Friday, May 30, 2014

Digitizing materiality

This week was a fun week! Amidst all the intensely intensive intensity of G4 reporting for several months as clients race to meet reporting deadlines and us with them, I was able to take a couple of serene days to spend time with fabulous people, enjoy fabulous food in a fabulous setting, and hear some fabulously new stuff.
Yes, I was at the Lundquist 6th annual CSR Awards conference and event in Milan, a gathering of specialist communications and CSR experts from all over Europe. Lundquist is a strategic communications consulting firm based in Italy, and the company boasts a team of leading thinkers in the digital corporate communications space. The recently published Lundquist survey results with trends and practices around CSR and the online universe can be downloaded here:
The research shows an acceleration of the uptake of social and digital technologies compared with previous editions of the research. Now, virtually all sustainability professionals (94%) are on social media with three quarters of these doing so in relation to CSR and sustainability. Video and infographic content are gaining popularity and CSR Managers have become the new social media stars, with everyone wanting to hear from them online. It's always fun to know what frustrates people and the Lundquist research confirmed what we already know - that too much good news is not good news.
The full results and the details of the CSR award winners can be downloaded here. Deutsche Post DHL took first prize, with Nestle and Unilever close behind.
In the Lundquist home market, Italy, Telecom Italia, Hera Group and Snam took the trophies.

Lundquist's research and analysis is really quite fascinating and contains much that should be of interest to CSR corporate communicators. Well worth studying!

During the two day conference, I was pleased to facilitate a workshop with presenters and panelists from Hera Group, Birra Peroni (SAB Miller) and Adidas. I opened up (my presentation embedded below) with an overview of opportunities and risks in the digitization of materiality and stakeholder engagement. While there is incredible potential to reach to stakeholders using online tools, there are also dangers arising from inappropriate use. Not everything that is online provides real insight that is relevant enough to deliver a robust materiality conclusion. The fact that Survey Monkey is free and there is a (G4) stakeholder engagement materiality box to tick does not mean that stakeholder engagement happens. As an element in a set of digital and non-digital tools, there is a place for online surveys. But let's not dumb down stakeholder engagement to the point of mindlessness by going through the motions without due planning and focus.

One of the questions that generated the most debate in our workshop was how to find the right balance between, on the one hand, targeted engagement of experts that can make a contribution based on knowledge, experience and critical analysis and, on the other hand, reach to the general mass consumer population that is, after all, the group that decides whether to buy a company's product or not. We shared lots of views and recognized that each company needs to assess what tools will deliver the most useful materiality input and most reflect stakeholder views in a representative way. Not all stakeholders are equal but no single algorithm can determine which are the most equal.

All in all, a stimulating couple of days, professionally and skillfully organized by the Lundquist team.

My photo gallery from the CSR Awards conference and event
a fabulous colorful place to stay - Hotel Mediolanum

Kicking things off with digital disruption

Joakim Lundquist who kept the two days moving at a pace

Are sustainability reports really dinosaurs? 

The Gala Dinner - in anticipation

The Gala Dinner - home straits

Gotta keep talking

James Osborne, the CSR social media stats and trends wizard
hate turgid

David Connor @davidcoethica raring to present on the ways of using social media
Christine Hermann of Orange talks about what's important

My daughter's new ear piercing  - oops, how did that get in here? 

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, award-winning 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)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Three Big Ambitions at Tesco

I love retail. It's fascinating - so varied, so full of so many different ways of impacting and influencing our lives. So many different priorities and so many opportunities to drive change. The retail sector is highly visible and constantly in the public eye. Not surprisingly, as most of us interact daily with the retail sector for the products we consume, ranging from food, to personal care, clothes, home appliances, furniture and almost everything else. The choices that retailers make affect millions of lives each day.

