Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Sustainability Crystal Ball

Don't you wish you could have a crystal ball that would tell you what sustainability issues are coming up to hit you in the glabella? Or somewhere else even more painful? Wouldn't you like to know the issues before your stakeholders turn you into mush? Wouldn't you want to prepare your sustainability strategy knowing that you have covered all the angles and not left materiality to fortuity? Wouldn't you want a little materiality certainty rather than a lot of materiality perplexity? 

The answer to all your wishes just may have come true with a little big thing that calls itself the DatamaranTM. Yes, that's Datamaran, not catamaran. Catamarans are characterized by light weight, high stability, reduced drag and comfort that get you where you want to go. That's kind of what you want from technology too, so the selection of the name Datamaran for a dynamic, interactive, real-time personalizable database of sustainability issues is apparently not entirely coincidental.


Datamaran is the new little big thing for companies who want to be in control of their sustainability journey. With sustainability, there are so many variables that it's hard to stay in on top of what's most important. If you can't see the forest for the saplings, then you might need to cut through the undergrowth. (Am I mixing metaphors?)

Datamaran is the brainchild of startup eRevalue. Marjella Alma, founder of eRevalue, explained it to me: 

"Sustainability closes doors. People look at frameworks and numbers. We should take a step back, relax and then come back to see how the land lies. The frameworks that we use such as GRI or SASB should not be treated as forms you fill in and tick the sustainability “box”. Companies must first and foremost take responsibility for their impacts – “know your business” - regardless of the framework and their prescribed KPIs. But how do this when there’s many initiatives, various opinions, regulatory pressures… and you have a complex value chain?

We wanted to create a tool that would help companies understand and navigate the issues so that they can talk about what's really on the table, not reduce this important effort to “selecting from a set of generic givens”. We asked ourselves how we could put this in front of companies to help them identify emerging issues by country, by sector, by competitive landscape and by regulatory pressures. 

We wanted to help companies know what to talk about and how to establish the right kind of KPIs that are relevant for them, and early enough in the process so that companies are not caught unaware." 

HQ'd in London with a team of 25+ ESG experts, lawyers and data scientists and growing, eRevalue's Datamaran is set for a long and meaningful navigation through sustainaland.  

Marjella makes a lot of sense (She usually does. I've known her for quite a while!) We are being plied and prodded with more frameworks and regulations than we can ever imagine and more and more companies are asking, how can we cut through the clutter? More companies are looking to filter out the noise, as the folks at eRevalue say. Datamaran conjures up a set of emerging issues to be aware of as you assess what's material for your business and for your stakeholders. The issues are driven by what people are really talking about out there, as it happens. The conversations that suddenly explode into viral megaphones are caught at an early stage in the Datamaran clutches, letting you know who's doing the talking and how loud everybody else is shouting. Ultimately it becomes a real-time materiality funnel, shaping the relative force of the issues as the conversations on the radar vary in intensity.  

Datamaran works with complex search algorithms across a taxonomy of 6,000 search terms relating to 120 issues on the sustainability radar, hunting down references in corporate websites, Sustainability Reports, SEC filings, Annual Reports and increasingly, media and social media, starting with Twitter. There is also a regulatory platform where all the regulatory frameworks relative to a particular issue magically pop up, and even indicate emerging regulation that is on the radar. In short, all the things that your materiality analysis needs as you create it and as you revise it. 

For reporting, Datamaran helps you understand what's current right now. Suppose you are a company and you are about to prepare your next Sustainability Report. You have your overall strategy and materiality framework mapped out, but you are interested to know what is on the radar right now for your peer group. 

I couldn't resist having a little play around with Datamaran. (Fortunately it's not catamaran, as I am prone to seasickness). I imagined I was a large pharmaceutical company. I selected in my profile the issues that are currently on my radar and I benchmarked these against global and regional issues for my peer companies in relation to what they report in sustainability reports.



At a global level, I see that occupational health and safety, environmental issues and employee issues are picking up the most noise in terms of what pharma peer companies are reporting in their sustainability reports.    

Drilling down, I was able to get a view of how these issues play our in different regions and the relative noise created by each issue in the current landscape. When I separately benchmarked Europe, Americas and Asia, I got different rankings.

Europe


Americas
Asia
Globally, I can see that 91% of my peer companies mention waste in their sustainability reports - a sign that I had better ensure I'm on top of that too. 


Broadly speaking, the top 20 issues don't change significantly across regions - as I would not expect them to do - but in the Americas, waste comes out top; in Europe, occupational health and safety comes out top and in Asia, workforce diversity and inclusion tops the list. While these results might not be significant enough for me to entirely redraw my materiality matrix, it's certainly interesting enough for me to check out who's saying what in the different regions and why. On the subject of waste, for example, we can see the regulatory landscape of current and emerging legislation quite clearly and for each issue, Datamaran can take us back to the source legislation. 


There are a million other ways Datamaran can be useful.. I have only scratched the surface. In my chat with Marjella, I understand that the busy bees at eRevalue are technologizing away really really fast to expand the applicability and personalizability of the system to make it even more useful. This is apparently the only tool of its kind around to support sustainability material decision making and low-noise focus. 

As with any database, what comes out is only as good as what goes in, and the way the program functionality is constructed. So as long as Datamaran keeps its legs on dry land, it seems that it could be quite useful. I'll certainly keep this radar on my radar....  I always wanted a crystal ball.   



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 www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz   

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What's reporting without culture?

Back in 2010, I published my first book, CSR for HR, a guide to the way Human Resources Managers can drive corporate responsibility, using their leverage at the center of organizations to encourage and empower an accountable culture. While the book was a great success ... by all accounts... and I continue to receive positive comments ... the HR profession has not really transformed itself into a champion of CSR... far from it. Of course, HR Managers may not see championing CSR as their remit. But that's only because they do not realize that CSR is actually a way to reinforce and strengthen the HR function in any organization. Since my book was published, the role of employees in driving CSR and the need to engage employees has moved higher up the agenda. In fact, almost every Sustainability Report you read today has some reference to employee engagement and many make the link between engagement and positive sustainability outcomes. 

