Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Top Ten CSR Reports of 2010

Everyone's doing top ten of everything around about this time, so how could I not join in the fun? I was going to write a post about the Top Ten Ice Creams but it kinda looked like:
Chunky Monkey
Chunky Monkey
Chunky Monkey
Chunky Monkey
Well, you get the picture.
So I reverted to the other thing I know most about: CSR reports.

CSR Reports are a heterogeneous breed and it's almost impossible to compare or rank them, despite the several CSR Report competitions and awards that occur each year. I don't recall seeing one single dominant methodology which evaluates CSR Reports in a comprehensive way. Each competition or award has its own criteria or judging panel. Often the content of the report gets evaluated alongside the presentation of the content, which confuses things a little. You may have a good story but tell it badly, or vise versa. Either way, this makes it even harder to tickbox a score for reports. Often, it may just be a subjective evaluation based on things which are not necessarily comparable. 

As you probably know if you are a follower of the CSR Reporting blog, I tend to read quite a lot of reports and also write reviews for and Ethical Corporation. You can see a full list of the reports I have reviewed (it's almost up to date!) here on my website.

For those reports which I review in detail, rather than just read through for interest, I have been keeping a sort of scorecard, so that I can recall how I evaluated a report and what elements the report included or didn't . My "methodology" is mostly based on the pesence (or absence) of specific reporting elements, for which I award points, with a small portion of the overall points kept for a more "qualitative" assessment based on how I assess the report design and whether it has succeeded in getting over a credible message. I have evaluated 25 reports in this way in 2009. I won't share the methodology at this time, as I prefer to run with it for another year and then see how to refine it before I open it up to praise or, most probably, criticism. However, some reports did come out on top of the pack.

The overall winner in my 25 detailed reviews for 2010 was Dow Chemicals 2009 GRI Report (see my review here) . Despite calling this a "chemistry-set" report because it follows the GRI index to the letter both in substance and in form, just like a chemistry experiment, something Dow excels in, the report does contain the key elements of a "good" report and enables fast navigation to whatever it is that you are looking for. It's a little dry, without internal or external "voices" that bring reports to life, but it's comprehensive, clear and transparent. Others that I rated highly were Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Centrica and the BBC.

But probably the best reports are the ones that stick in my mind as being memorable and / or caused me to write about them in my blog or elsewhere (or want to, even if I didn't manage to make the time to do so).

This is my list of the top ten (in no particular order) :

Danisco 2009/2010 Sustainability Report :  This is an award-winning report which I blogged about here and which covers indirect impacts and sustainability context commendably, delivering a credible report, including open discussion of challenges and difficulties.

AHA! 2009 Sustainability Report :  This report always sticks in my mind as an entirely creative, totally credible, short, readable, persuasive account of how this small agency takes on board sustainability principles. This is what I wrote about it in on the ole blog. If you thought a one pager report was a non-starter, AHA proves you wrong.

Impahla Clothing of South Africa Sustainability Report 2009 : Each Impahla report is better than the previous one and though the first two were outstanding, this one is even outstandinger. A small, privately-owned garment manufacturer in  South Africa teaches us all how to produce an honest, balanced, throroughly credible report. In this third production, all 176 employees are photographed. What an inspired approach! Well worth a look if you are a small business and want to know a) how to write a report b) how sustainability reporting benefits your business and c) anything worth knowing about Impahla clothing.

Coca Cola Enterprises Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2009 : I liked this report because mainly because of its overall balance and coverage of all core issues, and also the way the Company celebrates its employees and gives them much airtime in their reporting and throughout their sustainability processes. Colourful, interesting and well-written, this is a nice reflection of a large company doing good things.

Campbell Soup Sustainability Report 2010 : A superb report with a clear concept which runs well through all the sections and makes it clear that this company has a social mission and is aligned to deliver it.  Bold colours, bold actions and bold goals. The report is also well supported by outstanding social media engagement led by the CSR  meister @dstangis who maintains one of the top spots as an inspiring leader in our community of sustainability professionals.

Westpac Bank Annual Review and Sustainability Report 2010 :  Westpac has always been an outstanding reporter and, for a financial organization, I believe this bank does a fabulous job of getting the sustainability message through in this semi-integrated report. Called "Sustainability Matters", it includes key issues raised by stakeholders, clear performance reporting and future goals (one of which is to increase the percentage of women in senior management roles to 40% by 2014 - how could I not rate this report highly? :) )

SAP Sustainability Report 2009 : Whilst I do have reservations about totally online reporting, I cannot exclude SAP from this top ten line-up. Their report was a bold new entry into the social-media-engagement-style report, with online everything and interactivity par excellence. It will be interesting to see if SAP feels this approach has benefited them in 2009/2010 and I am looking forward to see how they navigate the reporting format options next year.

Burt's Bees 2010 Multimedia Report  I mentioned this report recently in my blog here. I call it the Burt's Bees Movie as it's a Sustainability Report written in videos. It's a slick production which reflects a true passion for a sustainable culture and lots of budding Hollywood actors. Nicely innovative, pleasant to read / watch / listen to  but make sure you have 75 minutes to spare. And popcorn.

IMC2 Positive Impact Report 2009 : I have been tracking IMC2's reporting since their first report three years ago. This is another small, privately owned business which is doing great things and maturing in their sustainability reporting. I called this report "Charm with outcomes" in my review for This report makes a clear statement about marketing and the changes we need to see in the  marketing world, and whilst there is still room for more comprehensive reporting, it's a fine example of a small-business big-impact report.

Wal-mart Sustainability Report 2009 : I can't begin to think where you would start in compiling a global sustainability report for a corporation which is larger than many countries and has impacts so broad and diverse that they only need to change pencils (do people stiill use pencils?) and the ripple is felt all over the world. Wal-mart do a commendable job in their 2009, 111 page, report. If you  want to be picky, you can find a hundred things that you could recommend Wal-Mart do better in their ongoing reporting efforts, but the leadership demonstrated in their approach, the relatively new-found enlightenment regarding sustainability and the significant progress made in the reporting year makes this report a Top Ten for 2010.

There are many other reports I would have liked to mention but I promised myself I would list ten only. Now that I look back, I am conscious that this list is not very diverse and doesn't include some of the fabulous reports coming out of the Far East and emerging economy countries. Perhaps I will have to do another Top Ten in the near future, because clearly, ten doesn't cut it. In the meantime though, this is it. I would be delighted to hear about your fave reports  from 2010 if you have the energy to scribble a response to this post.

Thanks to all the reporters around the world who keep me educated, entertained, inspired, sometimes frustrated but always appreciative of their efforts to transform business through greater accountability and transparency.

Happy end of 2010 and even happier 2011 to all the CSR Reporting blog readers!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

1 comment:

Cindy Mehallow said...

Hi Elaine, Am working my way through your 10 Ten Reports of 2010 post and just read the AHA! report. totally enjoyed that report. Just as you said -- short,readable and highly creative. Best of all, it was absolutely appropriate for the business that wrote it! Thanks for sharing it. I probably wouldn't have come across it otherwise. All the best to you in 2011! Cindy

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