The retail sector is no stranger to scrutiny and it's probably true that corporate responsibility and sustainability leaders at the large retailers have a job that is anything but boring. Such is the case with Josh Hardie, Group Corporate Responsibility Director at Tesco. Today is one of those totally non-boring days:

First, Tesco announced it is to remove sweets and chocolate from checkouts across the full range of its stores by the end of the year. Tesco found nearly two thirds (65%) of customers said removing confectionery from checkouts would help them make healthier choices. Just over two thirds of parents (67%) told Tesco that confectionery-free checkouts would help them make healthier choices for their children.

Second, Tesco released its annual corporate responsibility communication, the 2014 Tesco and Society Report. More about that later. First, I was pleased to have the opportunity on this non-boring day to chat to Josh and hear his insights about what made today not boring. Josh has been in his role for around 18 months, having managed Tesco UK Community activities for three years prior to that.

Me: Well done on getting rid of sweets at the checkouts.....
Josh: Yes, we believe we are the first in the industry to do this. It's an absolute fit with our approach to helping people manage their health, and their family's health, by not creating temptations that don't support a healthy lifestyle.

Me: And this on the day you publish your Tesco and Society Report...
Josh: We are working all the time to advance our objectives and make a positive impact. The news is not the publication of the report. It's about how we are fulfilling our role in society. This is a fundamental change. In the past, it was all about the report. Anything you wanted to know about CR at Tesco, you would have to go to the report. Now we are trying to make this much more of a continuous communication, updating our website, much more real-time. While the report is important, it should not be the only way we communicate.

Me: CSR at Tesco has been changing  ....
Josh: Essentially, around 18 months ago, we realized that the way we were approaching CSR wasn't really doing the job, and was rather fragmented. Apart from carbon management, where we had done some great work and achieved impressive results, our overall CSR activity was not having the measurable social and commercial impact that we aspired too. Therefore, we took a long, hard look and what was going on and tried to reframe how to move forward.

Me: And Tesco and Society was born....
Josh: Yes, we learnt from what we did in the carbon area. It had been entirely embedded in the business, and all parts of the business had a role to play. It was managed integrally, rather than just being a project lead by community managers. We decided to take a proper look and adopt a more issues based approach, focusing on the issues Tesco people care about. We had hundreds of conversations internally and externally, and came up with our three big ambitions around reducing food waste, improving health and creating opportunities. These issues truly resonate with Tesco employees and they also meet pressing social needs.

Me: But that's not all ....
Josh: Of course not. But the rest is completely non-negotiable. Trading responsibly, reducing our impact on the environment, being a great employer and supporting communities - these aspects of doing business are now so fundamental that they are just part of the way we work. We need to maintain and improve our performance in all these areas. However, the three big ambitions are the areas where we can take a leadership position, given the size, scale and impact of a business such as Tesco. This can lead to truly meaningful change.

Me: And a culture change......
Josh: Yes, this is the hardest part. You can't change culture in a day. It takes time in an organization like Tesco. Refocusing the way we think about these issues, and our role in advancing solutions, and truly embedding them so they become part of the work that people do all the time and not just a project here and there is a really major transformation for our business.

Me: Aligning with global directions in sustainability...
Josh: We have learnt from what other companies are doing in sustainability, especially the companies that have broken the mold such as Nike. Our approach aligns with the way materiality is driving big change, based on a more holistic view of our role in society. We have flipped the way we are thinking, and this is the start of our new journey.

Me: But I didn't notice any targets...
Josh: Work in progress. Changing the way we think and identifying the big issues we will address has been the focus of our energies so far. Also, setting targets in some of these areas is a real challenge. How do you measure the impact we have on customers' health? Do you look at the healthy content of shopping baskets, or calorie content, or something else? We are reviewing the way we can measure our impact across all our CR performance areas, especially our three big ambitions, and plan to have firmer targets developed by the time our next report is published. We have a new advisory panel that is helping us in this area as well.

