Thursday, December 24, 2015

Good Tidings from the CSR Reporting Blog

As usual, around this time of year, the CSR Reporting Blog wishes all its followers "Happy Holidays". I think I said it best last year when I quoted from the year before and the year before. We love to recycle on the CSR Reporting Blog. Here goes. Again.

This is a time to reflect on the joys of life and the joys of publishing Sustainability Reports. A time to be merry and indicator-driven. This is a time to eat well and edit well, engage with friends and dialogue with all stakeholders, think about what's important to you and call it material, recommit to your higher purpose, approve your reporting budget and select your reporting consultant.

Usually the #CSR Reporting Blog finds an innovative and humorous way to spread holiday cheer. But there is a limit to the number of alternative ways we can find to say Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Have A Cool Yule, Ho! Ho! Ho! and such other appropriate expressions. This year we have settled on wishing you Good Tidings! Tidings is an word that is a little old-fashioned nowadays, and it refers to good news. That's something we could all use a several scoops of in 2016. 

So, to all the CSR Reporting Blog readers and everyone working in the CSR and Sustainability field to help make our world a better place, we wish you, your families and friends:


and to our railway worker readers: Good Sidings!
and to our flying instructor readers: Good Glidings!
and to our pest control readers: Good Insecticidings!
and to our private detective readers: Good Findings!
and to our equestrian readers: Good Ridings!
and to our curtain maker readers: Good Linings!
and to our Nordic readers: Good Vikings!
and to our chemistry major readers: Good Peptidings!
and to our funeral parlour director readers: Good Dyings!
and to our horologist readers: Good Timings!
and to our secretary readers: Good Filings!
and to our Human Resources Manager readers: Good Firings!
and to our female about-to-be-married readers: Good Bridings!
and to our confectioner readers: Good Icings!
and to our very happy readers: Good Satisfiedings!
and to our very unhappy readers: Good Suicidings!
and to our split personality readers: Good JekyllandHydings!
and to our switchboard operator readers: Good Diallings!
and to  our terrorist readers: Good Hijackings!
and to our extractive industry readers: Good Minings!
and to our Fish and Chip Shop proprietor readers: Good Fryings!
and to our very very nosey readers: Good Pryings!
and to our self-righteous readers: Good Justifiedings!
and to our boxing champion readers: Good Fightings!
and to our publisher readers: Good Bindings!
and to our readers with grumpy kids: Good Whinings!
and to our readers who passed the G4 Exam: Good Qualifiedings!
and to our readers with messy homes: Good Tidyings!
and to our readers that cannot be found: Good Hidings!
and to those readers we do not know: Good Unidentifiedings!
and to our social activist leader readers: Good Uprisings!
and to our hedonist readers: Good Wining and Dinings!
and to everyone who writes Sustainability Reports: Good Copywritings!
and to all our dental technician readers: Good Whitenings!
and to our LGBT readers: Good GayPridings!

and finally to all the CSR Reporting Blog Readers who are always looking for good news to showcase in the next Sustainability Report, we wish you:

Good  Highlightings!

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 Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Santa's 2015 SDG Report

With only four more shopping days to Christmas, the time is here once again to preview Santa's Sustainability Report. Reporting is a long Santa tradition. Check out Santa's prior reports:

Santa's 1750th Sustainability Report 2014
Santa's First G4 Comprehensive Sustainability Report 2013
Santa's First Integrated Financial and CSR Report 2012 
Santa's 1,747th 2011 Annual CSR Report 
Santa's 1,746th 2010 Annual CSR Report 
Santa's 1,745th 2009 Annual CSR Report 

Santa Claus Inc. 2015 SDG Report 
Leadership Message

Dear Stakeholders,

In a year when climate change has been on the agenda more often than leaked emails from Hillary Clinton, I have to wonder what all the fuss is about. My old friend Heraclitus, whose works I studied as a child, said "Everything changes and nothing stands still". He was so right. The only constant in our world is change. So, now that the climate is changing, why try to stop it? The leaders of the free world came together earlier this month to join forces to stop climate change. We at Santa Claus Inc. take a different approach. We embrace this change and look for opportunity in adversity. For example, the more people that stop stopping climate change, the more coal fires there will be. The more coal fires there are, the more chimneys we will have. The more chimneys we have, the more work we will be able to do, sliding down the chimneys to deliver Christmas gifts and cheer to the world's children. I implore the leaders of the world, for the sake of our children, let the climate be. Change something else. 

2015 has been another great year for Santa Claus Inc. Our revenues were up, our operating profit was up, our working capital was down and our spirits were high. (Non-spirits were placed on the lower shelves). We once again brightened up the world with LED lighting on our sleighs, made children happy with gifts bought in bulk from a Taiwanese toymaker with very few human rights abuses and supply chain irregularities, and engaged our employee elves and reindeer through enlightened human resources policies including embryo-freezing, 14 day paid parental leave for anyone who knows anyone who became a parent and a new policy to enable employees to contribute to their community by working as much unpaid overtime as they want. We couldn't have hoped for a better year. And to top it all, a special new customer was born in May 2015 - Princess Charlotte, daughter of William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Amner Hall, their residence, has several chimneys so delivering our gifts for both Royal Kids will be a doddle. The problem is that we are not sure if the 1.5 mile no-fly zone over their house applies to me, my sleigh and my reindeer. If you hear reports of a decline in reindeer population and/or I do not publish a Sustainability Report next year, you will know we were shot out of the sky. 

