Monday, October 9, 2017

#ReportingMania and Girl Power

In his introductory comments, Rajesh Chhabara pointed out that 50% of the speakers at the 2017 Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit were women. Which OF COURSE explains why the summit was such a resounding success. Not counting myself as Chair of the Summit, and the formidable women whom I have referred to in prior posts

there were many other fabulous women who played an important role as speakers and delegates at this very special Summit. Here are just a few more, as we celebrate Girl Power and women's influence in sustainable development. 

"We have a century working in Vietnam so we need to continue to think of the long term and how to move forward. Integrated reporting needs integrated thinking - we wanted to give a panoramic picture of our company from the past, the present and the future. We also have a standalone sustainability report . In 2016, we were honored with Best Report in the 2016 Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards and just last month we were ranked 18 in the world for our sustainability report by the League of American Communications Professionals (LACP). We encourage other companies to have a standalone report. We use GRI standards which is wonderful because it is easy and the structure is very clear. All the images in the report are made by the children of the employees  - we had a painting competition among the children of employees and these are pictures of sustainability in our report. We don't want to go our sustainability journey alone so we integrate more and more people along the way - this time it is the young generation."

CLP is no stranger to reporting and their 2016 Sustainability Report is the Group's 15th and the Group has consistently received awards for its high quality reports. In 2016, the Sustainability Report is framed around the six capitals that is used by the integrated reporting model. It includes a materiality assessment, developed using a proprietary Boundary Scoping and Materiality Identification (BSMI) methodology. In fact, this is one of the few companies that discloses a structured and credible methodology for defining materiality. Jeanne moderated a fascinating session on the role of sustainability ratings, rankings and indices on Day One of the Summit.

"In the building sector, we all know that we have a very high environmental impact - 30% of GHG emissions - and we started the green building journey very early in Singapore. We have been reporting on sustainability since 2004 and I think we are at the forefront of other sectors in the area of reporting. You have to integrate the frameworks - the Paris Agreement, SDGs and others into your business strategy and operations. Reporting is more about articulating the deliverables, the performance, but the most important thing is truly integrating this into your business and adding value to your business and to the community and the environment. You must truly believe in it."  

CDL's latest report is an integrated report and includes targets to 2030 supporting nine SDGs.

"Investors are more interested in current and future performance and not the past. They want to know how you are going to achieve sustained growth. You have to stay focused in the areas that are relevant to your business. We use our dedicated website with an update every quarter on our strategic goals aligned with SDGs. Investors are increasingly looking at SDGs. Ten years ago, my CFO returned the sustainability report back to me, no-one wanted to look at it. Today, there is more interest. In fact, they don't even need to ask questions, investors look at your listing on DJSI or FTSE4Good and they can assess your company without even telling you. Therefore, we might as well proactively communicate how we future-proof our business .. with data to support our claims." 

"As an NGO we provide deep insight into sustainability issues. Sustainability reporting is not just for investors, it's for all your stakeholders including civil society. Assessing materiality without the right input can mean companies overlook possible risks. NGOs can help guide a company in defining what roadblocks are ahead. Investors are also becoming the target of civil society regarding whether they are aligning their portfolio with sustainable objectives. They are also under scrutiny. Your sustainability report becomes meaningful to show how you are staying on top of these issues and the resilience you display in a resource-constrained world. Good reporting requires good data and targets based on science. For example, we look at different sectors and ask how we can decarbonize the sector. This requires a scientific approach. Companies see that targets verified through scientific methodologies can make a difference to the way they understand their business and the way stakeholders assess them."  

"I think if we want to talk about what data investors are really looking for we have to look at how investors have evolved across Asia. When I started talking about sustainability about two years ago, it was very much about educating investor groups. The concept of ESG was mainly about screening and limiting the investment universe to make it a little bit more ethical, focusing on certain investments and excluding those that don't align with your values. This is still a large part of how investment is done here - especially with religious investors. But what we are also seeing is that, over time, investors are more aware about ESG issues facing companies, not because this is something they haven't paid attention to in the past but because there is more data available. More companies are transparent and this can be packaged into usable information for investors. Investors don't want to waste time thinking about issues that don't make a difference to their investor performance so reported information must be material and relevant to your investment sector."