Me: I also didn't notice G4 showing up...
Josh: We take guidance from the Global Reporting Initiative framework, but we have chosen not to apply the framework in full. We feel that it's a very useful guide and has challenged us to improve our materiality and disclosure, but prefer the flexibility to do this in a way that is specifically relevant to our strategy.

Me:  What else isn't in there?
Josh: All the answers. We have tried to reflect our approach and performance in a modest way, focusing on the issues, expressing the start of a journey and the challenges ahead in a more realistic way than just saying how wonderful we are. One of the most difficult things is going out to the public with a declaration that we plan to do something in the area of food waste, health or anything else, when we don't have all the answers. Whatever we communicate triggers a debate. With this report, we have had to have the confidence that we mean what we say and that we will work toward delivering our promises, even though we can't provide all the detail today.

Me: And the next report
Josh One thing we might do better in the next report is reflect the different pace of progress in our three ambitions. In this report, we have given all three fairly equal weighting when in practice, we are far more advanced in the area of food waste, we are starting to motor just now in the area of improving health, and in the area of creating opportunities, we have some way to go. In the next report, we should try to reflect this in a way that gives each issue a more appropriate weighting.

Me: Not going to be a boring year, then...
Josh: Anything but.

As Josh Hardie mentioned above, this report is designed around the Tesco and Society approach that was developed last year and introduced in the 2013 report. Despite this not being a G4 report (you all know how I love G4!), the report has a priority-issues-based structure that enables us to clearly navigate to what Tesco is doing in the areas that matter.

The three big ambitions take center stage, and are well explained. At this point, as it is still early days in the "scale for good" journey for Tesco, it's as much about intention as it is about performance, and time will show how Tesco progresses in future reports. This report is very appealing to a wide readership - clear narrative and infographics galore - it might even appeal to Tesco customers. Maybe Tesco should place copies of this report at the checkouts instead of sweets :) Haha. Just joking. I think.

For the more professional reader, the report is rather light on 2013 performance data in areas I would expect a large company sustainability report to cover, such as, for example, employee diversity (other than gender), health and safety, and water performance relative to prior years. Also, while the focus on the three big ambitions is valuable, other issues that we might expect to be discussed in a corporate responsibility report of a major grocery retailer didn't hit the radar - socio-economic impact of store location and placement, construction and green building, sustainable agriculture, supplier diversity, sell-by dates, product labeling and all the other businesses that Tesco is involved in from mobile phones to banking services to petrol filling stations and more. However, the Tesco website contains a wealth of additional information including a catchy business model animation and deeper dive reports into specific issues.  

In the meantime, Tesco is doing more than reporting. It's driving a culture change throughout its business, and that's infinitely more challenging. This, of course, is what will make a difference to the lives of the half a million employees of the company, and the many more millions that go to Tesco to shop in several countries. Reporting about it reinforces and leverages that culture change. I am cautiously optimistically looking forward to the next report already. 

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, award-winning 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)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

18 winning CSR Reports

Congrats to the big three winners of CRRA '14. Coca Cola, The Cooperative Group and Novo Nordisk. They've all done it again! 

These three giants have picked up FIVE of the nine first place winning category votes, including the Best Report going to Coca Cola. In total they picked up ELEVEN of the available 27 top spots - winner and two runners-up in each of the nine award categories. That's 17% of the winning reports gaining 40% of the top spot votes. Pareto didn't quite get it totally right this time, but it's close :)

Coca Cola is no stranger to winning votes in the annual CRRA line-up. Over the years, the company has picked up SEVEN first place awards, and a total of FOURTEEN top three spots. 

The Cooperative Group has done pretty well too, with NINE top three spots, of which FIVE are first place awards, since 2008. 

Novo Nordisk has not been outdone either, gaining TWO winning places and a runner-up place in CRRA '14, with a total of EIGHT first place awards, and TWO more runner up awards since the beginning of time. Or the beginning of CRRA.    

