Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The CSR Report Tool-Kit

As the daughter of a carpenter, I always understood the importance of tools. They say that a bad workman always blames his tools. Well, in the case of CSR reports, it is worth ensuring that you have the right tools to start with.  I have compiled this set of essential tools for writing a CSR report.

A milled-head fibreglass curved claw hammer: CSR reporting involves much debate and dialogue. Often, it takes quite a while to achieve the clarity needed for a report. Prudent use of this tool will enable you to hammer out the issues in a thorough way, and deliver a report which has a clear message. Also, if during the process, you find that someone is not toeing the line, you can always hammer them to the wall.
A pair of Alpine Trail steel toe waterproof hiker boots from Timberland: CSR reporting involves a lot of getting around - physically visiting people in their own working environments to understand what they do, how they do it and what impact they are having. Often, to get to the people, you have to wade through mounds of other priorities. Sometimes you have to spend hours touring facilities and plants. A good pair of hiking books will get you to everywhere you need to go. Also, if during the proces, you feel the need to flee to the jungle because the pressure of it all is just too much to bear, this tool will be invaluable in navigating the rough terrain.
A teaspoon: CSR reporting is full of stress and time pressure. It is inconceivable that you would start to write your CSR report without a good stock of Chunky Monkey in your freezer. A teaspoon is the essential tool with which you can devour this essential nutrient at all stages in the process. Also, if you need to practise the powers of your super-consciousness in order to influence your stakeholders, bending a teaspoon a la Uri Geller will provide ample practice.
A tape measure: CSR reporting is about impacts. Positive and negative impacts. No worthy CSR report should see the light of day without effective tools for measuring impacts. This is where the tape measure comes in. You need to measure the amount of space in your report given to measures and indicators. Also, during the proces, if you have gone overboard with the teaspoon (see above), you might need to measure the circumference of your middle-body to determine the unforeseen impact of the stress of it all.
A sorghum-made broom with a long handle:  CSR reporting should not be a regurgitation of information which was previously reported or information which is already in the public domain. A good broom will help you sweep away all the irrelevant material and get to your report  with clean and fresh content. Also, if during the process, you fall in love, you can use the broom to sweep the target of your affections off their feet.
An ergonomic titling-handle power spade: CSR reporting is about transparency. Not everything that should be transparent in your CSR report is easily available.This spade is one of the most useful tools you can add to your CSR Reporting toolkit. It will help you dig deep, deeper and deepest to uncover all the details of what your Company is actually doing in the sustainability arena, both positive and less positive. Armed with everything you have dug up, you will be able to present a fair and balanced view of your Company's sustainability efforts. Also, if during the pocess, you find the need to speak in plain language, you can avoid all the CSR-Speak by calling your spade a spade.
A recycleable fine mesh sieve:  If you have decided to include a materiality analysis in your CSR report, and this is a good thing, then you will need to filter out all the non-material issues in a fairly energetic way. This essential tool will allow the efficient out-filtering of all the information that no-one is all that interested in anyway. Also, if during the proces, you need to separate the men from the boys, this sieve will come in very handy.
Rose quartz: The CSR Reporting process can be emotionally challenging, and it is likely that you will face several interactions which could be personally stressul and shake your self-confidence. Rose quartz offers spirutual comfort and encourages you to believe in yourself, because you know that CSR Reporting is the right thing to do, despite all the nay-sayers  who will challenge your sanity. Also, if during the process, you are invited to a special party, you can always make yourself a rosequartz pendant to wear with that new organic cotton outfit you just bought. 

And the most essential tool in your CSR Reporting kit:
A vibrator: Here I am referring to a class of mechanical devices for uses such as signalling. The prudent use of such a device will enable you to check for greenwash and whitewash in your report and make sure that the content you publish is authentic, representative and reflective of the Company's sustainability activities. Also, if during the process, you .... well, somethings are best  left to the imagination.

elaine cohen is the CEO of Beyond Business, a leading social and environmental consulting and reporting fitm. Visit our website at

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