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:  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

10 Sustainability Insights from the Oil and Gas Industry

I have often said that business is done in sectors. A sector-based approach offers a platform for developing a shared appreciation of sustainability opportunities, risks, benefits and challenges while providing leverage for change and a support network for non-competitive knowledge sharing. Last month, I was delighted to engage with the Oil and Gas Industry for a day of working together all about sustainability reporting. I was able to share insights, recommendations and an external perspective while gaining a deeper understanding of the constraints and considerations that reporting specialists share in the large, complex, established companies in this industry, most of which have been reporting for years. For me, this was both an enriching experience and an opportunity to help. 

My reporting day was hosted as part of an annual meeting of members of IPIECA - the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues. IPIECA was formed in 1974 following the launch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). IPIECA is the only global association involving both the upstream and downstream oil and gas industry on environmental and social issues. IPIECA’s membership covers over half of the world’s oil production. 

The core of IPIECA's mission and practical agenda is the development of the sector as a social and environmentally responsible player. IPIECA's most recent publication a couple of months ago was the Third Edition of Sustainability Reporting Guidance for the Oil and Gas Industry to help companies report across the industry's most common sustainability issues in a consistent way and in line with shared stakeholder expectations.

The 180 page volume of guidance draws on several years of reporting experience in the sector and external independent stakeholder input. It covers both the reporting process (and principles) and reporting guidance including what's material for Oil and Gas. The principles are simply stated: relevance, transparency, consistency, completeness and accuracy.

The IPIECA guidance also suggests a set of the most significant issues commonly associated with the oil and gas industry, broadly referring to types of sustainability aspects, including risks, impacts and benefits, related to the life cycle and value chain of a company’s activities.

The IPIECA reporting guidance suggests a list of 34 performance indicators that are likely to be relevant to companies reporting in this sector. Fairly straightforward - 11 greenie ones, 5 health and safety, and 18 across workplace and community.  

But then... the reporting guidance makes a distinction between three types of reporting elements: the common ones... that means, essentially, there's no point in producing a report unless you include these; the supplemental ones, that means, basically, a good selection of your peers probably already report so you should consider including if you want to be at the top of the game and finally, others. Others is what differentiates you.

And here is an example I prepared earlier:

So E1 - greenhouse gas emissions - actually becomes 10 separate indicators, some of which are very specifically tailored to the oil and gas industry. Ultimately, it's not so different from the GRI approach, where performance indicators are grouped into categories and aspects. IPIECA has selected 34 aspects for its member reporters - GRI G4 as you may recall has 46 aspects. Many companies in this sector choose to report GRI as well as being guided by IPIECA, and a cross-reference of the different performance indicators in each framework is provided.

The IPIECA approach makes for a simple and straightforward content index - see this one in Chevron's 2014 report - it is somewhat less cumbersome than a full GRI Content Index as the sub-indicators - the different reporting elements - are not identified in the index.

I think it's a great thing that a sector proactively provides guidance and comprehensive tools for the member companies. It's more than just guidance - it's a demonstration of accountability for driving the sector forward with a shared expectation around sustainability practice and transparency. The value of the debate in developing the framework, the value of the learning in applying the reporting guidance and the value of reviewing the challenges of reporting are immense. That's how it seemed to me in my working day with many companies from the Oil and Gas industry, including sustainability reporting representatives of BG Group, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation, Marathon Oil, Noble Energy, OMV, Repsol, Shell, Statoil, Total and Tullow Oil.

In our workshop day, we discussed three aspects of reporting that are always fascinating:

  • planning the reporting process
  • defining and reporting materiality
  • reporting climate change
And while I am not able to disclose the details of the discussions that took place throughout the day, I did receive permission to share a small selection of the closing insights that the 25 or so people in the room shared at the end of the day. 

10: Prioritizing material issues: Care needs to be taken when prioritizing material issues - it's not always as straightforward as it might seem. Overly mechanical formulas or highly detailed positioning of issues on a matrix may not be as valuable as the time invested. Not every material issue is more or less important than other issues. Sometimes they are the same. There also needs to be a balance in reporting to ensure that issues that are not identified as most material are not completely omitted as some stakeholders may require these.

9: Additional resources: You don't have to cram everything into your report. In some cases, supplementary content can be added as an appendix or a web-page. Not everything needs to be upfront narrative.

8: Less is more:  (ha ha, no further comment)

7: Tighten the timeline: In the oil and gas industry, companies are very large and complex and global data collection takes the time that it takes. Often this, together with other reporting considerations, can drag out the reporting timeline across several months - in a survey of IPIECA member companies before the workshop, we discovered that the average reporting cycle was more than 8 months. If you are reporting annually, this doesn't leave too much time to go to the beach. I am pretty clear on this. Any report that takes more than 6 months to prepare from concept to publication is taking too long. And that's generous. While there are often practical considerations that delay the publication of the report, the more you can compact the timeline, the more time you have for making progress rather than making reporting.

