Thursday, January 9, 2014

5 ways to make a sustainability report sparkle

Who says that CSR doesn't sparkle? At Tiffany's it certainly does, in more ways than one. Just take a look at Tiffany & Co.'s third Corporate Responsibility Report covering fiscal 2012, and you will see lots of sparkles.

Sparkle 1: A cute sparkling monkey

Sparkle 2: An introductory message from a CEO who is committed to responsible practices.  Michael J. Kowalski is known in the industry as a driving force behind responsible mining and a chain of custody mindset. Take a look at this old but absolutely still relevant case study from Wharton back in 2004

Sparkle 3: Industry leadership in responsible mining, and a variety of engagement frameworks to advance the standardization of responsible industry practice, including a statement on hard-rock mining. This includes a very firm declaration: "If reforms are to succeed, we believe that taxpayers must be fairly compensated for minerals taken from public lands, protection of the environment must be enhanced and business certainty for companies and communities dependent on mining must be improved." 

Sparkle 4: An interesting section on how Tiffany & Co. supports beneficiation - a concept which doesn't find its way into too many sustainability reports as its rather sector-specific, but in the mining and minerals sector, it's well-known. There is a whole branch of economics devoted to beneficiation in South Africa, and a national beneficiation strategy. Essentially, beneficiation means adding processes which increase value - for example, cutting and polishing diamonds in the country of extraction adds local economic value and increases the value of exports, providing greater benefit to local populations. Tiffany & Co.'s operations in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa employ over 90% locals and in 2012, over $90 million was  added to these economies through beneficiation. 

Sparkle 5: This is three sparkles rolled into one. A GRI Index (undeclared level), a UN Global Compact Communication on Progress (Tiffany & Co. has participated since 2011) and a detailed Assurance Statement covering a range of metrics and detailed methodology of factors used in all calculations. A well-rounded set of reporting communications which demonstrate commitment and alignment with key transparency and disclosure frameworks. 

Tiffany & Co. will be featuring at the third annual Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference in London on 25th February 2014. I will be there (yep, doing the chairing thing again), and am especially looking forward to meeting Anisa Kamadoli Costa, another one of Tiffany & Co.'s sparkles. 

Anisa Kamadoli Costa is Chair and President of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Vice President of Global Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility at Tiffany & Co. Anisa leads the global corporate responsibility and sustainability function at Tiffany & Co. and manages the annual philanthropic giving portfolio of $6 million of the Tiffany & Co. Foundation. Prior to joining Tiffany & Co., Anisa worked at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Anisa serves as Chair of the Board of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, a group composed of more than 220 foundations from the U.S., Canada and Europe representing over $1 billion in environmental grantmaking.

I asked Anisa a few questions in the run-up to the Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference. She was very generous with her time and open in her replies. Read on.

Tell us about your professional background and how you came to be Vice President-Global Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility at Tiffany & Co. What specific experience prepared you for this role?

When I joined Tiffany & Co. 10 years ago, I came to the Company with a multi-disciplinary background, which has certainly fit into the global nature of our sustainability work. Factoring global perspectives into sustainability is critical to our efforts at Tiffany & Co. My graduate degree is in international affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and I have worked in both finance and private philanthropy. Through my dual role overseeing sustainability and philanthropy for Tiffany & Co., we have strategically aligned our philanthropic giving with our Company’s sustainability efforts. Strategic philanthropy is a key pillar of Tiffany & Co.’s sustainability work, with a particular focus on responsible mining and coral and marine conservation.

How is your CSR team composed?

Sustainability has always been a part of Tiffany & Co. and is central to how we operate as a luxury brand. Our commitment to sustainability was formalized in 2009 with the establishment of the CSR Committee of the Board of Directors as well as my department. I report directly to Michael Kowalski, Chairman & CEO of Tiffany & Co., who is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the environmental issues that the Company addresses, such as responsible mining. The fact that our team has such strong senior-level support allows us to collaborate closely with internal and external stakeholders and to continue to lead our industry.

How involved is the Board CSR Committee in your work? Do you find this to be helpful? 

The CSR Committee – and in fact the entire Board of Directors – is committed to sustainability and continues to demonstrate that it is a business priority for the Company. This high level leadership emphasizes the importance of sustainability to our business. It is not just the right thing to do, but a smart business decision that I believe improves the long-term strength of our company and our industry.

What are current your priorities in role? And looking toward the next few years?

For many years, the focus of Tiffany & Co.’s sustainability work has been on responsible mining and the responsible sourcing of our raw materials, ranging from diamonds and gold to the paper in our iconic Blue Boxes and bags. Responsible Sourcing continues to be a key priority for us moving forward. There are two timely mining issues that we are addressing, that will be crucial over the next year or so.

Tiffany & Co. is a founding member of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), which seeks to develop true third-party, multi-stakeholder standards for responsible mining. I have been involved in IRMA since 2006, and through this process we collaborate with representatives from industry, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), impacted communities, labor organizations and others, who are all equal participants in the development of the standards. IRMA’s draft standards will be released for public comment in 2014 and piloted in 2015. We value the role that true third-party processes play in raising the bar for our industry and believe in this process as critical to improving standards for responsible mining.

Because of our commitment to the preservation of the natural world, we are raising awareness of the risks associated with the development of the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Bristol Bay is home to the world’s most productive salmon fishery, which would be devastated by one of the world’s largest open-pit gold and copper mines. We believe that Bristol Bay is a special place where mining cannot be done without forever destroying its wildlife, landscape, and community, and we have publicly declared that should the Pebble Mine be developed, we will not source gold from it. Additionally, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authority under the Clean Water Act to block the mine, and they have conducted an assessment to evaluate the impact of large-scale mining on the watershed. The next year will be crucial in the protection of Bristol Bay.

Is there a conflict between luxury brands and CSR? Is this something that gets discussed at Tiffany & Co.?

I actually don’t see a conflict between luxury and CSR as it pertains to Tiffany & Co. As a luxury brand with a 177 year history, we believe that our customers put their trust in us to operate responsibly and to ensure that the jewelry we craft was created in an ethical and responsible way. We take that responsibility seriously and strive to live up to those expectations, ensuring that sustainability considerations are a part of our decision-making processes.

What's Tiffany & Co's record in responsible mining? Are you leaders or followers? Do you get many approaches from activists?

Under the leadership of Michael Kowalski, our Chairman and CEO, Tiffany & Co. has placed a priority on responsible mining issues for nearly 20 years. We source the majority of our precious materials from mines we know, and have traceability and control throughout our supply chain. In addition, we have a long history of collaboration with the nonprofit sector and strongly value the role they play in improving mining standards around the world and representing civil society’s perspectives in these challenging issues.

Who do you expect to be the main audience for your report? How do you ensure that your report gets noticed?

We have a very robust sustainability website, which we use to communicate our sustainability initiatives to all of our stakeholders. We launched our sustainability report in 2011. It is a web-based report, allowing access to a variety of audiences such as our customers, employees, investors, NGOs, the academic community, government and our business partners. The website offers different levels of information so visitors with varying interests can find what they are looking for on the site. We are committed to using the Tiffany brand to increase awareness about the issues we care about, and our website is one tool for that.

Thanks to Anisa, and to Tiffany & Co. for an education in beneficiation.

I guess I will be seein' y'all in London in a few weeks, then, right?

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)

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