Sunday, September 28, 2014

Serious Play with Caesars

As you know, we LOVE reports. And we LOVE to have FUN. So working on a report that's fun is exactly what Serious Play is about for us. For Caesars Entertainment, it's pretty much the same. As a company whose entire DNA is all about inspiring grown-ups to play, Caesars takes corporate citizenship as seriously as it takes the memorable entertainment experiences it provides for its guests.

And here you have it, Caesars Entertainment's second G4 (core) report now published. And it's called Serious Play. 

and the infographic of 2013 highlights

As with any self-respecting G4 report, material issues are clearly stated:

And the issues link to G4 material Aspects and performance indicators in this chart, so that it all hangs together as a G4 report should do.

Now, getting past the G4 basics,  you will notice a mix of serious and play in the Caesars report this year, supported by an outstanding contribution in corporate citizenship - including achievement of some ambitious environmental goals. At Caesars, corporate citizenship is not just a project or something people do in addition to their work. It's the way people work. After conversations with more than fifty managers and staff at Caesars, in the preparation of this report, I can personally testify to a spirit of citizenship - and fun - as well as strategic vision, that is rarely found in  organizations. 

The Caesars Code of Commitment was created in 2000 and at the time, led the industry in establishing a framework of behavior that continues to guide the way Caesars work. 

Today, this supports an entire strategic approach to citizenship that is embedded in everything the company does. Some examples:

Horseshoe Cincinnati: The report showcases the new city-integrated casino that opened up in 2013 in Cincinnati, and the ways in which this downtown casino-entertainment property has become an important contributor to city life. More than 92% of the 1,500 strong workforce is from the Cincinnati area, 75% of contracts for goods and services are locally sourced and a large part of this is with diverse suppliers, and during construction, nearly 37% of all contracts worth more than $55 million were awarded to minority or women-owned construction firms. Kevin Kline, Horseshoe Cincinnati GM, supports the city in a variety of ways. For example, he co-chairs the Cincinnati Mayor’s Economic Inclusion Advisory Council to help make inclusion part of the Cincinnati business culture and develop best practices for achieving greater diversity in city contracts. Members of the management team at Horseshoe Cincinnati maintain board level positions with 18 local city and community organizations and the property is a home to many fundraising events for local charities. Horseshoe Cincinnati also takes part in Caesars CodeGreen environmental strategy and made a strong contribution to delivering goals of energy and emissions reductions, water use reduction and increased waste diversion this year. This is Serious Play in Cincinnati, showing how doing business with a Code of Commitment mindset generates positive social, environmental and economic outcomes for all.  

Harrah's Cherokee: Caesars' partnership with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation dates back to 1997, and in 2013, the partners completed a $633 million expansion project representing the largest hospitality development project in the U.S. It was fascinating for me to research and hear about the way revenues from casino and hospitality offerings have transformed the lives of the members of the Eastern Band of Cherokees. This is how it's described in the report:

"Most Native American communities reside on reservation properties, far from mainstream economic activity. As a result, it has been difficult for many Native American tribes to gain access to capital and community services such as education, healthcare and employment opportunities. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows, for example, that 29.1% of Native Americans (and Alaska Natives) were in poverty in 2012 versus 15.9% in the nation as a whole. We believe that our partnership with Native American tribes makes a contribution to the prosperity and perpetuity of the Native American way of life that serves the interests of our society as a whole." I think this is the ultimate goal of corporate citizenship - doing business ethically, transparently, in partnership and driving social benefits. 

It's not all serious, though, at Cherokee. There's also lots of fun going on. That's serious fun. Several Caesars properties take part in the annual National Breast Cancer Pink Week where everything from poker table felts to golf balls to balloons and more are colored pink. Harrah's Cherokee won an award among Caesars properties for a magnificent Pink Week which included days such as Mammo Monday, Wacky Smack Wednesday and Bra Fight Friday where both employees and guests enjoy the fun while learning about breast cancer, remembering lost loved ones and making a contribution to support breast cancer research. The highlight of the week is the pageant. How many senior managers in how many organizations would get up on stage wearing a wacky bra designed by an employee? See how it happens at Cherokee.

Citizenship is Citizenship: One of the most touching things for me in the Caesars report is a description of how Caesars supports its employees to receive U.S. citizenship. There is a Caesars Citizenship Rewards Program for Las Vegas employees who become naturalized citizens of the United States. Caesars recognizes employees for their dedication and commitment to becoming naturalized citizens with a refund of up to 100% of the application. Around 250 employees have received this benefit to date. 

