Engagement Holds Key to Sustainability

Posted by Matthew Gardner on Nov 30, 2015 3:40:10 PM

Editor’s Note – Matthew Gardner, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Sustainserv.

The most successful corporate sustainability efforts are based upon engagement with employees, management, suppliers, customers, regulators and the communities in which the companies are located.

InnovationSmall-3Such engagement requires that the company take into account the needs and expectations of its stakeholders. It also requires focused and well-planned communication and outreach efforts.

“Building strong relationships and meeting the needs of our stakeholders in innovative ways is critical to our business” said Pat Centanni, Executive Vice President and Chair of Executive Corporate Responsibility Committee at State Street Corporation in their 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report.

When done right, the results of a well-designed stakeholder engagement program can include powerful and enduring alliances based on mutual trust, and shared understandings of what each group can expect from the other with respect to sustainability performance.

State-of-the-art stakeholder engagement programs are quite comprehensive, and include several key attributes:

  • Commitments to transparency and disclosure;
  • Openness to discuss mutual needs and expectations;
  • The ability to tailor communications and outreach to different audiences;
  • Support of senior leadership.

Each of these topics implies risks and opportunities to an organization. The idea of transparency and disclosure can be quite intimidating to many companies. At the same time, the path to mutual trust and license to operate requires a willingness to discuss successes as well as failures candidly and credibly. While it is important to listen to the needs and expectations of your stakeholders, managing expectations is equally important to let them know what you can and cannot address.

“Maintaining open and constructive conversations strengthens our relationships, helps us to understand other views and guides our decisions on what our commitments should be and how to deliver on them.”

Coca Cola, on stakeholder engagement

Whether your company has the resources to undertake a truly comprehensive and expansive stakeholder engagement program, or must focus its limited resources on those stakeholders and those material topics that are most important for success, stakeholder mapping is a valuable approach. The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability is just one example of an approach to get the most out of stakeholder engagement and to ensure no constituencies have been overlooked.

The AIM Sustainability Roundtable on December 10 will host a discussion of successful stakeholder engagement initiatives that demonstrate the ways that companies of different sizes and sectors can successfully identify and engage with key stakeholders and showcase the benefits that such engagements can bring to all parties. 

Topics: Environment, Sustainability, Productivity

State Unveils New Tax Filing System This Morning

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Editor’s note – Dana Ackerman is Taxpayer Advocate for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

As the Taxpayer Advocate for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR), I am pleased to announce that DOR is today rolling out a new online tax system called MassTaxConnect. Starting this morning, the new system replaces DOR’s existing e-filing system, WebFile for Business.

Finance.pen.smallMassTaxConnect will be available to individual income taxpayers by 2017.

MassTaxConnect represents a significant investment in information technology that will benefit DOR, taxpayers and the business community. DOR employees will benefit from a centralized system allowing for enhanced and speedier customer service to business taxpayers across the commonwealth. Taxpayers will benefit from a system that will enhance voluntary compliance and allow for efficiencies that our current system cannot host.

And perhaps most importantly, the business community will benefit from a modernized system that will make filing and paying taxes in Massachusetts simpler, quicker, and more efficient than ever before.

MassTaxConnect retains a number of important functionalities currently available in WebFile for Business. For example, MassTaxConnect will continue to allow taxpayers and practitioners to schedule payments, to choose to file early, and to benefit from automatic calculations and error alerts. Filing taxes with DOR will continue to be free with MassTaxConnect.

The new system offers a range of new benefits to business taxpayers and practitioners, including the ability to send secure messages, a simplified process for amended returns, assigning third-party access electronically and access to most business taxes in one spot for filing and payment. Existing WebFile for Business users will be able to log in to MassTaxConnect today with their existing WebFile for Business username and password. We’ve also created this webpage that has everything you need to know about registration and enrollment, MassTaxConnect FAQs, and other important materials.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts has played a significant role in supporting the development of MassTaxConnect. Paul O’Connor, Director of Taxes at EMD Millipore and Chairman of the AIM Taxation Committee, led a group of AIM-member tax professionals that met with DOR over three years to ensure that the new system met the needs of business taxpayers of all types of sizes.

Modernization isn’t merely technological. MassTaxConnect is not only an upgrade to our information technology infrastructure, it’s also a deliberate effort and conscious investment on our part to rethink tax administration in Massachusetts. As you can see in this sneak peek at MassTaxConnect, it  is adaptive, holistic and the result of years of work, sound policy, and planning.

The business community is essential to a healthy and prosperous commonwealth. MassTaxConnect takes us another step closer toward making Massachusetts a great place to do business, and I hope that you will find it a welcome upgrade when you visit the site this morning.

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts employers, Taxes

AIM Next Century Honoree | iRobot Corporation

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 20, 2015 9:53:22 AM

Editor's Note - iRobot Corporation of Bedford was among three companies and individuals honored with Next Century awards at the AIM centennial gala on Monday.

iRobot stands at the vanguard of a growing robotics industry that is redefining the future of the Massachusetts economy. Founded in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists, the company’s robots help people find smarter ways to clean their homes, to protect those in harm's way and to enable virtual presence from anywhere in the world.


Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts economy, Technology

AIM Next Century Honoree | Gloria Cordes Larson

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 19, 2015 10:23:18 AM

Editor's Note - Bentley University President Gloria Cordes Larson was among three individuals and companies honored with Next Century awards at the AIM centennial gala on Monday.

Few individuals have left a more significant mark on the Massachusetts economy than Gloria Cordes Larson.  

Her unique intelligence and energy has defined a career dedicated to the public interest - as a cabinet secretary, as a respected lawyer, as a senior Federal Trade Commission official, as chair of the authority that built the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and now, as president of Bentley University.

One of her greatest achievements was leading Massachusetts through a period of breathtaking economic growth from 1993 through 1996.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts economy, Education

Legislature Wisely Takes Time on Solar Subsidies

Posted by Bob Rio on Nov 19, 2015 9:18:13 AM

Beacon Hill lawmakers ended formal sessions for 2015 without an agreement on solar-energy subsidies after AIM and other business organizations warned that expanding such payments would pump billions of dollars into the pockets of solar energy developers.

solarpanels.smallA House-Senate conference committee was appointed yesterday to resolve differences between two distinct approaches - a House bill passed Tuesday that would lift the cap on the amount of public and privately generated solar power that could be sold back to the grid at retail rates by 2 percent; and a Senate version more generous to the solar industry.

Conferees quickly acknowledged, however, that additional discussions will be needed when the Legislature begins the final year of its session in January.

John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for AIM, commended lawmakers for taking the time to find a balanced solution to a complex problem.

“It’s important for Massachusetts to get this issue right, so we support the deliberate approach being taken by the Legislature. AIM supports the development of solar energy, but not in the form of a government-sanctioned giveaway that will harm the 99 percent of ratepayers who do not have solar,” Regan said.

AIM and six other business organizations sent a letter to the conference committee late yesterday opposing the Senate version of the solar boll passed earlier in the day. The groups outlined several objections to the Senate bill:

  • It unnecessarily increases the net metering reimbursement rate to an alarmingly high level – up to full retail value in some cases – instead of rates more in line with wholesale market rates. The House version thoughtfully gives the Department of Energy Resources the authority to establish different incentive levels for different types of installations through a transparent process, based on needs of solar developers, customers, and the electric grid – using incentives to stimulate the right types of projects in the right areas.
  • It extends grandfathering of current installations to 30 years (up from 20 in the House bill) and excludes residential installations from any future changes. Increasing grandfathering to 30 years will unnecessarily add more cost to the program – paid for by all other ratepayers.
  • It deletes the House plan to have the Department of Public Utilities determine a minimum bill for solar users. The minimum bill is not designed to be punitive. It is a charge that each customer needs to pay to maintain the reliability of the electric grid they are currently using as well as paying their fair share of social costs, including low- income subsides, environmental cleanup and energy efficiency that were deemed worthy by the legislature.
  • It will continue the highest subsidies in the region, at a time when other states are lowering subsidies – and finding that lower subsides enhance their programs, not hurt them.

Net metering allows solar panel owners to be reimbursed for the electricity they send back onto the grid. The Legislature caps the amount of net metering credits allowed in a particular utility’s system. 

Senator Benjamin Downing, chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, said the House bill went "too far on the cost side" to lower reimbursement rates after the state hits its target of 1,600 megawatts of installed solar capacity, while House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey said controlling cost for ratepayers who do not use solar is a prime concern to the House.

Downing and Dempsey are both part of the conference committee, along with Representatives Thomas Golden and Brad Jones, and Senators Bruce Tarr and Marc Pacheco.

The last-minute flurry of solar activity came on the same day that Attorney General Maura Healey issued a report on natural-gas pipeline capacity that looked at system reliability and greenhouse gas emission rather than costs.

 “Associated Industries of Massachusetts and its 4,500 members remain concerned above all with the unbearably high cost of electricity in the commonwealth. The attorney general’s study deals primarily with electric reliability rather than with persistently high electric rates and also does not address the lack of natural gas availability in certain parts of the state for heat and process needs. Both of these issues erode the ability of employers to expand and create jobs,” the association said in a statement.




Topics: Energy

AIM Next Century Honoree | Crane & Company

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 18, 2015 1:33:54 PM

Editor's Note - Crane & Company of Dalton was among three companies and individuals honored with Next Century awards at the AIM centennial gala on Monday.

If you think AIM has been around a long time, consider the fact that Crane & Company was already more than a century old when it became the second member of Associated Industries of Massachusetts in 1915.