Gwen introduced the new People Planet Play citizenship framework for Caesars Entertainment and described how the company has embedded this approach throughout the organization. The evolution of several programs over many years of activity necessitated a new way of pulling it all together to align the language, messages and culture internally for team members as well as externally for guests. And Caesars has many citizenship initiatives that are industry-leading and award-winning and leading sustainability practice - including science-based targets on emissions. You can read more in Caesars latest Citizenship Report here. (And also in a post I wrote about this report, which I worked on.)

"In our communities, being an operator of choice is literally a social license to operate so that partners, licensors and governments will choose to work with us if we are good corporate citizens and we meet or exceed the goals we committed to in terms of economic development which usually means education and other social services. Are we protecting vulnerable populations? Are we giving opportunities to local vendors? Are we, overall, contributing to the economy as we said we would? People Planet Play is the result of our simplifying and refreshing our strategy for the coming years."

And responding to my question: What's in a name? Why is People Planet Play important?

"If you talk about corporate social responsibility, people don't know what you mean.  If I can explain it to my kids and their classmates at school, I think it passes the test. People Planet Play enables this. It's about what we do for People, our employees and our communities. It is what we do for the Planet that we call home. And we want guests to have fun but be responsible as they do so. Simplifying the meaning in a non-industry language - how we speak to our friends and family - makes it easy to relate to so that everyone can understand."

Hang Lung Properties has been a multi-award winner of the Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards for two years running in different categories. This is largely due to the vision and efforts of Bella Chhoa, who start leading the reporting journey in 2012. Hang Lung's most recent report for 2016 can be found here.

As a judge in the Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards, I loved Hang Lung Properties' superbly creative report for 2014. (Included it in my Top Ten Reports of 2015.) Making sustainability fun is, in my view, a compelling way to engage and inspire. A fun report for me is evidence of a confident company that knows the true value of sustainability and has the freedom to try innovative approaches. If a company can report creatively, it can probably run its business creatively too. Hang Lung's 2014 Report is fairly iconic and the following year was equally attractive. It was interesting to hear the rationale from Bella Chhoa regarding the 2014 report and the new 2016 report which is less colorful although no less professional.

"We are getting better and better. I knew nothing about sustainability five years back so I started from a blank sheet.  Because I needed to understand, the first thing I thought was to make a report that everybody can understand. I was quite lucky in that I was responsible for the Legal function and the Human Resources function so I was in a position to make improvements. I dove into materiality assessment and learned every element. I also needed the cooperation of my colleagues. A good report needs substance. We also wanted to make it more engaging so we tried to think outside the box and make a fun report with cartoon characters. It was a bold approach. The second year we created a character for the report - based on a front line staff character to raise the pride for our front line employees. We want them to be inspired to give a better service. Now, I think we will go from a most interesting report to a more "boring" one in order to engage our investors. We try to create a very comprehensive report. It's an online version for our investors, but we can never forget the contribution of our employees, so we will have a supplement which will include 10 case studies of highlights that focus on people. If you want to do sustainability in the best way possible to meet your business model, you have to bring on board partners who don't understand sustainability at all. This is very clear from our discussions on materiality. In this years' materiality assessment, integrity takes first place."

Fabulous insights and contributions from the gals in Singapore. There were many more formidable women speaking and attending the Summit and I am just not able to mention them all, but I truly enjoyed meeting every one of them and was inspired by each. Thank you to all the women who created Girl Power at the 2017 Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit.

This is the last in my short series of #ReportingMania posts from the Summit in Singapore. I hope it has given you a sense of the productive and engaging platform it was for interchange of ideas, practices and debate. It certainly was fun! And right now, I am assuming that you are already ready to register for next year's Summit. You can join me in doing so.

NB: All photos from the conference courtesy of CSRWorks

elaine cohen, CSR Consultant, Sustainability Reporter, former HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Ice Cream Addict, Author of three totally groundbreaking books on sustainability (see About Me page). 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: 

Elaine will be chairing the edie Conference on Smarter Sustainability Reporting  in London on 27th February 2018 

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