Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why we do what we do

Yesterday was a good day for the CSR-Reporting blog. Permit me to tell you why:

First, we received a great compliment in the form of a recommendation from Sustainability Expert Fabian Pattberg who runs the Sustainability Forum, one of the best CSR resouurces around. Fabian recommended the reporting blog in his new category of Recommended Websites.  (Fabian on Twitter: @FabianPattberg)

Second, Chris Jarvis posted as follows:

Chris Jarvis is the author of Realizing your Worth blog, and one of the world's authorities on CSR and employee volunteering programs. His blog is always packed with insight and good practical advice based on years of experience. (Chris on Twitter:  @realizedworth) 

There is something about getting credit from your peers which is truly gratifying. In a business world which is competitive and sometimes rather brutal, despite our csr efforts, praise and recognition from professionals who understand is always a boost. This is a tribute to our community of CSR professionals on Twitter and other social networking sites. THANK YOU to Fabian and Chris, and all other members of our great community. I salute you all! 

Third, yes, there's more...
Yesterday i received a reply from Indranil who wrote to me on 30th November - unedited email as received:

I am a full-time MBA student at University of Oxford. I have been reading your blog for quite a while now and drawn very valuable learning which helped me in my academic work.
I take special interest in how large organisations are building sustainable practices around the core of their business, and also how they are communicating that to the wider stakeholders. I am currently undertaking a comparative study of Nestle, Danone and Unilever in terms of their CSR reporting methods and whether the reporting methods are effective in building “trust” among the wider stakeholders.
I have taken the approach mentioned in one of your blog posts about starting from the CEO’s message and then drilling down into the specifics of each of the areas of emphasis. While that provided me a perfect ground to compare the quality of the reports, it is not providing me with a qualitative basis of comparing the “effectiveness of building trust”. I am not being able to build a framework around which I may be able to structure the comparisons.
It would be great if you could please provide me with some pointers. What would you look for in a CSR report to see whether it has the right elements to build trust?Thanks a lot for reading. It would be a privilege to hear from you.
Warm Regards,

This is Indranil:

This is the essence of what i wrote back to Indranil:
CSR reporting should contribute to building credibility, trust flows from that.

The things i look for:
** Has the organization reported "difficult" data as well as positive data?. A "good news" only report is not credible.
**Has the organisation really been transparent about its intentions – are there clear measurable targets which represent a future commitment?
**Has the organisation included external commentaries from a range of experts, not only those predisposed to saying nice things, and are the commentaries fair and balanced?
**The overall level of transparency - reporting on total levels of women in the business, for instance, but not how many women in senior management.
**Explanation of inconsistencies – e.g. changes in calculation methods for carbon footprint
**The organizational infrastructure for CSR/sustainability. If there is no clear accountability within the organisation, it is difficult to believe the company is serious about sustainability.
**Consistency of reporting over time – I often look at two or three prior reports to see how actions, themes and targets are reported consistently
**The content of the assurance statement, if available. If it is a very limited gushingly favourable statement, it decreases credibility rather than adding to credibility.
**You might wish to take a look at - the "credibility" section of my report reviews often picks up on all these points.

Indranil explained in his reply:

You might be wondering by now that why students of a business school are suddenly so concerned about CSR, but here in Oxford, our business school is dedicated towards building responsible corporate citizens who can lead the businesses of tomorrow. So much so that even our accountancy course has a strong element of how “morality” and “intentions” impact accounting practices and how, we, as business drivers of the future should try and shape such business practices towards an honest, ethical and sustainable future.

This is the proof that the time and energy that myself and so many other CSR professionals spend writing, informing, sharing, offering tips and guidance, thoughts, insights and recommendations is actually getting through. The future leaders of industry and business are reading this stuff. This is the most gratifying thing of all. Forward-thinking, level-headed, positive-minded business students are using our output to shape the way they think and I am confident, the way they will work and impact. I expect Indranil and his peers will be transparent and accountable business leaders.
And this, folks, is why we do what we do.

And now, i think we all deserve a b-i-g helping of Chunky Monkey....

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


Unknown said...

Hi Elaine,
every single word you wrote is beautiful!
It seems that you're really trying to bring ethic in your reviews.
And' that's how a review should be done.
I'm completely with you.
But I have one question, how this behaviour will help your business?
Because we all live in the same world and maybe sometimes from a customer point of view , truth could be against business.
I know that this statement is completely against the CSR, and I'm just.... waiting for a positive answer
Thanks a lot

elaine said...

hi gianlu, thanks for reading and commenting. If i understand your question correctly, you ask how transparent reporting can help business, rather than put it at risk? Of course, transparency has its risks. And i always say that a business is transparent whether it plans to be or not. Sooner or later, the truth is exposed. So you can manage it or let it manage you. Which comes down to the very risk and essence of CSR - managing risk and identifying opportunity. Sometimes transparency, even on difficult matters is an opportunity to shape more positive views. No Company is 100% transparent and i doubt any will ever be. Just as we all as individuals have things we prefer not to share with others. but creating a habit of transparency on material issues is, in my view, one which creates more opportunities than the risks it presents.
Thanks again for following the Reporting blog and for engaging in the conversation. Have a great day!

Fabian Pattberg said...

Hi Elaine. It was my pleasure to mention you in my recent post. And I fully agree with you that the recognition in this industry is a very important aspect. We all need to work togehther to change the ways organisations see their responsibility. It is too easy for them to just go for the short profit. The long term effects of their business are just too easy to forget in the daily routine.

Thanks for being a source of knowledge and inspiration for all of us.


Julien said...

Congratulations Elaine! You deserve all of this, that's for sure!

Unknown said...

Hi Elaine
thank you for your reply.
I appreciated it very much.

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