Friday, January 1, 2010

Doctor Sustainability - a new Reporting Blog feature for 2010

NEW on the Reporting Blog for 2010. Ask Doctor Sustainability......

Dear Doctor Sustainability: I have been having serious problems getting my senior management to agree to publish a Sustainability Report. They say that we should just get on with the work, and not waste time producing reports. I am going out of my mind. I have nowhere else to turn. I have tried everything. My husband's cousin says I should resign. Do you think that would be the sustainable thing to do?

Dear Desperate: I have much sympathy with your dilemma, it is one shared by many Managers in many Companies. My advice would be to go underground. Get a team of committed people together and start to write the report anyway, using the GRI Let's Report framework. Just get the template and fill in the blanks. If the worst comes to the worst, and your senior management find out, you can always stay underground and emerge in time for annual bonus.

Dear Doctor Sustainability: We published a CSR report last year and I have now noticed there are many errors. Our carbon footprint is the wrong size, and it doesn't match both feet. Our employee headcount doesnt include bodies - it's just heads. And the chapter about green building was written before we painted the Head Office blue. I believe our stakeholders should be told. Wouldn't you say that transparency is a key element of sustainability? 

Dear Transparent: If it was published, in print, in black and white, it must be true. Your stakeholders will believe anything. Especially if you have an Assurance statement that makes it very clear that they haven't noticed any errors.


Dear Doctor Sustainability: The Chairman of our Board (actually it's a woman but she believes that calling herself a Chairman advances the business interest more effectively) has decided that we should publish a Sustainability Report and has set a deadline two months hence. But here's the thing. Our organisation is not sustainable. We have nothing to write in this report. What should I do? Tell her? Or borrow some texts from marcom and hope no-one notices?

Dear Unsustainable: What makes you different from 95% of the Companies that publish reports? Not having anything to write doesn't stop these reporters from filling 100+ pages. In fact , you could probably piece your report together by copy-pasting a random selection of generic paragraphs from other reports. Just make sure you use photos of your own employees, and believe me, your Chairman will be delighted when you deliver the report in UNDER two months. 


Dear Doctor Sustainabilty: I was wondering how many reports have been published in 2009 and which is the best ? Where can i get good data ? 

Dear Data: I am pleased you are looking for data. This is something often lacking in Sustainability Reporting. For data on Sustainability Reports, I always use, and their data shows, for the first time since 1992, a slight dip in the annual number of reports. In 2009 , there were 3,185, versus 3,446 in 2008. But  this is not an exhaustive list, I estimate closer to 3,500 published reports as several local-language reports may not be included. If you want to inluence this data, make sure you issue your report in 2010. And tell your friends.

Dear Doctor Sustainability: We are about to start work on our next Sustainability Report. Many believe we should go for an Integrated Report which includes the Annual Financial Report and the Sustainability Report in one publication. Others say we should continue to do them separately. I am in anguish over this dilema and haven't slept for 5 nights, my wife says I am exhibiting signs of stress, and my colleagues have threatened to banish me to the PortaKabin in the Company grounds. Please help. Should we separate or integrate?

Dear Stressed: The way I look at it is this. Is your business integrated or does it regard sustainability as a project which people work on alongside the business? The honest answer to this question should clearly indicate the reporting route to choose. Of course, if you answer dishonestly, then go for an integrated report. You can fill it up with financials and keep the sustainability bit to a level which won't cause your Company any embarrassment. And the sleep thing, I recommend a good helping of Chunky Monkey before your head hits the pillow.


Dear Doctor Sustainability: I really admire you. How did you become a Doctor in Sustainability. You are my inspiration. I have been looking for a study program so that I can become a Doctor in Sustainability too. What do you recommend?

Dear Competitor: Next question, please.


Doctor Sustainability is available to answer all your Sustainability Reporting questions. Please post your questions in the comments section below and Doc Sus will respond before your next report goes to print (or to online).

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


PerrineB said...

This is soooo funny Elaine! I love it. This made have a good laugh - nothing better to start 2010! Cheers and Happy New Year!

Julien said...

Greatly creative (or creatively great?) and interesting! Bravo Elaine!

elaine said...

Thank you Perrine and Julien for reading and commenting. Glad if I was able to raise a smile for the start of a new decade! elane

Anonymous said...


I would like to understand a little something about sustainability reporting. What is it? Why is it important? What issues are considered when developing sustainabilty report?

Where can i get information about Sustainibility reporting? eg. websites, books?

Thanks in Advance

elaine said...

hi anonymous, there is heaps of information about sustainability reporting on the web, in the corporate websites and reports of companies, books, pretty much anywhere. And of course, this blog :). A good place to start might be the Global Reporting Initiative Website. You could email me at if you want more specific information.. but you will have to reveal your identity:)

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