Business Development
In 2015, following years of doing well what we do best, we decided to diversify in order to enhance our contribution to happiness in the world and make more profit by doing things that we do not do best. Our first attempt at diversification was to balance our workload throughout the year, and not just at Christmas time, to provide our elves and reindeer with meaningful activity instead of them just lazing around waiting for the continuation of season 12 of Grey's Anatomy. We started a joint venture with a leading global drug company to increase accessibility to life-saving drugs for children in emerging economies. The plan was to have our elves and reindeer make all-year-round direct-to-home discounted deliveries of benzodiazepine to help families address panic disorder, general anxiety disorder and insomnia in children between the ages of 2 to 49. The program started well and we were able to provide tranquility to many households. However, when several elves started to have convulsive epileptic seizures we knew something was wrong. Investigation revealed a benzo black market resulting from elves skimming benzos from each delivery and selling them to Cuban drug cartels. The cartel chiefs threatened the elves if they did not increase drug deliveries to meet their growing demand. As a result, the elves were so agitated that they started ingesting the very benzodiazepine they had earmarked to sell. Following a review of this new business approach, we realized our risk management program had failed to identify that elf stress, theft, drug abuse and drug trafficking could be possible outcomes of this new business initiative. We have therefore decided to cancel our risk management program and go with our intuition. In this case, with hindsight, it was not such a disaster as, while it lasted, we made more profit from this initiative than we have done in the past thousand years and the Santa Claus Inc. Santa Retirement Fund is now well padded. In future, we will deliver only placebos so that if the elves are tempted, they will only think they are having seizures. 

Board on Board
In 2015, we made a concerted effort to onboard the Board of Directors of Santa Claus Inc. following new guidance published by the UN Global Compact. "The Global Compact Board Program is the first of its kind to align and support Boards of Directors to effectively oversee and drive a strategic approach to corporate sustainability....." This year, we decided that our Board must play a more active role in supporting our efforts to improve society and the planet. In addition to making personal contributions to the Santa Claus Inc. Santa Retirement Fund, each Board member has personally committed not to fall asleep in discussions about our sustainability program. Moreover, each Board member will engage in stakeholder dialogue. Fortunately, this is something they can do during their afternoon nap as most are prone to talking in their sleep. In fact, if you can catch what they are saying in between snores and grunts, it's actually more intelligent than what they say when they are awake. We feel sure that our valued stakeholders will not know the difference.  

Sleigh Emissions
Following the scandal regarding auto-maker Volkswagen who was found to have been systematically cheating regulators about vehicle emission levels through the use of an electronic device that falsifies emissions test readings, we decided to ensure we are not exposed to such a risk. Aside from a small number of electric sleighs, all our sleighs are run by reindeer power whose emissions levels are, well, restricted to natural bodily functions that involuntarily cause greenhouse gas emissions into the environment. We performed a check by an independent third party to ensure that no electronic devices are implanted in any of our reindeer to interfere in any way with the recording of reindeer emissions. The check involved an internal examination using ultrasound and rear-end visual inspections for all reindeer over the age of six months. While we did not find any emission-related devices, we were amazed at what we did find in our reindeer. In addition to old coins, chewed toy parts, several undigested hamburgers from McDonald's from the 1980s, millions of cigarette butts, an array of candy wrappers and chocolate bar foils, and quite a few old socks, we managed to salvage thousands of iPhone parts, laptop keyboards, earphones, flash drives and cables. As a result, we have created a new for-profit initiative to retrieve reindeer stomach contents and repurpose them for sale. In our first year, we generated a very significant supplemental revenue, most of which was diverted to the Santa Claus Inc. Santa Retirement Fund while the remainder went to fund a new recreational facility for in-service reindeer in the hope that they will swallow even more valuables in their spare time.

Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, we undertook an intensive mapping analysis to identify where the activities of Santa Claus Inc. contribute to the 2030 Agenda and the global Sustainable Development Goals. This report therefore forms our first report against the SDGs and we expect to continue our reporting in line with the SDG framework. Enough of G4 and CDP and everything else. We are converting totally to SDG reporting. By doing this, we express our support for this UN-led initiative and hope to gain a reputational point or two that will help reduce our cost of capital so that the Santa Claus Inc. Santa Retirement Fund will enjoy an improved return over time. The problem was, that in reviewing the SDGs, we didn't actually find anything that we could align with. 

All the SDGs are about things we do not have a direct impact on and therefore we recommend an 18th goal. We will call this goal: 18: Make Santa Happy

We believe that the world will benefit immeasurably through ensuring Santa is happy. When Santa is happy, good cheer is spread and kids around the world smile and are more motivated to do well at school and help their parents with household chores. The world becomes a more harmonious place and society is enriched. With a happy Santa, you know that you can sleep easy at night as crime and violence will reduce and there will be more food to enable everyone at the bottom of the pyramid to live in comfort. The elderly will be cared for and poverty will remain a word in a dictionary, bearing no resemblance to any real-world situation. In other words, making Santa happy is the key to achieving all the other Sustainable Development Goals.  Here are the targets we recommend: 

  • By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day, and ensure that people who now have all this extra income will make regular donations to the Santa Claus Inc. Santa Retirement Fund
  • Implement nationally appropriate Santa protection systems and measures including security, cyber-security, and free health care for Santa, elves and reindeer everywhere 
  • By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to gifts from Santa 
  • Ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for Santa to source gifts and toys for the world's children at significantly discounted prices and with elevated commissions for the Santa Claus Inc. Santa Retirement Fund
  • Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in the Santa Claus Inc. Santa Retirement Fund.
Not only this, along with many other global corporations, we have made a pledge to achieve a science-based target. The target is to reduce our carbon emissions by 40% per total elves and reindeer employed by 2030 using 1843 as a baseline. In order to achieve this, we will gradually eliminate baked beans and green cabbage from our reindeer diet and demand that elves keep their iPhones on low-power mode at all times.