Crane paper products have been closely woven into the fabric of American history, from 19th century stock certificates to correspondence between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The company is perhaps best known for its role as the exclusive supplier of US currency paper since 1879.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts employers, Manufacturing

The Future of the Massachusetts Economy

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 17, 2015 11:47:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts last night marked 100 years of creating jobs and economic opportunity for the people of Massachusetts. Check out our new video about the three talented people who represent the future of the Massachusetts economy.


Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts economy, Jobs

100 Years of AIM and the Value of a Job

Posted by Rick Lord on Nov 16, 2015 7:30:00 AM

Editor's note - Richard C. Lord is President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. His comments come as AIM prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary tonight.

I grew up in North Adams, in a world defined by family, community and work.

The three elements existed symbiotically – families bonded around common values; neighborhoods
joined together to form communities; and innovative employers created jobs that allowed hard-working people to support their families.

North Adams was a tightly-knit Berkshire County mill town where almost everyone you knew (and you knew most everyone) worked either at Sprague Electric, GE Pittsfield or North Adams Regional Hospital.

Few people in North Adams could tell you what Associated Industries of Massachusetts was, but we all grew up breathing the air of its accomplishments. So did kids raised in Southbridge around American Optical, in Springfield near UT Diesel Systems or in Quincy by the shipyard.


Not to mention the ballfields, parks and street signs that companies often donated.

All this came back to me late last year when my father, who spent 40 years working for General Electric in Pittsfield, passed away on the eve of the 100th anniversary of AIM. I thought about all the fathers and mothers who have worked hard at AIM-member companies during the past century so they might create a future for their children, take them on vacation, pay for trips to the emergency room, send them to college and then and enjoy a bit of retirement.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts conducts its public policy advocacy in the marble halls of the State House on Beacon Hill, but the ultimate value of what we and our 4,500 member employers do each day is found in thousands of living rooms around the commonwealth.

We work with government to help employers create the kind of economic opportunity that will allow more moms and dads to set down their tools, computers, briefcases and research notes at the end of the day and enjoy the kind of life for which we all hope in the next century.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts economy, Jobs

The Seeds of Spring Hiring

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 9, 2015 7:30:00 AM

The economic landscape may look a bit fallow in this fall season of China worries and political gridlock, but several recent reports suggest that the seeds of significant spring of job growth lie just beneath the surface.

ManufacturingWorkerSmallThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index released last week found that 32 percent of Massachusetts employers surveyed during October plan to add workers during the next six months while only 7 percent anticipate cutbacks. That’s a far brighter picture than that of the previous six months when 27 percent of companies hired people and 18 percent reduced their staff levels.

The news was even better on Friday as the government reported that the U.S. economy added 271,000 jobs last month on strong hiring that brought the unemployment rate down to a seven-year low of 5 percent. Average hourly earnings also bounced back, rising 0.4 percent in October and 2.5 percent over the last 12 months, the healthiest pace since 2009.

The unemployment rate for Massachusetts, which has consistently outperformed the national economy throughout the recovery, was 4.6 percent for September. October state data is scheduled for release on November 19.

Employers remain circumspect in the face of an economy that slowed to a 1.5 percent growth rate during the third quarter (the state growth rate also slipped to 2.0 percent), but they appear to regard the slowdown as a cyclical pause rather than a structural shift. It’s the same view that experts believe will now persuade the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates before the end of the year.

“The employment responses reveal optimism,” said Fred Breimyer, regional economist at the FDIC and a member of the AIM Board of Economic Advisors that oversees publication of the Business Confidence Index.

Analysts say almost every element in the Friday jobs report was positive. For example, the broader U-6 measure that takes account of underemployment and discouraged workers fell below 10 percent at 9.8 percent.

“It was pretty much everything you could ask for in a jobs report,” Michelle Meyer, deputy head of United States economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told The New York Times. “Not only was the headline number strong, but there were upward revisions for prior months, the unemployment rate fell and wage growth accelerated.”

The degree to which that wage growth continues depends upon whether hiring by employers is broad enough to finally eliminate the slack that built up in the labor market after the recession of 2009. Annual surveys by AIM and other organizations have found that wage growth has remained consistently at 3 percent throughout the steady if unspectacular job growth of the recovery.

Wages could become a particular issue in fast-growing states like Massachusetts where technology driven industries continue to face a shortage of qualified workers.

“Massachusetts continues to out-perform the nation as a whole economically, which is reflected in persistently higher readings for the Massachusetts Index compared to the U.S. Index,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, professor at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, and another member of the AIM Board of Economic Advisors.

Our local economy is of course affected by national and global conditions, but its underlying strengths are keeping us competitive through ups and downs.”  

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Economy, Jobs

What Will Solar Subsidies Cost Your Business?

Posted by Bob Rio on Nov 8, 2015 4:30:00 PM

The special interests and solar developers seeking expanded subsidies for solar power in Massachusetts don't talk about how much these handouts cost business and residential ratepayers. Here's a quick look at what it means to your bottom line.


Topics: Environment, Energy, Business Costs

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