Friday, January 14, 2011

The Ice Cream Ball Sustainability Reporting Methodology

Now, you all know I have a thing for ice cream. Today, when I checked into, (to see how sales of my book, CSR for HR, are doing on Amazon's Author Central Site), the first thing I came across was a promotion for Ice Cream Balls. My kids have been wanting me to get one of these for ages, but I have resisted, preferring ice cream of experts rather than home-made trial and error. However, looking at how to make ice-cream using the Ice Cream Ball, I was reminded of the way I write sustainability reports.

Step 1, fill with ice. Step 2, add all the other ingredients. Step 3, shake it around.

Step 1: When writing Sustainability Reports, after you have gone through the process of data collection and materiality analysis etc, and decided on the theme for your report, the first thing you fill your report with is Material Issues. The material issues are the ice of your report. If you don't put them in first, you will have no room for them amongst the clutter of all the other information and performance metrics that you also need to add to make the report complete, transparent and a fair and balanced representation of your sustainability performance. It's a bit like the big stones in the jar time management exercise (watch this video! it's superb!) which I first learnt over 30 years ago when I did a Covey 7 Habits course.

Step 2: All the other ingredients can now easily be slotted in around the Material Issues. You will have enough room for everything, and in the event that you are just a little short on space, it probably won't be critical to the quality of your report if you omit that extra case study or that extra description of a minor part of your supply chain process. By slotting everything in around the material issues, you not only retain control of the central messages of your report, you also use your entire reporting space most effectively.

Step 3: If you don't shake your Sustainability Report about after you have added all the ingredients and published your report, you won't be able to enjoy the ice cream. See my post on 27 ways to make your CSR Report BUZZ. You have to actively shake your report around as this is the only way to engage your stakeholders in dialogue around its content and your sustainability performance. After all, no one buys an ice cream ball without wanting to taste the ice cream, right ? No one wants to write a sustainability report and have it go completely unnoticed.

So, whether you have an ice cream ball or not, it's worth approaching your Sustainability Report using the Ice Cream Ball methodology. If you are lucky, you will end up with a great report and great ice cream. Just don't get mixed up as to which is which.

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:

Kevin Moss said...

Hi Elaine, great analogy. Brings a smile to my face on a Friday afternoon. A couple of years ago I tried making icecream on a hot day with an antique icecream machine with a manual crank handle. (I am sucker for punishment). The time and effort it took to make a serving of icecream is also a good analogy to the time and effort it takes to produce a sustainability report. Hopefully the report has a longer half life than the icecream though !!

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