Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Spirit of Reporting

A press release about a company I had never heard of caught my eye. The headline was VeeV Açaí Spirit Releases First CSR Report  Having a soft-spot for first time reporters, I couldn't resist taking a quick look. Fortunately, this report is only 10 pages long (with lots of pictures), so quick it was.
VeeV®  is an interesting company built around one "cool" brand (Does the fact that I had never heard of it make me not cool ? ). VeeV® is an alcoholic drink made from the Açaí Berry which apparently can only be found in the Brazilian Rainforest and is sustainably and wild harvested there. The berry has high antioxidant properties which makes it a healthy fruit which forms the staple ingredient in the diet of many Brazilians. The two founders of the VeeV® company are environmentalist types and wanted to bring to the market a sustainable product in a sustainable way. This first report, after four years of activity, demonstrates this commitment with $1 per each bottle sold donated to  Brazilian rainforest preservation, a distillery powered by renewable energy and overall carbon neutral activity. Seeds of the Açaí berry are made into fashion-statement jewelry promoting living wage and fair trade for Brazilian workers. The company has 32 employees and sends them a Green Tip of the Week by email to get them started on another week full of environmental inspiration. This apparently works because all employees have Personal Sustainability Programs and report on them quarterly and what's more, part of their bonus is dependent upon green performance.

All this is very nice indeed, and I have no doubt that this first Corporate Social Responsibility Report is a source of pride and a reflection of a genuine social-enterprise environmentally-activist small private business. It's great to see such a passion for sustainability embedded into the core business strategy. However, the 10 pager is a more like a marketing brochure than a report. Had this been called a "review" or an "activity summary" or anything but a report, I would be able to read it for what it is, and be impressed. Calling it a report implies a willingness to be transparent, to share data, to account for impacts on stakeholders in a rigorous way. This document showcases the way the VeeVers have put their personal sustainable philosophy into action, but it does not report in a complete way on sustainability impacts. For environmental data, we are referred to the Climate Action Registry but all that appears there is a report from 2007 when the operation was run from the home of one of the partners and generated just over 12 tons of carbon emissions.

We all appreciate and understand the challenges of  voluntary SME reporting, the resources required and the time needed to write a first report, whether the GRI framework is used or not. Nonetheless, sustainability reporting is a serious thing, (and yes, I can now speak from experience of producing my own company SME first report), and while no-one has patented the use of the word "report",  it should not be bandied around for every document a company issues that happens to have the words eco-conscious or recycle included somewhere in the narrative.

The spirit (and practice) of reporting should be more in line with the GRI definition which is: "A sustainability report refers to a single, consolidated disclosure that provides a reasonable and balanced presentation of performance over a fixed time period."  Companies who assign the name "CSR Report" to a marketing document, even if their practices are sustainably minded, lose credibility points in my view.

Anyway, let's give this exciting little business the benefit of the doubt and hope that this first CSR Report is the start of a reporting journey which will become a fuller articulation of sustainability impacts in the future.

Wonder what a Chunky Monkey + Veev® Açaí Spirit float would taste like?

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:

Recycling organic waste said...

I appreciate and understand the challenges of voluntary SME reporting, the resources required and the time needed to write a first report, whether the GRI framework is used or not.

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