Friday, October 30, 2009

Symantec and New Models of Social Responsibility

I am really looking forward to the upcoming Global Virtual Summit (November 5th and 9th , 2009) entitled New Models of Social Responsibility, presented by Communitelligence and Cisco.  The summit boasts a truly impressive line-up of speakers, including one of my heroes Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Timberland.  As my Company,  BeyondBusiness ,  is one of the Media Sponsors for the summit,   I was privileged to have the opportunity to interview some of the speakers. In this first interview-post, i will share some insights from the impressive  Cecily Joseph, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec Corporation Cecily will participate in a discussion entitled  "End of the glossy report ? The Future of Social Responsibility communication and reporting" , which as you may have guessed is a subject i am particularly interested in, fairly knowledgeable and even rather opinionated about. (opinionated? me ?) . Earlier this week, Cecily and I both participated in a 90 minute webinar with the International Advisory Group of the joint UNGC and UNIFEM initiative to develop and assimilate a new set of Women's Empowerment Principles (go girls!), so it was nice to interact again on my even more favourite subject, CSR reporting.

Symantec Corporation is probably most famous for its suite of products under the Norton brand name, and despite being no newcomer to the world of Internet Security, the company first reported in 2008, with a  Corporate Responsibility Report with the theme "Confidence in a connected world" covering FY08 (April 07 to March 08), a GRI self-declared B level report, which is also UNGC indexed. If there is anything you dont know about "decoding the cybercrime landscape",  "the hidden costs of piracy", or Green Data Centers,  this report is a good place to start. Another impressive element of Symantec performance and reporting is the commitment to advancing women in technology,  with 13 Women's Action Network Groups for personal and professional networking to assist women in advancing their careers, and partnerships with the Anita Borg Institute and Catalyst, amonst other things (though Symantec's 10-strong Board has only one woman, and the 18 strong Executive Team counts only  3 women - hopefully Symantec's efforts in this area will break through this infamous glass ceiling). Also, Symantec's community reporting indicates an impressive $16million in donated cash and products and over 20,000 employee volunteer hours. Symantec, a Fortune 500 Company, was founded in 1982, generates annual revenue of over $6 billion, employs over 17,500 people and declares its unique forcus to be eliminating  "risks to information, technology and processes independent of the device, platform, interaction or location."  So the role of CR Director in a business such as this is clearly relevant and significant. 

Cecily, who has been in her role since July 2005, and has led Symantec's reporting efforts,  says: " On a personal level, Corporate Responsibility means to me that we think in ways that are creative and innovative. We think differently to solve our problems and improve our businesses. Thinking differently means that we don't just focus internally but look at society as part of the equation.... I gain most satisfaction when we help to bring new ideas to the company that impact the business in a positive way, when we act as an early sensor to shifts and trends which other parts of the business are not as aware of yet, and when Symantec is recognized positively for something that CR has helped it accomplish."  What personal skills do you need to do Cecily's job (and make a success of it) ? "Leading through influence; ability to speak to all levels of the organization starting with the Board of Directors and the CEO; sense of humor; patience" though Cecily says "I don't always have enough of that". (which i suspect is probably a good thing!) .
Symantec and Cecily made the decision to become a first-time CR reporter in order to "engage stakeholders in the process of defining CR more clearly for Symantec". Indeed, the Symantec report is one of the few CR reports which describes a robust materiality process, conducted  with both internal stakeholders and a 5 member External Advisory Council. The report includes a materiality matrix.This yielded benefits, Cecily says: " We saw that engaging employees and external parties in the preparation of the report was critical and really expanded our scope - we will plan to do more of this on our next report."  Some key challenges in first time reporting were the budget unknowns ("we got to the end of the process and realized we had not allocated any money for design or printing of our executive summary") but perhaps more important was to "determine how we would measure success". Symantec defined its target readership for the report as "Employees, other CR professionals and  NGO's. Customers have become more engaged in our quarterly reporting-our CR Snapshots " The CR Snapshot is a great three pager with an key updates in between Symantec's two year reporting cycle. Finally, Cecily describes Symantec's key CR challenges in the next 3-5 years as: " .. defining responsible sourcing practices for the software industry, privacy and freedom of expression, diversity and gender equity as more than a nice to have but as a business imperative, continuing to build on practices of good governance in this current climate where the rules are evolving, helping to deliver education and awareness on digital literacy and the protection of rights online." Looks like Cecily has got her work cut out for her for the foreseeable future, but judging by progress made and reported in the 08 CR report, I remain optimistic.

Thanks to Cecily Joseph  for generously sharing insights, thanks to John Gerstner, visionary founder and president of Communitelligence, and thanks to YOU for signing up to the Global Virtual Summit on New Models of Social Responsibilty and showing your support for the practitioners who are making our business and our world a better place.

One thing i didnt quite work out - how do they get the Chunky Monkey to you in a Virtual Summit ... hmmmm ....

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


FabianPattberg said...

Interesting interview Elaine. Thanks for sharing. See you at the summit in 2 days then I guess. :)

elaine said...

thanks fabian .. looking forward...

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