Caesars 2013-2014 Corporate Citizenship Report is full of examples of how Caesars engages in Serious Play in many other aspects of the company's daily life - whether this is taking a stand in public policy support for LGBT rights, climate change and more, supporting social causes through the Caesars Foundation and HERO Volunteer programs or leading the way in Responsible Gaming with a range of resources to raise awareness and provide assistance to those who need it. 

But I won't go into too much detail. You can guess why.... that's it... take a look and give feedback. You'll find a few surprises among the pages too.... just for fun.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me via   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Check out our G4 Report Expert Analysis Service - for published G4 reports or pre-publication - write to Elaine at  to help make your G4 reporting  even better.   

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The G4 technobabble of Aspect Boundaries

One of the things that appears challenging for many reporters in G4 requirements to define material Aspect Boundaries. I just had a query on that this week from another consultant who is working an a client G4 report.  Here are the GRI disclosure requirements:

When you get past the techno-babble, you can see that reporters are asked to state the locations where material impacts occur. It's fairly easy to assume what was in the minds of the GRI G4 designers when they put this together. It's like this. Not all impacts are equal, and not all impacts are relevant to all parts of an organization. Some have an impact outside the organization, and, taking a value chain approach to sustainability, it's important to identify where your organization is accountable even though it is not directly in control. The GRI FAQ states: "Listing entities outside of the organization where impacts related to material Aspects occur, is the first step for reporters to show that they are aware of these impacts in their value chain."

One of a few examples in the G4 implementation manual refers, for example, to child labor in the supply chain. 

While child labor may be strictly controlled in direct company operations, it's much harder to control in the supply chain and the relevant material impact may be pinpointed there. The G4 expectation, therefore, is that companies would specifically identify impacts that occur outside the organization as well as inside, making a distinction between the two, so that stakeholders can be appropriately informed. 

At some level, this makes sense. It's part of the G4 transformation that requires companies to actually think about their material issues rather than auto-list boilerplate issues that mean everything to everybody. Now, reporters should think about who is affected outside the factory gate as well. Companies which analyze their material issues right down to specific localized impacts will probably have a better foundation for addressing the risks of  such issues and engaging more closely with local stakeholders to inform a strategic approach.  

However, this is proving to be rather challenging for many large reporters at a global level. Responses to G4-20 and G4-21 are lacking depth and showing signs of box-ticking in a way that undermines the true value of this kind of disclosure. Remember that the Aspect Boundary relates to a material Aspect, and each material Aspect requires a DMA - a disclosure on management approach describing why the Aspect is material and what the organization is doing about it. G4-20 and G4-21 are effectively extensions of the descriptions of the most material issues.

Material issues are not that simple, however. Almost every material issue that has an external impact also has an internal one and vice versa. Companies are having a hard time understanding the distinction between the two. The default seems to be that everything impacts everything and everybody and all company entities are affected. In G4-21, there is also a requirement to state the geographical location where external impacts occur. Well. GRI might just have suggested an auto-response for this. The Universe. 

Insurance company Metlife's G4 2013 Corporate Responsibility report was just published. Take a look Metlife's response to G4-201 and G4-21 to a some of their material issues. 

As you can see, everything is both material internally and externally and impacting pretty much everyone everywhere. Stakeholder groups (not entities) have been noted against each issue. Entities have not been stated so we can assume everything applies to the entire organization. 

It's not so easy to define where impacts occur. Employment and diversity are noted as only material internally. However, in some cases, with large companies, the impact of a diverse employment policy can be quite significant in local communities.  Many of the decisions taken in the Human Resources Department have broadly-felt impacts on society. Check out my book, CSR for HR. The stakeholder view of people management goes way beyond the impacts felt inside the organization. Metlife confirms this in the DMA for this diversity:

The impact of a diverse organization is also felt at the level of customers and in communities. With operations around the world, and more than 65,000 employees, perhaps Metlife's hiring and inclusion policies are having an impact at local level. Or maybe not materially so. It's an interesting thought - one that is probably answered through engagement with local stakeholders.  

What about public policy? Metlife calls this  both an internal and an external impact. I can understand the external part. In the DMA, Metlife writes:

This seems to indicate that the impact is external, rather than internal. So where is the internal impact? Could it be that engaging in public policy requires an internal effort  by the organization to understand and maintain positions on public policy, ensure staff are appropriately trained, manage the internal adjustments required as a result of regulatory changes etc? Could it be the effect on profit of political donations? It's possible. But Metlife has not mentioned this internal impact in its narrative, focusing on the external impacts of regulation. The performance indicator supporting this material issue that Metlife reports is G4-S06 which relates to the number of political donations made -  maybe this is then both internal (expenditure/profit) and external (political influence). Either way, deciding the exact Aspect Boundary of this material Aspect is not so straightforward. 