Elf Healf and Safety
Every year we intensify our efforts to ensure our elves and reindeer remain safe on the job. We don't care about them off the job. In 2015, we held several training activities to enhance the awareness of safety hazards. One of the most significant risks for elves is sliding down chimneys where fires are still burning. This has resulted in so many bottomless elves over the past hundred years that their lack of behinds almost looks like a genetic mutation. In fact, three elf babies were born without bottoms last year which saves on diapers but gives rise to concerns about how elves will manage to sit on our sleighs as we travel the world delivering gifts and good cheer. We are now ergonomically redesigning all our sleighs to enable standing-only. This is not so bad as it means we can cram 23% more elves onto each sleigh, which means we travel fewer overall kilometers which reduces the resource burden on our planet. For those elves that lost their bottom in 2015, we commissioned bebionic to create a unique multi-articulating, pearlescent design prosthetic bottom made of  post-consumer recycled stainless steel covered with multi-layered variable hardness material lined with fabric mesh. The bottoms look and feel so real that beneficiary elves can lead a perfectly normal life and sit and s*it wherever and whenever they want. They are so happy with their bottoms that, on World Toilet Day, they volunteered to take part in the global #wecantwait efforts by performing true-life demonstrations of toilet-use in refugee camps in Ethiopia. 

Supporting the Sharing Economy
In an attempt to modernize our services, improve global wellbeing and generate new revenue streams, Santa Inc. has finally joined the sharing economy. As you may know, the sharing economy is a new business model based upon peer-to-peer-based sharing of access to goods and services (coordinated through community-based online services). Alongside Uber, AirBnB, Zipcar, Bookmooch and, we have decided to make Santa a sharing Santa. Sign up online at to make use of anything that we have and pay for it. For example, book taxi rides by sleigh to any global destination, hire an elf to clean your house or babysit your kids, or borrow one of Santa's red suits to supplement your party wardrobe. We also offer, at a modest rate of $4,000 per night, a place to sleep - Santa's bed in his Lapland home. Of course, Santa sleeps in the bed 364 nights per year, so you will have to share it. If you need earplugs to silence Santa's snores there is a small extra charge. If you need a noseplug for various involuntary odors that Santa emits, there is a small extra charge for that too. If you'd like to be woken up by a live elf alarm system, we can make our elves available in all shapes and sizes, also for a small extra charge. So far, in 2015, the sharing economy has generated more than $1 million in revenue for Santa Inc. Actually, this is not so much from the sharing we offer for use of Santa facilities, but more from the sharing of other's facilities with us. We decided that the many households we reach around the world through our toy deliveries should have the opportunity to share their economy with Santa too. During each visit, we help ourselves to cash we find in wallets, handbags and kitchen cookie jars. This has proven to be a major success as on more than 84% of visits, our beneficiaries have shared more than $100 with Santa. We think this sharing economy is a fantastic idea and kindly request that households make it slightly easier for us to find the cash they wish to share by leaving it on the mantlepiece in an envelope marked Sharing with Santa. 

New Mentoring Program for Elves
In response to last year's employee survey, where elves expressed a desire to receive guidance relating to personal growth and development, we hired several mentors to help elves grow. Of course, by nature, elves are short. Helping them grow requires several innovative techniques and ongoing coaching. In order to provide relevant role models, we hired top players from the Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Seattle Supersonics. Each player was paired with an elf and charged with teaching him how to overcome his height-challenged physique related issues during a period of six months of intensive mentoring. During this period, elves learned how to spring-jump, walk on stilts, use electronic arm extensions, hover 15 centimeters above ground using kinetic energy, and extend their neck muscles using yoga techniques. Regrettably our elves are still short. Therefore, in a final attempt to meet the personal growth needs of our very important elf stakeholders, we purchased a set of distortion mirrors that reflect you back in triple height. All our elves now think that they are three times taller than they actually are and are completely satisfied. The only problem is that they all applied to join the Bulls, Lakers and Supersonics and couldn't understand why they were rejected.  

Combatting Santa Counterfiets
As we report each year, we maintain our ongoing battle to delegitimize Santa branded products that are not approved and licensed by Santa Inc. Although we failed to have the Talking Naughty Farting Santa Doll we reported last year removed from the market, we did succeed in receiving royalties of 50% on each sale. We are now working on the same thing with another product that came to our attention this year, the Chantilly Lane Rip Von Kringle - Singing Farting Santa.  As all these Santa functions in doll form appear to delight our customers all around the world, we adopted the "if you can't beat them" philosophy and created our own Santa doll. We call it the Talking Naughty Farting Singing Dancing Twirling Belching Jogging Screaming Humming Skipping Spitting Punching and Praying Santa. Check it out now on to get your delivery just in time for Christmas. We have also adopted a similar collaborative approach with app developers. For example, while the Personalized Phone Call from Santa app may not feature the real me, we have come to believe that this kind of application can support our mission and help spread the Santa message. Unfortunately, this app is free, so our 50% royalties amount to 50% of nothing. Therefore, we successfully negotiated to become the sole and exclusive provider of in-app purchases where all profits go to, yes, you guessed it, the Santa Claus Inc. Santa Retirement Fund. So far we have developed several in-app purchases: a slurpy kiss from Santa ($50), a Santa fart (using the Talking Naughty Farting Santa Doll) ($100) and a Santa indecent proposal ($500). As you can imagine, the last app is the most popular, although several customers asked for a refund when they discovered that the indecent proposal was a copy of the 1993 move starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore which can be rented from at $3.99. We are now considering more sustainable options.  

