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 (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm). Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:

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