That's as it should be. Sustainability reporting as a process should involve employees and inspire them. Rather than being the headache it often is, it can be a tool to create elevated levels of empowerment and engagement of employees. Some companies testify to this. Corus Entertainment in Canada regularly celebrates employees in annual sustainability reports and rewards them for their citizenship efforts. The Corus reports present a workplace where accountability is a value and employees are engaged and empowered to do their best for themselves and each other, the company, the community and the planet. 


A string of workplace awards tend to confirm this position.


3M's 2015 Sustainability Report covers how the company encourages and empowers employees to be creative  with sustainability in mind.

"During the 2014 Sustainability Week, we addressed global sustainability challenges we all face every day at home and at work. 3Mers were asked to think creatively, collaborate, and innovate with the shared goal of making life better... And we led a Shark Tank-inspired Power Pitch, which allowed teams of employees to suggest business ideas with a sustainability focus to compete for research and development funding with winners chosen through global text voting by their peers."

The culture of sustainability is reinforced in other ways, such as use of social media - an example below from Pinterest:



Anyway, also in 2010, I wrote on this blog about H&M and the crisis of the discarded garments in New York. The point was that, in an organization that had truly embedded CSR culture and practice, such an instance might not have happened. Employees would know how to connect their actions to potential issues on the CSR radar (more about the radar in an upcoming post. Hint: Datamaran). The BIC blip reminded me of that this week. How many marketeers just have no clue? How much insensitivity is an organization allowed to demonstrate at the same time as professing to support a CSR approach? At what point does an organization realize that CSR is a way of being, not just a project of doing?  And that even marketing folks need an invitation to the party.

Maybe you saw the BIC blip  example reported in the Guardian this past week ...

Who on earth in their right mind could think this would be encouraging or inspiring for women? You would have to be a total idiot to create something like this and an even greater idiot for authorizing it, and a double greater idiot for publishing it. Look like a girl? Think like a man? Come on....Even if the intention was positive, the gaping cavern between intent and result testifies to a lack of embedded culture of sensitivity to others. How can employees of a responsible business be so misguided? Does it really need an onslaught of criticism on social media to tell them they got it so wrong? 

BIC has a very clear Code of Ethics that employees are bound to uphold. It includes the company's approach to Human Rights and provides guidance for employees in the principles of communicating and engaging with each other.

The code does not specifically include reference to responsible marketing, though some indirect references can be found in  BIC's  2014 Sustainable Development Report

Generally BIC refers to the marketing teams's involvement in advancing the sustainable development program and marketing initiatives, such as:

"All of the professional functions involved (marketing, communication, sales) are equipped with the tools they need to explain BIC’s Sustainable Development Program."

Another reference to marketeers is an initiative to engage them through  a BIC recycling program in partnership with TerraCycle. This was the first initiative to collect and recycle writing instruments in France,  launched in 2011, and now expanded to several countries in Europe. BIC talks about this program as "inspiring marketeers to support the circular economy."

However, there's no reference to marketing communications and advertising as necessarily reflecting a respectful organization culture. BIC conducts a values survey among employees every 2 years to review "Values in Action" and also makes awards to employees who demonstrate core values of ethics and responsibility and more.  Results of the surveys are presented to employees. Therefore it seems that there are platforms to talk about culture, values, respectful communications and sustainable development. However, when it comes to the marketing department, there may be a need for some more work. 

It seems to me that BIC might be well served by developing and publishing a formal policy of responsible marketing and marketing communications. At the same time, BIC should undertake an intensive training program on diversity and inclusion for everyone involved in corporate and marketing communications. 

In the meantime, I don't plan to follow BIC's advice ... I'd rather :

LOOK like me
ACT like me
THINK like me
WORK like me 

I may not be perfect but at least  - hey - it's me. 




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 www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz   

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Short reports, big messages

Some of the best reports are the shortest. Writing a short report doesn't mean you lose the big message. On the contrary, short reports focus the mind on the right information for the right stakeholders. So, when Liberty Global decided to prepare the Group's 2014 annual G4 core Corporate Responsibility Report at 32 pages (excluding covers), this immediately caused the adrenaline to flow and the brain-cells to gravitate to a different approach to reporting that is much more focused and strategic than the intuitive approach of "let's gather everything we can and report on that". Heaven forbid that a company should forget to include the $1,500 donation that operators in the packing plant collected for Oxfam, or the Christmas party held for local schoolkids, or the color of the plant manager's new socks. All of these things are great, but when you tune yourself in to reporting strategically on the most important things - what I call relevant transparency - then you end up with an immensely readable, compact and relevantly transparent report. 



That's not to say that Liberty Global doesn't pack a punch with this report. Partially, this is because this strategic approach is not new. Liberty Global adopted a clear CR framework in 2012 and has empowered this framework to guide the global corporate approach and activities, improving in focus and sharpness with each successive year.


Promoting a digital society is at the heart of the strategy and represents one of the group's most material impacts. Liberty Global is the largest international cable company with 27 million customers subscribing to 56 million television, broadband internet and telephony services, operating in 14 countries and employing more than 38,000 people. Consumer brands owned by Liberty Global that you might recognize include Virgin Media, Ziggo, Telenet and UPC. The Liberty Global report covers activity driven at corporate level and provides a framework and direction for the companies in the group, most of whom report separately in their own markets. The digital society is Liberty Global's core business and advancing access and skills to take advantage of the digital society is both a social good and a business benefit. Strategically, Liberty Global has aligned business, sustainability and materiality. This forms the basis for reporting and enables the possibility of an extremely focused report.

Keeping the report short is then a four pronged affair: First, get the strategic framework right. Check. Second, be completely selective about what to include and what to exclude. Adding in loads more case studies - and there are plenty in a company the size of Liberty Global - is not an advantage. Selecting specific stories that illustrate performance and are representative of material impacts is what you aim for. Exclude the non-critical stories. Check. Third, once you have selected the content and stories, keep the narrative compact, minimal, and avoid repetition. Check. Fourth, where you can, use visuals to tell the story and save on words while getting the message across. Check.