Feedback on this report
We will be happy to receive your feedback on this report, as long as it's positive.

In the meantime....

 We Wish You and Everyone in the World 
a Happy Holiday Season and a 
Happy New Year

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 Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

Monday, November 30, 2015

7 tools to make your online Sustainability Report dance

Who doesn't like dancing? A dancing Sustainability Report is one that has great content and is presented so creatively that the content just dances right out at you. The online environment is your dance studio. Of course, you need fabulous dance instructors to turn your Sustainability Report in to a dancing report.

As a consultant and writer, my focus is primarily on the content of Sustainability Reports. Getting a balance of content and crafting the narrative is a thrilling part of the work. I love it. That's me, still a proud reporting geek. An important part of my work, however, is going beyond the content to engage with the graphic designers who put it into a form that is navigable, digestible and aesthetic and helps the report dance. This is no easy task. I am often mind-blown by the creative skill of the designers. Our interface is usually at the beginning and at the end when we are working with clients' in-house or external design teams:

At the beginning: At the conceptual stage, once we have an idea about the focus of the report content and the key story for the reporting year, it's important to check in with the designers to make sure we are all aligned - and to help us prepare the content in a way that takes advantage of the possibilities and acknowledges the limitations of the selected report concept and format. Use of infographics, presentation of quotations, use of boxed text, dynamic presentation of charts and graphs...there are a million ways to do different things with words and numbers - it's important to set expectations up front and agree initial directions for key design elements early in the process. 

At the end: Once 95% of the content is ready to go (it almost never gets to 100% at this stage), we shoot it to the designers. Then begins the long process of back and forth as we proof and reproof and check and recheck. Our role as overseers of the reports is critical at this stage. Aside from technical errors, which always happen (charts get inverted, dates get jumbled, pages get omitted, paragraphs are in the wrong order, letters are capitalized when they shouldn't be, all sorts of weird things happen in converting the content), designers do not always understand the nuances and critical context of the report content and therefore may select imagery that is totally inappropriate. We need to pick that up and oversee the integrity of the design in all of its different facets. This is often a challenge and, depending on the experience of the design team, can have us tearing or hair out - or gorging on triple chocolate fudge ice cream from early morning right through till late evening. And weekends.

The challenge is amplified when you are designing for the online environment. That's why I so appreciate and admire the work of my long-time friends Thomas Rosenmayr and the team at nexxar. They have a way of creating online reports (annual reports and sustainability reports - but I refer here mainly to the latter) that turn content into experience, text into narrative, numbers into pictures and a report into an event. nexxar's claim to fame is designing for online. They make reports dance. While PDFs remain an essential tool, especially for off-line use, nexxar has mastered and even championed the online environment for sustainability reporting.

Thomas says: "When we started our business we looked for a name that incorporates our aspiration to shape the future of corporate reporting. nexxar is an abbreviation for your next Annual Report. The .com domain attached to nexxar is a vital part of our company name. It stands for both our digital focus as well as our multinational business concept. Ever since we started, nexxar has devoted itself entirely to the topic of digital reporting. Since 2003 we have published more than 500 online reports, in our early days most of these reports were financial but nowadays half of the are Integrated or Sustainability Reports. Our mission is to develop digital reporting solutions that embrace technology for the benefit of its users as well as our clients. We believe the web is not just another communication channel to push content via PDF originally designed for printing. A good digital report does not just convert data but reshapes the messages to work non-linear as well as on screen and adds value through interactivity, multimedia and hyperlinking."

For a long time now I have been meaning to showcase some of nexxar's work here on the CSR Reporting Blog. The time has come. Here's a selection of some nexxar's report creations and how they dance. 

Dancing Value Chain

Thomas says: "Using a clickable value chain is one of the best ways to get users right into the content of the report."

See this example from The Linde Group in its CR Report 2014.

In this report, online opens up with this overview of the value chain. Each element is clickable and takes you to the specific report content belonging to that click. For example, clicking on "25 million" (gas cylinders - the most commonly used form of packaging) takes you to a page on raw materials where you can find all relevant disclosures including clickable cross-references to GRI and UNGC indicators. The report is seamlessly navigable, with more about >> links for those who want more about, and side and top menus so that you never forget where you are. 

From any page you can one-click to all Linde's key figures, cleanly laid out in table covering 5 years' performance

Dancing charts

Thomas says: "An interactive charting tool certainly is one dimension that digital can bring to the table to engage your audience. From what we can see in our statistics, this tool is very well received by web users."

Dynamic responsive user-driven interactive charts and tables have become somewhat of a signature feature of  nexxar's online creations. You can play around with numbers in charts, graphs and tables and totally enjoy the fun of seeing numbers miraculously appear in so many different ways. Such charts make the data so much more accessible.  Here are a few examples:

Dancing Storytelling

Thomas says: "Engaging digital storytelling needs to be done different for the digital space "

See this example from Metro in its 2013-2014 Corporate Responsibility Report.

