Friday, December 13, 2013

Materiality Matters. Checked.

Caesars Entertainment Corporation publishes today its fourth CSR and Sustainability Report for 2012. This is a groundbreaking report. (Disclosure: I assisted with the development and writing of this report. But don't let that fool you. It is still groundbreaking.)

Why is it groundbreaking? Because it's first in many ways:
  • It's the first Sustainability Report from a U.S. based gaming-entertainment corporation which is in accordance with GRI G4 CORE level guidelines.
  • It's one of the first G4 CORE reports published anywhere in the world (there are less than 20 at the time of writing).
  • It's the first G4 report from any U.S. corporation which is published in line with G4 CORE level guidelines (two other U.S. companies published G4 "referenced" reports, one non-profit published a G4 CORE report and a public agency published a G4-referenced Sustainability Review, making Caesars the first corporation to go public with CORE).
  • It's the first Sustainability Report to be published after having passed the spanking new G4 Materiality Matters check. The G4 Materiality Matters check opened for business on December 2nd, and Caesars was one of the first organizations to apply. Actually, I believe this is a FIRST IN THE WORLD G4 CORE Materiality-Matters-checked-by-GRI publication! Correct me, please, if I am wrong, but I have not seen any other report published that can make this claim. 
I am convinced. Groundbreaking it is. It has been a great pleasure and privilege for me to assist such a fabulous organization committed to not only reporting, but to living its sustainability journey with passion and purpose. 

I'll be honest and say that I was a little (a lot) (ok, a ton) skeptical when GRI announced the Materiality Matters check. In this check, GRI promises to analyze responses to 11 materiality disclosures, and ensure that the responses meet the reporting requirements, are correctly located in the report and, equally as important, are easy to locate. I thought this check was probably not worth bothering with. How hard can it be to get a few disclosures in the right place? I felt that the check should include confirmation of the location of all the Disclosures on Management Approach and the Performance Indicators that are required reporting once a company has declared its material Aspects. In fact, I still feel that this would be an important addition to help ensure the integrity of a report.

However, my skepticism faded when I realized that there is room for error. GRI required us to make some modifications to the draft report in order to pass the Materiality Matters check. An incorrect page number in the index. An incomplete link to an external assurance statement. Addition of "disclosure labels" in the body of the report to help the reader locate specific disclosures. Little things, but important ones for report users. And important for reporting companies, because in these little things lies a certain attention to detail that can make a report navigable, coherent and, most importantly, credible. In the end, I was pleased that the folks at Caesars Entertainment took the brave step of submitting their report to GRI scrutiny, and was entirely relieved when GRI delivered the Materiality Matters icon

Over several months, I have come to know many of the Caesars people, and engaged with over 50 executives and staff in thousands of minutes of VOIP, landline, cyberspace and broadband. No, I didn't actually get to Caesars Palace in person this time around, but I did feel that I was there in spirit as I enjoyed many spare minutes playing Slotomania

One of the fascinating parts of this reporting process was the review of Caesars material issues - this was done in several meetings with managers within the company, and external experts from World Resources Institute and others. It was a great process, and resulted, I believe in a more rounded and balanced core of most material issues which formed the heart of the report content.

Another thing that guided the structure and content of this report was the Caesars Code of Commitment. This Code was developed in 2000, and you don't have to have a very long conversation with anyone at all at Caesars to realize that it's the way they live their work. The four key pillars of the Code: commitment to employees, guests, communities and environmental stewardship helped create a perfect framework for Caesars' material issues and the story of Caesars' CSR and sustainability performance in the last year. Helping create Vibrant Communities is at the heart of this story, and the report demonstrates how Caesars makes a positive difference.

I am sure you will want to go take a look at the report yourself, so I won't spoil your fun. A few highlights, however, to whet your appetite, from Caesars' accomplishments in 2012:

  • Completion of 37 corporate efficiency projects with an investment of $3.5 million delivering nearly 24 million kWh energy savings per year. 
  • 24% waste diversion from landfill, measured for the first time. 
  • 41% of women in management roles. 
  • More than 3.6 million hours invested in employee training. 
  • Increase in customer satisfaction scores 2.56 percent, reaching the highest satisfaction levels in Caesars' history. 
  • In 2012, 85 percent of Caesars gaming revenues were related to customers’ specific preferences, enabling Caesars to align special rewards with what customers wanted most. The hotel industry average was 56 percent. 
  • Caesars Entertainment takes a public stand on important issues to support vibrant communities and social justice, including supporting comprehensive immigration reform that both advances border security as well as streamlines the immigration process for those who are willing to work hard and complete the legal process. 
  • In 2012, in the U.S. alone, Caesars employees donated more than 130,000 hours to support local communities.
  • Significant investment in Responsible Gaming with over 35,000 employees trained in Responsible Gaming tools in 2012 alone. 
By the way, Caesars also publishes key data which reports the company's contribution to helping develop Vibrant Communities in different states across the U.S. So if you live in Arizona, Nevada, Mississippi or Pennsylvania, for example, you can download data that is specifically relevant to your community. 

And by now, you probably know what I am going to say next. Read the report. Give feedback.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me at   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)


Anonymous said...

Hi Elaine,
Nice to read about your thoughts and experience with the new service. Congratulation! it is the first one to be checked.
Nelmara Arbex

elaine said...

Thanks Nelmara. We like to be FIRST with things :)

Anonymous said...

As a fellow consultant helping clients get to grip with G4, it is interesting to hear your experiences. I was particularly keen to see how you approached the Local Communities indicator G4-SO1. However, having been identified as a material issue on p11, it then doesn't appear in the GRI content index...? Or am I missing something?

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