Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The potential Sustainability of green guitars

Is your guitar sustainable ? If not, good news is afoot. Maybe. By now, you should be able to buy a sustainable guitar from a new business who will manufacture them in accordance with environmental principles and respect for forest cultures. The wood used in the guitars is reported to be FSC Certified and a portion of the profits are to go to conserving  Rainforests. This green guitar Company was founded in 2006 and planned to begin production in 2008.The workforce of 167 people (within two years) has not been employed yet. The Company, at the time of writing it's first Sustainability Report, had not closed any deals, but notes that some of the most famous guitar brands in the world had shown interest.  I could find absolutely nothing in an extensive websearch to suggest that this Company is actually making sustainable guitars today. But here's the thing: a document, which masquerades as a first Sustainability Report - the 2006/2007 Sustainability Report for the Hering Madeiras e Instumentos Musicais da Amazonas.
There are  a few amazing things about this document.

First, the fact that it calls itself a Sustainability Report is quite unfathomable. The similarity between a few pages of general blurb and a Sustainability Report is aspirational at best, completely misleading at worst. It's like calling Jack the Ripper a ladies man. Or calling Beano the comic a Shakespearean masterpiece.

Second, this pseudo Sustainability Report is about a business which hasn't done any business. It was written covering two years BEFORE the Company was to go into production, as a guitar-making start-up with a plan to manufacture and sell in a sustainable way. In fact, the report  looks more like a business plan than any form of report on the actual sustainability of an actual business. I am all for a sustainable mindset, and I just love optimists, but frankly, how can you have a Sustainability Report for a business which has not proven it can sell anything, let alone do it sustainably?

Third, this report appears in the finalists for the GRI Readers Choice Reporting Awards 2010. This no-business -no-report includes a GRI Index .. well, of sorts - it's a table of a small selection of GRI clauses and indicators against which are noted some section headings contained in the document and which do not even actually correspond to the information required.  So how come this "report" found its way into the GRI Reporting Awards, and how come it became a finalist, alongside vanguard reporters such as 3M, Adidas, Coca Cola, Starbucks, Tata, Titan, P&G, Pfizer, Microsoft, Macdonalds, Intel..... how on earth did Hering (potential) Guitars Instumentos etc  join this party?

The point of all of this is to state the obvious. A Sustainability Report is the reflection of sustainable business. The definition of a business is that you sell something. Or did i get that wrong ? If so, at the point of writing their report, this Company was not a business, their Sustainability Report cannot be a sustainability report. It's a nice marketing brochure. It's a possible business plan. It demonstrates some laudable intention. But it should not be a finalist in a serious Sustainability Reporting Awards program. But then again, if it has got that far, you never know, it just might win the Best Report Award. Now, wouldn't that be interesting?

elaine cohen is the CEO of Beyond Business, a leading social and environmental consulting and reporting fitm. Visit our website at www.b-yond.biz/en


Luis said...

Perhaps I can help you out a bit. There is this fairly old and traditional company named Hering Harmonicas, based in Blumenau, Southern part of Brazil.

Apparently Hering Madeiras e Instrumentos Musicais da Amazônia is a subsidiary of or somehow affiliated with this older company. They both seem to share some senior management.

This is, to some extent, said in the report, but not with so many words.

elaine said...

hi Luis, there is no refererence as far as I can recall to harmonicas in the "report", though I did find the harmonica product lines of Hering on the web. Thanks for reading and commenting, elaine

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