Example of a visual used to present a lot of information about Liberty Global's digital society initiatives.

One of the impressive features of Liberty Global's reporting is the consistency of alignment to a set of multi-year commitments. As with prior reports, in 2014, Liberty Global clearly updates us on progress made against these commitments and advises new ones. Commitments (or targets) are available for each material impact area -  a total of 14 targets in all. Just a couple didn't progress as planned, and these are communicated transparently.

Each of the report's main sections starts with an explanation of why it matters and what Liberty Global is doing.


Aside from the presentation, Liberty Global has made impressive headway in its Corporate Responsibility performance over the past few years, and in 2015, was named the RobecoSAM Industry Mover, achieving the largest proportional performance improvement among industry peers. Liberty Global has improved energy and carbon efficiency against 2020 targets, and has advanced a program of supply chain assessment of key suppliers based on self-assessments against 21 environmental and social indicators. And as for promoting a digital society, Liberty Global has been a consistent support and key player in the Digital Agenda for Europe , investing in programs such as YouRock’s employability platform and CoderDojo, a not-for-profit coding club across Europe with 60 sessions that reached 2,000 young people.


Here is the press release that gives some more highlights of the report.

For a short report, that is aligned with GRI G4 Guidelines, Liberty Global's 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report gets the message across. I recommend you take a look. And give feedback!


Disclosure: I assisted Liberty Global in preparing the 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report.


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 www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz   

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Getting Human Rights Right

Unilever gets a lot of the spotlight these days on the sustainability horizon. This will help you understand why. I felt compelled to shine a light on the new report that Unilever has published on human rights. This is by far one of the best corporate accounts of position, practice, performance and intention on this subject that I have seen over the years, and again, Unilever raises the bar for advancing sustainability practice and disclosure. With this report, Unilever turns human rights from an onerous obligation that's reported by most companies with zero bells and whistles and a dollop of misplaced righteousness into a fun, colorfully-presented, superbly constructed and actually interesting 64 pages. This has to be mandatory reading for anyone thinking about their company's position on human rights - both for the insights about what's important and why and what can be done, and also for the way it's presented. Just look at the cover. Doesn't look like boring old human rights again, does it?  


Paul Polman's introduction is credible. This is because Paul Polman has become more of a sustainable brand than Unilever itself. Paul Polman's personal brand promise is about the no-nonsense practicalities of making sustainable values work. All may not be perfect at Unilever but Paul Polman cuts through the noise as a leading sustainability advocate with a trusted voice that speaks honestly and with integrity. When Paul Polman says in this report that Unilever is approaching human rights with a mixture of conviction and humility, I believe him. When he says the process of developing the Unilever's inaugural human rights report has been inspiring and humbling, I believe him. When he says this is a new beginning, and a long-term commitment, I believe him. And believing him, I am believing the report. Partly also because this report is not touted as a look-how-great-we-are report, but as a sharing of learnings and a stage in the journey. It's also a public declaration of intent to go beyond "respecting human rights" to "actively promoting human rights". There is a sense that this report is as much for Unilever itself as it is for the world.  

It starts with reiterating the social need to protect human rights and goes on to highlight milestones along the path that Unilever has taken over the years to bring human rights into the corporate consciousness.



Marcela Manubens, Global VP for Social Impact at Unilever, reinforces the approach, making a call to "rethink" business. "At Unilever, our vision is to build a company that represents the new capitalism, in which business exists to serve – not take from – society, and is a critical enabler of inclusive economic growth and job creation.

There are many things we can learn from this report. I am tempted to quote so much of it, but that would make this post as long as the report itself. So I will limit myself to a few observations:

Unilever's approach is firmly rooted in policy, starting with external globally-accepted policy frameworks that most of us are familiar with, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ILO (International Labor Organization) policies. It is also the first report that is aligned with the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework that was launched in February 2014 following the work of John Ruggie. What's interesting here is the way Unilever has created a set of aligned policies (7 in all, including the original Unilever Code of Business Principles) and while there is some overlap, each targets a specific aspect of Human Rights and /or a specific audience (such as suppliers or business partners). This suite of policies forms the bedrock of Unilever's action across the range of human rights issues in the business. 

Unilever's governance of human rights issues is clearly laid out - from the creation of HR Ambassadors across the markets to external engagement with a range of stakeholders. Long-standing collaborations with NGOs Oxfam and Solidaridad, among others, have helped shape Unilever's perspectives and performance. 

The focus of Unilever's activities has been clearly articulated across 8 core human rights issues identified as "salient" for Unilever.  (Maybe "salient" is the new "material"?).  


Each issue is addressed in its own section, providing some context, Unilever's historical and current approach, and a few case studies. It's good reading. What's most appealing, and illuminating, is the discussion of the challenges a company like Unilever faces when reaching deep into the supply chain to uncover issues at the day-to-day level of diverse operations and Unilever's sharing of examples of problems that have arisen and actions taken to resolve. For example, a supplier was found conducting pat down searches to prevent workers from bringing their mobile devices to the production area, and at a salt pan operation in India, excessive working hours, poor health and safety practices, and lack of a proper process for the payment of wages were uncovered. An an independent assessment of Unilever's tea supply chain in Turkey revealed "significant and pressing" challenges. Equally, there is an open discussion of road safety risks with 48 road traffic-related fatalities involving Unilever employees on company business and members of the public, as well as more than 250 injuries and 5,000 accidents between 2007 and 2014. Land use is a fairly recent addition to the human rights agenda, and Unilever's work in this area is also at an early stage, but the intention to create a new Global Land Rights Policy and ongoing consultations with external experts and organizations will help Unilever establish leadership here too in coming years.

