Tuesday, August 30, 2016

10 ways to have CSR fun in Berlin in September

Planning go to Berlin on 14-16 September 2016? Could possibly get there on 14-16 September 2016? There anyway? Let me help you decide how to have some fun on those days.

1. Go to one of the best Ice Cream Shops in Berlin and try out at least 5 flavors.

2. Attend the opening session of the 7th International Conference on Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility at Humboldt University. The conference theme is "CSR in an age of digitization".

At 08:45 precisely on Wednesday 14th September, Joachim Schwalbach will take the stage to open  up three days of spectacular debate, as he has done for the International CSR Conference Series since its inception in 2004. Joachim is Professor emeritus of International Management at Berlin's Humboldt University, and a prominent expert in CSR and related topics with a distinguished academic career to date. 

I asked Joachim about his hopes for the upcoming conference.
Joachim Shwalbach: "Based on the take-out of the conference in 2014, my hope is that we find ways for technological innovations to empower individuals and organizations to contribute to society's well-being. The last conference concentrated on the connection between innovation and sustainability. There were many insights resulting from that conference, but I will mention only three: First, given the challenge to global sustainability, incremental improvements are not enough. Instead, sustainability driven innovations increase the likelihood to improve value creation by companies and in society. Second, the conference brought two camps, innovation and sustainability, together. These disciplines do not normally pay attention to each other in companies as well as in academia. Third, digitization may help to speed up the process so that innovation and sustainability will be present in all elements of the value chain in companies. The 2016 conference will be a natural extension of our thinking in 2014."  

Well, there you are, and we are only at number two thing to do. If you are not convinced, read on for 8 more fun things to do. 

3. Attend the first plenary at 0900 on Wednesday 14th September at the 7th International Conference on Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility at Humboldt University. Join Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, Georg Kell, Vice Chairman of Arabesque Partners, an asset management firm for sustainable investing and the founding Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact until recently and David Kiron, executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review's Big Ideas initiatives. They'll present their thoughts on CSR and Digitization. Surely that's fun enough to convince you to participate in this session. But if not, read on..

4. Come and have a drink with me at the Hotel de Rome. At the heart of everything that happens in Berlin, the Hotel de Rome is a great startpoint for your Berlin sightseeing. Unfortunately, I won't be doing much of that.. see points 5., 7., and 8.

5. Join me for a plenary panel that I will chair  with a formidable group of experts at 14:00 on Wednesday 14th September on the subject of Digital Accountability. How is the digital world affecting communications with stakeholders? What is digitization doing to reporting and do we like it? Come and ask the tough questions!

6. Enjoy fresh the Berlin air in the Campus Mitte around Humboldt University's main building, at the boulevard "Unter den Linden", between Brandenburg Gate and the Dome of Berlin. While you are there, pop in to one of the rich, informative and educational sessions at the 7th International Conference on Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility.

7. Join me for another plenary panel that I will chair with another formidable group of experts at 09:00 on Thursday 15th September on the subject of Innovations in Sustainable Development with a focus on Human Rights. What are the practical steps being taken by companies to protect human rights? What outcomes can be identified? What innovations are we seeing? What are the minimum disclosure standards we should expect from corporations relating to human rights? How are we seeing the evolution of such disclosures today? What are the gaps? More on this .. but only if you show up. It's ok - you can bring ice cream.

8. Join me for yet another plenary panel that I will chair with yet another formidable group of experts at 14:00 on Thursday 15th September on the subject of Innovative Philanthropy and Impact Investing. What are the similarities and differences, and how can you tell? What contributes most to sustainable development? What's driving what? Don't worry, there won't be a call for financial contributions.

9. Join me for a massage at the Spa in the Hotel de Rome. After chairing all these plenary panels, even ice cream may not be enough to keep me cool and collected. The spa is located in what was once a vault for gold and jewellery. (The Hotel was built to house the headquarters of the Dresdner Bank in 1887). Maybe they didn't clean it out properly and we might find a few diamond tiaras and a ruby or two.

10. Go to one of the best Ice Cream Shops in Berlin and try out all the flavors you didn't already try. Joachim Schwalbach's favorite flavor is Cookies and Cream, so don't gorge yourself on that, so there is some left for him.

I could have continued with at least another 45 fun things to do in Berlin on 14-16 September (most of them associated with the CSR Conference). However, these are the Top Ten. If you allocate your time well, and screen your calls, you can probably manage to do all of them. Wow, that's a whole lot of fun in Berlin in three days. See you there?