Metlife is not the only one....

Banco Santander in its G4 Comprehensive report for 2013  report adds a nice little matrix (it's in Portuguese but we'll get the gist).

Everything is material internally and externally (red triangles) , with the exception of the positive impacts of the bank on society (black circle) - indirect economic impacts and local community impacts. These are not considered to have an internal impact. In addition, in the report's GRI Content Index, Banco Santander notes different stakeholder groups that are affected by the different impacts. But no differentiation is made between entities and no geographic location is mentioned. Oh, and this report was verified by Deloitte. 

Dow Chemicals in its G4 comprehensive 2013 Annual Sustainability Report also has a nice little matrix. Dow is a global company with 53,000 people and products manufactured in 201 sites in 63 countries. Try breaking down Aspect Boundaries for each of those entities.

At Dow, then, all material impacts are internally material. Only three material impacts are external as well, affecting broader society - product safety, health and environment protection and community success. Issues such as water, sustainable agriculture and climate change are not noted as materially important outside the organization. I wonder how this analysis was performed and how material issues such as climate change and sustainable agriculture are not considered to be  material externally. Oh, and this report was verified by ERM. 

H&M Conscious Actions 2013 Sustainability Report fares no better on G4-20 and G4-21. The response to these disclosures is a webpage. But the webpage is the GRI index page. So you get into a G4-20 G4-21 loop -  and you never get to the actual disclosure. That's one way of avoiding having to think about this rather messy disclosure conundrum. 

Oh, and the H&M report was verified by Ernst and Young.

CVS Caremark's 2013 CSR Report includes a little more detail in this table contained in the content index. It clearly states that internal issues relate to all CVS Caremark's operations in the U.S. and that externally material issues are predominantly in the supply chain in China. This is getting closer to the G4-20 and G4-21 requirement.

But, with 19 material issues, this summary goes only part way to fully providing the Aspect Boundaries for each material Aspect. Also, in all the external issues reported, the company is noted as one of the affected stakeholders. But the company is an internal stakeholder. Hmm. A bit confusing. 

GRI's own G4 report has a fairly clear approach. Although geographic locations are not noted, there are some explanations as to what's material to whom. Most of the material impacts occur both externally and internally.  

Overall, then, I am not finding responses to G4 Aspect Boundaries especially helpful in many of the G4 reports I have reviewed so far.  I think this just as much a flaw of the framework as it is with reporters who can't be bothered to think about this more meaningfully or simply don't know how to respond.

The idea is good. 
Companies should identify how and where their operations are impacting external stakeholders. 
It's quite simple really.
But, the roundabout rather convoluted GRI-techno-babble of G4-20 and G4-21 dumbfounds companies and is leading to a bunch of stilted and meaningless disclosures. It's also dumbfounding report assurers - all of whom confirm that reports are in accordance when these basic general disclosures are not adequately reported. 

In G5, maybe it would be simpler to have just one disclosure. Forget internal impacts. Everything the company externally does affects it internally one way or another. There's not much point in stating that everything affects employees. 

My suggestion:

G5-20: State how and where your business activities materially affect external stakeholders throughout your value chain. 

Voila! Plain, simple, clear, helpful and tecnhobabbly-challenged.


elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me via   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm). Check out our G4 Report Expert Analysis Service - for published G4 reports or pre-publication - write to Elaine at  to help make your G4 reporting  even better.   

Thursday, September 11, 2014

G4 goes MAD with Netafim

Why do we love our work? Because we get to help companies like Netafim tell their story. In this case, we all went a little MAD. That's not MAD like crazy cuckoo but MAD like Mass Adoption of Drip Irrigation. The more you know about drip, the more MAD you become. It's compelling, it's an imperative, it's the present and it's the future. Drip irrigation is about sustainable agriculture, efficient use of resources, water conservation, improved yields and quality of food crops and improved livelihoods for millions of large growers and smallholder farmers around the world. Drip irrigation is synonymous with Netafim Ltd, a group of thousands of dedicated, passionate individuals who come together with a collective mission to make the entire world MAD. (Nothing new here - Netafim has been the leading world pioneer of drip irrigation since 1965, check out Netafim's legacy website).

We love Netafim and we love MAD. And this is the report that we helped create for Netafim, describing the sustainability impacts of this MAD-oriented company.

Netafim's 2013 Sustainability Report is written in accordance with GRI's G4 guidelines at core level. It presents both Netafim's 2020 sustainability strategy and most material impacts and the stakeholder engagement process that led to defining both. The report also presents many case studies showing how Netafim is driving it's MAD strategy and the impacts that MAD has at individual and community levels. If you want to skip straight to the stories, the report has a hyper-linked highlights page that will whiz you off to India, Croatia, Brazil, Kenya, Cyprus, Australia and the U.S. and more, to meet with growers and farmers that have gained benefits through adopting drip irrigation, becoming just a little bit MAD.

