John Kerry, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dame Ellen Macarthur, Dr. Sylvia Earle, The Rolling Stones, Queen Noor of Jordan and Sir Richard Branson have all endorsed the Pledge, encouraging others to around the world to stand with the children of Palau in demanding a healthier planet.

“What started out as a creative side project has really taken on a life of its own. It’s incredible to see this conscientious, environmental movement spread throughout the Pacific and across the globe” says Nicolle Fagan, co-founder of the Palau Legacy Project, the group behind the Palau Pledge.

Inspired by Palau, Hawaii and New Zealand have now introduced similar Pledges and other countries are soon to follow suit: proving once again that Palau sets conservation precedents for the rest of the world to follow.

Earlier this year, Palau’s Traditional Leadership and National Government led by President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr, launched the Palauan version of the Pledge to huge community support. This ensures that Palau is protected by both its people and its visitors.

In October 2017 the Palau National Government passed the Responsible Tourism Education Act at the heart of which lies the Palau Pledge. This new Act formalizes the Pledge into law and holds business accountable for ensuring their practices are in line with the Pledge and Palau’s ancient culture of conservation.

In its first year, the Palau Pledge has won over 70 international awards for its innovative use of communications to change people’s attitude and behaviour toward the preservation of the environment. These awards comprise 16 Grand Prix honors including the highly-coveted D&AD Black Pencil, the Titanium Grand Prix along with the inaugural United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. In all, the campaign has earned over 2 billion media impressions, helping spread word of the initiative worldwide.

The Palau Legacy Project Team, led its Chairwoman First Lady of Palau, Debbie Remengesau, is now implementing Phase Two of the Palau Pledge initiative that will see a world-first Palau Pledge Business Accreditation Program being developed and an Educational Curriculum adjunct for school-aged children.

The Palau Pledge project team is currently working with international partners, communications agency Host/ Havas, and the public and private sector in the local community including the Bureau of Tourism, Palau Chamber of Commerce, and the Ministry of Education to develop and roll out the new programs.

The Australian and Italian Governments have provided support to help develop Phase Two of the Pledge and the Legacy Team also recently received confirmation of funding from the Cannes Lion United Nations Sustainable Development Goals program. These financial commitments will go towards furthering the efforts of the Pledge both at home in Palau and internationally.

Debbie Remengesau, First Lady of Palau and Chairwoman of the Palau Legacy Project said: “We are very proud of the success the Palau Pledge has had both at home and internationally in this first year. The Pledge is a modern interpretation of Palau’s ancient culture of conservation and it is making a significant difference to the attitudes and behaviours of our visitors. Preserving our natural world is an important part of Palauan culture and The Palau Pledge is a truly innovative approach that brings to life our traditional wisdom in a way that our visitors can understand. The huge achievements that the Palau Pledge has made this year help spread the urgent message to the rest of the world: that we need to take affirmative action to preserve our environment for future generations. The Palau Pledge has already made an immediate impact – encouraging greater awareness of the responsibility we have to our children and our children’s children.”


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Somya Munjal Releases Thought-Provoking Guide to Socially Conscious Business

Press Release – An engaging mix of inspirational storytelling, practical manual and self-discovery workbook,

Somya Munjal’s new book, Audacious Endeavors: 8 Steps to Social Consciousness that will Spark Your Inner Fire (Third Edition), is a must read for anyone yearning to launch into social entrepreneurship and ignite change.

Munjal, a social entrepreneur with a strong portfolio of successful impact projects, penned the book to inspire and equip aspiring social entrepreneurs with the tools and fortitude needed to create thriving, conscious businesses.

“The book’s introspective process helps readers uncover their purpose and life mission, while presenting data on economic disparities and palatable analysis of relevant current and historic events”, Munjal shares. She also provides guidance through examples from her own journey away from corporate finance to social entrepreneurship.

A product of Munjal’s firm belief in the value of education reform and resource redistribution, the book encourages the adoption of a sustainable people, planet, profit approach. “With more entrepreneurs engaged in socially conscious businesses”, Munjal says, “we can create a fair, heart-centered human experience, eradicating poverty and strife.”

