Saturday, July 25, 2009

chunky #csr monkey and more!

I am positively trembling with excitement. I just noticed that Ben and Jerry's have published a preview of their 20th SEAR report for us Chunky Monkey guzzlers and other stakeholders (to keep us busy while we consume more pints). They maintain that their Social and Environmental Assessment Report is not quite ready, and that the full Monkey will be available by mid-summer. Hmm. Today is 25th July. Wonder which hemisphere they are referring to because in mine, at 34 deg and 65% humidity, either mid-summer is here already or my hot flushes are due to menopause. A quick look at the preview tells us that the B&J team held a first ever Social Mission Summit in 2008 and agreed on three goals:

  1. Use our Company to further the cause of Peace and Justice
  2. Harmonize Our Global Supply Chain and Ensure its Alignment with Our Values
  3. Take the Lead Promoting Global Sustainable Dairy Practices

What's new? I hear you ask (always did have ears like an African elephant). Well, new Fair Trade Chocolate Macademia flavor for a start. Wow. Sounds positively ultimate. Will it beat Chunky Monkey in the B&J league? But B&J are not the only ice-creamers to go for FT ice cream – M&S, Tesco, Sainsbury and more all do it, and there is even a novel kind of Fair Trade in ice cream in the UK – a pint of ice cream in return for a pint of blood. That's a great incentive.. wonder if they limit the number of pints you can trade in a day? (I would just hook myself up to the machine and have both directions working simultaneously– blood out, ice cream in) Additional entries in the B&J soon-to-be-born SEAR report will include certified humane cage-free eggs, greener cleaner freezers based on non HFC technology, support for sustainable dairy farming and a campaign against cloned animals. But hey, why sit around and wait for the B&J report. I had a look for other Ice-cream reporters.

This is what I came up with:

Velvet Ice Creams – they don't report but they do support the fight against breast cancer

Mackies Ice Cream – they don't report either, but 70 people and 500 cows do what they can to save the planet

Cotswold Ice Cream - another non reporter but sure looks tasty! Fair trade ice cream from kindly Friesian cows

Haagen–Dazs – runs a program to save honey bees - buy a carton, do the bee disco-dance, save a bee. Bzzzzzzzzz. But Hagen Dazs is now owned by General Mills , and their CR report for 2009 includes a mention of the Haagen-Dasz plant which uses wastewater derived methane to power the plant. Hope that doesn't put you off your most sweetly romantic and richly satisfying Dulche de Leche flavored moment of indulgence.

Baskin Robbins – have community plastered all over their "about" page and clearly delight in Educational Outreach Programs and ice-cream social fundraisers for a range of good causes. No CR report tho.

Unilever (who own Ben and Jerry's) and Nestle are leading ice cream makers and they are regular reporters, and even socially conscious Starbucks is into the ice cream business with a range of coffee-flavored offerings.

No doubt there are more, but all the above just goes to prove what a socially oriented business ice cream seems to be. So the next time I devour my Chunky Monkey(s), I will take great comfort in the fact that I am doing the world so much good.

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Can you speak CSR report?

Inspired by post on Twitter : RT @MBernhart via @BSDConsultingCL funny consultant-speak :

The author of the tweeted article highlights jargon such as "sandboxing" ideas, "iterations", "bus theory" for what happens if you get hit by a bus, and "socializing" ideas as a term for discussing them with clients. I have now gleefully added all these to my repertoire (I mean, when in consultantland… right ?)
I decided to see who speaks CSR report.

  • Creating value: This means making profit. Making profit means someone bought your product. In this way you created value for them.
  • Eco-friendly workplace: All the windows are locked so as to conserve air-conditioning efficiency
  • A challenging period: The most significant financial crisis since the Wall Street crash
  • Sustainable product responsibility is a complex task: No data reported
  • We maintain dialog with a wide range of stakeholders: We conduct employee and customer surveys once a year
  • We are committed to a diverse workforce: Some of our managers are women
  • We are committed to employing more women in senior positions: Very few, if any, of our senior managers are women
  • All our operations are carbon neutral: We have purchased loads and loads of carbon offsets
  • We work closely with our suppliers to help them manage their own impacts: We ask them if they obey the law or pollute the environment (but we do not necessarily listen to the answer)
  • Investing in communities is an integral part of our strategy: We donate money to charitable causes to inflate end-year budgets
  • We are committed to managing our business transparently: This applies to information already in the public domain
  • As part of our efforts to save the planet, this report is only available on- line: We ran out of budget for printing

and let's not forget the all time classic: our employees are our most important asset …. (I won't even comment on that one!)