Or you might prefer to navigate straight to Stockholm. Stockholm holds special significance for Netafim as last year, in 2013, Netafim was awarded one of the highest levels of recognition in the industry for its impacts on water sustainability and sustainable water management at Stockholm Water Week, the Stockholm Industry Water Award (SIWA). This year, in 2014, Netafim presented its spanking new strategy and report in Stockholm. 

You can read on the blog of Netafim's Chief Sustainability Officer, Naty Barak, a staunch MAD propounder, as you might expect, about his experiences in Stockholm, and view Netafim's electronic poster presented at Stockholm 2014 Water Week here.  

But let's get back to drip and being MAD about MAD. Many of you might not know much about drip irrigation and why it is so crucial as a contributing solution to many of the worlds feed-energy-water-land scarcity problems. If this applies to you, you can find a brief explanation of how drip drips in Netafim's report. 

Following extensive consultation with stakeholders, both ongoing as part of Netafim's active participation in many of the leading global collaborative platforms that have water security as their prime focus, and as part of a targeted engagement program to support the preparation of the company's strategic approach and materiality definition, Netafim presents this new report under the theme: At the Heart of the Food-Water-Land Nexus

We are hearing more and more about The Nexus these days, especially in the context of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. It's not just one nexus. Sometimes it's the Food-Energy Nexus, sometimes, the Water-Energy Nexus. Netafim's MAD solutions have the biggest impacts in advancing food, water and land security and these are the three nexus elements that are predominantly relevant for Netafim. The nexus view considers not only each challenge as an individual challenge, but considers all of them as part of one Big Thing. The points at which these challenges interact are the points which offer the greatest global and local opportunities for leveraging smart solutions that deliver the greatest benefits for us and the planet. That's what drip irrigation does and that's why Netafim is totally all about MAD

In the run-up to the 2013 Sustainability Report, we helped facilitate stakeholder engagement at two levels: a large round-table discussion with a diverse group of stakeholders based in Israel where Netafim is headquartered, and a series of discussions with global experts in the sustainable agriculture and sustainable business fields. Experts such as Carlo Galli, Technical and Strategy Advisor, Water Resources at Nestlé, Gavin Power, Deputy Director, United Nations Global Compact, Alejandro Litovsky, Founder & CEO, Earth Security Initiative and Pasquale Steduto, Deputy Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, FAO  provided their expert input and guidance about MAD and other aspects of Netafim's contribution, and you can read some of their comments in the report.

The result of these consultations and management deliberations was a strategic framework for 2020 and a set of most material impacts around which the 2013 Sustainability Report was structured. These topics and themes will guide and support Netafim's ongoing contribution to global sustainability in the coming years.  

One of the things that we love most about our work at Beyond Business is seeing the personal change and transformation that comes through sustainability culture and practices. Most Sustainability Reports describe what a "company" is doing and how managers and employees take action in the course of their roles. This is great, of course, but there is something special about seeing how the concept of sustainability extends beyond the workplace and into the consciousness of people and other facets of their lives. That's why my favorite part of this report is a piece from Netafim's Marketing Manager, Rachel Shaul. Rachel selected a project related to the impact of drip irrigation as part of academic studies at university, and she shares her insights after having interviewed women farmers in the Indian State of Gujarat. Rachel's perspectives are not just about advancing Netafim's irrigation business, they are about the personal change she experienced in engaging with women farmers, and the way their lives have improved. In the report, Rachel shares some of the comments that she recorded in her interviews, reminding us that sustainability is more than a project or a product or a business, it's about people and life in general. 

I recommend (of course !) that you take a look at the Netafim report and (of course!) give feedback. Maybe you also might become a little MAD.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me via   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dr. Sustainability is BACK!

