Monday, October 26, 2009

How do you picture CSR ?

A client of mine said "Elaine, look at the Nikon 2009 CSR report! It it impressive or what ?" And when a client says that, you ain't got not choice but to look, right?  I looked at the report. In fact, i scanned the report quickly, in between bites of Chunky Monkey. The report  seems to be very comprehensive and packed with lots of  detail. Here follows the essence of my 58 second review. I always look for some key things (especially when the company has reported several times):
GRI Index: I took a look at Nikon GRI index  which shows that a number of key indicators are not reported, though the report is very full. It's probably a B level report. As this is their 8th reporting cycle, I wonder why they are not able to report key metrics more fully.
Assurance: It is not assured (brief stakeholder commentaries at the end do not count as assurance) so this reduces credibility in my view.
Materiality: There is no materiality index showing the most important issues – this is critical for an experienced reporter.
Stakeholder engagement: I couldn’t see ways in which Nikon engages stakeholders, reports specifically on their issues and responds to them in this report
The President or CEO statement : This is quite a good statement highlighting the things that are important to Nikon and providing a strategic perspective.
My bottom line after super-quick review: strong positive reporting, very high on detail, less high on focus.

However, this is not why i wrote this post. What I really wanted to draw attention to is something else i discovered on the Nikon website: the CSR Photo Story. The 10 photos in the CSR story were selected from  47,000 entries in the Nikon Photo Contest International 2006-2007,  from Australia, Brazil, Iran, Korea, Japan, Turkey and more.  This annual contest has been held since 1969 and draws photography from people of every background and age all over the world.

The narrative accompanying the CSR story starts like this:
When you were young, what kind of person did you wish to be?
Someone people trust? Someone creative? A kind person?  A strong person? Someone who pursues their dreams? You picture in your mind that person. So do we at Nikon when we picture the kind of Company we strive to be.
Nice, huh?

Nikon make imaging products - cameras and things. So what better a way to express their CSR than in the outputs of the way consumers use the products they create? Nikon expresses part of their role in society as contributing to a photographic culture by  "enhancing and enriching the enjoyment of photographs", and in addition to the annual photo contest, they engage in several activities to contibute to the community and the appreciation of visual art. I think this is a nice example of a company aligning its CSR activities with its business strategy and generating positive indirect impacts. The fact that i am  a lousy photographer and whatever i seem to do with a camera ends up looking like i snapped a collection of rainclouds is immaterial. I may not win the Nikon contest (unless they like rainclouds) but i do recommend you take a look at the CSR photo story.  And perhaps you might be inspired to take your photo of CSR.

I wondered what i would photograph if i were to photo CSR:
# my Siberian hamster, riding the hamster wheel (round and round, going nowhere)
# my 7 yr old son, practising basketball shots (one basket in 453 but still trying)
# my CSR report library (hundreds of unsustainable printed CSR reports)
# my laundry hanging on the line (sun-dried, but stained with bird-sh**t) 
# my pack of paracetamol (big pharma, generically removing unsustainable headaches)
# my cellphone (connecting me to an unsustainable world)
# a lettuce leaf (geez, gotta stick to that diet, fat people are unsustainable)
# a tub of Chunky Monkey (hah! you knew that was coming, right) ( saving the planet with indulgence)

Your suggestions ?

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:


David Katz said...

Though I applaud any organization that makes a formal commitment to CSR, I’d think that public perceptions of the brand suffer when corporations appear to pay only superficial lip service to this pledge. To the average person, the Nikon report is confusing enough to look impressive. But when you dig deeper, you are correct in pointing out that the gaping holes, which for an organization with a near decade long “commitment” to CSR, diminishes the credibility of these initiatives. Subjectively, the narrative accompanying the report also seems to promote the individual as opposed to the impact that person can have on the greater good…does this not go contrary to CSR? I feel like this is a blue print for good CSR programs gone bad.

elaine said...

hello david and thanks for reading the blog, apologies for taking time to respond to your comment ...i think that the csr journey is quite a long and complex one, and i agree that even some corporations which have been "doing it" for quite some time surprise me with the gaps in their programs and communications. I think csr is both about empowering corporations and individuals to behave responsibly (direct impacts)and to contribute to the sustainability of our society on a broader level (indirect impacts). Most early journeys are focused on the first part, many of the the more csr-mature corporations get to the second stage sooner or later. best regards, elaine

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