There are many platitudes and standard report jargon in sustainability reporting. Sometimes it's frustrating and erodes trust. Sometimes it's hard to avoid as it represents a genuine management approach which is difficult to express any other way. Reporters must take care to ensure that the jargon serves to reinforce substantiated advancement in an aspect of csr practice, and is followed thru with performance data and relevant examples.

Now that I have iterated all of that, and socialized this idea with you all, I would just like to offer a quick method for creating standard report-speak (cannot recall where I got this from years ago)








Hardware (or software)






compatible .




synchronized... .








responsive .















Just select any three-digit number; then use the corresponding words from the above grid, e.g: no. 664 and 506 : We adopt a responsive transitional concept with optimal management mobility for embedding gender mainstreaming in our business
This will guarantee that your report will be so full of meaningless phrases words that stakeholders will believe everything you write. A little like talking consultant, right?

(Regular consumption of Chunky Monkey is a helpful antidote to uncontrolled use of jargon. Not gonna sandbox that!)

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

First class travel for CSR reports

CSR is reflected not only in the multimillion $$$ investments in climate change, employee work-life balance programs, cause marketing creativity, community empowerment and all the other wonderful things I take note of in the masses of CSR reports i read and review. CSR is also reflected in the little things that happen in the business. It's the measure of thought which goes into every action that employees take.

CSR evangelists might call this embeddedness .
CEO's might call it alignment.
Human Resources Managers might call it culture.
In this particular case, I call it common sense.

I am referring to first class travel conditions for a CSR report. Below are photos of the packaging used to transport one CSR summary report of 22 pages to my office from a European location.

Enough said?

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lower carbon intensity – yeah, right

I am no environmental expert, but I shudder every time I read CR reports by businesses that they are bending over backwards to reduce carbon emissions and extolling the praises of every single carbon-emission-reducing project, and in the next breath we read that their absolute carbon emissions have increased. Am I just naïve or is there something wrong with this system? Do all these businesses who are growing and increasing their carbon footprint year on year think they are positively contributing to climate change just because their emission levels per store, per truck, per refrigerator, per hamburger, per trip, per cup of coffee, per banana, per printed CR report or per pair of underpants is less than it was a year ago ? I mean, who do they think I am? Dumbo? (ok, they're not sooo far off). Who are we kidding here?

Take a quick look at Tesco in the UK. 2009 CR report. This sentence: Over the past year our net sales area grew by 16.4% while our carbon footprint increased by 3.7%. This means we cut our carbon intensity by 10.9% year-on-year. I did a little research. In the last two years their sales area has grew by 16.2% % and carbon emissions increased by 14.7% . This is almost no carbon intensity reduction. Who cares about carbon intensity anyway? We should care about absolute emission levels.

OK, so who else?

IKEA provide a comprehensive breakdown of total carbon emissions in their latest CR report for 2008 and show that carbon emissions have INCREASED YEAR ON YEAR EVERY YEAR for the past 4 years. But here is how IKEA present this: "The total amount of carbon dioxide emissions directly related to IKEA operations increased in FY08. However, in relative terms, the development is positive. When one examines carbon dioxide emissions per total products sold, we see an overall positive improvement compared to FY05. " Positive ? Is "relative" going to save the planet?

One more:

DANSKE BANK. Carbon emissions increased from 54.1 to 65.2 ktons 2008 vs 2007.An increase of 20% and from 2.9 to 3.5 tonnes per FTE. In a section entitled "Continuing to improve our impact" and full of green jargon such as "towards a low-carbon future" , "carbon neutrality" and "1 tonne less" campaign" , the actual results of all these words and efforts is exactly opposite.

CR reports are very valuable for assessing carbon management performance. I applaud all the above and thousands others who report, and who are making efforts to support climate change. But the focus has to shift from words to clear decisive actions which result in absolute lower carbon emission levels. Sadly, we are still caught up in the intensity of it all and cowering behind the relativity of ghg statements. Maybe we should be relatively more intense and focus on relatively more results?

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Localization - the Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing in reporting is Localization.

Led by the global giants of #CSR (# signifies i have become a twitterer, and am now compelled to #tag #everything as i #write) , the concept that producing one annual, all-embracing, total coverage, general, global CSR report by MNE's (Multinational Enterprises) is inadequate to reach the hearts and minds of local stakeholders, is gaining momentum. Spurred on by the desire to reach out to those closest to the local hubs of activity, the Localization Leaders are illunimating the way for other MNE's to follow. Who are the Localization Leaders?

Intel: Intel now produce a variety of local reports to serve local stakeholders. You can even read how Suzanne Fallender describes Intel's approach "Many people continue to criticize CSR reports for being too long, detailed and boring for most stakeholders to read. When you combine that sentiment with the challenges of explaining your corporate responsibility performance in multiple languages and cultures and your impact at the local level, it is clear that one size does not fit all."
Take a trip to Israel, Russia, Ireland, Europe or Middle East Region.