All three companies have had first place winning reports every single year since the start of the CRRA competition, except for Cooperative Group who did not enter in CRRA '07, but won a first place in every other year.  No other company since the start of CRRA has achieved this feat. 

In total in CRRA '14, 18 reports won the top 27 spots, out of the total 88 organizations that entered CRRA '14, with around 53 reports shortlisted. Interestingly ALL the winning reports in the top three places in all categories are GRI based reports. I think this is the first time this has happened in the history of CRRA. NINE of the 18 winning reports came from the U.S. and there was one winning report from nine other countries. Of the SEVEN winning reports in first place in nine categories, FIVE came from the U.S. and one from the UK and one from Brazil. The longest winning report in first place was 198 pages (Smithfields Foods) and the shortest was 56 (Ernst and Young Americas). 

Here are the winners:

Best Report
Winner:   Coca Cola Enterprises CR & Sustainability Report 2012 / 2013 
1st Runner-up: BMW Sustainable Value Report 2012    
Best First Time Report
Winner:   Ernst & Young Americas Patterns of Progress 2012  

Best Integrated Report  
Novo Nordisk A/S annual report 2012 

Best Carbon Disclosure   
HP 2012 Global Citizenship Report  
Creativity in Communications
Winner:  Coca Cola Enterprises CR & Sustainability Report 2012 / 2013 
1st Runner-up: Novo Nordisk A/S annual report 2012  
2nd Runner-up: H &M Sustainability Report 2012  

Innovation in Reporting
Winner:  Bloomberg LP 2012 Sustainability Report
1st Runner-up: Coca Cola Enterprises CR & Sustainability Report 2012 / 2013
2nd Runner-up:  Merck & Co Inc Corporate Responsibility Highlights 2012  

Relevance & Materiality
Winner:  Co-operative Group Limited Sustainability Report 2012  
1st Runner-up:   Miller Coors 2013 Sustainability Report  

Openness & Honesty
Winner:   Smithfield Foods Inc 2012 Integrated Report  
1st Runner-up:  Microsoft Corporation Citizenship Report 2013 

Credibility through Assurance  
Novo Nordisk A/S annual report 2012
1st Runner-up:  Co-operative Group Limited Sustainability Report 2012 
2nd Runner-up:  Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity) 2012 Annual Report

Well done to all the winning reports and to the repeat repeat repeat repeat winners. 

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)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Gone fishing. You coming?

When you are in the process of preparing a sustainability report, there is something you can't help but notice. It happens very frequently, with the best of intentions. It's the fact that people keep coming to you with things they did last month or last week and saying: "That would be good to put in the report." There seems to be a universal expectation that almost anything people did that was slightly "good" should be part of the sustainability report, because (a) sustainability report should contain "good" things and (b) sustainability reports should contain everything - aka - the more you can cram in, the more transparent you will appear to be and that can only be a good thing, right? 

This approach is not surprising, really. For years we have been talking about "doing good", giving back", "being nice","good business" and all the other fun phrases you can probably think of. It's not surprising that everyone in organizations thinks that sustainability reports should be a compilation of the highest number of good things an organization can muster up, irrespective of how significant they are. We held an Easter Egg hunt for a local school. We installed a recycling bin in our office. We hired a disabled person. We installed a low-flush toilet in the CEO's private office. We planted six trees in a park near our factory. We thought about carbon emissions. Four employees now carpool to the office. We donated left-over carrots from lunch to the local homeless shelter. Things can get a little ridiculous. Although these little things can actually be tremendously important for the individuals involved, in the grander scheme of things, and in the less grander scheme of sustainability reporting, they are probably not quite so mindblowing. 

Similarly, for years we have been talking about transparency. More is more, not less. More data, more transparent, more sustainable. More details, more respect. More stories, more trust. Transparency became this great megalithic everything that was more important that the substance itself. Transparency at all costs. This had everybody aiming for the iconic GRI "A", oft noted in press releases as the highest achievement or even the highest accolade for a sustainability report. 