The 34-year-old social change leader, socioeconomic empowerment expert and speaker, is an example for young change-makers, having dedicated years in passionate pursuit of her personal mission through several purpose-driven initiatives. Her projects empower the disenfranchised, focusing mainly on youth education. These include: CPA for the People, a finance firm with a social good mission for fiscal and monetary policy reform; Youthful Savings, an education technology company; the Youthful Savings Foundation, which provides youth scholarships and business investment; Learning Marketplace, a virtual hub for experiential K-12 education, launched under the Youthful Savings umbrella; and Audacious Endeavors, an art-based social change agency.

Munjal will be donating all royalties from book sales to the Youthful Savings Foundation, which go towards scholarships and youth entrepreneurial investments. The book is published by Bold & Bright Media, and is currently available for pre-order online at https://boldandbrightmedia.com/audacious-endeavors-book/.


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The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund Welcome New Staff

Press Release – WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and its sister organization, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, announced the addition of three new senior staff members: Andrew Ansel, director of institutional giving; Tamara Elaine Chrisler, managing director of policy and government affairs; and Beth Lynk, Census Counts campaign director.

“We are excited to welcome Andrew, Tamara, and Beth to the team,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund. “Their addition to the organizations will strengthen our fight in protecting civil and human rights for all.”

Andrew Ansel is the director of institutional giving. Ansel will work to identify, cultivate, solicit, and steward private institutional funding for organizational priorities. Ansel was most recently at The Pew Charitable Trusts as a senior associate in Pew’s Philanthropic Partnerships department, where he secured external funds and foundation partnerships to support the work of the Pew Research Center, a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Before Pew, Ansel held fundraising positions for a variety of nonprofit organizations in Baltimore, MD, with progressively increasing roles and responsibilities, including time as the Manager of Institutional Giving for Planned Parenthood of Maryland, where he was responsible for growing the portfolio of foundation, government, and other institutional partners. Ansel has a B.S. in political science and economics from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Tamara Elaine Chrisler is the managing director of policy and government affairs. Chrisler is responsible for the management and strategic direction of the policy department and advancing the advocacy agenda of the organization. Prior to joining The Leadership Conference, she was an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) consultant with Resolution Services, Inc., where she provided professional counseling, investigative, and adjudication services to the federal government on matters of employment discrimination. Before working in this consultant capacity, Chrisler spent eight years at the Congressional Office of Compliance, where she led the office’s efforts to advance workplace rights in the legislative branch, first as the office’s deputy executive director, and then as its executive director. From 1997-2005, she was an attorney advisor with the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, where she supervised and trained attorneys in trial preparation for EEO and unfair labor practice hearings and advised and trained high-level agency officials in preventing discrimination and harassment claims. Chrisler began her professional legal career as a criminal prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago, IL, where she prosecuted violent and habitual offenders and represented the people of the state of Illinois before the Illinois Appellate Court. Chrisler received her B.A. in French Literature, and her J.D., from the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana.

Beth Lynk joins our census team as the new Census Counts campaign director. In her new role, Lynk is tasked with leading the Census Counts campaign to ensure that the upcoming 2020 census is fair and accurate. She is a strategist and communications expert in campaigns, crisis communications, and strategic planning with experience working in political, non-profit, and corporate environments. As associate director of federal communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, she directed Planned Parenthood’s communications around federal policy, congressional action, advocacy campaigns, and related litigation. She was instrumental in driving communications strategy and public narratives for major interdepartmental policy and electoral campaigns — including the successful campaign to defeat the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in 2017, as well as the “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” campaign defending against efforts to “defund” the organization. Prior to joining Planned Parenthood, Lynk worked at The Raben Group, a national public policy firm, directing aggressive and disciplined strategies for leading national non-profit organizations, foundations, and companies in the firm’s health, environment, faith, and justice practice groups. She has also served in the office of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Prior to working in politics, she worked as a Market Strategist at Demand Media owning “business to business” (B2B) marketing strategy. Lynk is a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit http://leadershipconferenceedfund.org/.


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