Metro Group's Report is clean and spacious and guides you to key content for heavy report users right from the report home page. The report has five main content sections called "spheres of action". The storytelling approach is done through short personal insights from key people in the Metro Group. Each shares a personal story about a sphere of action. The following section then details the company's progress and performance in this area. 

Dancing materiality

Thomas says: "Interactive materiality index enables you to click on the legend  to select / deselect issues. "

See this example from Legal and General in its 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report. L&G presents a rather full materiality matrix. To help the reader navigate this online, you can click on each of the dots and get a pop-up that tells you what it's all about.

In addition, there is a clickable list of material impacts that take you directly to the relevant content.

And the home page of the report has clickable drop-down menus that take you to any part of the report at the click of a click.

Dancing home page

Thomas says: "The home page of the online Sustainability Report should guide readers to interesting content. "

See this example from SNAM's 2014 Sustainability Report

Another nice online feature of SNAM's report is the download center where you can download all or bits of the report and/or go straight to the hyperlinked GRI content index. Navigation at its best.

Dancing gallery

Thomas says: "Photo galleries are a great way to draw attention to great stories."

See this example from  Merck Group's 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report

This photo gallery is a great way to attract the reader to the relevant stories in the report. When you click on a black and white image, it suddenly goes technicolor and the screen below jumps to the story narrative. 

Dancing GRI Content Index

Thomas says: "Interactive GRI Index actually is the perfect fit for the web, sometimes I think GRI invented this index for online usage. While in a print based document the indicators are referenced by page numbers, within the web version these are converted to hyperlinks leading you on-click to the right spot not just within the Sustainability Report but also to the Annual Report or any other website providing the necessary information."

See these examples:

(this is a UNGC index against the 10 principles)

The concertina GRI Content Index that expands and contracts to let you decide how much content you want to see, with content hyperlinked to the report sections, really makes navigating to selected content a pleasure. 

I couldn't let Thomas off the hook without asking him a few more questions about nexxar and online Sustainability Reporting.

When you co-founded nexxar in 2003, sustainability reporting was just getting started. Also, the online environment was hardly as expansive as it is today. 12 years on, did you expect that you would become a champion of online sustainability reporting? How did you make that happen? 
Thomas says: "I think what you end up with on a long-term scale is never fully congruent with your original plans. When we started business, I wasn't so much aware of Sustainability Reports. But wanted to have an impact on corporate reporting. As our service is quite specific, right from the beginning, our clients have been large multinational corporations who forced us to fully focus on quality and innovation. The early days of the Internet opened up this great opportunity for nexxar as a tiny start up offering a service that large corporations could not fulfil internally. Defining clear goals with our clients right from the beginning is key for our long-term success. And over time lot of companies understood that the web is the perfect communication channel for sustainability matters. Main advantages are the global reach combined with a very efficient use of resources as well as the two-way communication to truly engage with their audience." 

What do you find most challenging in designing Sustainability Reports for online reading? 
Thomas says: "The dominant mindset still thinks in pages. Almost all content is created on paper based software like Word. Not only text but also images, graphs, diagrams or even tables are designed to fit on portrait format. To convert this content later on for a screen based viewport will always have its limitations. How can you transform a business diagram or management picture to change from portrait to landscape format? Other issues include contrasts of images, fonts or content structure. Sometimes it's impossible to generate a usable navigation for multi-page textual wasteland. Online we need a clear hierarchy as well as teaser content on main pages providing users a clear understanding where to continue their journey. In our lab we present some of the most important do's and don'ts when editing contents for the web "  

And what do you find most satisfying? 
Thomas says: "Sustainability Reports do not have regulatory restrictions like financial reports. They are more flexible when it comes to designing content for digital. When involved right from the beginning there is a lot of positive impact that is possible for the digital report. Also people involved in sustainability are way more more web savvy. The web is perceived as a chance for sustainability not as a threat against traditional communications. As a result, we see adoption to web techniques like using a CMS to compose content easier (see more information on our online first approach) .  

When you start work on a new sustainability report for the online environment, what are the three non-negotiables you present to your client? 
Thomas says: "That's a difficult question. We see ourselves as providers of a high level service. There are some high level no-go's for us. For example, we do not white label our work through other agencies. We see the direct contact to our clients being essential for the quality of our reports as well as for our own satisfaction. We live for what we do. On the other hand, our clients have their own views or needs and we fully respect this. Three things we see as indisputable for a usable online sustainability report would certainly include: 
  • Web based navigation that provides individual structure with sublevels 
  • All content needs to be presented in HTML to be fully accessible 
  • Responsive design, so the layout adopts flexible to the screen width of the device used."

Rounding off, I love the work that nexxar does to make sustainability disclosure more accessible. If you haven't selected your providers for your first or your next Sustainability Report, using expert providers such as nexxar for design and Beyond Business (ahem, couldn't resist) for content is a sure way to make your report dance.  

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 Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dr. Sustainability is back!

Dr. Sustainability is now a movie star. Since featuring in the Beyond Business video, she has been overrun with offers to star in major sustainability feature movies that help make the world a better place. Here are just a few of the movies she has worked on over the past few months. Watch your local box office for news of these movies coming to your cinema soon.