The next section of this report is dedicated to Unilever's framework: Prevent - Detect - Respond - both in Unilever's own operations and throughout the supply chain.  Due diligence, supplier audits, support and encouragement for suppliers as they try to improve, and detailed tracking analysis of compliance data are highlighted. There was a 60% decrease in conformance issues over the past couple of years, for suppliers who were re-audited, but, Unilever notes, "while these audits present us with a snapshot in time, they do not communicate the full story." Ongoing local engagement and constant vigilance are key to making sustainable change.

This inaugural Human Rights report ends with Unilever's directional objectives for the coming three years. These includes a intention to create a set of quantitative metrics, noting  "more attention needs to be given to measuring social profit and loss". Uh oh. I hope this doesn't mean that human rights impacts will be converted to $ or Euros or £ a la Kering EP&L - which could turn the focus from people and lives to endless number-crunching and bottom lines. But I certainly am in favor of a methodology that helps us understand the true measure of social impact - positive and negative - of corporations and it's possible that Unilever's dialogue-based approach may held create breakthrough in this area.

All in all, while this report, as a first report, demonstrates a maturity of approach, there are many areas where Unilever must reach even deeper and embed robust systematic sustainable change and find creative and meaningful ways to measure progress. In the meantime, hats off to Unilever for all that has been done so far and triple ice creams all round for everyone who worked on this report. It's a text book for advancing and promoting human rights and a fascinating read, presented in an optimistic way. As the report notes: "The work ahead is significant but not insurmountable."

Read this report. It's worth a half hour of your time.





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 www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz   

Friday, June 12, 2015

Will GRI's new strategy work?

GRI has taken on a big role: "Empowering Sustainable Decisions." The new tagline of GRI's 2015-2020 strategy is rather broad brush. GRI is aiming to reach beyond the way organizations collate and report sustainability information to the place where the market actually thinks about what to do with the information that's ordered into neat performance indicators and creatively designed into sustainability reports. At first glance, this is a bit of a wishy-washy strategy, far less concrete and quantitative than we might have expected GRI to deliver, especially since other organizations in this space are driving forward in very measurable ways, pushing the uptake of reporting and disclosure in different forms, whether it be emissions, water or supply chain (CDP), 10-K or 20-F disclosures (SASB) or value creation (IIRC) and more. GRI, who has always been about driving the uptake of reporting, is now re-purposing itself to drive the uptake of using reporting. 

What pushed GRI in this direction? Clearly it has something to do with GRI's new leadership. Michael Meehan, who is just a couple of months short of completing one year at the helm of GRI. In my conversation with Michael earlier this week, he told me: " I come from the technology space. When I came to this market, some things were glaringly obvious. One was the lack of collaboration. In fact, there was more of an adversarial approach. Many organizations working in the same space but not getting along. It's understandable up to a point, there's competition for funding, resources, attention.  But this was not serving the market best. The corporate world and the policy world needs us to get along. There is going to continue to be fragmentation down the road, we are not going to stop seeing new frameworks, new approaches, new ways of working. What we have to do is change our frame of reference to help organizations and markets move forward more effectively in this context."

The new strategy has four pillars:

Enabling smart policy: More advocacy work and collaborative work with policy-makers, policy influencers and organizations around the world to embed sustainability-based factors into how things get decided and done.
More reporters, better reporting: The communicated elevation of GRI to "standard setter" and its continued uptake among the potential reporting community.
Moving beyond reports: New ways of using the report output as input, with a little help from technology, Big Data, integrated and accessible information flows.
Innovation and collaboration: Driving greater innovation in the area of sustainability disclosure and use of sustainability information.

These pillars build on the heritage of GRI as "the pioneer of the sustainability reporting process" and express an expansion of the scope of the role that GRI sees itself playing moving forward. But actually, it's more than expansion. It's more than "more of the same but different". It's different. It's a rebirth and it's as risky as it is bold. In essence, in plain language, I believe the GRI might be saying something like this: Hey folks, despite the fact that almost all we have ever talked about is reporting, we have now seen the light. Reporting is not the end-game. What you do with reporting outputs is the end-game. Now we have realized this, we are going to transform what people do with reporting outputs. This is an end to the era of asking who reads reports. This is a new era where we ask how can we use the reporting process and disclosures to make better decisions. We can help transform public policy, markets, and the way everyone makes decisions. Come with us. Use us. Work with us."

This is a paradigm shift and it's actually quite clever. Other organizations have not really claimed this empowering space. Other organizations have, like GRI, been providing tools, helping to get disclosures out there, relying on the inevitability of transparency as a catalyst for change, which it is. And it works, up to a point. Many times, just by asking the questions and analyzing the data for sustainability reports, companies start to change. But at the same time, catalysts need reagents (I did an Open University course once in basic chemistry, believe it or not.) GRI's new strategic focus adds the reagent. No-one else is doing this systematically, as far as I am aware.  I believe GRI's new strategy may just be one of those things that you hear and say, hmm, that's so obvious. But for GRI, it's quite a shift. 

In recent years, GRI has been outpaced by a dynamic market that pulled companies in many, often conflicting directions in terms of sustainability disclosure. The fragmentation of the market has intensified, and according to Michael Meehan , it's not going to stop. Rather than try to dominate the reporting space, GRI now wants to harness and grow the energies in that space to deliver better outcomes. GRI calls this Empowering Sustainable Decisions. 

But, to empower implies full trust in GRI as a leader in understanding how we can not only measure, quantify and report sustainability impacts but also improve them by integrating sustainability into all processes. Empowering sustainable decisions implies that ultimately, it's the GRI reporting process and framework that is key to all that we might be able to decide in our sustainable world. The trick is what you do with it after you reported it. But where does GRI get it's legitimacy to claim this empowerment platform? 

