Sunday, November 29, 2009

Even Embassies do it

I was in the British Embassy in Tel Aviv last week. (No, they arent trying to deport me or anything.. as far as i know . Yet.). As I waited for my meeting to start (stripped of my cellphone and laptop, so feeling completely at a loss), I looked around for something to do and noticed the FCO Internal Employee Magazine. The Magazine for Foreign and Commonwealth Office People around the world. Issue 76. Sept/Oct 08. A little out of date, I admit, but interesting all the same with a big headline "Greener Outlook".  The FCO is the branch of the British Government with is reponsible for promoting British interests overseas, and is staffed by Ambassadors, Diplomats, Attaches, and a host of other people, stationed in all corners of the globe. 14,900 people working in 160 countries at present, with a 2 billion pound budget. . (Guess us Brits must have a lot of interests to promote, right?). You can find the FCO on Twitter at @foreignoffice. And i found it interesting that the theme of this edition of the employee mag was about what the Embassy people over the world were/are doing to improve their environmental impacts.  A few examples:
  • Carbon Neutral Birthday parties for the Queen in Rome, Milan, Naples and Bari
  • New energy efficient solar-heated Embassy building in Manila
  • Vegetable and herb garden at the Governor's residence in Gibraltar
  • Composted waste in Port Louis
  • Cycling to work in the UK and in Mexico City
  • Carbon neutral printing of the Employee Magazine
Commendable, old chap, no ? 
I tried to find some additional information on Greening the FCO on their website,  but couldn't . The FCO  produces an Annual Report, and though it does mention the importance of Britain developing a low-carbon economy, the closest it comes to CSR is the Comprehensive Spending Review, which i think is FCO-speak for budget.

What does all this have to do with CSR reporting ? This. Two Annual Environmental Reports published by the British Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, the later of which you can download here. As far as i can tell, this is the only British Embassy post which publishes this type of report. I couldnt find any other Embassy of any country that produces a CSR or an Environmental report.  Big big round of applause for this initiative to the Brits in Sofia.

It's a nice report, 16 pages, covering everything from the Embassy 7-member Green Team, the modern glass Embassy building with heated sub-floors, the Embassy Environmental Policy and external Environmental Audit, Key Performance Indicators and targets, including medium term up to 2012, Carbon Footprint, and an Environmental Pledge by all the Embassy members. A short report, but a significant one which demonstrates a strong commitment. Though I would hope to see them expand the scope a little to include social impacts in future. Embassies can be very influential in addressing social and human rights issues, as well as, via the Trade sections, help encourage awareness for responsible business practices. UK Companies are in leadership positions on this, and foreign Embassies could do much to help leverage this abroad.

I hope that more Embassies will take the lead from the Sofia Brits. This is largely uncharted territory for this type of organization, so more pioneers will be welcome.

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


Unknown said...

Interesting, at least there's someone in italy trying to do something on carbon impact....(ok they are english but that's just a detail...)
You love your job right?
You would probably be able to do a csr review even on a mikey mouse children's paper.

elaine said...

hi gianlu ... i did do a review of Disneyland's CSR report... and yes, i love my work. and i love reporting. We all have our quirks, right ? :)

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