In a culture which was rewarding maximum positive transparency, it's not surprising that every time someone thought of some small magnanimous action, it was considered eligible narrative for the sustainability report. 

But that was then. That was before G4. G4 has helped shift our mindset to relevant transparency, not maximum transparency. To the point that, as I conduct the hundreds of conversations with people in organizations that I serve as I help them prepare their forthcoming sustainability reports, I sort of consider myself to be somewhat of a fisherwoman. 

I fish for the information the report needs, I don't always catch the information the people want to give. 

Writing a sustainability report is like going fishing. You need a good rod, proper bait, some ice cream to help you pass the time while you reel in several empty rods or old shoes, and infinite amounts of patience as you wait for the prize fish to show. A sustainability report made up of prize fish is infinitely more useful than one which contains a not very discerning collection of general garbage. Haha. If this resonates, get a new fishing rod.   

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)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

G4 reporting: what's wrong in the financial services sector?

How do you assess the quality of a G4 report? Sustainability reports are complex things and must meet a wide range of goals, objectives, stakeholder interests in qualitative and quantitative data, style, tone and conceptual elements and more. Some reports tell a great story, some tell too great a story, some are more authentic, some are less. Some reports reflect a maturity of sustainability approach and some reflect the first stages on what promises to be quite a long journey. Some get the message across, some actually get the message through. Reviewing sustainability reports is always a challenging task and often reflects more about the reviewer than the report itself. However, there is one aspect of G4 sustainability reporting that is not open to interpretation and that is quality. By quality, I refer to the way in which the report has adhered to the G4 guidelines. Not just quality in a general sense, whether the writing is of good "quality" by whatever standards you choose to apply, or if the data is presented coherently. I mean quality in the very specific sense of the extent to which the G4 report adhered to the G4 framework it declared. More like integrity. Whether the report does what it declares to do. If a company prepares a G4 report, and declares it to be in accordance with the core or comprehensive reporting level, then I expect to see the elements of the G4 core or comprehensive reporting level guidelines reflected in that report. Anything less is poor quality. Maybe even poor integrity. 

However, in the 100 day grace period - which for our purposes can mean the first G4 report issued - we can expect G4 to be a learning process. There are some aspects of G4 that require some interpretation and judgment - and others which are crystal clear. As anyone who has read my book Understanding G4: The Concise Guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting will know, a G4 report starts from a different place than the old generation G3 reports. We would expect to see G4 reports look different, not just G3 reports with a G4 index. G4 is a different ball game. It is to be expected that the first G4 reporting cycle, and maybe the first few, will contain some areas of learning, misunderstanding and inappropriate adaptation, no matter whether this is for all the right reasons or for all the wrong ones. 

The GRI Materiality Matters check, I must admit, is not all that helpful. While it focuses on checking disclosures against a core set of material indicators, it only goes half way. It checks whether certain general disclosures exist, it doesn't check whether the issues that are stated to be material are actually specifically reported. That's a shame. GRI could play a much bigger role in helping advance the quality of reporting, not just the quantity. This has been a problem I have raised several times, and have always failed to understand the reluctance of GRI to do more, notwithstanding the immense role GRI has had and continues to have in driving awareness and scaling reporting to unprecedented proportions, including through legislation. The quality of reporting is not keeping pace with the scale of reporting. We are in danger of getting more sub-quality reports faster.

The good news is that G4 has taken off and is fast becoming the standard. In my view, that is definitely a step in the right direction. Since the May 2013 launch, the GRI database shows more than 150 G4 reports that have been published to date. I expect that will triple by the end of this year.

Coming back to quality, the encouraging uptake of G4 has regrettably inherited the sloppy quality of G3. I selected the financial services sector with the largest number by sector of G4 reports published to date to do a quick review of how G4 is being applied in practice by these pioneering organizations. My analysis of 7 randomly selected reports from this sector is constructive criticism, I hope, and an opportunity to demonstrate how report quality can be improved. I will focus on the way material Aspects are reported.