GRI sees itself as a launch pad for innovation, but so far, innovation has not been immediately recognizable as GRI DNA. In many cases, GRI has been left out of the running in the most innovative approaches in sustainability accounting today. The Integrated Reporting movement has entirely side-stepped GRI and new, sexy integrated reports are as far from GRI as they are from actually being integrated. The entire sector discussion has whooshed over the head of GRI. SASB has cornered that space, and the smart selection of Michael Bloomberg as the SASB Chair has brought SASB the very first practical application of a SASB standard in Bloomberg's  2014 Impact Report. The whole natural capital accounting world has moved beyond the GRI frame of reference and WRI/WBCSD/CDP have driven new sustainability approaches in several sectors. Becoming a launch-pad for innovation in sustainability decision making is therefore no small ask. And as for collaboration, it takes more than a strategy to make this work. It takes others who want to collaborate. Michael Meehan already hinted that the affinity for collaboration in this space so far is not terribly exciting and creating any sort of common ground will continue to be an uphill battle. And as for better reporting, well, don't get me started, as Billy Crystal said about 3,000 times in  Mr. Saturday Night. The diplomatic way of referring to better reporting is that there is an ocean of opportunity to improve the quality of disclosures and of reporting. GRI has skillfully avoided doing anything tangible to improve the quality of reporting, focusing only on the quality of reporting frameworks and the quality of reporters through GRI training. In terms of influencing policy, although some successes have been chalked up, GRI does not figure as the framework of choice in some of the leading policy declarations we have seen in the past few years, such as the European Directive on Non-Financial Disclosure.  

The new strategy, empowering everything, is therefore going to be a real stretch. But it's the right stretch. And let's face it, GRI has a few credits in the bank to give us hope, if not yet total confidence, that GRI can pull this off. After all, GRI has led the sustainability reporting movement, there can be no doubt about that. Even if the European Directive is a little vague, as was Paragraph 47 at Rio+20 before it, there can be no doubt that GRI has steered the agenda and positively influenced outcomes that achieved something if not everything. With G4, GRI placed material impacts in high-res, and that catapulted materiality to center-stage of the discourse, well beyond the leverage that had been achieved by AccountAbility some years earlier. Even if companies are still not quite comfortable with focus - relevant transparency as I call it - we can see an emerging shift toward material disclosures in favor of any and every and all disclosures. GRI has maintained the multi-stakeholder aspect of its approach for broad legitimacy, which, despite some wobbles, remains an achievement in this space, unlike, for example, the IIRC that is dominated by investment portfolios. As Michal Meehan told me: "The multi-stakeholder approach is so valuable. It ensures you have a very considered approach to what information is relevant and necessary. It leads to users believing that the data selection is trustworthy. It means that users of reported information can trust the process that defined how the data is created. We need to make sure everyone has a voice."

On balance, then, we can afford to give GRI a couple of years to see if the new focus is starting to shape up. Some elements are in place - a very strong advocacy team, an expansive network and increasing uptake of G4. Also, we all recognize a sense of underlying frustration that is sometimes expressed around the fact that, if reporting is actually mainstream, why have we not fixed the world? Perhaps GRI and the empowering piece is what's going to make the difference. I asked Michal Meehan how he expects to measure success. What will be different in 2020 when we have the "how did we do" conversation? Michael said: "I have  a whole load of KPIs that we could put in place - but to be honest, I want to shoot for a world where you don't have sustainability professionals and other leaders in organizations sitting in silos. I am hoping to see companies integrating sustainability into all business decisions. When GRI first started up, we had to convince everyone that sustainability is important. Now, people get it. What they need is better tools to integrate sustainability into the way they make decisions."

A word of caution, however, before we get too euphoric. Let's not get so caught up being empowering that we lose sight of where we came from: the need for organizations to account for their impacts on the lives of all stakeholders (and not just their bank accounts), as the key to creating positive and sustainable change in the world on the planet. Let's not get so empowered that we forget that, at the core, we have still got to grind through the task of delivering sustainability disclosures and/or reports that are robust, relevant and balanced. 




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 www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing YOUR Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz   

Friday, May 8, 2015

Between the Lines in CSR Reports

I consider it a great privilege to do the work that I do, helping companies develop a strategic approach to corporate responsibility and account for their impacts on society through reporting. While, in general, I am guided by a business approach to corporate responsibility and sustainability, with lots of formal frameworks and disclosures and numbers and charts and value accounting in different forms, some things just make you sit up and stand back and realize again that, ultimately, it's all about people, relationships and solidarity. My work exposes me to the so many ways that companies touch people's lives that even the longest Sustainability Report in the world could never even begin to capture the positive ripple effects on individuals and communities. There are some things so inspiring and so moving that they truly change your awareness and appreciation of the real meaning of community at work. The workplace does not have to be only somewhere you go to earn a paycheck or learn new skills. It can be a place where people thrive and help others to thrive, and this is something you just can't adequately reflect in a Report. I am often deeply moved by the dedication and selflessness of individuals as I talk to so many people in the course of gathering information for the reports that I work on with different companies. I have many stories, but this one, this week, was exceptional. 

I am working on helping to prepare the Caesars Entertainment Corporation Citizenship Report for 2014-2015, the third G4 report that Caesars will publish later this year. We have a lot of numbers to crunch and narrative to edit before then! But in meantime, I have had the privilege to connect directly with some of the Caesars HEROs. HEROs is Caesars long standing corporate volunteering initiative that engages thousands of employees, collectively clocking up almost 200,000 hours each year to engage with causes they are passionate about, including initiatives funded by the Caesars Foundation. The opportunities that Caesars Entertainment creates for employees to get active in their communities help employees enrich their own lives and the lives of others in incredible ways. There are so many HEROs throughout the Caesars organization and each one is deserving of recognition. I have had the good fortune to connect with several during the work on this and prior Citizenship Reports and all are equally inspiring. The one that prompted this post is the story of Joan Bish, Boat Operations Supervisor at Horseshoe Hammond Casino

Joan is a dedicated volunteer, donating hundreds of hours of her time each year to several causes. One is the Employee Garden where employees come together to nurture vegetables and sell the resulting produce, directing funds to a local food bank to help in the  fight against hunger. Another is the St.Baldrick's Foundation's event, where employees shave their heads or donate their locks to raise money for childhood cancer research. And at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, Joan completed a walk of more than 50 miles. However, what really caught my eye and captured my emotions was the initiative Joan undertook to recognize, support and pay tribute to fellow workers who are fighting their battle with cancer. In a personal mission, covering hours of travel across two U.S. states and visiting with 7 families, Joan created a video that is... well.. I have no more words. Watch it for yourself. 





