Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sustainability Reporting in the Year of the Horse

The Year of the Horse should be extremely promising for Sustainability Reporting. In the coming year, Susan Levitt tells us what to expect: "In Chinese astrology, Horse year is considered a fortunate year that brings luck and good things...... Energy is high and production is rewarded. Decisive action, not procrastination, brings victory. But you have to act fast in a Horse year. If you are not 100% secure about a decision, then don’t do it. Events move so quickly in a Horse year that you don’t want to gallop off in the wrong direction.....Keep in mind this year that Horse energy is free spirited, wild, willful, and independent. ...... Horse year is time to act fast, buy that home, launch that business, travel the world, make a big purchase, get a promotion at work, have a breakthrough – take a leap and fly."

In the Sustainability Reporting world, that means.... publish your first Sustainability Report, move to G4 reporting, get a great new reporting consultant :). 

I love Chinese astrology, it's really quite interesting.  I was first introduced to it by a French friend when I was living in Paris as a student. That was when I first discovered I was... wait for it... yes... of all things... a PIG. I became quite proud of being a pig. And I am a rather typical pig. Especially when I am eating ice cream. Consequently, I am looking forward to a wonderful 2014, as the pig in the Year of the Horse is by all accounts supposed to fare fairly well. This means I will be writing lots more Sustainability Reports, and having lots more after-report parties. 

Anyone who keeps horses may be interested in green horsekeeping. Or you might want to take a leaf out of the book of D’Arrigo Racing Stables, established in 1990, a thoroughbred training and racing farm in Cumberland County, N.J. D’Arrigo Racing Stables has demonstrated superb environmental best management practices such as minimizing storm water run-off, establishing controls to reduce soil erosion, maintaining a low stocking density, and meticulous pasture care - and even won a sustainability award. And if you are passing by the University of Oregon, you might make a short detour to visit the Sustainable Horse Demonstration Farm.

As a tribute to the Year of the Horse, I did a quick PDF search on to come up with reports that talk about horses. You may be surprised at the number of different ways horses appear in sustainability reports, most of them without really being horses

The first result that came up was the Jaguar Land Rover 2012-2013 Sustainability Report. What have horses got to do with Jags? See this:

A super-sustainable hybrid Jag with 502 brake horse power. Wonder if they'll take my train pass as trade-in?

The next Sustainability Report to hit the horse radar is the Growmark 2013 Sustainability Report.

GROWMARK, Inc. is a regional agricultural cooperative based in Bloomington, Illinois. GROWMARK is owned by local member cooperatives and provides those cooperatives and other customers with energy products, crops nutrients, crop protection products, seed, structures, equipment, and grain marketing services. The only mention of horses is in the community section, where an animal shelter owner takes in dogs, cats and horses and was thrilled to receive food donations to help feed them. No horse photos, though.

SanLucar goes even further in their community activities with horses.

The SanLucar 2012 Sustainability Report references support for the therapeutic center “Pferde Stärken”, where therapy with horses for people with special needs is applied.

Horses are also involved in sports and gaming and Ladbroke's 2012 Fair Play Report notes the economic contribution derived from a contribution to sport through advertising, sponsorship, and media rights payments and support for the horse racing and greyhound industries through taxes and voluntary funding.

Another equine reference can be found in Consol Energy's 2012 CR Report, in the performance highlights of Consol's Central Appalachian operations. Reclamation activities are conducted alongside mining activities, and Post Mine Land Use (PMLU) requirements of Consol Energy's permits require Hay and Pastureland PMLU’s that support local farmers and landowners that raise horses and cattle. So, if ever you are in the Central Appalachian region, expect to see plenty of horses enjoying life to the full.

I was intrigued when the Vestas Wind Systems report for 2012 appeared on the list of reports with a horsey mention. Where do horses and wind power come together? Did you know, for instance, that horse latitudes are "two belts of latitude where winds are light and the weather is hot and dry......The term horse latitudes supposedly originates from the days when Spanish sailing vessels transported horses to the West Indies. Ships would often become becalmed in mid-ocean in this latitude, thus severely prolonging the voyage; the resulting water shortages would make it necessary for crews to throw their horses overboard." I thought that the Vestas report might even make reference to the Wind Horse. "The wind horse is an allegory for the human soul in the shamanistic tradition of East Asia and Central Asia. In Tibetan Buddhism, it was included as the pivotal element in the center of the four animals symbolizing the cardinal directions and a symbol of the idea of well-being or good fortune."

Imagine my disappointment when I realized that the horse reference in the Vestas Report is not really a horse reference at all. Rather it is part of the name of a School of Engineering which appears in the resume of one of the executive managers.

I couldn't finish this horsey post without a frustrated reference to the Tesco and Society Report for 2013

Although the Brits find humor in most situations, as demonstrated by my post of January 2013, when the Tesco horse meat dressed up as frozen beefburger scandal hit the grills, there wasn't actually anything terribly funny about the appalling lapse in quality standards of food products hitting the Tesco shelves. The Tesco 2013 report doesn't avoid a mention of the issue:

And there are a couple of other references to the unacceptability of Tesco products being anything other than perfect. However, what I fail to find in the Tesco report is a clear description of specific actions taken as a result of what The Guardian called  "the biggest food fraud of the 21st century", and specific plans to prevent recurrence. While it's good that Tesco admits to completely misleading customers regarding the content of certain food products, and completely botching certain supply chain quality processes, I personally find the glossy Tesco rhetoric in the 2013 report to be lacking in depth and accountability and transparency. People deserve better, and so do horses.

So, in the coming Year of the Horse, in which Sustainability Reporting will flourish, beefburgers will be beefburgers, horse power will drive us forward, and horse therapy will help those in need, we pigs will apparently know great prosperity, and we hope you will too. With great respect for horses, I wish everyone a wonderful Chinese New Year.  

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)

1 comment:

Linda Lowson, Esq. said...

Splendid post, Elaine, we all need some comic relief, and yours was especially funny. Well-written as always. I too am an avid fan of Chinese Astrology. 2014 is the Year of Wooden Horse. Wood is related to tree or green. Therefore, 2014 is also called Year of Green Horse--which confirms your optimism that 2014 will be a great year for Sustainability Reporting!

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