Let's remind ourselves what G4 material Aspects are. Material Aspects are the sustainability topics that have been determined to be most material following an evaluation and prioritization process including input from internal and external stakeholders. Organizations may identify hundreds of sustainability topics and then, after due process, select a shortlist of topics that are representative of the organization's most significant impacts.  Once prioritized, topics are aligned with predefined material Aspects, of which there are 46 in 6 categories in G4 and more in the Sector Disclosure supplements. Where there is no alignment (i.e. the organization prioritizes an issue which is not one of the predefined Aspects), G4 provides for the organization to retain the topic as material and deal with it in the report in the same way it deals with Aspects. The GRI content index shows the location of disclosures relating to material Aspects, both the DMA (Disclosures on Management Approach) and the performance indicators. Where a topic that is not an Aspect is selected, the organization must still report a DMA and performance indicators.

Simply put: We should quickly be able to see what's material (Aspects) and how these are reported (DMA and indicators). The G4 Content index should provide the "audit trail" for these material disclosures, in the prescribed format. In this way, the material Aspect is the first identifier and then all the relevant performance indicators  should be reported in support of that Aspect disclosure.

Absa (Barclays Africa)

Barclays Africa publishes an Integrated G4 report, 163 total pages, with separate downloadable G4 Content Index. There is also a Citizenship Report 2013 which declares itself to be a G3 report, Application Level B, but refers to the GRI Index online which is actually a G4 Content index. A little confusion among the ranks at Barclays Africa, it seems to me. 

The Integrated Report is declared as in accordance with G4 core level, and the material issues are identified on page 10: 

Barclays Africa defines 24 material issues (topics) in five categories. Within the report, the bank discloses against these topics using its own Balanced Scorecard approach and performance indicators. There is no alignment here with G4 material Aspects. Barclays Africa provides a G4 content index, but this is not presented in a way which enables correlation between indicators reported and material issues. The material Aspects are not correlated to issues, they are just listed (as in a G3 report).

There is no easy way to correlate these disclosures to the material issues stated, nor understand if the issues have been reported in full. The GRI content index makes reference to the Citizenship Report but no GRI-based performance indicators are included in this report. After spending quite some time going back and forth, I conclude that the Barclays Africa report does not meet the requirements of a G4 core report. That's not to say it's not a transparent report, and there is a certain logic to Barclays Africa presenting its performance using the company's own Balanced Scorecard system. Performance measures are noted in each section and data is disclosed. However, this Integrated Report declares itself to be in accordance with G4 core, and I do not believe it is.

Australian Ethical Investments Ltd

Australian Ethical published a Sustainability Report for year ending June 2013, G4 comprehensive level with a Materiality Matters GRI check. It is 61 pages. 

The company has identified nine material Aspects and these are listed as: compliance (product responsibility), product portfolio, active ownership, governance, ethics and integrity, client experience, shareholder confidence, responsible and ethical investment and climate change. You may notice that these material Aspects do not entirely align with the G4 prescribed material Aspects list, but my expectation was that the company would provide DMA and performance indicators for each nonetheless. 

Australian Ethical created a separate appendix for DMA disclosures and used the content index for performance indicators. However, in the content index, only four material issues are noted, including one which was not stated as material. Australian Ethical reports against the material Aspect Employment, but this was not noted as a material Aspect by the company.

In addition, three material issues  - compliance, product portfolio and active ownership  - are reported but the remaining five issues identified as material are not. This report reflects the company's sustainability performance in many ways and presents quite some detail. However, there remains a disconnect between what is stated as material and what is actually reported. Therefore, in my analysis, I would not confirm this report as in accordance with G4.