I'll leave you with another thought from Joachim Schwalbach: "CSR or sustainability departments in companies have reached a cross-roads: Either they improve their competence as a valuable partner for the companies' top management to show that CSR aspects are key success factors, or they do business as usual and remain in their niche, not recognized as one of the most important drivers of business success." Yes, that's something else we'll be talking about in Berlin. Now you HAVE to come.

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 Twitter (@elainecohen) or via my business website www.b-yond.biz (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm). Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz

Monday, August 29, 2016

First Reports -Ten Trust Factors

It's almost Q4 and you know what that means. It's almost the start of the reporting season.


In the final quarter of the year, many companies are starting to plan their next report, or even their first report. There is a certain seasonality to reporting, by and large: Q4 planning, Q1 preparing, Q2 publishing, Q3 recovering. Of course, not every company is on that cycle.. but about now is usually the calm before the storm.

As we anticipate the next reporting season, we can expect a flurry of fabulous new first-time Sustainability Reports that will be published in 2017. It's not that I am especially optimistic about the impact of the EU Directive that will require 6,000 companies who do not currently report to start thinking about what they will write in their Sustainability Reports for 2017. Each year brings a flurry of new reports, with or without the Directive. And that means that each year, more companies have thought just a little more about the impact they have on our lives and are taking the first steps to be held to account.

Let's face it. Reporting is a little bit of a risky business. Take for instance, Dollar Tree Inc., a Fortune 500 American chain of discount variety stores that sells items for $1 or less in 13,600 stores around the country. Dollar Tree just published its 2016 Sustainability Report . Full marks for effort but this 14-pager 7-minute read is a list of environmental and social practices with barely any meaningful performance data. Not surprising then, perhaps, that there has been some backlash.

In a press release published in PR Newswire,  angry activists representing the Campaign for Healthier Solutions  berate the company for not addressing their concerns relating to chemical toxicity in the company's products after laboratory testing has found "potentially dangerous levels of lead, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals" in Dollar Tree's products. Comparing the current report to prior reports, these stakeholders find that there is almost no difference. So, although the folks at Dollar Tree have taken some steps along the transparency journey, they still have to find the path of accountability. Reporting is risky. Arguably, the fact that Dollar Tree has made efforts to publish a Sustainability Report has added fuel to the frustration of stakeholders. But, in fact, the Campaign for Healthier Solutions is doing Dollar Tree a favor. It's creating pressure that will ultimately lead to a safer planet, a safer society and a stronger business. If Dollar Tree embraces its critics, and takes responsible action, next year's headline may well be: "Dollar Tree's Sustainability Report reflects significant progress."  Reporting, whatever your motivation, even if it's just to tick a box, sooner or later becomes part of a greater whole relating to a company's role in society. Sooner or later, Dollar Tree will change. And it will benefit from that change.

So, even with some risk, reporting adds value and first-time reports hold a special significance for reporters, report users and me. I love first-timers. There is something about the special efforts necessary to deliver a first-time report and starting to flex those transparency muscles. I believe this starts to transform the internal conversation in any company, and eventually transforms the external dialogue too (as it has done at Dollar Tree Inc.). So many first-time decisions challenge any company that's reporting for the first time that it's a bit like navigating a minefield. And almost as risky.

As you all know by now, I generally tend to be a little critical when looking at reports so here's my upfront disclaimer. Every first report is a commendable venture into accountability and transparency and the start of what is hopefully a meaningful reporting journey for any company and its stakeholders. As a reporting consultant for hundreds of years now working with many companies, I can testify to the fact that no report is easy and every first report double-proves it. Before we go any further, I say: CONGRATS to ALL first-time reporters ever - you all deserve a triple scoop. Good luck to all those first-timers planning to break through the transparency barrier in 2017. (Remember, help is at hand - you don't need to go it alone :-)).

In looking at any report, including first-timers, it's important to consider that the overarching purpose of any Sustainability Report is to build trust. If it doesn't do that, heck, you're wasting your time. I've been taking a look at first-timers - it's always fun - to see how this is working. There are probably a thousand ways in which reports build trust, but, in order to help me apply a consistent approach when looking at first-timers from around the world, I  selected ten basic aspects of a first-time Sustainability Report that, for me, help build trust. These aspects do not carry equal weighting and they are far from scientific. These elements contribute to building any report's TF (Trust Factor) in my personal and subjective view. In sharing my thoughts, as always, my goal is to encourage reporting, in the hope that first timers will become second and third timers. My intention is not to be overly critical, but in some cases, forgive me if I can't help myself!

