Friday, February 20, 2009

can cows save the planet ?

hi blog and blog-readers,

been a while since i last posted .... too busy reporting, i guess. Working on two fascinating reports at present, amongst other things... important and exciting work.

In between times, i am reading a good book called Reporting Non-Financials by Kaevan Gazdar.
Kaevan takes us through a multitude of csr reports and companies who report on csr. He maintains that nonfinancial reporting is a way to present the company's true value, much of which is not reflected in the company's annual report. "How can today's value drivers be reflected in corporate reporting ? he asks. There are tremendous insights and relevant guidance for reporters and those who read reports in this book which i thoroughly recommend.

A few more quotes from Keavan which i particularly enjoyed:

"Most companies churn out documentations in the guise of reports; information is given because its available, not because it is important" (page 280)
"The real trade-off for ambitious reporters is between trade-off and detail"(page 73)
As a reporter, i agree that some of the hardest decisions are around what to leave out.

'Printed reporting has the great advantage of forcing a certain basic structure on report producers" (page 281)
As a GRI reporter, I agree that structure is necessary for reporting. A report, by definition, contains all the relevant data and information in one place. Reporting solely on a website, simply by cross-linking to all bits of information relating to csr, may count in terms of transparency but doesn't usually make for a coherent and complete report.

"Reasearch carried out by the HR consultants Watson Wyatt in 16 European countries shows that companies with strong HR management deliver almost twice as much shareholder value as their average competitors"(Page 132)
As a former VP HR, and as a consultant / reporter specialising in reponsible workplace issues, i have seen time and time again the benefits of good HR practices in moving the business forward, and in supporting sustainability.

"Independent verification certainly increases the respectability of the reporting effort"(page 186)
And as an assurer, I couldn't agree more ...

By the way, i am sure you will notice that my selection of quotations is entirely random, with absolutely no connection to my interests or fields of expertise, right ?

So to compensate for all that self-promotion, I will ask you to contemplate the question:

can cows save the planet ?

I read this article (courtesy of Corporate Citizenship media briefing) about Cadbury's (the chocolate company and a super reporter) who are working with 65 famers in the UK to find a way to reduce cows from burping (belching, making impolite noises , you know). Apparently all these burping cows are responsible for a big part of our global warming, in the form of methane emissions. "Contrary to common belief, most gas emerges from their front, not rear ends." By changing the cow's diet, the gases they belch can be sustantially reduced, apparently. (Hmmm, I wonder if this will work with my husband ?!)

Well, in any event, this sounds like truly breakthrough creative thinking in sustainability and i for one look forward to a more sustainable future with burpless cows and belchless bulls.
(I guess if we drank less milk and ate less beef, we could make a similar impact, no ?)

So this got me wondering what Cadbury's will be writing in their next csr report.
Probably something like this:

Cadbury's is committed to saving the planet, and reducing global warming. In order to reduce the negative impacts of our supply chain, we have started to provide a diet to our cows which consists of methane-blech-inhibiting-organic-pasture-farmed-grassland food enriched with fumaric acid and vitamin b3. The result of this is a 48.3% reduction in methane gas burped by cows, which means that for every 200g bar of chocolate consumed by our stakeholders, the negative effect on global warming is reduced by 0.0723%. In an interview with cow farmers, who are fully supportive of this move, we asked if the cows are happy now that they are not belching so much. One farmer replied "We believe our cows are totally appreciative of our efforts to save the planet. Now they can do something constructive instead of just waiting around to be slaughtered for Sunday lunch. "

Perhaps the GRI will develop a reporting indicator for cow-belching reduction?
I hope not.
If i have to assure Cadbury's report, i prefer not to be travelling to UK cow farms counting burps.
Well, if they give me enough Dairy Milk chocolate, i might consider it .....



Chris Jarvis said...

Ok, that was by far one of the more 'readable' blogs in this field of CSR. Honestly, very fun. Thanks as well for the heads up on Gazdar's book. I'll be on the lookout for it.

elaine said...

thanks Chris. If it's fun, it gets done. Apparently Cadbury also take that view. Must be great fun observing cows belching. :-) though in all seriousness, i guess we should leave no stones unturned (and no gastro processes unchecked) in the pursuit of sustainability. Well done to Cadbury for making progress..... burp.

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