Banco Bradesco

Banco Bradesco of Brazil published an Annual Report 2013 which is "in accordance" with G4. It's a 130 page report in Portuguese - the English version does not seem to be available just yet. While I don't speako the lingo mucho, I was able to get the gist of this report. The first thing that struck me was that I couldn't find any declaration that this report is in accordance at core or at comprehensive level. G4-32 requires this to be stated, because if it is not, the report is not in accordance. Banco Bradesco's response to G4-32 in the G4 content index says this is disclosed but I couldn't find it. This is especially surprising as this report has been assured twice! Alongside the self-declarared in accordance, both assurers, DNV and KPMG, also declare this report as de acordo, and even, em totos os aspectos relevantes. Here are the statements. Please tell me if the language barrier is misleading me here, because if it is not, and Google Translate is doing its job, the assurers apparently are not. 

In this report, Banco Bradesco declares seven material issues and aligns them to "Aspectos GRI G4" although not all of these actually seem to align with the G4 Aspectos, as far as I can tell. I am not even sure they align with the Financial Services Sector Supplement. 

Banco Bradesco's G4 content index is G3-style - a list of indicators and a list of responses. No reference to disclosures on management approach (DMA). No linkage between the Aspects and the G4 content index.

Another one bites the dust. Apparently.

Danske Bank Group

Danske Bank published its 2013 Corporate Responsibility Report, a G4 core report of 64 pages, with a separate online only G4 content index. The report shows 19 material issues.

However, Danske Bank does not disclose performance indicators for any of these issues. None of the issues are aligned with the G4 predefined material Aspects. In fact the content index is rather a waste of time.

The DMA disclosures are one-liners that could have been written by almost any company and offer little value to the reader of this report. They are rather poorly written. The reason equal opportunity and non-discrimination is material is stated as "Attaching any significance in work-related contexts to differences in nationality, religion, sexual orientation and gender, should be avoided." Duh. Equal opportunity is a material Aspect in the Labor Practices and Decent Work category, and the required performance indicator for a G4 report is G4-LA12. "Composition of governance bodies and breakdown of employees per employee category according to gender, age group, minority group membership, and other indicators of diversity." The content index refers us to pages 48 and 49 of the Corporate Responsibility Report and to the company website (where the same information is duplicated). In neither case is the information supporting G4 LA-12 reported. Some supplementary information is provided (but not referenced) in the separate Corporate Responsibility Fact Book, but even so, this does not meet the requirements of G4-LA12. Here again, Danske Bank may have done an interesting job in delivering another sustainability report full of facts and figures and interesting information, but it is not in accordance with G4 core.

I will take a quick time-out to highlight a nice touch in the Danske Bank report. It includes several dilemma pages - issues the bank faces that provide particular challenges in sustainability terms. It's a nice way of demonstrating that finding the best way forward to address complex challenges is not always so simple. All companies go through this. I like the way Danske Bank presents these dilemmas and helps us understand the issues.

dunia Finance

This 99 page 2013 Sustainability Report is a self-declared G4 core report. It is dunia's first sustainability report and should therefore be applauded. Clearly, significant efforts have gone into its production and it contains a lot of interesting and important information. However, the organization has not quite grasped the meaning of the G4 guidelines and the in accordance declaration. No material issues are stated anywhere in this report. In response to G4-19, page 5 is indicated as the disclosure location.
This is page 5. There are no material issues and no mention of any process for identifying material issues.