The Silence of the Engineers: Jodie Foster stars with Dr. Sustainability in this movie about a conspiracy of silence at a major German car manufacturer who has been cheating regulators about the level of air emissions from its manufactured vehicles. Dr. Sustainability is cast in the role of Clarice Sparkling, who uncovers the scam and saves the world from the duplicity of corporate car makers.

Almost Back to the Future: Dr. Sustainability stars alongside Michael J. Fox in this gripping tale of 45,000 attendees at a Climate Conference in a major European city who valiantly try to alter the course of global climate change, one of the most complex problems the world has ever faced. Dr. Sustainability plays the heroine who, towards the later stages of three days of deadlock among nations, manages to bring the parties to consensus about how we are all going to save the world.

Forrest Rump: Together with co-star, Tom Hanks, Dr. Sustainability goes on a world tour to explain to populations across the globe that reducing consumption of processed meat would be a good idea if they don't want to get colorectal cancer. Eventually Dr. Sustainability gets the message through and converts everyone to eating to ice cream instead. 

The Hunger Shames: Dr. Sustainability stars as Katnip Evergreen who brings together an army against President Slush to challenge the increasing inequality in global food production and distribution, enabling all the world's hungry people to receive government rations of three balanced and nutritious meals a day. The result is that people get so much to eat that they get fatter and fatter. The sequel to this movie will be called The Obesity Games. 

Muriel's Wedding: Dr. Sustainability doesn't star in this movie, actually. But I included it because it's one of the best movies ever and if you haven't seen it, you really should.

As usual, CSR Blog readers had a chance to ask Dr. Sustainability some questions.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: Now that you are a movie star, will you be advancing sustainability principles in Hollywood? 
Dear Star-Struck: Of course. Hollywood has a great sustainability record. The amount of recycling of old movies is the highest in the world. Also, I have suggested a Hollywood Green Month. We will start by recycling The Boy with Green Hair. 

Dear Dr. Sustainability: I have heard that by 2030, the world will be OK and there will be no hunger, poverty or  abuses of human rights and there will be world peace, all due to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals? Can you confirm this?
Dear Boundless Optimist: Of course I can confirm this. But remember, if by 2030 we fail to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we can always make some new ones like we did last time. 

Dear Dr. Sustainability: Of all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that have been ratified, which one do you think is the most likely to be achieved? 
Dear Intellectual: Number 18.  
Dear Dr. Sustainability: But there is no number 18.
Dear Intellectual: Exactly. 

Dear Dr. Sustainability: We are a small business and our impacts are modest. How can we contribute to advancing the SDGs ? 
Dear Contributor: Every action is worth something. Whatever your actions are worth, please calculate the value and put that on a money order addressed to Dr. Sustainability, Hollywood.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: We are thinking of developing a  new sustainability initiative at our privately-owned printing company. The initiative is designed to alleviate poverty by creating new wealth through the manufacture of money. We plan to provide 3D printers to small impoverished communities in the Niger Delta. They will be able to print notes and coins and even new wallets for the adult population. Could this be a solution to many of the social problems caused by poverty? 
Dear Creative: This is a wonderful initiative. I am all for distribution of wealth. The only problem I foresee here is that, as ApplePay takes over, they wont have a need for money as they will pay for everything using their iPhones. 

Dear Dr. Sustainability: Do you believe in karma? My boss says that sustainability is simply an issue of karma. If you screw the planet, it will screw you.
Dear Spiritualist: I think your boss is quite wise. Karma is a bit like the chicken and the egg.  The chain had to start somewhere. You have to undo all the unkarma things you did before you can start becoming karma positive. You can start by making a karma offset through the Dr. Sustainability Dekarmazation Fund that rights the world's wrongs as Dr. Sustainability gets rich. Money orders to Dr. Sustainability, Hollywood.  

Dear Dr. Sustainability: Now that everyone is using the G4 guidelines, do you  feel confident that we can overcome climate change? 
Dear G4-user: That depends if climate change is material. 

Dear Dr. Sustainability: I plan to be at the 5th global GRI Conference on May 18-19 in Amsterdam next year. Can we fix a time to meet? I would love to shake your hand. 
Dear Hand-Shaker: Of course, I will be at the conference. Who won't? But I don't do handshakes unless your palm is greased with Euros.  

Dear Dr. Sustainability: We recently did a materiality assessment and came up with more than 3,000 material topics that we screened down to one after a process of stakeholder engagement and management analysis.  The one issue that we identified as being most material was the time wasted on packing lines at our factories through people taking bathroom breaks. Our process was very robust. We used an accounting firm.  
Dear Materiality: What's your question? 
Dear Dr. Sustainability: I have no question.
Dear Materiality: If your main issue is bathroom breaks , you should have lots of questions. 

Dear Dr. Sustainability: I am so worried about our next Sustainability Report that I can't sleep at nights. I have the feeling that we will never get to publish our report. We have made so many revisions, legal keep wanting to review it, senior management keep changing words, the designer keeps making mistakes and we have to correct it all over again and again and again. I am worried that we won't complete the report on time to publish this year - it's already November.
Dear Sleepless: No Sustainability Report is worth losing sleep over. Once the report is out, people will look at the content and not when it was published. Publishing a report at the end of 2015 for 2014 performance is rather late, but it's not the end of the world.
Dear Dr. Sustainability: The report covers 2013. 
Dear Sleepless: In that case, just change all the dates from 2013 to 2015, publish in 2016 and no-one will be any the wiser. Oh, and don't tell the legal folks. 