Watching this video brought home to me the many ways that workplaces become communities of people, good people who want to be good to others, who want to leave a legacy of good and who actually do. The opportunities that companies create that enable employees to step up and get involved are probably one of the most important  aspects of corporate citizenship, and so often, we report that as a number or a result in a chart. There is no chart than can express the profound meaning of this kind of activity and no spreadsheet that can express the way this activity truly enriches lives. That's why I had to stop and share my reflections with you. Perhaps there may be some inspiration you can gain from this in your workplace. 

Perhaps this story touched me so specifically because, just a couple of years ago, my dearest sister-in law heartbreakingly lost her battle with ovarian cancer at the young age of 63 after a three year heroic fight with the support of our family and community. Ovarian cancer is the one that, by the time it's diagnosed, it's usually too late, as it creeps up on women, almost symptomless, until it's so deeply embedded in your body that you can never cut it out. Early detection is the only way to beat ovarian cancer, and new research proves that. I am incredibly proud of my two nieces who, as they continue to suffer the pain of losing their mother, maintain the fight to raise awareness for ovarian cancer, support cancer research and help women be proactive about demanding tests for early detection. My niece, Sarah, who runs her own consultancy, The Athena Programme, that supports safeguarding of children in our communities and workplaces, was interviewed this week for the local news in the UK.



As, during this period, I am deeply embedded in "reporting season",  which consumes pretty much all my time and energy for several months, I have to put my other true passion, blogging about reporting (you know I am a geek) on a back-burner until I resurface in another few weeks. But I couldn't help stopping everything and writing this post to recognize Caesars, all the hundreds of Caesars HEROs including Joan, Sarah and Susan (my nieces) and all the unsung heroes who are making the world a better place. It's worth remembering that, as you look at numbers and charts in Sustainability Reports, there's a another dimension that's only visible between the lines, but it's no less relevant and probably, in the long run, more important.



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 www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing YOUR Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz   

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ajinomoto: Courageous reporting practice

I have always admired the Ajinomoto company of Japan, and back in 2010, I published a review of Ajinomoto's 2009 report. This time, five years later, I returned to Ajinomoto, at the company's request, to review the most recent 2014 Sustainability Report covering fiscal 2013 activities and prepare a commentary for publication. And it was a great pleasure to do so. (I have fond memories of visiting the Ajinomoto offices and factories in Tokyo back in the 1990s at a time when I had never even heard the terms Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability. The strong positive impressions of the way Ajinomoto works and warm hospitality of the totally wonderful people I met there remain with me today).  

Ajinomoto is no stranger to Sustainability Reporting. Ajinomoto started publishing an annual Environmental Report in 2001 and then in 2004, published a first CSR Report, demonstrating a commitment to a broader concept of CSR, beyond the scope of environmental stewardship alone. Through 2004 - 2011, Ajinomoto published two reports in tandem, until in 2012, the group made the transition to publishing one Sustainability Report encompassing the full spectrum of disclosures. The 2014 Sustainability Report is the third full Sustainability Report. 


This current report tells a strong story of Ajinomoto's contribution to healthy eating and healthy living. Ajinomoto has a well-defined approach to sustainability that has two broad elements: sustainable contribution and responsible behavior.


My commentary is on page 141:


Here it is in full:

"
In today’s world, it is not enough to simply be a food or food-ingredient producer. Leading companies view their contribution to society more holistically by identifying and managing the impacts they generate throughout their entire value chain. Such companies, for example, strive to educate consumers and help them adopt healthier and more sustainable lifestyles. In addition, leading companies aspire to conduct their business in an ethical and responsible way. Ajinomoto’s 2014 Sustainability Report addresses both of these aspects of sustainable business. The first part of the report represents Ajinomoto’s three broad areas of contribution: promoting healthy living, conserving food resources and advancing global sustainability. The second part of the report describes Ajinomoto’s responsible practices using the ISO26000 as a framework approach. 

Overall, this is a comprehensive report that covers all the issues we might expect a food company to address, including nutrition and lifestyle, the use of technology and science to improve resource efficiency, sustainable agriculture and land-use, governance, compliance, human rights and employee engagement, health and safety. In all areas, Ajinomoto demonstrates a strong understanding of what’s at stake and what, as a food company, it can and should contribute. Evidence of stakeholder dialogue adds credibility to Ajinomoto’s selection of areas where the company can add value. 

Some of Ajinomoto’s activities are particularly impressive. The company’s investment in externally assured lifecycle carbon footprinting across seven key seasoning ingredients demonstrates advanced commitment to understanding and improving resource efficiency throughout the value chain. Ajinomoto’s approach to circular resource use – using by-products of amino-acid production as fertilizer for crop sources for amino-acids - is an example of sustainable practice. Demonstrating the environmental benefits of amino-acids in feed for livestock supports sustainable agriculture. Innovations in sustainable packaging, including the use of biomass plastic, are leading edge. The extensive engagements in a range of countries to improve nutrition in the Ajinomoto International Cooperation Network for Nutrition and Health (AIN) program show a real commitment to adding value to society. 

One of the challenges of sustainable business is measuring the impacts of company activities and their effects on people, society and the environment. It is not enough to focus on, and report, what you are doing. The real measure of progress is what changes as a result of what you do. In this context, I believe Ajinomoto could go further in identifying and measuring the outcomes of its activities and reporting these outcomes to stakeholders. For example, Ajinomoto relates stories of how the company provides new food alternatives for consumers in Brazil and Pakistan and advances material and infant nutrition in Ghana. These initiatives are commendable but the real question is: how are they actually improving lives and to what extent? Reporting evidence of change as a result of these initiatives would help us appreciate Ajinomoto’s efforts and understand the true value of the company’s contribution to improving healthy lifestyles. 