Dr. Sustainability is back in town, and as always, she is delighted to answer CSR Reporting Blog reader questions.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: How can you tell if a materiality analysis is genuine or if it was written on the back of an envelope over a beer in the pub?
Dear Alcoholic: If it was written on the back of an envelope over a beer in the pub, it's probably more genuine than most of the ones that weren't.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: What sustainability conferences have you attended recently and what conferences do you recommend?
Dear Curious: I have almost been attending loads of fantastic conferences. A couple of months ago, I was at the Climate Change Deniers Annual Conference. I denied that you can deny climate change and they kicked me out. Then I was at the We Love Reporting Annual Conference. The attendees were all wackos and weirdos so I left early. I mean, you have to be a wacko or a weirdo to love reporting. Last month I was at the Sustainability is an Imperative or We Will Perish Annual Conference. That was so depressing I am still taking valium. The best conference I almost attended was the Sustainable Ice Cream Conference in Vermont, where I was hoping that Ben and Jerry's would be distributing free fair-trade organic ice cream. When I realized that ice cream was not on the menu, I decided to stay home.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: A funny thing happened to me last month. I was finishing up our sustainability report and just as I was about to complete the GRI Content Index, I got an incredible pain that started in my head and traveled all the way down to my feet. Do you think there is any connection between the pain and the GRI Index?
Dear Painful: Yes, I have recommended for years now that GRI Reporting should come with a health-warning. You are apparently one of the lucky ones. Many of my friends and colleagues are now gazing mournfully out of a sanatorium window, unable to recognize their mothers and throwing objects at passing nurses. When you say hello to them, all they can respond is "DMA.... DMA... DMA... page... DMA... G4-21... Page...." and they carry on like that for hours. I think it has gotten a little worse with G4. Now they are mumbling "material Aspects ...... material Aspects ...... material Aspects ...... material Aspects...... material Aspects...."

Dear Dr. Sustainability: I have been reporting for years and now my company has decided to do G4 and wants a materiality matrix. Where on earth can I get a matrix?
Dear Experienced Reporter: The best matrix I have found is The Matrix. You can get it on iTunes. Called "The Most Eye-Popping and Imaginative Movie of the Year", the Matrix will be much more fun than the boring squares and arches of most of the materiality matrices you find in regular reports.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: Can you please advise how I should deal with our chief legal officer who insists on reading our Sustainability Report before it is published. That's never happened before. What should I do?
Dear Backache: The fact that your chief legal officer wants to read the report before it is published is a real disaster. Typically, legal folks see a court case in anything. They can't read a sustainability report without a big pair of scissors and an extra-extra-large delete button. After your chief legal officer has done his thing, you will be left with a cover page, a back-cover, a few nice photos and about two pages of narrative describing improvements in your environmental performance and increases in community donations. Hmmm. I guess that will make your report look quite consistent with most of the reports that have been published in the last ten years. Maybe it's not such a disaster after all.   

Dear Dr. Sustainability: We have heard that stakeholder engagement is all the rage these days and at our company we have decided to get some, although we don't really want to. What's the best way to engage hundreds of stakeholders at lowest cost without them really having an influence on what we do? We want to be able to say we have engaged without really engaging.
Dear Engagement: That's such an easy question. I have the perfect solution. SurveyMonkey. Just send out your questionnaire to thousands of anonymous people (you can call them stakeholders if you like, most people don't know the difference). Even better, you can send out your survey to loads of consultants and ask them for their professional opinion for free. If you really want people to engage, promise them that you will donate $0.05 to a charity of their choice for every completed questionnaire. While the quality of feedback you will receive from 437 completed questionnaires will be totally irrelevant to your sustainability strategy and will not be useful in defining material issues, you will be able to tick the stakeholder engagement box with a REALLY BIG TICK. 

Dear Dr. Sustainability: I have been reading loads of G4 reports and before I go totally cross-eyed, I was wondering if i am missing something. They all look like G3 reports.
Dear Puzzled: I can recommend you start with Elaine Cohen's G4 Game Changer Series. In this series, expert GRI report-writer and commentator, Elaine Cohen, analyses the differences between G3 and G4 reports of different companies. This cutting-edge analysis will lead you to the same conclusion. G4 reports, so far, are looking pretty much the same as G3 reports. Now you don't need to go totally cross-eyed. Unless you want to.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: How can I make more people read our Sustainability Report?
Dear PeoplePerson: Give your report a new title. Call it: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: We are having a real problem with gender balance in our company. As much as we try to recruit and promote women, it never works.They all have children that get sick, and they can never work overtime. They decorate their offices with pretty pictures of their kids and family pets, instead of our company values posters, and they are so OTT about multi-tasking that everything gets done without anyone noticing. Our CEO wants to show at least 30% women in management in our Sustainability Report (currently the actual is 0.43%). What can we do? 
Dear GenderBender: Look, there appears to be no hope in your company. There are two options. Kick out all the women and make it a male-only company. While this is illegal and immoral, your company will soon go down the tubes before you have a chance to face the court cases and pay the fines. The second option is to make your workplace more women-friendly. Offer all males over the age of 27 free sex-change operations and fire those who don't take up the offer.  

Dear Dr. Sustainability: I hear that there is a new trend in sustainability reporting called unsustainability unreporting. What do you think about that?
Dear PeoplePerson:   I have always been in favor of telling it like it is.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me via   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Telekom Austria : G4 game-changer?