Here are the ten TF (Trust Factor) elements I  consider in my series of first-timer report reviews:
  • The CEO Statement: Must be meaningful, relevant and authentic, not just some generic any-company rhetoric about "how proud we are of what we have achieved but there is more to be done". 
  • Material focus: Must state the most important sustainability impacts and provide relevant disclosures. Oh, and that doesn't mean a list of material topics somewhere at the beginning of  the report, and no further reference to materiality. It means using materiality to frame the content of the report.
  • Adherence to GRI: Yes, a GRI compliant report gains a point in my book. While there are many fantastic and genuinely impressive non-GRI reports, using GRI implies for me a predisposition to align with the most widely-used global reporting framework that relies on general stakeholder expectations of rigor in reporting content and quality. 
  • Transparency maturity: This means  providing a critical mass of relevant sustainability performance data, not just declarations of approach and positions. No numbers, no good.
  • Challenges: No company has no challenges. Authentic reports discuss challenges. 
  • Examples of practice: Yes, I believe case studies build trust. They also help make the report more interesting and reduce yawn-time. 
  • Stakeholder voices: I think reports that contain direct opinions from stakeholders tend to show that the reporting company has good relationships, a collaborative culture and appreciates stakeholder involvement. Including stakeholder voices - and faces - bring a report to life. 
  • Contact person: I like reports that provide a person to contact, not an anonymous email dump-box. If you are proud of your report, put your name on it.
  • Clarity of presentation: We have to be able to understand data and charts quickly and read the narrative with ease. Too much technobabble drives me crazy. If I have to pore over a chart for more than 35 seconds to understand what it's telling me, it's a bad chart, no matter how creative the designers have been. 
  • Design and format friendliness: While design is not necessarily a trust-builder, good, clean, compatible design makes reading easier and shows the reporting company considers not only how to get the message across but how to get it through. Easy navigability is a plus. (I don't read eBook reports, so first-timer non-downloadable eBooks don't get my time.)  I don't like online-only which ties me to the speed and reliability of my internet connection wherever I am in order to navigate. I love PDFs. When I download a PDF, I can read it quickly wherever and whenever I want, search, highlight and make notes. Online formats undoubtedly offer interactivity advantages, but for me, they slow me down.
In upcoming posts over the next few weeks, in the run-up to Q4, I will review first reports that were published over the past couple of years against my TF (Trust Factor) framework. Watch out for posts with a First -Time Trust Factor title.

Let me know if you have recently published a first report.
Or even better - let me know if you'd like some help in preparing your first report. I would totally love that.

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 Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Are you ready for the future?

Getting future-fit is both a business strategy and a sustainability strategy.  This year, ECI's Sustainability Report, the fifth annual report, and the third GRI G4-based report, places the focus squarely on how the company has been transforming itself to become future-fit and help its stakeholders become future-fit. So many Sustainability Reports are full of gloom and doom, and the impending collapse of humanity as we know it. While no-one questions the need to transform the way our economies work and the way corporations behave, getting future-fit can be inspiring and positive. ECI's 2015 Sustainability Report reflects ECI's optimistic approach to getting ready for the future. Are you ready? 

ECI is a global provider of ELASTIC network solutions to Communications Service Providers (CSPs), critical infrastructures and data center operators. ECI provides packet-optical transport, SDN/NFV applications, end-to-end network management, a comprehensive cyber security solution, and a range of professional services.

At its core, ECI's future-fit strategy is based on an ELASTIC approach to business. ELASTIC means flexible, open, adaptable, customizable, controllable and resource-efficient. Much of this may sound like mumbo-jumbo technobabble to you.

Think about it this way. You live in Mumbai and wants to call a friend who lives in a remote area in Southern India. As you may know, fixed-telephone-line coverage in India is not comprehensive, so mobile is the most practical way to reach remote communities. According to Wikipedia, India had 24.81 million fixed line telephone subscribers in 2016, and more than one billion wireless subscribers. ECI has a strong presence in the Indian telecoms market and supports 4 leading mobile service providers, helping develop and upgrade their mobile and internet coverage and speed. The chances are that when you call your friend, the call will be transported over ECI's equipment.  

