Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sustainability is pure poetry

Larsen Toubro is a massive multinational conglomerate based in India. They published their second Sustainability report in December 2009,  entitled " * conditions apply ". This is what they mean, in their words, "This planet that we call home is like no other in the galaxy. No other body in the orbit has the cocoon of atmosphere that sustains life; nowhere else do waters flow from summit to sea,nourishing civilisations along the way. This unique, bountiful and beautiful world of ours has helped man flourish across time. It can certainly provide for us far into the future but ...... contitions apply". Isn't that poetic ? Wait, it's gets better.  Sustainability is not just "survivability" , it's "thrivability" . Now they are rewriting Websters. There are more poetic and linguistic twists throughout the report. I will leave you to pick them out.

Larsen Toubro is into everything including construction, power development, oil, gas, thermal power, metallurgical projects, mass transport systems, heavy engineering medical systems, insurance, banking, software, infrastructure, industrial machinery and the list goes on. Quite some business, employing over 35,000 individuals.

I haven't read this GRI checked A+ 112 page report in detail. I just wanted to point out a nice feature. The  8 members of the Executive Leadership Team each make their own statement about Sustainability relative to their sphere of responsibility, alongside their photo. This is nice, because it demonstrates a personal commitment by each of the leaders of the business. Each one of them is on record as being committed to sustainability. Just a shame that not  one of them is a woman ! How sustainable is that ?!

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


John Bergdoll said...

"Conditions Apply*" is a fascinating document. It has all the right sustainability messages and the executive commitments with photos is a nice touch. I also like the information sharing throughout the document. However, after I read through the 112 page document I realized it was missing something...honesty.

The report was filled with promises and lofty goals but thing that was missing was 'where if falls short'. With many of these sustainability goals in place it would have created benchmarks for comparison. I want to know where they went wrong, the missteps, false starts, the failures and the errors in judgement.

In the end, the document felt like another slick marketing piece. It talks about transparency but it didn't tell the whole truth.

Elaine, your comment about the lack of women is addressed on page 42. Concerns: Male dominance in workforce
Expectations: Employment needs of women to be encouraged
Our Response: Considering the nature of our operations, we witness male dominance. However, with increasing number of females opting for engineering education and jobs, we are hopeful of having a more balanced workplace. We take efforts to help our female employees take care of their family responsibilities. Powai & Chennai being our major campuses, have crèche facilities for women employees.

Thank you for your blog posting.

– John Bergdoll

elaine said...

hi John, thank you for reading the Reporting Blog and for taking the time to comment. Yes, reports need to contain real substance. I hope Larsen Toubro will take heed of your comments. The comment about women and creches doesn't fill me with confidence, somehow. It doesnt sound like enough of a plan to ensure women have equal opportunity to advance within the business.
warm regards, elaine

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