Did Telekom Austria change the game with its first G4 report? This post continues my analysis of what changed with G4, this time using Telekom Austria  reports over three years.

For an overview of what all this means, see this post.
For a G4 game-changer analysis of Fiat Group, see this post.
For a G4 game-changer analysis of Ahlstrom, see this post.
For a G4 game-changer analysis of Johnson&Johnson, see this post.

For a game-changer analysis of Telekom Austria, read on......

Telekom Austria 2013/2014 Sustainability Report: GRI G4 Comprehensive, 92 pages
Telekom Austria 2012/2013 Sustainability Report. GRI 3.1 A+, 86 pages
Telekom Austria 2011/2012 sustainability Report, GRI 3.1 A+, 58 pages

The first thing that may strike you about Telekom Austria reports, G4 or otherwise, just by looking at the covers, is that they are super-creative. I can't understand how I missed the 2012 report - The Sustainables! - brilliant. Disclosing your sustainability impacts in the form of a Marvell-style SuperHero comic book is a fantastic way to get people interested in your report. It certainly captured my attention.

I was dazzled by Telekom Austria's 2012 report and had to look back at previous years' reports as well. There is definitely a creative flair to sustainability reporting at Telekom Austria that is one of the best I have seen and is consistent over the years. But it's more than just a creative design or infographic. It seems to stem from deep thought about what sustainability means to Telekom Austria. Each report tells a real story of sustainability practice using an imaginative and innovative approach that, each year, is slightly different and reflects the current report theme well. I like it!

The report is hyper-linked throughout - and all GRI G4 disclosures and indicators are annotated in the narrative and linked to the GRI Content Index, making it easy to find what's where. Telekom Austria refers to its report as a "magazine", and, although the framework is GRI and G4, it really does read like a magazine with very interesting articles and background information to add perspective and context.

Materiality - drives the report or just for show 
Telekom Austria uses its 2012 materiality assessment for its 2013 report. There was no materiality process in 2011.

The 23 material issues are grouped into four sustainability priorities that govern the structure of the 2013 report, just as they did the 2012 Sustainables comic book report. 
  • Providing responsible products
  • Living Green
  • Empowering People
  • Creating Equal Opportunities
In this report, in general, the four priority themes include the stated material issues. Data protection is the number one issue. In G4, this would be material Aspect "Customer Privacy" with an indicator relating to privacy breaches (G4-PR8). This is covered well in the report narrative and the indicator is reported. Network infrastructure is the second issue and this is mainly correlated to a material Aspect from the draft telecommunications sector supplement. This is reported in the company's annual report, not the sustainability report. Customer satisfaction is the third most important issue, and the response to G4-PR5 (customer survey results) is that there are no results yet as a new survey has just been completed. However, these three top issues appear to be addressed appropriately in the report. 

This is not the case with the lesser issues. The least important material issue is noted as  "sponsorship of arts, culture and sports". This is not correlated to any G4 material Aspect in the Telekom Austria report. We might consider a correlation to G4-SO1 (programs with local community engagement) but this indicator is not reported. We might consider it to correlate to G4-EC8 - indirect economic impacts. But responses to G4-EC8 in the Telekom Austria report relate to developments in communication technology and products that "make life easier", which have nothing to do with sponsorship. The second least important material issue is "open discussion in the digital world", whatever that means. This is not correlated to any material Aspect and I have no idea whether it's reported or not or how it is measured as I really don't know what it relates to. Therefore, while I think Telekom Austria does a good job of reflecting the material focus in this G4 report (just as it did in the 2012 G3.1 report), covering the main themes and most important issues, there seems to be a lack of rigor in correlating all the material issues to actual performance and impacts within the G4 framework.  

Focus - focused and relevant or ticking the boxes
This is a comprehensive level report so there are more boxes to tick than a core report. It's certainly no shorter than the previous two reports and almost double the length of the 2011 report. However, Telekom Austria has not reported on Aspects that were not defined as material. occupational health and safety (social), biodiversity, use of materials, supplier assessments for labor, environmental and social practices, and many aspects of human rights (although it's noted that this is because the data is not available, not because certain human rights indicators are not material). All the indicators in the draft telecommunications sector supplement are reported. Generally, then, it seems that Telekom Austria has made a focused selection, even if the focus is rather broad - 23 material issues is quite a lot. 