6: Give up the search for the perfect formula: This is so true. In preparation for my work with the sector, I reviewed 15 Oil and Gas Sustainability Reports from 2014. Despite the fact that all these companies are in the same industry, the reports all have their individual character, style, tone and content focus. Each company is at a different stage of development along the sustainability journey. So, while I was able to share insights on the different ways of defining, prioritizing and presenting material issues, and participants took away new ideas, one size does not fit all and there is absolutely no perfect reporting formula for all organizations, only one for each organization.

5: Balance the broad and the narrow: It's important to find a middle ground between reporting at a broad level about complex issues versus increasing the resolution to report at a more granular level on specific issues. How do you represent that your overall carbon footprint reduction is made up of a thousand small actions and impacts, and which of those, if any, are worth highlighting? This is something worth thinking about as you plan your report process and content.

4: Get the design right: Everyone would agree that content precedes design. If you don't have relevant content, even the best of designers will fail to make your report credible. Yet, getting the design right for your corporate culture and sustainability content can make the report come alive in ways that words alone cannot. Careful use of infographics, any photography other than stock photography and controlled use of colors, fonts and styles will only improve the appeal and readability of your report.

3: Stakeholders were not all born equal: Don't let individual stakeholder groups dominate your content and do map and prioritize your stakeholders in advance and decide what you need from them and how you will represent their voices in your report. Giving stakeholders a voice - letting them tell your story - is often a proven route to credibility.

2: Link materiality to metrics: How many reports, especially with the fuller adoption of G4, now include a materiality matrix or list of material impacts. Yes, most or all. How many create a clear linkage (I call this the "materiality audit trail") between what's stated as material and all the rest of the report content - performance indicators, case studies, policy narrative etc? Oops. Rather few. So often, there is a gaping dissonance between what the report says it should be about and what it actually includes. But getting this alignment is not enough. The report user should be able to easily and quickly find the link between material impact and reporting content about that impact. I generally apply the "ten-minute rule" - if I can't find something after ten minutes of trying, for me, it doesn't exist. We have to make the link between materiality, content and metrics both available and quick to locate.

1: Have confidence: It's tempting to get derailed in reporting - there are so many frameworks, guidelines and complex rules and requirements that you can spend forever questioning yourself on the right way to go and the best way to pull it all together. But this can lead to a spiral of indecision that can delay the report process and dilute the content. Often the best way is simply to make your selection of how to frame and develop your report, and then have confidence in your approach and make it happen. No-one knows what you might have done. Everyone sees what you do. Best feel good about it and present it with pride. There are no bad Sustainability Reports. There are only Sustainability Reports that can help us improve our sustainability performance and disclosure. Each report is a learning platform, but it's also an achievement to be proud of.

And one more insight from me:

Even though we didn't have ice cream throughout this day-long meeting :-), it was one of the best sustainability days I have had in a while: a dialogue with like-minded professionals who are eager to do their honest best for their company, society and planet. I didn't even miss the ice cream!

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, October 26, 2015

7 examples of inspiring corporate citizenship

It's that time of the year again when I share with you the publication of Caesars Entertainment's annual Citizenship Report. This time the selected theme is "Inspiring Citizenship." Inspiring because citizenship inspires Caesars employees to perform their roles in the business with citizenship in mind. Inspiring because as Caesars employees engage across a host of activities to advance society and preserve the environment, they inspire others. This is the sixth annual Citizenship Report by this leading gaming-entertainment company and the third that I have been proud to work on. It's the third G4 core report, and covers performance in 2014 with stories through part of 2015.

It's always hard to summarize a report that contains a wealth of information about so many aspects of the company's operations. At Caesars, whether it's about Responsible Gaming, employee engagement, charitable giving, sustainable sourcing, policy activism or another topic, the report covers the ground. I've had to work really hard to limit this post to just 7 examples of how Caesars creates and gains value through inspiring citizenship to give you a flavor of what you can learn from the Caesars report this year.

ONE: Contributing to economic development 
Each year, Caesars has loads to tell about the way its core business actively advances economic development wherever the company operates. This is more than just doing business; it's doing business in a way that's designed to make a positive impact. In Baltimore, for example, in a year of operation, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore supported tourism with a big welcome to more than 2 million guests, created almost 2,000 jobs, hired more than 66% of the workforce from the within city limits, and established an ongoing community program with support for more than 45 social organizations through donations and >800 hours of employee volunteering time. Through Horseshoe Baltimore, Caesars has provided opportunity for many small businesses who have set up shop in the casino’s food court and has partnered with celebrity chefs including John Besh and Aarón Sanchez to bring Johnny Sanchez to Baltimore for an upscale dining experience. In its inaugural year, Horseshoe Baltimore contributed to developing local prosperity for the citizens of Baltimore though paying more than $42 million in taxes (casino companies are one of the most highly taxed businesses in the U.S.). In fact, overall, Caesars generates $5.9 million of contributed value for its communities for every $10 million in revenue, triple the estimated average of U.S. corporations. 

