Saturday, May 22, 2010

Yes, CSR reporting is personal

This is a rather personal post. You see, I have two children, one of whom is a son who is adopted. He is one of the most wonderful kids you could ever hope to have. He was born in Moldova and we adopted him at the age of 11 months. He is now 8. Whenever I read CSR reports, and come across Companies who provide assistance for employees who adopt children, it always makes me stop and pause to think about the meaning of this contribution to people, society and life in general.  I see what giving a chance to a child means and I gain great joy, every day, from watching and being a part of that. So this post is a tribute to Companies who help people give a new life to children and create families, in this way. Here are just a few mentions I picked up in CSR reports:  

Verizon 2009: reimburses employes for expenses of up to  $10,000 for each child adopted.
Bristol Myers Squibb 2009: Employees receive one week of paid time off to adopt a child or assume foster care responsibility. The company also helps defray adoption costs.
GoLite 2009: Up to 6 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave during any 12-month period to eligible, covered employees for reasons including foster care of a child with the employee.
HP 2009: offer adoption and resources assistance.
Heinz 2009: Parents of newly adopted children receive up to three weeks of paid leave.
Intel 2009: offer “bonding leave,” an approved, unpaid leave for either parent to care for a newborn or adopted child, or a child placed with them through foster care.
Johnson and Johnson 2007: adoption assistance including paid leave and financial assistance.

In thinking about this post, I also noticed the adoption friendly workplace list which highlights those employers who support employees involved in adopting children. This is the work of a foundation started by the late Dave Thomas, himself adopted, and the founder of the Wendy's restaurant chain, now the Wendy's Arby's Group. This group, whilst I  couldnt find a CSR report, describes on their website their signature community programm : Wendy’s Wonderful Kids®an initiative that currently funds 120 experienced, full-time adoption recruiters at agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces. Since its inception in 2004, this ground-breaking effort has helped match more than 1,000 foster care children with families, and is on track to meet its goal of helping more than 10,000 children..... On any given day in North America, nearly 550,000 children are in the foster care system, and more than 150,000 of them are available for adoption, just waiting for the right family to find them.

This is just another reason I like CSR reports. Everyone has a personal connection to something that a Company does, even if it's a Company they have never had direct dealings with. Next time I pass a Wendy's, I will be sure to think positively about their founding father, and their support for children who need families (and families who need children). I might not ignore other aspects of their sustainability performance, being the critic that I am, but I will certainly be more predisposed to consider their business positively.

Everyone has a personal connection with something. CSR Reporting cannot take into account everyone's personal connection points, but a good report will more likely than not evoke such a personal connection with many. This is why reporters should seek to engage with stakeholders, to understand exactly where their report is creating some form of personal connection as this, I believe, is the essence of a route to engagement. 

Thanks for indulging me this personal reflection. Next post, back to report-bashing. haha. 

elaine cohen is co-founder and co-CEO of Beyond Business, a leading social and environmental consulting and reporting firm. Visit our website at

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