Friday, October 2, 2009

When is a CSR report not a CSR report?

Barrick Gold Company is a large gold mining Company operating 26 mines over loads of continents. They report extensively on their Corporate Responsibility. What caught my attention about their reporting, though, is that, in addition to their annual GRI A+ corporate reporting since 2002, they also produce SITE reports. I don't know of many companies who produce CR reports by SITE. There are PDF download reports for each of 25 sites.

Their sites have some great names - Bulyanhulu, Tulawaka, Turquoise Ridge, Gold Mountain and more. (They sound more like Club Med locations than gold mines.) I downloaded Granny Smith site report (reminded me of eating green apples as a kid). It's a 5 pager about Granny's mine located 950 km north of Perth, Australia, staffed by Perth-dwellers who fly to and from the mine to get to their work. This brief report covers environmental responsibility, health and safety, and community involvement. Whilst the title - Reponsibility Report - sounds promising, it is really a profile of the mine with some policy and management approach statements about csr issues. Hard to describe this as a report. So i tried my luck with Plutonic , also an Australian mine, and what a surprise, same 5 pager with a couple of changes for local references. Well, i thought,  let switch continents - so i looked at North Mara mine in South Africa, in the Tanzania region and, well, you tell me .. how many pages ? Five. What headlines ? Ask Granny Smith. Any numbers? No. Looks to me that they have a full-time copy-paster at Barrick. I gave up on the remaining sites.

Whilst i applaud Barrick for their intention of injecting high local relevance into their CR reporting,  and they obviously did make some eforts to reflect local issues such as local community programs around each site, and biodiversity issues etc, i do believe we have to be careful when calling something a report when it is not a report. A little more effort and they could elevate this local reporting to include the carbon footprint of each mine, employee demographics in each mine, and community contribution and involvement in some more detail. Would this add value? Is it worth the effort? Hard to say, but the mining is a high risk business in terns of sustainability, and support of local communities and regulators is important. Perhaps this extra effort could pay off over the long term.

I thought (did you hear that clunking sound?)  about the implications of site level reporting on a wider scale. Actually, this is the essence of sustainability. Relevance and engagement with local stakeholders. I have blogged in the past about global versus local (country) reporting (localization) , finding global reports to be such high level that locals who are most impacted by global corporations are unable to connect. Also, as any global report must be built bottom up at some point- with data and stories from each operating location - i wonder if this is not a more efficient and effecitve approach to reporting?

Resources, resources, i hear you cry. Who has all the resources to develop a hundreds of local reports? If you leave out all the pyrotechnical design features and cut to the chase with a simple aesthetically written but not graphically mindblowing report, a local site report doesnt have to be such a major exaggeration in use of resources. It could probably even add value in terms of local accountability. And my bet is that site managers are producing oodles of operating reports anyway. As i write, i get this sense that my suggestion won't be all that popular.. but i kind of think that one day, this will be the future of reporting. In the meantime, I send a virtual tub of Chunky Monkey to Barrick site reporters.

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

1 comment:

David San Benito said...

Interesting posting. My two favourite companies regarding local reporting are Telefónica and Vodafone. Both companies have a clear local communication strategy. for instance, all CSR local reports in Telefónica are A+, and in Vodafone B+...

Related Posts with Thumbnails