This is year number three of these popular awards. In the first year CRRA 2008 there was, I think, an unlimited number of reports, but last year, my friends at CorporateRegister.com accepted a limited number of entries - that improved format works again this year.
What do you look for in a report?
Actually, the award categories pretty much answer that question:
- Best Carbon Disclosure
- Best Creativity in Communications
- Best Relevance and Materiality
- Best Openess and Honesty
- Best Credibility through Assurance
- Best First Time Report
- Best Integrated Report
- Best SME report
Let's take a look at who is competing for what. And what what is.
Best Carbon Disclosure.
CRRA 08 (39 entrants) BMW AG
CRRA 09 (17 entrants) Royal Dutch Shell
20 reports in this category this year, including both previous winners.
What does a best carbon disclosure look like ?
To answer this question i went to the Shell winning report of 2007. The report contains a detailed discussion of climate change and carbon impacts, and future scenarios that will affect our great-great grandchildren. The actual Shell carbon footprint data is on their website, and shows a year on year reduction since 2005, from 93 million tonnes to 75 million tonnes in 2008. (82 million in 2007, the date of the winning report). Not bad.
The Bayer AG report was the runner up in this category in 2009, and their carbon disclosure (7.6 million tonnes) is short and to the point, total emissions, GHG Protocol, indirect and direct emissions with breakdown of component parts and commentary. Also not bad.
For me, a best carbon disclosure includes:
- actual total carbon emissions for the entire business
- some context, if possible, industry benchmarks, where available
- data presented over at least 5 years, if available
- details of the methodology used to make the calculation, whats in there and what's not
- verification of the carbon numbers
- explanations for the increase or decrease in emissions
- details of whether carbon targets have been met in the reporting period
- future targets
- clear, accessible presentation which a 15 year old can understand
Best Creativity in Communications
CRRA 2008 (100 entrants) : Coca Cola Enterprises
CRRA 2009 (36 entrants): Coca Cola Enterprises (yes, that's twice!)
There are some that might say that CSR reporting is too creative, so much so that it often departs from reality. (Joke!) The 2010 awards has 29 entrants, and the big question here is can Coca Cola make it a hat-trick? Whats so special about Coca Cola creativity? The CRRA guide to the categories talks about creativity in the following terms:
Which report is a real pleasure to read, because the authors have given thought to both the content and the reader? Do you find the report engaging and informative, or boring and unimaginative? This award is for the report which best succeeds in getting its message across, using creativity as a defining factor.
I have to admit that, without reading every word of the Coca Cola 2007 report, I wasnt struck by its mindblowing creativity in communications. It is clearly written, well paced, neatly designed and flows well. Perhaps the most creative thing about it is, if you look carefully, Coca Cola don't refer to CSR but to CRS! Or maybe they are just dylexic.
For me, creativity would go a little further than this. It would use analogies and stories to make the data and context come alive, case studies and perepectives of people in the business. It would make connections in my mind that I hadn't considered before, that help me appreciate the true challenges and efforts involved in driving CSR, or CRS, forward.
The 2010 competition has 15 entrants that are new to this category including Bunge, Walt Disney, Export Development Canada to name just a few (well, 3).
Best Relevance and Materiality
CRRA 08 : (167 entrants) BP
CRRA 09 (40 entrants) Vodafone
This year, 45 reports are vying for first place, including the two pevious winners.And what do we look for in a best materiality report ? A materiality matrix. Evidence that there has been a process of stakeholder engagement, and considered evaluation of stakeholder and business strategy input, prioritized, and effectively reported. Reporting of material issues should go into greater depth than the shopping list rest-of-the-report. Vodafone has a history of doing this well, and their 2007 Report, the famous 398 page report, is true to form with a very colourful matrix and a list of key issues. Well, with 398 pages to play with, they could have included 15 materiality matrices.
Best Openness and Honesty
CRRA 08: (167 entrants) Bayer AG
CRRA 09: (32 entrants) The Cooperative Group
36 Reports in the running this year in a category which many would say is counter-culture to CSR reporting. Does this report come clean, tell the bad news as well as the good? the Awards organizers ask. And let's face it, that's what honesty is. It's not the absence of lies, it's the creation of a balanced representation of the CSR affairs of the Company. The Cooperative Group Report for 2007/08 , entitled Altogether Different and Making a Difference, declares early on that the report is intended to provide a "warts and all" account of the Coop Group's CSR performance. Hmm, I'm not sure i want ALL the warts. It's a 141 page report, and a the style is just a bit too chatty to make for easy reading, and I would have preferred them to highlight the warts in yellow or something, because, in the sample i reviewed, I couldn't find any at all.
Best Credibility through Assurance
CRRA 08 (59 entrants) BP
CRRA 09 (22 entrants) Vodafone. Again.
This award is for the Assurance Statement that adds the most credibility to the overall report. Sometimes, I think it would be a step in the right direction to have a statement which adds ANY credibility to the report. 24 reports in this category this year. You know I like talking about Assurance. The BP 2006 report that won in the 08 awards does contain a fairly detailed Assurance statement. But, I regret, all it assures is what they haven't noticed ... the Assurers didn't notice any material misstatements, they didn't notice any exclusions, they didn't notice any improper collection of data etc. What DID they notice ? The Vodafone-398 is marginally more assuring, and includes a long list of recommendations and detailed activity performed by the assurers, to whose attention also nothing came that caused them to believe that.. well, you know the rest of the mantra.
Anyway. I am going to round off here, I might come back to Best Integrated, Best First Timers and Best SME's as these reporter categories hold their own uniqueness and are worthy of spending a little more time on. Although there is one report that I worked on in the Best First Timers category - 888 Holdings - online gaming Company. You can vote for that one now if you like, no need to wait.:)) But dont worry, there's enough time for you to vote in all the above categories before i get around to writing my next post.
elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at: www.b-yond.biz/en