Similarly, Ajinomoto’s work in sustainable sourcing of skipjack tuna, palm oil, paper and coffee beans is described in the report and Ajinomoto’s initiatives here are impressive. However, reporting actual consumption of these resources and the percentage of each that is sourced sustainably would help clarify the extent of Ajinomoto’s progress. 

While Ajinomoto provides a comprehensive report, it is long. This is partly due to the inclusion of extensive background narrative for the issues Ajinomoto addresses in the report. An understanding of relevant context is important, but it is performance and outcomes that stakeholders need to understand. In future reporting, I believe this narrative could be significantly reduced in a much shorter report that focuses on what matters. Similarly, the report describes policies and approaches in detail, sometimes excessively, without following through on performance. For example, Ajinomoto notes an intention to "promote more women to management positions". Women employees account for just 27% of Ajinomoto’s global workforce and 15% of managers. For a company whose products are largely targeted at women, there is an opportunity to reinforce Ajinomoto’s commitment to women (and therefore society as a whole) by outlining clear plans of action with goals and targets. Another example relates to employee safety. Ajinomoto’s safety data shows that safety of workers outside Japan is far less positive than in Japan. With 65% of Ajinomoto’s permanent workforce outside Japan, reporting a specific plan to address safety at a global level would seem imperative. I would recommend Ajinomoto to consider this in its next report. 

Alongside this, few truly long-term aspirations are presented. Sustainable business goes beyond a three year management plan, and sustainable change takes longer to achieve, especially in a company as dynamic and complex as Ajinomoto. I recommend Ajinomoto to develop a core set of targets to 2020 that can be used to drive, measure and report future progress. Ajinomoto has been around for 105 years. Ajinomoto’s commitment to sustainable business and transparency gives me confidence that the company will be around for at least another 105 years. Therefore, a longer planning and target-setting horizon would be welcome.
"

The practice of asking independent experts from around the world to review and comment on a Sustainability Report is quite widespread among Asian reporters. While an external commentary is not exactly "engagement" in the fullest sense of the word (and does not replace ongoing stakeholder engagement), there is something rather courageous about asking independent experts to review and comment on a Sustainability Report, and then publishing their independent commentaries in full. I can confirm that Ajinomoto published my comments with no editing, and did not try to influence me in any way about what to write or what to focus on. The only limitation I was given was a word-count. 

I was also happy to read three additional expert commentaries in the same 2014 Ajinomoto report.
  • Deborah Leipziger, Professor at Hult International Business School and a Senior Fellow at the Lewis Institute at Babson College.
  • Mark Feldman, Managing Director of Cause Consulting.
  • Dr. Wong Lai Yong, Founder of First Penguin and social responsibility and human resources development consultant.

All three experts provided a truly interesting and diverse range of insights that are well worth reading. Ajinomoto's openness in requesting and publishing such commentaries is to be admired, though, one hopes, that these will not remain at the level of words on pages. Each expert articulated different pieces of very practical advice to assist Ajinomoto in its ongoing reporting journey. The hope is that this advice and guidance will be carefully analyzed within the Ajinomoto reporting team and company management, and that, where relevant, suggestions may be adopted to help make Ajinomoto's next report even more relevant and useful to stakeholders.

I look forward to seeing the next Ajinomoto Sustainability Report. In the meantime, Ajinomoto's current report provides, in the words of Dr Wong Lai Yong, "a strong example that Ajinomoto is willing to walk the talk." 



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 www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing YOUR Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz   

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Businesses (still) discriminate against women

So. Another International Women's Day has come and gone. Celebrating the achievements of women. Doesn't do much for me, I have to say. The implication is that it's sort of amazing or even surprising that women achieve anything at all. Unlike men, for whom achievement is apparently quite natural as they don't have a Day all to themselves, international or otherwise. International Women's Day to me is quite unnecessary. As a woman, wife, mother, business-owner and yes, achiever, in my own modest way, I don't really need a Day. I am happy to celebrate my own achievements in my own way whenever I feel I want to.  

On the other hand, none of us can have any doubt that the need to create a society in which fair and equal opportunity for women exists is no less acute than it ever was. And that, apparently, takes longer than a Day. The position of women in society - certain societies - has improved over the years, but women are still discriminated against. This applies to business as much as it applies in other walks of life. No matter how many sets of Women's Empowerment Principles exist, gender equality in business is still somewhat of a distant dream. 

Sustainability. How can business be sustainable when it discriminates against women? Even the most advanced "sustainable" businesses discriminate. Let's be clear. If women do not have balanced representation in business, discrimination is present. It may not be overt, declared or even desired, but it's there. This is not resolved by adding women to Boards of Directors. It's fairly easy to pluck selected distinguished women and place them on (rather impotent) Boards of Directors so that the numbers look better. I would be interested in seeing research that shows what influence women Directors are actually having in influencing the way business does business. Forgive me for being a little skeptical.

I am more interested in how women have equal opportunity to enter and advance in business, especially the large, typically male-dominated companies that do business around the world. Many consumer goods companies actually target women who make most of the purchasing decisions for their products and yet women's representation in their senior management committees is pathetic. 

Corporate Knights makes a big splash every year announcing the Global 100 - most sustainable corporations - at the World Economic Forum. By all accounts, this is one of the better lists (although all rankings serve the rankers more than the ranked). With the Global 100, the methodology is clear, transparent, and covers the spectrum of sustainability performance areas. In 2015, however, the ten companies that headed up the Global 100 list have just 11% of women in their Executive Committees. They have a higher rate of women on the Boards of Directors, but where it really counts, women in senior executive roles, the figures are rubbish. At the same time, most of these companies have workforces that are 40 - 60% composed of women. What happens to women when they join these companies? How come that, in a combined workforce of almost 200,000 women in these ten top companies, only 9 get a key to the executive committee room? Men, on the other hand, have a better chance of getting a seat on the Executive Committee by a factor of almost five. Three of these top ten companies have ZERO women on their executive committees. So you tell me, are these companies discriminating against women or aren't they? (Hint: not no).



