Sunday, October 21, 2012

10 reasons NOT to attend a Conference on Sustainability Reporting

Last year I gave you 45 reasons for attending the Smarter Sustainability Reporting conference which was held in London in May. As it turned out, the conference was a massive success, as you can see in my post-conference post. So much so, in fact, that organizers Sustainable Business and have invited me back to chair the conference a second time. A great honor and lots of fun! 

But I won't. I don't want to be accused of plagiarism. (Can you plagiarize yourself?)

Instead, I will give you 10 reasons NOT to attend.

10: You don't want to hear from  the top movers and shakers in the sustainability reporting world as you don't believe they can enlighten you with the most up-to-date information on the trends and issues that are shaping the reporting landscape as we move into another year and another reporting cycle. The world is not dynamic. Who needs to stay updated?

9: You don't want to hear about how environmental, social and corporate governance data is analyzed and how to avoid common reporting mistakes from Gregory Elders at the Bloomberg Environmental, Social and Governance Group. You don't make any mistakes at all, correct?

8: You have absolutely no interest in hearing Dr Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors talk about the impact of sustainability reports on investor decision making and gaining a first-hand insight into what investors are looking for in your sustainability report. If they want it, your investors will tell you themselves, correct?

7: You don't read reports. You don't believe anyone reads reports. You can't imagine that there is enough to say about reporting for a whole day. You don't believe that over 6,000 reports are being published each year with numbers increasing every single year. You don't think that sustainability reporting needs to be smarter. You think it needs to be dead. Even if your company is producing a Sustainability Report every year, you don't see much mileage in understanding more about how to get greater value from reporting. You are happy lagging behind the crowd. Sometimes not knowing is much easier. 
6: You can do without hearing from James Farrar, Vice President Sustainability, SAP on how to streamline information being requested from numerous stakeholders with varying needs. You are doing OK, producing numerous different reports in different formats at different times of the year and who cares if you have added another four people to your department to meet all this information overload?
5:  You don't see the point in engaging in a discussion with experts and peers about the implications of determining material topics. Materiality is such an easy thing. You just decide what you want to report about and call it material. The fact that the GRI is putting materiality at the top of the ladder in terms of determining content for GRI G4 reports, and this means materiality across the value chain and not just within the boundaries of your business, and the new Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) is creating materiality standards which they claim will revolutionize the way reporting happens and the way investors use reports, is not a sign that the entire reporting language and frames of reference are about to change. You don't see the need to invest in understanding materiality. You're happy faking it.
4: Why on earth would you give up a whole day to go to a conference where they don't serve ice cream? Come on. Can this be a serious event ?
3: You have no interest in learning about linking the on-line and off-line stakeholder engagement experiences from master-reporting-leader, Alberto Andreu Pinillos, Global Managing Director of Public Affairs, Telefónica. What's stakeholder engagement anyway? And on-line is more than it's cracked up to be.  The fact that more companies are engaging with stakeholders in a range of online formats than ever before shouldn't be of concern to you. What you don't Tweet can't hurt you, right ?

2: You have no plans to be in London in February 2013,  and your schedule is totally inflexible. Making room for one of the most interesting events on the sustainability reporting calendar in the UK in 2013 is absolutely impossible. You are overworked, overloaded, overtravelled, overconferenced and underbudgeted. Why change your plans for this one?  The fact that you will gain cutting-edge insights, learn from best-in-class leaders,  have an opportunity to reframe your thinking about sustainability reporting and  related processes, and generally have a totally fun and productive day is not relevant. Just keep going into the office and doing what you're doing. That's ok. Ostriches manage to survive somehow (though some ostrich species are listed as endangered).

1: And finally, the number one reason not to attend the Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference is that the 5th of February is your birthday and you make it a rule not to attend conferences on your birthday. Of course, if it is your birthday, I am sure that we can arrange a modest celebration (please let me know how many candles). But if it's a matter of principle, or you actually have something better to do on your birthday, then of course, you should not attend. Although all rules have exceptions.

If you found  yourself identifying with any of the above reasons not to attend this conference, then I expect you won't be saying hi in February. Thankfully, the CSR Reporting Blog readership is quite an enlightened, open and curious crowd, so I am sure that at least 9 of the above ten reasons won't apply to you (number 4 is the weak link).  I am optimistic that a bunch of you will want to attend, so I can offer you a discounted rate which you can DM me on twitter or email me to receive.

In the run-up to the conference, I will be chatting with some of the key speakers and introducing some of the themes of the conference in a series of blog posts to whet your appetite. Looking forward to seeing you in London in February! Please don't not attend!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability 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  (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

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