Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Strauss Group: a special 7th report

I am always delighted to showcase reports we have worked on for our clients, and this month, Strauss Group published its seventh annual Sustainability Report.

Strauss Group is an international corporation with a portfolio of five companies in the food and beverage sector, headquartered in Israel, active in 24 countries and generating $2.35 billion in consolidated sales in 2013. The Group directly employs over 13,500 people.  

7 is a very special number in many ways. It's the lowest natural number that cannot be represented as the sum of the squares of three integers. is the aliquot sum of one number, the cubic number 8 and is the base of the 7-aliquot tree. 7 is the only dimension, besides the familiar 3, in which a vector cross product can be defined. 7 is the lowest dimension of a known exotic sphere. Of course, if you understood all of that, you are way more intelligent than I am. Or probably than anyone I know. I copy-pasted these 7-facts from Wikipedia. Impressive, right? In the Jewish religion, 7 is special in different ways. More copy-paste - here we come: 7 is one of the greatest power numbers in Judaism, representing Creation, good fortune, and blessing. The Bible is replete with things grouped in 7. Besides the Sabbath, the 7th day, there are 7 laws of Noah and 7 Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Several Jewish holidays are 7 days long, and priestly ordination takes 7 days. The Land of Israel was allowed to lie fallow one year in 7. The menorah in the Temple has 7 branches. There's more from the Rabbi ... check it out here. In numerology, the number 7 is the seeker, the thinker, the searcher of Truth. The 7 doesn't take anything at face value - it is always trying to understand the underlying, hidden truths. The 7 knows that nothing is exactly as it seems and that reality is often hidden behind illusions. More for numerologists here. In gambling, number 7 is really lucky. According to the Psychic Library website, on July 7, 2007, the casinos were full up as hopefuls tried to beat the lucky date 07/07/07 (maybe they also went at 07:07 in the morning!) Someone even wrote a book about the magical, amazing and popular number 7. 

So, having established that 7 is special, we might then expect something special from Strauss Group's 7th Sustainability Report. Here are 7 special things about Strauss Group's 7th Sustainability Report.

First, it's prepared in accordance with GRI G4 (core), a first for Strauss. So far, worldwide, just a few hundred companies have ventured into G4 territory. Actually, the stretch was not overly significant for Strauss, as a deep materiality review had been conducted in 2012 and presented in Strauss's 2012 report. In 2013, in preparation for this report, further consultation with stakeholders was conducted and resulted in a revised focus on six core material issues. The main narrative of the report is aligned with these six material themes. 

Second, each materiality-based chapter presents the core issues, aligned strategic goals, GRI G4 material Aspects and reported Performance Indicators. As you will know if you have read my G4-Game-changer series, this is a critical element of a G4 report. There must be an audit trail from strategy to materiality to performance. The Strauss Group report ensures this is as clear as you can get. 

Third, this report presents Strauss Groups's 2020 Sustainability Strategy. Strauss Group has been assimilating sustainability practices into its operations for many years. This is the first time the Group has worked across company-boundaries and created a global corporate multi-year strategy with measurable targets. The strategy has two elements: impact and performance. Each has three dimensions.

In the Impact element, the three dimensions relate to the direct connection of stakeholders to the company. Colleagues (employees) are the first degree of impact. They are the first to experience the way the company behaves toward them, and they are also the ambassadors of the company and define the way the company impacts other stakeholders. Consumers are a much larger group, of course, and they are directly impacted by the product quality, choice, availability, access and messaging of Strauss Group. The way Strauss impacts consumers has a direct result on the quality of their lives and the way they connect to the company's products. Finally, the Citizenship dimension represents Strauss Group's impacts on society, the environment and all relevant stakeholders. By improving impacts in a spirit of citizenship, ethical behavior, efficient resource management and transparency, Strauss Group continues to make a positive impact as a good corporate citizen. 

In each dimension, the 2020 Sustainability Strategy defines 3 levels of performance - meet, exceed and lead. Meet refers to meeting the basic performance expectations of society and all stakeholders in relation to commonly accepted standards of responsible behavior including governance, compliance and ethics. Exceed represents continuous improvement, exceeding prior performance in certain strategically defined performance areas. Lead refers to a smaller number of performance areas where Strauss aspires to make significant progress and achieve levels of impact that can be considered leading performance at a global level. In this way, the Sustainability Strategy defines the scope and scale and degree of impact improvement that Strauss Group plans to achieve in the next few years. 

Fourth, Aron Cramer, CEO of BSR and one of the leading thinkers and opinion-leaders in sustainability today, reviewed Strauss's material issues and strategic direction and provided guidance. "Strauss should be focused on real issues that are driven by core products. These could include enhancing consumer choice, helping consumers understand the health implications of consumption habits, through product labeling and other means, and sustainable sourcing." His full commentary can be found in the report.  

Fifth, the people. Strauss people appear on many pages of this report and they are the ones that make it all happen. Working with Strauss Group, we are privileged to meet many employees in the course of our varied interactions with Strauss around the world, and we can testify to the Strauss spirit and values that motivate and inspire employees to do great things. Employee engagement at Strauss reaches 92% in parts of the Group, based on employee surveys, and that's what makes this 7th report (and all previous ones) special. 

Sixth, the infographic. It's always good to get the report highlights all in one place. If you are a numbers person, this is the page for you.

7th, is the fact that it's the 7th. Delivering a sustainability report year after year is no easy task. Strauss Group is the only Israel-based company to date that has published  7 reports, year after year, since 2008, demonstrating not only a commitment to transparency and continuous improvement, but also a commitment to local leadership and best practice. 

For us at Beyond Business, supporting clients such as Strauss, as we do around the world, is a privilege and we are delighted to have been able to help create this 7th report. 

Oh and by the way, I should also mention that the number 7 is very relevant to the world of ice cream too. I happened to come across, in my search for all things 7, this announcement by Perry's Ice Cream of 7 new flavors for 2014.  They all sound delicious. As 2014 is nearly over, I had better start tasting.....

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, 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 via www.twitter.com/elainecohen   or via my business website www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

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