Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Elevating CSR: A Cone Award for KONE

I couldn't resist this. Today I came across the Kone Company, a Finland-based global corporation which makes elevators and escalators, which is "Dedicated to People Flow".  Making elevators sounds like a fun profession. I immediately thought of "20 fun things to do in an elevator", and a whole section of the fashion industry which has built up just around elevators. 

One of a wide selection of elevator T-Shirts from the cafepress.com shop

It even crossed my mind whether the people at Kone were the original inventors of the elevator pitch which has been so crucial in improving our business communications over the years. You know what an elevator pitch is: a short, succinct message you can deliver between floors of an elevator ride to impress someone important. If Kone were writing their CSR Report in Elevator Pitch style, it might go something like this:

What goes up must come down, and we help that happen.
Our elevators make a contribution to global sustainability by helping people flow.
Imagine urganization without its ups and downs.  
Think how many people would get respiratory failure when visiting the 93rd floor of the  International Finance Center in Shanghai without an elevator.    
Imagine a life without Sim Tower.  
Imagine an elevator pitch without an elevator.
Our CSR Report describes how we support the people flow experience, for a better world and a a sustainable planet.   
Go with the flow and read our CSR Report. 

But no, I found none of this in Kone's 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report.  I didn't even find a cone, which as you may have gathered, is a much tastier version of Kone. Having, therefore, been reminded of my craving for a cone by Kone, I couldn't stop myself checking out if Kone is worth a Cone Award.

Here are the results, the fourth in my Cone Award series:

About the Company:
Global elevator and escalator maker headquartered in Finland
Annual net sales of EURO 5.2 Billion
35,000 employees
8 global production units and 1,000 offices around the world
NASDAQ OMX Helsinki listed
"People Flow" means people moving smoothly, safely, comfortably, and without waiting in and between buildings.

About the Report:
GRI Application Level B+ self-declared and third party checked
PDF 50 pages
Fourth annual corporate responsibility report
Externally assured CO2 emissions
Covers 2011 calendar year.

Ice Cream Cones Awarded:
This report gets the message across. Kone is not just an elevator-maker. Their mission is about People Flow. Helping people to move around. Enabling human development through urbanization. Providing essential services for indispensable buildings such as hospitals, airports, educational institutions, offices and other important places without which our lives would be so much more restricted. Contributing to environmental efficiency by reducing the environmental burden of buildings (which consume 40% of the world's energy, of which up to 10% can come from elevators and escalators). Making buildings safer to navigate (doesn't everyone fear getting stuck in an elevator?). Helping old people stay mobile. The report gets this across well. Kone's contribution and role is society is more than just shipping machinery off a production line.

 Kone provides context for the positioning of the elevator industry and their role in its growth. "Urbanization is the single most important megatrend within the global elevator and escalator industry. It is expected to drive demand for years to come." In addition to environmental focus and safety levels of elevators, Kone also highlights the changing global demographic structure. "The growing number of older people raises the importance of accessibility in buildings and urban infrastructure. There is an ever-growing need for convenience and accessibility. An elevator can help elderly residents live in their homes longer, facilitate the lives of all residents in the building, as well as add value to an existing property."

This cone is for People Flow Day. This is a day when Kone employee teams "act as researchers, talking to customers, interviewing the public, making on-site observations, and completing questionnaires." This enables Kone to get to know how people flow. The 2011 day took place in over 30 countries. (Hmmm, I obviously wasn't on an elevator somewhere that day!) Particular attention was paid to the "accessibility challenges faced by different user groups, such as wheelchair users, those with visual impairments, senior citizens, people in a hurry, and families with young children." "People in a hurry" must be quite challenging. Who is not in a hurry in an urban environment?

Kone has made big strides in energy efficiency of elevators. Today, Kone’s "European volume elevators consume 60 percent less energy, Asian volume elevators 50 percent less, and US volume elevators 40 percent less energy than in 2008". Wonder what went wrong in the US? An explanation of the differences here might have been a good idea. But, overall, this is great eco-progress in just a few years.

Another cone for Kone's lifecycle analysis. Between 56% and 85% of an elevator's life cycle (on the two models examined) are in the use of the elevator. More environmentally friendly materials in making or modernizing elevators can substantially affect the energy consumption during use. A cone for Kone for performing LCAs - not enough companies are doing this today.

A sixth cone for Kone's data presentation. Throughout this report, data is presented clearly and in a well-ordered way, and in a good level of detail. Environmental data, Human Resources data, Safety data etc. In most cases, the data also shows performance improvement. Certainly worthy of a cone.

Finally, a rare seventh cone for the Kohn design. It's neat, easy on the eye, bright, good font, and the graphics are clever but not overfacing. A few hyperlinks within the PDF wouldn't have gone amiss, but in general, it's a pleasant report to peruse.

Ice Cream Cones Dewarded:
Kone's report is a little too much like ice cream. It's all good news. There are no challenges that Kone is facing, other than the continued aspiration to grow the business. There are no performance failures whatsoever. For example, one of the key material issues for Kone is safety and reliable performance (flow) of the equipment. Kohn services 850,000 elevators around the world and I am not sure how many new installations the company completes each year. They have 12,000 service technicians.  I might have expected, in this report, to read something about the safety and reliability record of Kohn products. Reading this report, everything seems truly... well... flowing. I suspect the reality may not be quite so rosy, and maybe I am wrong, but Kohn doesn't actually give us any data on how many problems occurred with their equipment that caused a safety risk or what the reliability of Kohn products has been. I think this report would be more credible if it included just one or two of the things Kone might prefer not to report, if any exist.

This Cone Deward is for the Plus. Kone's External Assurance Statement covers limited assurance on CO2 emissions only, Scope 1 and 2. As you all know by now, the GRI system enables reporting companies to claim a "+" with the Application Level if the report is externally assured. Well, counting and checking CO2 emissions is not report assurance, in my view. It's a good thing, of course, but not enough to earn Kone a "+". For that, I take a cone back. 

The Kone report is a little repetitive. The company labors the point a little about how much effort they put in to understanding people flow and finding the right, efficient, modern, high-performance solutions. I am sure this is the root of success, but even so, we don't need to read it quite so often.

Overall Net Ice Cream Cone Status:
And it's a Net Four Cones for Kohn bringing Kohn to the top of  the Cone League Table. Is it really that good? Or am I getting overgenerous with my cones these days? Judge for yourself. And dont forget to send feedback :)

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices   Contact me via www.twitter.com/elainecohen   on Twitter or via my business website www.b-yond.biz (Beyond Business, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

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