Sustainability and the IPO

With $1 in every $8 focused on 'socially responsible' investing, more start-ups should include sustainability values in their operational structure.

This week, the management team for daily deals giant Groupon will be hawking the company's upcoming initial public offering, now scheduled for early November. So it was with interest that I read a new report from consulting firm PwC suggesting that more companies considering an IPO should consider corporate social responsibility from almost the beginning.

That's not just because nearly $1 out of every $8 is now involved in what PwC calls "socially responsibly investing," it is also because this offers a good foundation for an effective risk management strategy, according to the PwC analysis.

The report, "Factoring sustainability into IPO planning," suggests more companies are considering sustainability earlier in the structuring of the operational sides of their business. PwC examined more than 120 recent S-1 filings submitted to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) for its discussion.

More than 84 percent of those filings had some level of disclosure that related to sustainability, according to the PwC report. Of those, 32 percent of the disclosures were related to regulatory matters, while the rest were non-regulatory in nature. The weighting varied, depending the industry. For example, technology companies were pretty close to the average. Energy and healthcare companies had a higher percentage of regulatory disclosure, generally speaking.

The report notes:

"It is incumbent upon companies planning to go public to ask themselves how sustainability is relevant to their business and to begin developing an early, effective response. Success will likely be closely tied to how your business manages the demands of the sustainability agenda: operating sustainably, evaluating how these issues influence business strategy, and responding with agility to mitigate risks and capitalize on opportunities for revenue growth."

Of course, it probably helps that a lot of the companies considering IPOs right now hail from the cleantech or technology industries. It is sort of unreasonable to expect that your company can claim to help other businesses, communities or individuals address their need to live or operate in better tune with the environment if your own company fails to do the same.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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