Dear Dr. Sustainability: I hear that GRI guidelines are becoming GRI standards. What do you say about that? 
Dear Standard-Setter:  That's nice for GRI. SASB has standards. IIRC has standards. Even ISO 26000 is a standard. Who's anyone without a standard? Now GRI will be just like everyone else.   

Dear Dr. Sustainability: Do you plan to be at the Paris climate summit? 
Dear Paris-watcher: It seems that the trend these days is that everyone is explaining why they will be in Paris or why they won't be in Paris. I have never been one to go with the trend so I will remain silent on whether I will attend and why or why not. Of course, remaining silent is one of my great life challenges, so watch this space, just in case.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: What advice would you give to our company? We have published 13 annual Sustainability Reports to date, but now we have no budget to develop content for a next report as times are hard.
Dear Hard-Up: My advice would be to publish  a Best of Sustainability Reports, as a compilation of all the best bits from all 13 reports to date. If you're lucky, no-one will even notice.

Dear Dr. Sustainability: How many Sustainability Reports have you enjoyed reading in your lifetime?
Dear Report-Reader: All of them. But please wait a second while I uncross my fingers.

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 Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Elastic Sustainability Report

How do you make a Sustainability Report that's elastic? That's easy, you have to be an elastic company. ECI is a global provider of ELASTIC Network™ solutions for service providers, utilities and data center operators. In ECI's fourth Sustainability Report, entitled "Reinventing the Future", ECI explains how elasticity goes hand-in-hand with an innovative, responsible and ethical approach to conducting business.

All this is in addition to continuously improving environmental impacts  - check out these results: since 2010, ECI has reduced
  • Energy consumption by 54% 
  • Greenhouse gas emissions by 49% 
  • Water use by 15% 
  • Waste by 62%
But back to elastic. One of the problems these days with technology is the fact that it becomes obsolete so quickly as the pace of innovation overtakes it - especially in the world of ICT - internet and communications technology. In order to keep up with technology, which can be the main key to remaining competitive, companies have to replace old technology with new. That is, unless they have ECI's ELASTIC targeted applied technology solutions that hook onto legacy technology without throwing out the baby with the bathwater, as we say in Manchester. This is the sustainability of ECI's network solutions. In most cases, solutions are new enough to enable customers to stay ahead, and old enough to be compatible with existing platforms to avoid large investments that dent profitability or delay new competitive offerings. This is the case for example in Mexico. ECI supports the Mexican government's digital inclusion strategy by providing ELASTIC solutions for internet connectivity that reaches up to 97% of Mexico's population through fiber optic digital communications transported by existing power lines built for transmission of electricity. Bandwidth at the flick of a switch, combining legacy and innovation to deliver optimal flexibility, efficiency and conservation of resources. 

The concept of elasticity in business was introduced in a book called "The Elastic Enterprise" by NicholasVitalary and Haydn Shaughnessy - a truly interesting read. The authors present concepts such as radical adjacency, mass differentiation, new scale economics, sapient leadership and active strategy, supported by five dynamics of new operating models that together form a manifesto for business revolution. Elastic enterprises do well even in recession and support the creation of societal wealth and advancement. You'll have to read the book to understand the concepts in more detail. Even though The Elastic Enterprise was not written as a sustainability textbook, it could certainly be mistaken for one. 

Back to elastic reports. There is something always that little bit extra in ECI's Sustainability Reports - innovation with legacy. Each year, the report is brought to life by a global activity that engages employees in the company's mission and community spirit. Whether it's a Green Camera competition, or an "ECI and ME" photography competition or, as is the case in ECI's 2014 Sustainability Report , a "get-your-kids-to-draw-the-way-they-see-ECI" competition. The 2014 Sustainability Report is illustrated with drawings by ECI's extended family and includes children between ages 4 and 12 who creatively show ECI in its global ecosystem with drawings about about connectivity, the family culture of the company and the pace of technological advancement. Some show ECI simply as a home to thousands of employees and their families and communities.

Three other things that add interest and insight to ECI's 2014 Sustainability Report are commentaries from prominent voices in the world of sustainability today. These are (in surname alfa order):

Deborah Leipziger advises companies, governments and UN agencies on social innovation, human rights and business, and sustainability. Professor Leipziger is a Senior Fellow in Social Innovation at the Lewis Institute at Babson, and teaches at the Bard MBA in Sustainability program and other business schools. The third edition of her book, The Corporate Responsibility Code Book will be published soon (I have editions I and II - these are essential books for susty professionals). Deborah's commentary refers to the Guiding Principles on Human Rights, explaining their importance.

Margo Mosher is a Manager with SustainAbility. SustainAbility is a think tank and strategic advisory firm working to catalyze business leadership on sustainability. SustainAbility was founded by activists John Elkington and Julia Hailes in 1987.  Last year, SustainAbility published a very insightful paper on transparency and the need for greater strategic material focus. I mentioned this in a post back in December last year. Margo's commentary is about the role of the private sector in working to create a sustainable economy and the value of reporting. 

Luis Neves is the chairman of GeSI - a membership organization for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies and organizations around the globe and a leading source of information, resources and best practices for achieving integrated social and environmental sustainability through ICT. Luis's commentary is about the value of ICT an an enabler, helping companies to reduce environmental impacts through the use of technology. GeSi has produced some impressive publications about the role of ICT in helping create a sustainable future, and since Luis prepared this commentary for ECI's Sustainability Report, GeSI has managed to put out SMARTer 2030, which updates prior research and insight into how technology can transform business efficiency and deliver environmental advantage. Well worth a review. 

