Listening, learning, and engaging

By Stephanie Rico
October 17th, 2012

Listening, learning, and engaging are important acts of corporate evolution—a fact that’s especially true on the environmental front, where issues are complex, interconnected and countless.

101712-FeedbackExamples.jpgIn developing our renewed environmental commitment we paid careful attention to comments received here on the Environmental Forum, as well as feedback solicited directly from our customers, senior leaders and team members. We also worked with Ceres to seek contributions from its team and its network of investors, environmental organizations, and thought leaders. All these opinions were necessary—after all, we wanted to be sure that our commitment was right for our customers, meaningful and forward-looking.

As promised earlier this year, this post highlights all the input we received while developing our commitment. The following table, developed largely with the help of Ceres, summarizes our dialog for you to review. We hope it’s an indication to you that your input is important to us and that we’re listening.

We hope you continue to share your thoughts, questions, and constructive criticism with us. As always, please let us know what you’re thinking about the intersection of environment and finance in the comment section. Thank you!


Stakeholder feedback
Wells Fargo response
Leadership. Stakeholders encouraged us to use the environmental commitments to outline a bold vision for sustainability leadership in our industry. This includes stating clear positions on environmental and social issues, setting short- and long-term goals on performance improvements, and linking back to our core business of lending, investments, and finance. “Sustainability” is much broader than “environmental,” and within the scope of our project, which was focused on environmental issues and opportunities, we established a renewed environmental commitment that is comprehensive with short and long term goals that link back to our core activities as suggested by stakeholders.
Customer engagement. Stakeholders suggested we use our commitments to establish a brand identity with customers and communities around environmental responsibility and leadership. As one of the largest retail banks in the country, Wells Fargo has a responsibility and opportunity to shift consumer behavior in more sustainable directions. Our renewed environmental commitment includes a goal to increase customer engagement on environmental matters. This recognizes tremendous opportunity to provide our 70 million customers with tips and guidance around opportunities to both save money and protect the environment. In addition, we will continue to implement waste reducing technology such as Envelope-FreeSM ATMs.
Senior leadership involvement. Stakeholders said we should use our top leadership, including C-Suite executives , as key messengers for our sustainability platform. This will demonstrate that the mandate for sustainability comes from the very top. We agree the company’s commitment to the environment should come from top leadership—and it does. Our renewed environmental commitment was approved by top management. In addition, Wells Fargo is decentralized and collaborative (i.e. less about “mandates” and more about “buy-in”), so it is also important for other senior, mid-level managers and team members as a whole to understand and serve as ambassadors for our environmental platform.
Climate change and water. Stakeholders encouraged us to use the platform provided by the commitments to clearly align ourselves with the scientific consensus around climate change and water risks. As a part of this, Wells Fargo could outline strategies to address climate change and water risks across its business and operations. We’ve adjusted our greenhouse gas emission goals to align with timelines commonly used by the scientific community. Stakeholders suggested we reset our goals to 35% absolute reduction from 2008 levels by 2020, and we did. Strategies used to address climate change, which implicitly include water issues, are outlined in Wells Fargo’s response to the annual Carbon Disclosure Project questionnaire.
Industry collaborations. Stakeholders told us that we could explore opportunities to build on existing work being done by industry peers and other stakeholders to address key sustainability challenges, and launch joint efforts and collaborations that may move the agenda forward. One opportunity would be to engage with groups working on the energy-water-food nexus. Environmental issues are so big, they cannot be solved alone; collaboration is needed. We work with our stakeholder in many ways. A recent example is our relationship with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, where we work together to allocate $15 million towards high priority and local environmental projects with measurable outcomes. Funding priority is given to projects where there is opportunity to engage our team members, customers and communities. As we implement our commitment, more joint efforts will be highlighted here on the Environmental Forum.
Output versus outcomes. Stakeholders wanted us to enhance our commitments to clearly articulate the issue outcomes that we are hoping to achieve through the projects and goals outlined in the various pillars of our renewed environmental commitment. Clearly identifying the vision in this regard will help focus efforts and resources. Tracking and measuring outcomes can be challenging, and we agree it is important. We hope to get better at showing the outcomes of our work as we report the progress we’re making in meeting our commitments.
Employee engagement. Getting our team members to “buy in” will be critical to the successful implementation of the commitments. As a part of this, Wells Fargo should train and incentivize team members on projects and goals that flow from the commitments. Our renewed environmental commitment was developed through a long engagement process with our major lines of businesses. As such the commitment is “owned” throughout our company. To support this, we recognize the importance of education and training to the success of our initiatives and ability to foster a culture of environmental stewardship.
Implementation mechanisms. Stakeholders strongly emphasized the importance of robust implementation mechanisms, as these will help rebuild trust with key stakeholders and enhance credibility. These include establishing a clear line of accountability for the commitments that extends to top leadership; identifying executives responsible for delivering key aspects of the commitments; robust disclosure and integration with business processes. We also recognize the importance of developing robust implementation plans and auditable and automated tracking methodologies/systems that include definitions of scope, accountability, correction actions and more. As part of our implementation efforts we are developing those systems and look forward to receiving stakeholder feedback on elements of those systems overtime.
Tags:   ceres   climate change   collaboration   commitment   employee   engagement   environment   feedback   finance   implementation   industry   leadership   outcome   output   senior   team member   water   
Stephanie Rico

Stephanie Rico

Stephanie focuses on helping Wells Fargo achieve its goal of accelerating a transition to a “greener” economy via finance and support of our customers who are looking to take advantage of the benefits of renewable energy and clean technology. Stephanie has a BA in Social Science, Interdisciplinary Studies from San Francisco State University and an MBA from DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

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