Or perhaps you live in Africa. As a result of the work of ECI in 11 countries in Africa, supporting local providers with efficient, state-of-the-art communications and internet infrastructures, people living in these countries are now able to gain access to advanced mobile and internet services.

Millions of people in the many countries that ECI serves have a similar experience. These individuals can achieve an enhanced quality of life because local providers develop and expand the quality, reach and choice of their mobile and internet services to their customers through the use of ECI's ELASTIC solutions that provide advanced, efficient, reliable, secure, future-fit technology, building on legacy installations for speed-to-market and affordable incremental costs. 

This is ECIs positive impact on society and the environment. In the 2015 Sustainability Report, ECI describes its work in developed and emerging markets, and the way new ELASTIC solutions are transforming lives for so many. 

All of this is aligned with ECI's material focus and specifically with five of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals:

The 2015 Sustainability Report, in addition to all of this, describes the progress ECI has made across a range of social and environmental topics. This includes a first in 2015 for ECI -  a stakeholder round table attended by participants from civil society, ECI's supplier network, academic and business subject experts who engaged in a frank discussion about the expectations of ECI as a company and offered suggestions about the way ECI could improve its impacts. Environmental performance has continued to improve at ECI with, in 2015, further reductions in energy, emissions, water and waste.

ECI continues to promote women in technology, achieving a level of 24% of managers who are women in 2015, from 19% in 2014 (and 16% in 2011).

As a privately-owned company, ECI's commitment to transparency is part of a leading-edge approach to everything the company does. Future-fitting business is sustainability at its best. With optimism and inspiring ELASTICITY, ECI's report is worth a look.
It's not by chance that I write (again) about ECI's reporting. It has been my honor and pleasure to support this report, and every prior ECI report. I'd also like to call-out Eynat Rotfeld, ECI's CSR Manager who has driven reporting with a passion over the years and has slowly but surely engaged the entire ECI organization from the Chairman of the Board, through the CEO and all senior management and divisional management teams. Eynat is a CSR change-maker and an example of how trusting, collaborative relationships, consistent communication and gentle encouragement are ingredients that work in embedding a culture of CSR in an organization.

As always, take a look at the report. Give feedback!

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 Twitter (@elainecohen) or via my business website www.b-yond.biz (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm). Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Beyond Reports - 11 insights

The GRI Conference has come and gone, and I have been so busy working on so many client reports that I have barely come up for air, let alone come up to post on the blog. More about some of the reports I have been working on in recent and upcoming posts.

Lots of water under the bridge since the GRI Conference in May 2016... including the not-so-surprising-to-many-of-us departure of Michael Meehan, the GRI CEO since 2014. A new era of collaboration and innovation will now be replaced with a new era of searching for a new CEO. The hunt is on... though, as is often the case, organizations look further than they need to.

Someone  I believe is eminently qualified to lead GRI into a new era of better and more impactful reporting is GRI's current Deputy Executive, Teresa Fogelberg. Teresa has been a reporting advocate for longer than most of us have been reporting, and has advanced the positioning of reporting around the world through her work with governments and advocacy organizations more than anyone else on the landscape. As a veteran GRIer, she's well positioned to put GRI back on course. Continuity at GRI is critical in this period to avoid onging over-commercialization of the GRI services and focus on advancing the true value of reporting as a process, an output and an impact on the way business gets done and the way economies are run. Just as we might hope for the USA in the forthcoming elections,  a woman (the right woman) at the helm of GRI will be a new era of not only collaboration and innovation, but also, getting things done.

But I digress.

This post is about podcasts. You may or may not have noticed, but GRI has been putting out a series of short podcast called Beyond Reports for some time now. In fact, there are 6 in the series to date. The podcasts include a brief update of reporting news over the past month, and an interview with a reporting personality from the GRI network.

It was fun for me to be one of the six podcasters so far. At the GRI Conference, GRI's charming Media Relations Manager Davion Ford asked me lots of questions about my favorite subject: reporting. and this was the result:


Five insights:
"A challenge that is significant for companies is about reporting impacts and outcomes rather than a whole shopping list of everything they have ever done. A report is not an activity agenda - it should be a focused material account of how companies are making a difference in our lives. Companies find it difficult to report how they are making a difference rather than simply what they did."

"The biggest thing that companies have a challenge with is: bad news. No-on wants to put bad news in a Sustainability Report. I always advise my clients to include good-bad news, which means that you should disclose a challenge or particular difficulty, but you can position that in a good way by describing what to have done to address that challenge or prevent recurrence of a problem."

