Thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the state of Florida is barred from considering public companies’ environmental, social and governance, or ESG, platforms when making investment decisions on behalf of state funds.
But other investors probably are.
Most of Tampa Bay’s large public corporations have adopted ESG programs over the last three to five years. Some have specific goals for this decade. Here’s a snapshot of the ESG initiatives at four Tampa Bay public companies.
Raymond James Financial
Not only does St. Petersburg wealth management firm Raymond James have an ESG program, it advises clients on how make ESG investments of their own. The company’s Freedom ESG portfolios offer specialized access to this “much sought-after strategy,” the company says, that can minimize risk and offer long-term results. As for its own programs? The company’s latest annual report acknowledges the “diverse and often conflicting views” surrounding the public understanding of ESG, noting potential upsides and downsides. Raymond James hired a director of corporate social responsibility in 2019, and in 2020 pledged $1.5 million over three years “to support racial equality, financial literacy and empowerment, and volunteerism opportunities.” The company has inclusivity groups for minority employees and advisors, and donates to social and environmental causes.
The Mosaic Co.
Few companies have as clear a financial incentive to stick to an ESG plan as Mosaic. The Tampa phosphate mining company in 2015 agreed to an $8 million fine, plus nearly $2 billion in commitments for facility and environmental protections, to settle an Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit over hazardous waste. By 2020, it had developed a five-year ESG plan designed to meet and stick to global regulatory standards. Today it ties executive incentive pay partially to ESG criteria, and has pledged to increase the percentages of women and minorities in its leadership ranks by 30% by 2030. The company describes its ESG plan as an “ongoing dialogue,” and in fact there has been some back-and-forth with shareholders about whether Mosaic is meeting expectations. This year, in response to a shareholder proposal for the company to commit to stricter emissions standards aligned with the Paris Agreement on climate change, Mosaic board members said that wasn’t feasible, and recommended that shareholders vote against it.
Tampa door manufacturer Masonite launched its first corporate responsibility report in 2019, but it wasn’t until 2020 and 2021 that the company forged a longer-term plan to achieve specific ESG targets. Among its 2030 goals: Nearly doubling the percentage of minorities in leadership positions, to 30%; and sustainably sourcing 100% of its wood around the world (a survey last year suggested that only about two-thirds of its suppliers adhere to those standards.) The company also gave each employee eight hours of volunteer time off, added ESG metrics for executive bonuses, and created an “ESG Champion” program designed to stimulate ESG activity at the employee level. The company also introduced new door and window systems designed to be more energy-efficient. “We believe that good business, economic growth, and management of environmental and social matters go hand-in-hand,” the company wrote in a letter to shareholders in March.
The COVID-19 pandemic gave Kforce an opportunity to review the needs of its workforce — as well as the workforce needs of the company. The professional staffing services company emerged with a renewed focus on remote and hybrid work, moving to a smaller and more energy-efficient headquarters in Midtown Tampa. The result, CEO Joe Liberatore wrote in the company’s 2022 sustainability report, “enhances the lives and productivity of our people while reducing our real estate footprint and emissions.” Last year, it announced new inclusion groups based on heritage, culture, orientation, ethnicity and identity, each with a dedicated budget; and increased spending with diverse partners by nearly 40% from 2021. And it created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council designed “to make sure the right people and partnerships were in place to enact meaningful change.”
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Correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the settlement the Mosaic Co. reached with the Environmental Protection Agency in response to a lawsuit over hazardous waste. The story has since been corrected.