This is the G4 content index for performance disclosures. dunia has selected some performance indicators and notes page ranges where disclosures and DMAs can be found. There are just a few.
 Great intention, but this is not an in accordance G4 report. Another one not.
Grupo Santos Seguros
This was one of the very early G4 reports, the Reporte de Sustenabilidad 2012/2013, a 99 pager at G4 core level. First, there is a table of material issues and the corresponding material Aspects in G4. There are 12 material issues, and the relevant G4 Aspects are noted by material issue. Very clear presentation.
The G4 content index is presented in order of the material Aspects defined by G4, supported by selected performance indicators for each with the enfoque de gestion (DMA) identified for each material Aspect.  This makes it rather difficult to correlate actually what indicators related to what material issues.
Also, there are several material issues without performance indicators, either because the G4 content index refers to general disclosures, which are not actually performance indicators, or because there are none. For example, one of the material issues which is about programas sociales relaiconados a la prevencion y seguridad con la sphere de influencia doesn't appear to be associated with any material Aspect or performance indicator at all.

Now, the Grupos Seguros report is a massive undertaking in transparency, scope, detail and data. It aligns with G4, UNGC and ISO26000.  In fact, it makes so many links and cross-references that you lose the storyline completely and the report becomes a nightmare in navigation. In any language. In accordance with G4 - extremely borderline.... probably not in the strictest sense.
OP-Pohjola Group
Op-Pohjola Group has published a Corporate Social Responsibility report for 2013 of 60 pages in accordance with GRI G4 comprehensive level and containing the Materiality Matters check logo. Op-Pohjola has identified 23 material issues, shown in a matrix in the body of the report, and later, by G4 relevant categories (with 30 material Aspects). 

This has the advantage of not over-facing the reader with G4 jargon in the report narrative - enabling the reader to follow the flow while ensuring alignment of material issues to the G4 material Aspects. Unfortunately, however, both these versions don't match, and it is not clear in the structure of the report itself where what has been disclosed. Not only this, but the report does not include Disclosures on Management Approach in full. For example, the first and most material issue is Customer Privacy. While G4-PR8 has been reported under the heading "Product Responsibility", there is no DMA relating to privacy. The G4 content index is a list of indicators unrelated to the material Aspects presented. Therefore, in order to follow the "audit trail" of material issues to Aspects to performance indicators, you need to be somewhat of a detective. Here again, while this report does present a range of relevant sustainability information, G4 exactly it is not quite. Despite the Materiality Matters check!
So, what does all this tell us?

First, the companies are delighted to adopt the G4 guidelines but their behavior doesn't appear to have changed all that much. G4 is a paradigm shift. It says: decide what's most important and restructure your thinking, strategy, actions and reporting all around that. It's not just about doing what you always did and reordering the paragraphs of your sustainability report. Of the reports I have reviewed above, there is no real evidence of this shift in thinking. Instead of using the materiality driven approach, companies in this sector seem to be doing what they have always been doing and adding in a materiality matrix or list in order to tick the box. Not the kind of quality we hoped for when G4 was launched.
Second, there is a certain appeal in delivering a G4 report, and even in achieving the Materiality Matters check. It shows you are a leader. But what's the point of leading if you don't lead well? If you do not understand, or do not want, or cannot get organized effectively enough to deliver a G4 report in the proper way, then stick with G3 until you can. Or get a GREAT consultant, haha, just saying.
Third, let's be clear, all sustainability reporting is progress and this analysis does not ignore the fact that all the reports analyzed above are very impressive in many ways, and include many disclosures that are important, relevant and even material. In many cases, they may well meet stakeholder information needs and provide valuable insight into responsible and sustainable business practices. This post is not intended to  undermine such positive practice. However, there is no good way to point out opportunities to improve without highlighting opportunities to improve. 
And to end off on a positive note, one of the few admirable  examples I have seen of a G4 report that links material issues to performance indicators in a coherent way (aside from the ones I have supported writing :)) is Vodafone India 2012-2013 Sustainability Report.
This report is structured around the core material issues. See the issues and the content list >>>>

And the performance indicators are aligned with these issues and material Aspects, quite clearly, quite transparently, and quite cleverly.

The report design is pretty cool as well. All in all, G4, simple, straightforward and clear. Evidence of deep thinking and integral strategy. Short, compact, coherent report. It can be done. 

So, what went wrong in the financial services sector?

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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