Biogen Idec: The world's most sustainable company has 17% women representation on it's executive management team. That's 2 women out of a team of 12. The two women are the Chief Legal Officer and the VP for Technology and Business Solutions. This is what Biogen Idec says about women in its 2013 Sustainability Report:

"To continue to thrive as a company and an industry, we must advance leadership opportunities for women. In 2013, the Women’s Forum of New York formally recognized our commitment as one of the 174 U.S.-based companies honored at the event for having a board of directors that is at least 20 percent women. Women currently make up just over half of our global workforce, and 40 percent of our management team. As we continue to advance in this area, one way we are striving to close this gender gap is through our Women’s Innovation Network (WIN) Employee Resource Group, which provides opportunities for women to network, learn, seek out mentors and develop their careers. Though primarily focused on women’s careers and leadership, WIN proactively recruits and welcomes employees of all gender identities who wish to act as allies. At present, more than 800 women and men from across the enterprise are members of the network."

This is how Biogen Idec represents the numbers visually:
Note how the high numbers stand out... 51.5% total women  and 40% women in management. Wonder why there is no visual presentation of women on the Executive Management Team. That would read:
17%
Aside from a resource group (dubious effectiveness in actually helping get women promoted), I don't see evidence of a plan to improve women at executive team level.

Allergan: The world's second most sustainable corporation has ZERO women on its executive management team. Yes, ZERO. Yet, this is what Allergan says about women in its 2013 Sustainability Report

"In 2013, women comprised 53% of our workforce and 40% of our leadership roles. This includes more than 39% of our manager and director roles, and nearly 27% of our executive positions. We were also fortunate to have one exceptional female member of our Board of Directors who brings truly exceptional credentials to our organization and is committed to its development."

Note how the high numbers stand out. 53% of the workforce at Allergan means more than 6,100 women. Not a single one worthy of helping to run the company. And the "exceptional" female director doesn't seem to be able to do anything about it. Allergan says nothing about any plans to address this gender imbalance in its organization. 

Allergan website - gender balance in action. Not.
Instead of talking about 27% of executive positions, Allergan should highlight the percentage of women executive team members, i.e.  
0%
And perhaps in its reporting, the company might like to explain how it is that zero women are worthy of senior leadership, and what if anything, the company plans to do about it. 

adidas: The third most sustainable corporation in the world has ZERO women on the Executive Team. The Adidas 2013 Sustainability Report includes a 2014 milestone to "Systematically increase the percentage of women in leadership positions." The website expands a little, stating: "The adidas Group has set itself concrete goals in line with its corporate culture and employee structure to increase the number of women in leadership positions in the coming years. The proportion of women in management is to be increased to at least 32% by 2015 (currently, the proportion is 26% in Germany and 28% worldwide). To achieve this goal, we have increased the proportion of women participating in our leadership development programmes to 35%. This is to help more women take up leadership positions in all areas of the company. We had already achieved this corporate goal at the end of 2012."

Note how adidas quotes the big numbers relating to women in leadership. But, if Adidas were to highlight the number of women on the Executive Management team, the result would look like this
0%
adidas employs more than 50,000 people. Not one single woman worthy of an executive team position. 

Keppel Land: This is the fourth most sustainable company in the world, according to Corporate Knights. And Keppel Land has the highest ratio of women on the senior management team, 2 out of a team of 6, which is 33%. Keppel Land is a real estate company, employing less than 4,00 people in total. And yet, even with such a small total workforce compared to other companies in the top ten sustainables, Keppel Land managed to identify two worthy women leaders, both of them in significant business P&L roles. 
33%

Kesko: The fifth most sustainable corporation has 1 woman out of a team of 8 on the senior executive team (Group Management Board). This is with a workforce of 45,000 employees of whom more than 50% are women. The one woman is the General Legal Counsel.  Rate of women in executive management? 
13%

BMW: The sixth most sustainable company with more than 100,000 employees can manage just 1 woman on the Board of Management out of a team of 8. The woman is the Human Resources Manager. Despite this, BMW has by far the lowest rate of women out of these top ten companies in the total workforce at 17%. Don't women buy cars? I hope they don't buy BMWs.


BMW women in Management:
13%

Reckitt Benckiser Group: The seventh most sustainable company has 1 woman on an executive team of 8.

13%

Centrica: Centrica has one woman in a team of seven top execs. Centrica's website displays some interactive charts that show different performance indicators, including this one for women. Lots of room on this chart for improvement.....



14%

Schneider Electric: This ninth most sustainable company has the largest senior management team of all the top ten. A whopping 15 members. You might think this would give opportunity to find a few women from the 153,000 people in the Schneider workforce to help lead the company. As it stands, just one makes the grade.


Overall women in the Executive Team?
6%

Danske Bank: Perhaps it's fitting that the tenth most sustainable company in the world rounds off this sorry state of women's affairs with a big ZERO women in the management Executive Board.


However, Danske Bank does make a commitment - one of the few that does:

This is not entirely out of the blue. This is what prompted Danske Bank to get more women-action-oriented: 

"In 2012, the Danish Parliament adopted legislation to ensure equal rights for men and women in private organisations. The law requires Danish companies to set specific targets for the number of women on the Board of Directors and to develop policies to increase the number of women in leadership positions. In their annual reporting, companies must also report on the progress made towards these targets and on the implementation of a diversity policy. We have already come a long way in developing a diversified and inclusive workforce, but we recognise that we still have some work ahead of us.

12.5% women on the Executive Board  of six members adds up to 0.75 women. I wonder which 0.25 part they are planning to leave out? Nonetheless, appointing three quarters of a woman executive by 2017 (four years from the 2013 report publication) is some sort of commitment, but forgive me if I am not falling off my seat. Today the score is:
0%


Well, all that was rather disappointing. I confess to being a little surprised that companies that are named as "most sustainable" are so unwilling to promote women. I am sure none of them will admit to discrimination among their ranks. But look at the numbers. Draw your own conclusions. It will take more than an International Women's Day to fix this. In fact, several Days haven't. Let's move on from a Day to Every Day.  




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 www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing YOUR Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz   
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