"Legislation is always a great motivator but often it motivates to the minimum common denominator.....two drivers that will change the motivation of companies to report are large companies and CEOs. Large companies - the biggest multinationals - are more or less getting it. If they are able to drive reporting through their supply chain, that's a real motivator for their suppliers. The second thing is, if you want to motivate a business, convince the CEO. If the CEO is convinced that reporting adds value to the business, she will make it happen!"

"Your first sustainability report is not the absolute best report you could ever produce. It will take several years of perfecting your process in order to get a better quality report."

"A limitation of reporting today is that there tends to be bits of information presented in a fragmented way, which doesn't necessarily reflect a consistency of approach year on year. If I am reviewing the report of a company, for example, I always look at one or more prior reports. You can't take a single report in isolation. Our expectation is that we can read a report, and that's it. The big challenge is for companies is to develop consistency over time in reporting."

The first podcast in the series was with Nikki McKean Wood who heads up Corporate and Stakeholder Relations at GRI. Nikki talked about the new GRI GOLD community.

Three insights:
"The GOLD community members are really our core supporters so we strive to put them at the heart of GRIs network, shaping the future of sustainability reporting."

"We hope to achieve an active, engaged and diverse [GOLD] community."

"This is a new era of sustainability... we see business taking action towards a more sustainable world, but there's a lot to do and a transformational effort is required by all to unlock the real value of sustainability data."     

The most recent podcast in the series is an interview with Christina Burmeister of Deutsche Bank:

Three insights:
"The reporting process is relevant as much for management decisions as it is for investors."

"The Financial Services Sector has experienced a major shift in the last decade.. sustainability is becoming more and more of a strategic imperative."

"One can always improve the quality of reporting and the fact that a defined set of information will be mandatory [from the EU CSR Directive]  in the near future onwards will help that case.. there are sill some challenges ahead of us and we will take this opportunity to strengthen our internal process and get the adequate information."

I encourage you to have a listen to the Beyond Reports Podcast series of GRI  and pick up loads more insights from people who live and breath Sustainability Reporting every day. Of course, listening to podcasts with ice cream helps our brain understand all those wonderful insights.

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 Twitter (@elainecohen) or via my business website www.b-yond.biz (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm). Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Nine things of note in Strauss Group's ninth report

The Sustainability Reporting journey is always so fascinating. The companies that I love to work with treat Sustainability Reporting as an opportunity for deep reflection, discussion, debate, consideration, revision, re-framing and renewal. While these processes often happen throughout the year, the choice to publish a Sustainability Report by a certain date ensures that these process streams are priority-funneled into one orderly alignment of content that becomes the company's account of its impacts and its unique sustainability story.

Strauss Group has been doing this now for the past nine years, and while you might think that it's easy to simply pick up with each new report where the last one left off, this is never the case. Our world is so dynamic, our days are so crammed with everything and great companies do so much in one year, that each new Sustainability Report is a new challenge and a new opportunity. Hence the reflection, debate and renewal. And this this case, Strauss Group's ninth Sustainability Report is a unique story, a creative presentation and a compelling read.  

1. Listening, Acting, Improving
This year, the focus for Strauss was Listening, Acting, Improving. It was driven by deep introspection throughout the year, and consultation with stakeholders, especially consumers, who provided important and insightful feedback to Strauss Group about things that go right to the core of the business and the way the business is conducted. Osnat Golan, VP for Communications, Digital and Sustainability at Strauss Group made the point: "During the past two years, we have learned that the highest priorities for our consumers are fair pricing and helping to curb the rising cost of living, as well as advancing healthy nutrition through our products." This year, Strauss Group's report reflects the actions the Group has taken in direct response to stakeholder concerns and expectations.

2. Fair product pricing
There are few, if any, food companies that address pricing policy in their Sustainability Reports. What is the responsibility of a food company to price food products so that a broader spectrum of the population can afford to buy them? How many companies acknowledge this as a responsibility? I suspect that Strauss Group is pioneering in its approach to respond to the rising costs of living and the affordability of basic foodstuffs by reducing consumer list prices across a range of products in the order of between 2.5% and 22.8% in its home market in Israel in 2015. In a year when consumers were continuing to assertively state that food pricing has put certain products beyond their reach, Strauss became the first company (and the only one to date) in the local market to listen, act and improve. These price reductions are significant. After all, corporate responsibility and sustainability is not just about saving the planet. It's also about contributing to the quality of life on the planet. Fair pricing is a highly sensitive, subjective and complex issue - it takes a bold company to accept "fair pricing" as an objective and take measures to implement a fair price policy for consumers.

