Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Empowering connected with Liberty Global

Can you recall what life was like without technology? Or more specifically, connectivity? Just a few short years ago, connecting with people was a very limited thing. You lived with people, you met people in person through frameworks such as school, university, and work, you travelled to meet people in different places, you used a landline telephone and you wrote letters (on paper with pens) and sent postcards. C'est tout. The amount of people you could connect to using those methods was limited and the frequency was constrained by cost, time and logistics. Today, there are simply no limits on how we connect both to people we know and also to people we don't know, in so many ways, across so many channels. I could cite oodles of examples, but I am sure you have your own thoughts about how connectivity has changed your life and enabled you to expand your reach, interactions, influence and even capabilities. 

The thing is, connectivity is more than just hooking up to a computer screen or gluing a pair of iPhone 7+ bluetooth earpods to your ears. It's more than drilling a trench to lay fiber-optic cables and it's more than surfing the web. What matters about connectivity is what you do when you connect, it's the empowerment and inspiration you derive, it's the things you can achieve with people you connect with that you could never achieve alone. It's what you can create. It's how you can change the world. Connectivity is the platform; connecting is the opportunity. 

The CEO of Liberty Global, Mike Fries, opens up Liberty Global's 2016 CR Report this year with this promise about connecting:

"We live in connected times. Never before have we had the possibilities that we have today to connect people, ideas and places that were otherwise out of reach. The power of technology is transforming the lives of people around the world. At Liberty Global, we intend to use our collective imagination to help create an even more promising future for all."

This sets the tone for Liberty Global's 2016 CR Report. Compact and focused as usual, the full breadth and scale of the largest international TV and broadband company's contribution to connecting and empowering millions of people around the world is hard to capture. No-one wants a 3,247 page CR Report these days, right? And it would take at least 3,247 pages to reflect everything that Liberty Global is doing to connect, empower and inspire people in its various markets. That's ok though, because Liberty Global's subsidiary companies (Telenet, UPC, Virgin Media, and VTR in Chile) all publish their own market-tailored reports each year, adding local detail to the global overview that the parent group delivers.  

In this year's report, Liberty Global reminds us of its CR strategy Connected Purpose, a framework for "Empowering Positive Change through Technology" (which also serves as the report's title). This brings together the contribution of the Group to enabling and accelerating beneficial technology and managing business in a responsible manner. With 50 million services provided, more than 10 million mobile customers and 41,000 employees, Liberty Global isn't sitting quietly in a corner waiting for sustainability mumblings to pass. Proactively, consistently and with perseverance and determination, the Group keeps pushing forward in all areas of the Connected Purpose it has established for itself. 

Connected Purpose links well to six of the Sustainable Development Goals and specifically to the targets that underpin the goals. 

But, back to connectivity and connecting. Liberty Global has been very selective about the stories in this report, in order to keep the narrative short and the message uncluttered. This enables connectivity to shine through - starting with the CEO promise through to giving voice to the Digital Imagination that frames the way Liberty Global delivers 

The story in this report that captures this entire spirit and program, as well as our hearts, is that of 14-year old Aoife Kearins, a young winner of Liberty Global's Future Makers Awards. Aoife connected in a youth coding club CoderDojo in Sligo, Ireland and using her skills, created the Eye Opener app that prevents drowsy driving accidents. The wearable device measures changes in a driver’s core body temperature and warns them when they are at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. Now, if this is what Aoife can come up with at age 14, just think of how much amazing potential she has to change the world through technology as she advances in her teens and adult years. Multiply that by all the young people who learn coding and are inspired to change the world. Nurturing this potential, recognizing it, fuelling it and giving it space to grow is exactly what Liberty Global's Future Makers focus within the Digital Imagination strategy is designed to do. Liberty Global has a long-standing partnership with youth coding club, CoderDojo, and supports 90 CoderDojo clubs across Europe. Who knows how much of our future will start in the imagination of these incredible youngsters? This is Connected Purpose (and Corporate Responsibility) at its best.

In other areas, too, under the Responsible Connectivity part of the Connected Purpose strategy, Liberty Global has made strong progress with renewable energy, and a new 2,400 panel solar array in Puerto Rico, reducing energy costs as well as GHG emissions.  At the same time, in Liberty Global's operations around the world, strong improvements in energy and carbon efficiency have been achieved. 

With a separately downloadable GRI Content Index, adhering to GRI Standards, core option, professional readers can get the data they need, including detailed disclosures of stakeholder dialogue and engagement throughout the year by stakeholder group. 

I often hold up Liberty Global's reporting as an example for others to learn from. The annual, compact narrative-based report packs a punch and provides just enough information and evidence of strong performance to paint a credible picture of how Liberty Global empowers positive change through technology and acts responsibly in business. The GRI Content Index gives additional detail for those who need it. Other disclosures, such as CDP and a well-populated corporate responsibility website add further transparency. 

As usual, my disclosure: Liberty Global is a client and I worked on this report, as I have on all previous reports. There is nothing more satisfying that working with clients who have a clear vision, take bold action and are scrupulous and meticulous in their reporting. I believe Liberty Global is making a positive contribution to our future. I count myself as very fortunate to be able to contribute to the contribution :)

And, as usual as usual, take a look. Give feedback.

elaine cohen, CSR Consultant, Sustainability Reporter, former HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, 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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