Vodafone: You just cant top Vodafone. Check out their download page - 13 superb looking local CR reports in addition to the global report. From Portugal to Italy, and Malta to New Zealand, Volafone are master localizers.

Telefonica SA are excellent localizers too. They published 17 CR reports in 2008. A wide range of Latin American Telefonica subsidiaries published only in Spanish, but i guess thats ok, verdad?

General Electric are partial localizers. They translate their global report into several languages. If they used their (eco)imagination a little more, they might realize that adding a little local content would make for a more relevant report.

Motorola Inc is a local localizer. They publish an excellent report in Israel (disclosure: I assured it!) but I believe this is their only localization effort.

Then there are several pseudo localizers - those who add it little tidbits of local color into their global report. There are many companies who do this. This just gives us fragmented impressions of local impacts, and usually only the nice, bright colors.
So what about all the rest ? I can hear the big sigh of relief when a global report is published - phew! that's that for another year! - but surely the core aim of reporting is to engage stakeholders? And to do this by telling them stories about the work life balance of employees in another hemisphere is not all that engaging. Further, how do you write a global report? Bottom up or top down? There has to be local input into a global report - so formalizing this and creating a localized disclosure requirement - however minimal - is actually good basic practise for ensuring a balanced and representative global effort.

If you are a local stakeholder of an MNE operating in your country, demand to see their local report. Chances are they aint got one yet, but just in case they do, remember the words of that wonderful woman, Maya Angelou, who said: Ask for what you want, and be prepared to get it. Or something like that. I think she was referring to Chunky Monkey. But it could also apply to CR reports.

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Report, Review, Retweet

Report Reviews: here is a selection of the recent CSR report reviews that have been penned (keyboarded ?) by yours truly and appear on In reverse order (last published first).

Wal-Mart 2009: Did you know that Wal-Mart saves the average American household the sum of $3,100 per year, whether they shop at Wal-Mart or not! This, and more interesting insights in the review, or if you have the energy, the report itself. Careful, though, if you are looking for anything other than good news, best go to Wal-Mart Watch !

Marks and Spencer plc 2009 : Plan A, 100 commitments, 49 pages. You all know that Plan A is the Ultimate Plan. "because there is no Plan B". Notwithstanding (dont you love that word ?) , this review suggests that Plan B could come in quite useful to address those aspects of M&S activities which fell thru the Plan A cracks. The report can be viewed here.

Jumeirah Group 2008 : A first report by this hotel and resorts group in Dubai which succeeded in producing a charming report albeit a basic self-declared GRI C level. (that's CRspeak for CRfreaks) . A key area of materiality for this company is Emiratisation, given the 162 locals employed in a total of over 10,000 personnel in Dubai. View the report here.

Barclays plc 2008 : Bit of a disappointment this time around from Barclays whose Chief Exec describes the most significant financial crisis since forever as "distracting". However, the report contains positive content though there are some reporting GAPS. What are they? You can work them out for yourself or read the review. Want the whole report ? Here.

Aviva plc 2009 : How does an insurance company incentivize consumers to behave sustainably? Tough question. Another tough question is what happened to 3,000 missing employees? Read my review or try to locate the answers yourself in full the report here.

Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) 2008: Seriously successful fashion company with 76% of women in management positions. What can be wrong with that !? But still, I say, H&M needs to come off the fence. How ? Check out the review or read the report here.

You can also check out reviews by respected colleagues :

HSBC 2008 and Motorola Inc 2008 review by Michelle of True Blue Communications
Total S.A. by Zoe of Context.

Whew! That's a lot of reviews. And a lot of questions. So clear your desk, order in the CM's (Chunky Monkeys, but you know that by now, right?) and seek the answers.

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Are you a health-risk ? $100 to find out.

I visited and went straight to the Reports and Awards page. This headline caught my eye: Texas Health Resources Recognized by National Business Group on Health as Leading Employer Promoting Healthy Lifestyles for Employees .63 employers were awarded prizes for encouraging employees to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. Texas pays them to. They have a wellness program, called Be Healthy, which promotes awareness, healthy lifestyle choices, and disease prevention. Each year, employees are invited to complete a health risk assessment and are given a $100 award for doing so. Additional awards are given for getting a physical, lab panel, various health screenings, or for taking a stress assessment. With 18,000 employees, if all opt in, thats an investment of $1.8 million and more, depending on how many choose to do a full physical or feel particularly stressed. (I have to say, i wouldnt mind someone giving me $100 every time i went to the see the family doc).
I wonder what happens once employees take the risk assessment and what ethical questions this poses for the organization. Do employees waiver right to secrecy and disclose the results of their risk assessment to Texas? Is this a a precondition for getting the prize money ? And if so, what consequences could this have on their continued employment? No doubt that by any standards, its better to face up to the risks than ignore them, but do i really want my employer knowing the exact location of all my warts and the BMI effect of lask weeks 4 Chunkey Monkeys?
I also wonder what happens if the assessment shows that there is a real risk ? Does the employer have some obligation to support the employee in his or her plans to address these health risks? And what form does that support take?
And finally, as i am doing so much wondering, I will add the point about effects of the risk assessment on the employee's performance, motivation or future potential in the workplace. And the implications for her/his next salary review.

