Friday, January 14, 2011

CSR and the little 'uns

Doesn't time fly? Only two weeks to go until voting closes in THE annual online CSR reporting awards - CRRA 11. You may recall that I was very daring and offered my predictions for the winners in the first time reports category. Now is the time to take a look at my second favourite category: the SME's. Or as we say in Ramat Gan, the little 'uns. I love this category because I know how hard it is for small businesses to advance sustainability and report. I admire all the little 'uns and commend them all for their commitment to transparency.

There are only seven entrants in this category this year. There were 12 in CRRA 10 last year. Three of the seven are also entered in the First Timers category, so phew!,  my work on this post will take less time.

Here are the reports in alpha order, followed by my pick of the bunch.

Not GRI, 38 pages. Also entered in First Time Report category
ArcelorMittal India (AMIL) is a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal, the global steel maker. This report is full of big photos and small print. It is mostly photography and graphic design work and light on content. It does provide some nice local flavor, making it an interesting report, but not a serious contender for winning an award, in my view.

GRI A+, 157 pages Also entered in First Time Report category
GoLite is an outdoor apparel company, outsourcing all manufacturing, and also a Timberland brand licensee, adopting the Timberland Code of Conduct."Transparency weighs nothing. Therefore I GoLite" is a nice introduction to this first report which doesn't go very lite at 157 pages, of which over 50 are appendices, of which 14 pages form a glossary dictionary of sustainability terms. This is one of those reports that rigidly follows the GRI indicator list, including the indicator number(s) with each subsection. For my entire commentary on this report, see my earlier post.

GRI undeclared level, 28 pages
This is a strategic communications consulting firm employing 31 people in Austria, Croatia and Latvia. However, this report is not really a comprehensive sustainability report in the true sense - it is a Global Compact Communication on Progress with an added bonus cross reference to 14 GRI indicators. The policy of the Company is to produce a full Sustainability Report every two years, and a COP in the interim years to comply with UNGC requirements. This shows good commitment, in my view, for a smallish private professional company. The COP is a really nice COP, written with thought and cleverly designed, presenting a frank view of the company's progress against the 10 UNGC principles, including some perspective about the tough impact of the Global Financial Crisis on their firm, and complete with future targets. I like this COP/report and admire this company for its reporting.

Lipor, Portugal
GRI A+, 151 pages
This report is called Relatorio de Sustenabilidade 2009 so yes, you guessed it, it's in a language I don't speak. Reviewing this report therefore was a little tougher than all the rest... From the English page on their website I found out that Lipor is the "Intermunicipal Waste Management of Greater Porto –  the entity in charge for the management, recovery and treatment of the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) produced by the eight partner municipalities: Espinho, Gondomar, Maia, Matosinhos, Porto, Póvoa de Varzim, Valongo and Vila do Conde. It was built as a Municipalities’ Association in 1982, and since then been implementing an integrated waste management, system through the recovery, extension and construction of infrastructures, and development of awareness campaigns towards the population." At 156 pages, which are almost all full of text, I can only assume that this report is quite comprehensive. It looks nice enough, design-wise.

GRI Undeclared level, 25 pages
This is a sustainability services consulting firm employing 30 people. It's quite frank. "While Net Balance has a relatively modest environmental footprint, attempts to reduce it in 2009 were largely unsuccessful." "This year’s report is considerably shorter than last year’s, but better focused." "In an attempt to cut down the needless use of disposable cups, all staff were issued with reusable coffee cups." "Net Balance has found it very difficult to quantify the impact we have on our clients or the broader sustainability field." The report contains a GRI index showing responses to about 21 indicators outside of the profile disclosures. It is short (29 pages of which many are nice photos), but it is focused and does present a picture of a small organization doing things sustainably and considering ways to improve.

GRI B+ , 41 pages Also entered in First Time Report category
This is a 240 people company generating over $118 million (AUD) through development of hydro and wind energy, with a net positive environmental impact. A nice first report, presenting CSR strategy well and including a number of focused case studies which give nice insights into the way this company is contributing to low-carbon energy production and serving communities. There is even a basic attempt to describe some indirect economic impacts of the company's activities - it falls way short of a quantified in-depth assessment of indirect impacts but it demonstrates a good conceptual approach to understanding and managing impacts beyond the limits of the company front door.

Not GRI, 104 pages
Well now, this is one of the most interesting and unusual reports I have come across in a while. The Shared Interest Society is a financial services company established in 1990 "by a group of fair trade pioneers with a vision of a new way of investing money to reduce poverty." The Company now lends over 33 million GBP, working in 36 countries around the globe. It has 30 staff who conduct their business in a "manner which reflects the principles of love, justice and stewardship". The report is a Social Audit, the fifth this organization has produced. It is very transparent, very factual,  full of facts and figures, and includes stories and quotations from different groups around the world, as well as feedback from different stakeholder groups. The downside is that it is heavily worded, looooooooong and hard to read. As a transparent report covering this business's material impacts, it's excellent. As a sustainability report, it's quite comprehensive through it doesn't follow a format which makes it easily comparable to more common reporting structures. It could be reduced in length and lightened up a little to make it a little more palatable, though probaby, the primary stakeholders of this organization may enjoy reading it from start to finish. It's a good document, on the whole.  

And now for my picks. My vote will go this way:

First place: Hauske and Partner Group
Second place:  Pacific Hydro
Third place: Net Balance
Fourth Place: Shared Interest Society
Fifth place: GoLite

Which way will YOUR vote go? Because I just know you will vote. Remember, voting for CSR reports is a virtue. You will feel better about yourself afterwards.

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)

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