Engagement - process or lip-service
Telekom Austria doesn't go overboard in describing it's stakeholder engagement process in 2013. It was an online survey of 300 internal and external stakeholders. The results are not disclosed. It's not clear what was asked, who responded, or who said what. It's not clear to what extent the survey results influenced the selection of the issues. It's not clear who made this selection. All of this was described in the 2012 G3 report, and again, almost word for word in the 2013 report. Does an online survey constitute stakeholder engagement? Well, there are surveys and surveys. However, my personal view is that there is no substitute for a good 'ole conversation. I believe there is room for more robust activity in this area. 

Integrity - shapes up or misleads
I think this report does a good job of reporting the indicators that the company has selected to report. In each section, there is a hyper-linked disclosure or performance indicator that shows you where the commentary fits in the G4 Content Index. And for people like me, there's a treat. They say flattery will get you everywhere, and Telekom Austria knows how to make us GRI geeks feel special. In each section there is a catch-all for indicators not reported in the narrative, specially created for "GRI Experts". Thank you, Telekom Austria, for your consideration.

Impact - what we did or what difference we made
It's a little hard to distill actual impact in Telekom Austria's report. The amount of context and interesting background information enables you to understand why they are doing what they are doing. That gives great perspective on what's needed in society. Telekom Austria's "Creating equal opportunities" focus area has the potential to impact society in the broadest way, reflecting a sort of social mission, which is of course hard to quantify. In this section, Telekom Austria refers to programs to promote media literacy, inform about internet safety, support social entrepreneurs etc. In general, this is about Telekom Austria supporting, initiating, expanding, publishing, implementing, developing, increasing and simply doing more. It's all good stuff, but, beyond a couple of areas where the number of beneficiaries or participants is noted, I didn't get a sense of how all of this is making a difference. 

Telekom Austria publishes a separate status of performance against targets for all its subsidiary companies called the "Measures Programme". Here too, although this is fabulous from a transparency standpoint, I was not able to discern any direct measurement of impact (as opposed to reach).  

It would be nice to see Telekom Austria use its amazingly innovative and creative capabilities to develop some measures that go beyond participation. Although Woody Allen is noted for saying "80% of success is showing up",  I wonder if providing 100,000 people with media skills training actually means that 100,000 people actually become more media literate. Maybe I am just a skeptic. 

Game-changer - does or doesn't?  
This report isn't really a G4 game-changer for Telekom Austria, interesting though it is. The company moved to materiality-oriented reporting in 2012. In the conversion to G4, aside from changing the numbers of the disclosures and performance indicators, there is nothing too new. In fact, there is not enough new, and the specific requirements of disclosure of stakeholder feedback and engagement process, alignment of material priorities to G4 material Aspects, identification of material Aspect boundaries and performance indicators in line with material issues - none of this is truly present in 2013. Despite such an engaging approach to telling the story, I feel the 2013 report adapts the mechanics of reporting to G4 rather than truly providing a step-up in Telekom Austria's reporting approach. But, as with my analysis of Johnson and Johnson's G4 reporting, the path to G4 was already paved a year in advance with a more strategic approach including a materiality process and report face-lift in 2012. 

I give this report a 67% rating, the best so far, but not good enough to really change the game at G4 level. 

Material issues -80%
Focus  - 70%
Stakeholder Engagement -  45%
Integrity -  75%
Doing or impacting -  65%

This completes four game-changer analyses. Watch  this space soon for a summary-so-far of trends and insights. And then, maybe some more analyses. 

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me via   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Strauss Group: a special 7th report

I am always delighted to showcase reports we have worked on for our clients, and this month, Strauss Group published its seventh annual Sustainability Report.

Strauss Group is an international corporation with a portfolio of five companies in the food and beverage sector, headquartered in Israel, active in 24 countries and generating $2.35 billion in consolidated sales in 2013. The Group directly employs over 13,500 people.  

7 is a very special number in many ways. It's the lowest natural number that cannot be represented as the sum of the squares of three integers. is the aliquot sum of one number, the cubic number 8 and is the base of the 7-aliquot tree. 7 is the only dimension, besides the familiar 3, in which a vector cross product can be defined. 7 is the lowest dimension of a known exotic sphere. Of course, if you understood all of that, you are way more intelligent than I am. Or probably than anyone I know. I copy-pasted these 7-facts from Wikipedia. Impressive, right? In the Jewish religion, 7 is special in different ways. More copy-paste - here we come: 7 is one of the greatest power numbers in Judaism, representing Creation, good fortune, and blessing. The Bible is replete with things grouped in 7. Besides the Sabbath, the 7th day, there are 7 laws of Noah and 7 Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Several Jewish holidays are 7 days long, and priestly ordination takes 7 days. The Land of Israel was allowed to lie fallow one year in 7. The menorah in the Temple has 7 branches. There's more from the Rabbi ... check it out here. In numerology, the number 7 is the seeker, the thinker, the searcher of Truth. The 7 doesn't take anything at face value - it is always trying to understand the underlying, hidden truths. The 7 knows that nothing is exactly as it seems and that reality is often hidden behind illusions. More for numerologists here. In gambling, number 7 is really lucky. According to the Psychic Library website, on July 7, 2007, the casinos were full up as hopefuls tried to beat the lucky date 07/07/07 (maybe they also went at 07:07 in the morning!) Someone even wrote a book about the magical, amazing and popular number 7. 