3. Supporting employees
The second initiative that ran alongside support for consumers in 2015 was support for employees. Employees are consumers too, and if the cost of living rises, they feel the pinch just as other consumers do. Many companies today accept the concept of "living wage" and implement policies to compensate employees in line with a target wage level. At Strauss in Israel, following the direct input of hundreds of employees in feedback meetings over the past two years, Strauss understood the need to protect lower income employees and took this seriously as an element of the company's approach to corporate responsibility and its social license to operate. In the past two years, Strauss boosted benefits for employees at the lower end of the income scale and in 2015, set the way for several very significant additions, including a fixed proprietary minimum wage around 7% higher that the legally mandated level, child care support worth thousands of dollars per year for eligible employees and the opportunity to contribute to an employer-matched tax-free savings fund that helps employees protect their future with an accessible savings program. In addition, employees receive a host of other benefits to help them cope with the economic challenges of simply making it through the month in the black.

4. The Kitchen
The progress made at The Kitchen is worthy of note in Strauss Group's ninth report. The Kitchen is a pioneering initiative by Strauss with the support of the Chief Scientist of Israel, designed to advance food-tech in Israel to deliver new technologies that improve the sustainability of food production or deliver new benefits for consumers. This is a contribution to the advancement of the food industry - the technologies that are developed will not necessarily used by Strauss Group in their operations. With an investment of $25 million over 8 years (40% funded by Strauss, the remainder by the Israeli government), in its first year of activity, the Kitchen has already propelled three amazingly innovative food-tech startups into a new sphere of development and commercial activity. Entrepreneurs would have a hard time accelerating their development without such support. Enabling them to get on the map is a significantly positive sustainability impact.

5. The performance
In one year, since the last report, Strauss Group has made significant progress on several fronts, and the performance highlights are delivered up front for readers who want an overview and not an extensive read. One summary infographic for each main section of the report does a good job in pointing readers in the direction of what's most significant.

6. The design elements
Of course, Sustainability Reports are about content, not design. But design that brings reports to life makes it fun for us to read the content. It demonstrates an intent to produce a document that will encourage readership, rather than a stuffy old PDF crammed with text that turns you off before you get to page 2. In 2015, the folks at Strauss Group's long-standing report designer, Studio Merhav, have excelled themselves in creative design that supports the narrative and makes this report a delight to read. Infographics blended with photos and freehand design cause you to stop and look at the imagery as you read the report, giving you time to consider the meaning and the messages that they reflect. A world away from the Stock era and hand-cupped globes of the early days of reporting. Here are a few examples. Aren't they fabulous? 


7. Environmental data presentation

Another design feature in this ninth report is the presentation of environmental data. Instead of the usual graphs and charts, environmental data is presented in a way which makes it fun to actually look at the numbers. This presentation supplements the detailed performance tables over several years that are included in the report for those who want the specific numbers. But for most of us who want to see the big picture quickly, this presentation does the job. 

8. The credits
Not many companies include credits to those who work on the report. Strauss Group has always done that. Credits to providers who have worked on the report is an expression of the respect Strauss has for other businesses, small businesses, as it happens, and demonstrates another aspect of both transparency and social responsibility. (At this point, it's appropriate to disclose that I worked on this report, together with my team at Beyond Business - the fourth report we have supported for Strauss Group alongside additional consulting work on different aspects of strategy development. It is always a pleasure and an honor to work with Strauss.)

9. Daniela
The achievements of Sustainability Reporting Managers often go unsung in our reporting world. A few present at conferences, a few write blogs, but most of the hard work in reporting is driven by passionate, skilled and impressively dedicated individuals who mobilize entire organizations in order to get a result their companies can be proud of - most of whom we never get to know. The achievements of Reporting Managers are no small thing, and real credit is due to them. So it is with Daniela Prusky-Sion, Strauss Group's Sustainability and Internal Comms Director, who has led this work for several years. Daniela is a dynamo, never tiring in her efforts to do things better, do things right and do more things to advance Strauss Group's strategic approach to sustainability and improved contribution. Reports under her watch get better and better.

As usual, take a look! Give feedback!

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 Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz 
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