Now, Texas Health dont produce a Corporate Reponsibility Report and there is nothing on their website about this.(Mantra no 6: Transparency is a Virtue) So i to continue to wonder. (fortunately, being a woman, i am a great multitasker, so i can wonder and do 14 other things at the same time) .

This is an interesting issue, and one which i wonder about as i review responsible employment practices for clients, especially those inthe pharma or healthcare industry. Healthcare is their core business proposition, so one would expect that the employees of such an organization would gain some benefit through the internal application of CR material issues. And this is beyond the responsibility of employers to provide a healthy working environment and even the "enlightened self-interest" of employers through investing in healthy a workforce. I wonder if $1.8 million in annual health risk assessments exceeds the potential costs of employees living unhealthy lifestyles ?

Finally, well done to Texas Health, despite my trademark flippancy, i do applaud the intent to encourage employee wellbeing, and see this as a good example for others. As i am self-employed, i wonder how much i can afford to pay myself to do a health risk assessment. And if i should reveal the results to myself or not.... hmmm... tough question

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm based in Israel . Visit our website at:

Saturday, July 4, 2009

You dont have to be BIG to do CR

I often hear questions about whether CR is relevant to SME's.
I often hear criticsm that UNGC participation is not a powerful driver of action as it has no enforcement clout. My position of course is that CR is absolutely relevant to SME's and the UNGC is a very significant framework which is changing corporate behaviour. And i found a perfect example with a Communication on Progress (they actually call it a Social Responsibility Report) issued in the Republic of Moldova .

This Moldova COP is from the SME PTC BIOPROTECT . Read it here. It is a 12 pager Communication on Progress reporting on activities in alignment with the UN Global Compact Principles and a charming and wonderful example of leadership in a small country known as the poorest in Europe, independent since 1992, with 4 million inhabitants and a GDP of around $1200 per capita, average wage $250 per month, and 25% of the polulation living on below $2 a day . Landlocked and devoid of any significant natural assets, this country depends largely on agriculture for its economic prosperity, so perhaps it is no coincidence that CR should show up in the agricultural sector.

PTC Bioprotect is an importer-exporter of agricultural products founded in 1993 and employing 28 people. They joined the Global Compact in 2006 and have embraced the 10 principles wholeheartedly. Their report is about small-scale impact in their local business environment - worlds away from MNE scale and leverage - but equally important. The kind of impacts reported are :
  • support for 130 orphans in the town of Falesti with Easter gifts such as " sweets, sports equipment, towels, A4 format paper, bags and ribbons.".
  • support for 15 students to attend an International Conference on Chemistry, Chemical Technology and Environmental Protection
  • sponsoring a prize for entrants in National Contest of Business Plans for Young People, 2008
  • participation in the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPECL) of the (ILO) to combat child labor in the agricultural sector of the Republic of Moldova by financing the purchase of two digital cameras and two Micro SD cards that were sent to the Labor Inspection to be used in the documentation of child labor cases.
  • collaboration with other 12 Moldovan UNGC participating companies to expand the green sites to the leisure areas in the city – THE GREEN DAY – BECAUSE WE CARE - in the public garden from Botanica sector of Chisinau. In addition to personal volonteering, the Company provided 26 shovels, 42 rakes and 108 pairs of gloves for the execution of works of cleaning and digging around the trees.
  • focus on agricultural product offerings which are more environmentally friendly
  • support for the national campaign „You can stop corruption” organized by the Government of the Republic of Moldova
These impacts might seem small against a global backdrop, but they are BIG at a local level. I applaud PTC Bioprotect as an exemplary model of reponsible behaviour which supports the fact that CR is for SME's and UNCG is a route to developing a more comprehensive CR approach.

And if you haven't tasted Moldovan wine lately..... try a glass while you read their report ..... it goes well with Chunky Monkey ....

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm based in Israel, and an active supporter of the UNCG (though having less than 10 fulltime employees, regretfully, we cannot be signatories) . Visit our website at:
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