So, having established that 7 is special, we might then expect something special from Strauss Group's 7th Sustainability Report. Here are 7 special things about Strauss Group's 7th Sustainability Report.

First, it's prepared in accordance with GRI G4 (core), a first for Strauss. So far, worldwide, just a few hundred companies have ventured into G4 territory. Actually, the stretch was not overly significant for Strauss, as a deep materiality review had been conducted in 2012 and presented in Strauss's 2012 report. In 2013, in preparation for this report, further consultation with stakeholders was conducted and resulted in a revised focus on six core material issues. The main narrative of the report is aligned with these six material themes. 

Second, each materiality-based chapter presents the core issues, aligned strategic goals, GRI G4 material Aspects and reported Performance Indicators. As you will know if you have read my G4-Game-changer series, this is a critical element of a G4 report. There must be an audit trail from strategy to materiality to performance. The Strauss Group report ensures this is as clear as you can get. 

Third, this report presents Strauss Groups's 2020 Sustainability Strategy. Strauss Group has been assimilating sustainability practices into its operations for many years. This is the first time the Group has worked across company-boundaries and created a global corporate multi-year strategy with measurable targets. The strategy has two elements: impact and performance. Each has three dimensions.

In the Impact element, the three dimensions relate to the direct connection of stakeholders to the company. Colleagues (employees) are the first degree of impact. They are the first to experience the way the company behaves toward them, and they are also the ambassadors of the company and define the way the company impacts other stakeholders. Consumers are a much larger group, of course, and they are directly impacted by the product quality, choice, availability, access and messaging of Strauss Group. The way Strauss impacts consumers has a direct result on the quality of their lives and the way they connect to the company's products. Finally, the Citizenship dimension represents Strauss Group's impacts on society, the environment and all relevant stakeholders. By improving impacts in a spirit of citizenship, ethical behavior, efficient resource management and transparency, Strauss Group continues to make a positive impact as a good corporate citizen. 

In each dimension, the 2020 Sustainability Strategy defines 3 levels of performance - meet, exceed and lead. Meet refers to meeting the basic performance expectations of society and all stakeholders in relation to commonly accepted standards of responsible behavior including governance, compliance and ethics. Exceed represents continuous improvement, exceeding prior performance in certain strategically defined performance areas. Lead refers to a smaller number of performance areas where Strauss aspires to make significant progress and achieve levels of impact that can be considered leading performance at a global level. In this way, the Sustainability Strategy defines the scope and scale and degree of impact improvement that Strauss Group plans to achieve in the next few years. 

Fourth, Aron Cramer, CEO of BSR and one of the leading thinkers and opinion-leaders in sustainability today, reviewed Strauss's material issues and strategic direction and provided guidance. "Strauss should be focused on real issues that are driven by core products. These could include enhancing consumer choice, helping consumers understand the health implications of consumption habits, through product labeling and other means, and sustainable sourcing." His full commentary can be found in the report.  

Fifth, the people. Strauss people appear on many pages of this report and they are the ones that make it all happen. Working with Strauss Group, we are privileged to meet many employees in the course of our varied interactions with Strauss around the world, and we can testify to the Strauss spirit and values that motivate and inspire employees to do great things. Employee engagement at Strauss reaches 92% in parts of the Group, based on employee surveys, and that's what makes this 7th report (and all previous ones) special. 

Sixth, the infographic. It's always good to get the report highlights all in one place. If you are a numbers person, this is the page for you.

7th, is the fact that it's the 7th. Delivering a sustainability report year after year is no easy task. Strauss Group is the only Israel-based company to date that has published  7 reports, year after year, since 2008, demonstrating not only a commitment to transparency and continuous improvement, but also a commitment to local leadership and best practice. 

For us at Beyond Business, supporting clients such as Strauss, as we do around the world, is a privilege and we are delighted to have been able to help create this 7th report. 

Oh and by the way, I should also mention that the number 7 is very relevant to the world of ice cream too. I happened to come across, in my search for all things 7, this announcement by Perry's Ice Cream of 7 new flavors for 2014.  They all sound delicious. As 2014 is nearly over, I had better start tasting.....

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me via   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)
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