TWO: Transforming resorts and tourist venues  
When Caesars invests in new facilities, it invests in a big way, making a difference to the value and appeal of cities and resorts that need a boost. This is the case in the Las Vegas where Caesars has invested nearly a billion dollars in the heart of The Strip with the addition of The LINQ and the High Roller, the world's tallest observation wheel.  In Atlantic City, Caesars has just opened up a new $126 million conference center project, the Waterfront Conference Center at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, that is already attracting big events and has bookings through 2019. 
THREE: Encouraging employees to be well 
Caesars has for years maintained one of the most extensive award-winning wellbeing packages for employees available in the market. Employees are incentivized to look after their own health and wellbeing by taking advantage of the benefits that Caesars provides through the Wellness Rewards program. Caesars employs 28 qualified WellNurses that are stationed at Caesars properties throughout the U.S. to help care for employees. Employees who participate in wellness activities earn two things: they feel better, get more out of life and are more productive at work AND they save money - up to $3,600 per year for themselves and their partners in tangible rewards through the program. This benefits Caesars who saves millions of dollars in medical plans and it benefits society as the healthcare burden of cost is significantly lower. The program has delivered tangible outcomes to date in terms of lowering health risks across Caesars employee base.

FOUR: Preserving the environment 
Caesars' CodeGreen strategy established in 2007 includes environmental targets as well as other social targets. On the environmental side, Caesars continued to make progress, achieving cumulative reductions in resource usage, exceeding several targets for 2014 and 2015.

In early 2014, in the light of strong performance, Caesars updated long-term targets and added new 2020 targets for energy, GHG emissions, water and waste diversion. This also includes a commitment to science-based climate change targets for 2020 and 2025 to reduce GHG emissions per 1,000 airconditioned sq. feet by 30% and 40% by 2025 respectively on a cumulative basis against a 2007 baseline. This is industry leading performance to date and industry-leading commitments for the future.

FIVE: Engaging employees in citizenship 
One of the things that Caesars does tremendously well - and having worked with Caesars now for a few years I experience this first-hand in the conversations I have with people from all around the company - is inspire employees to contribute to making the world a better place. Employees are invited to take part in a range of CodeGreen activities - far too numerous to mention here (you will have to read the report ;-)). However, one of the highlights I did want to mention is the recognition for employees who work so hard for their communities. In the 2014-2015 Citizenship Report, Caesars celebrates outstanding employee HEROs. HEROs is Caesars employee volunteer program that offers a host of opportunities to get involved in community causes, including those supported by the Caesars Foundation. In 2014, Caesars started a new peer and manager HERO Stars recognition program for HEROs and seven employees were selected and honored in the first cohort. Actually, in 2015, after the Citizenship Report was published, three of these HEROs were invited to Caesars Client Educational Experience Week in  Atlantic City to take part in one of Caesars Meeting and Events Team's week of meetings involving community volunteering with customers. A fabulous way to recognize and reward employees whose dedication and investment in local communities is unwavering. In the 2014-2015 Citizenship Report, Caesars celebrates these HERO Stars.

SIX: A leading light  
Every company needs a leading light to drive corporate citizenship activities, in addition to a committed CEO, and at Caesars, passionate and unwavering inspiration for great citizenship comes from Jan Jones, Executive Vice President of Communications, Government Relations and Corporate Responsibility. A former Mayor of Las Vegas, Jan is very present in supporting Caesars' citizenship strategy and guiding the reporting process. She is outspoken on behalf of Caesars on important matters of public policy, including immigrant rights, LGBT rights and healthcare. Her delight was tangible when in mid-2015, the U.S. Supreme Court published a breakthrough ruling to make same-sex marriage a fundamental right across the country. Jan immediately published her support on behalf of Caesars Entertainment, emphasizing the relevance this ruling has for businesses and workforce diversity and inclusion. Perhaps it's no surprise that with Jan at the helm, the Caesars workforce includes 41% women managers as a total of all mangers, 57% employees from minority groups and 36% of employees over the age of 50 - a diversity record to be proud of.  

SEVEN: Gwen  
The final highlight of this report is mainly behind the scenes. Gwen Migita, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship, is the one who tirelessly makes it all happen, driving CodeGreen, community partnerships, employee awareness and engagement and reporting. Always with an eye on the big picture, Gwen works at a level of detail and precision to move corporate citizenship forward at Caesars with determination, skill and boundless passion. Want to know a little more about what makes Gwen tick? See these two recent interviews: the first from April 2015 in the Guardian Sustainable Business where Gwen talks about coming out at work and the second from Fortune Magazine from May 2014 with ten questions to Gwen on sustainability and social justice and more.  If you don't have someone like Gwen in your company, you need to. Every company needs a Gwen. 

Finally, as always, take a look at Caesars 2014-2015 Citizenship 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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