Anyway, back to elastic. Now you know what an ELASTIC Sustainability Report is.

As always, take a look. Give feedback!

(Disclosure: ECI is a valued client and I supported the writing of this report and all prior reports)

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 Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Six ways to say sustainability at Strauss Group

Strauss Group is a food and beverage company, dedicated to enriching and improving people's lives through our fresh, delicious, nutritious, and innovative products. The Group's portfolio of five companies provides a response to two leading trends in food and beverage consumption: Health & Wellness, and Fun & Indulgence. Strauss Group is active in 24 countries, generates more than $2 billion in consolidated sales and employs more than 12,000 people. Last month, Strauss Group published its eighth annual Sustainability Report. (Disclosure: Strauss Group is my client and we supported the preparation of this report and two prior reports.)

This is Strauss Group's first report following the publication of the Group's 2020 Sustainability Strategy last year. The strategy is based on three degrees of impact supported by three levels of performance. 

Degrees of impact reflect the progression of Strauss Group's impacts on different stakeholder groups and the degree to which the Group is in a direct position to create positive value. The first degree is colleagues, the most direct relationship of all between the Group and any of its stakeholders and through whom all our other stakeholder groups are reached. The second degree of impact is on consumers, whose lives are enriched by the products Strauss Group develops and markets. The third degree of impact is citizenship - impacts in the supply chain, in the environment and in local communities. Each strategy dimension is backed by targets - some of which require the Group to meet expected standards of behavior, such as upholding ethical conduct and governance, while other targets require a stretch to exceed past performance or to lead the market with performance that is among the best-in-class in the industry.

Strauss Group's 2014 Sustainability Report was written in three broad parts aligning with the strategic approach. Within this, six most material impacts guided and focused the content of this G4 Core report. These are the six ways that Strauss Group says sustainability.

Healthy lifestyles:  Strauss Group promotes and supports healthy living through a wide range of products and innovative new foods such as fresh vegetables and salads, super foods such as hummus and kale, functional foods that offer added health value such as probiotic yogurts or foods with added vitamins and minerals. Also, Strauss continues to improve the nutritional profile of its foods by reducing sugar, salt and fats across a wide range of the portfolio. 

But making great healthy products is not enough. Consumers have to get used to the different taste of low sugar content, for example, or venture into new territory by using vegetables, such as kale, that they have not tried before, so much of Strauss's efforts go towards consumer education and awareness. Similarly, consumers can be encouraged to consider lifestyle in a more holistic way - it's not only about food. Strauss Water develops and markets WaterBars for hot or cold purified water at the push of a button. Research shows that families that have a WaterBar drink more water. And in 2014, Strauss developed a mobile app that helps people get moving by connecting them with free outdoor gym spaces, personal trainers and like-minded others who seek more physical exercise. Sabra engaged with thousands of consumers in the U.S. at a specially created Hummus House, to help consumers get to know the health (and taste) benefits of hummus as a part of our daily diet. 

Innovation is often a key to improving the health profile of food products, and for some years now, Strauss has taken the lead as a food-tech enabler, providing a platform for sustainable food technology innovation. In 2014, this was formalized in the form of a collaboration to create a food-tech incubator over 8 years with the Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel at an investment by Strauss of up to more than $10 million to help transform the food industry through breakthrough new approaches to food product development, design, manufacturing and delivery. 

Product transparency and responsible marketing: Strauss meets consumer expectations and regulatory requirements for all food products. Labels are clear and aim to meet all consumer information needs. Responsible marketing standards are upheld, especially in relation to non-marketing of fun and indulgence products to kids. Strauss makes significant efforts to be transparent and open up many different communication channels for consumers - via call centers for consumer queries, or via social media or the company's website. 

Reducing resource consumption and waste: In 2014, Strauss Group reduced energy consumption per ton of product by 8% and GHG emissions per ton of product by 25% across global operations, achievements that follow on the heels of significant resource reductions in prior years. Similarly, Strauss Group reduced water withdrawal per ton of product by 12%. While overall waste did not show a reduction in 2014 (increase of 23% per ton of product), the amount of waste diverted to landfill remained high at 83%. Several initiatives are advanced throughout the Group to reduce resources and environmental impacts, including the conversion of all Israel operations to natural gas, and the expansion of the Sabra production facility in the U.S. to LEED silver green building certification. 

Engaging employees: Strauss continues to invest in leadership development, training and education for employees across the Group's operations, as well as in occupational health and safety. In Israel, for example, a focus in 2014 was safety in the sales force with a significant improvement in results.

Ethical supply chain: Sustainable sourcing continues to be a prime consideration for Strauss Group and Strauss Coffee continues to source a portion of green coffee that is certified sustainable. In addition, advances were made in 2014 in the sustainable sourcing of cocoa and sesame seeds, two top ingredients for Strauss. 

Diversity in everything we do: A diverse workforce for Strauss means both advancing women in management and creating an inclusive workplace for employees from all backgrounds. In 2014, Strauss Group achieved a level of 40% of women in management positions. In addition, Strauss in Israel was recognized by the Forum for Diversity Hiring for advances in hiring populations that are traditionally excluded from the mainstream workforce.

That's six ways that Strauss Group says sustainability and just a few examples of the activities that back up the words. As always, it's a privilege to work with companies that have a genuine desire to make a positive impact on society through the business they do.

Take a look at the report. Give feedback!

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 Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

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