Monday, February 15, 2010

Another defining initiative

I retweeted the announcement of the publication of a new Sustainability Report, because I always retweet announcements of Sustainability Reports. This was the (re)tweet:

Who on earth is Grays Harbor Paper? I thought to myself. Who knows! I answered myself. Can't you find out? I asked myself. OK, let's take a look, I replied to myself. Smiling. At myself. Don't  you do that ?

I am glad I took a look because this is a super report of a small privately owned Company with 231 employees, and clearly constructed with care, charm, creativity and commitment. (Alliteration, learnt that back in second Grade. Just call me Shakespeare). It has many of the signs of a first report (no material focus, no meaningful stakeholder engagement discussion, direct impacts only, lowish transparency) but it's one of the pleasantest first reports you can find.  Gray's Harbor Paper Plant, based in Hoqiam (check out their video if you want to know how to pronounce Ho-key - am) tells the story of  a fate-defying turnaround business, saved from closure by a local knight in shining armour, who continues to act as the benevolent lord of the county by displaying true community spirit and taking care of the local heritage and people. The report projects pride of achievement  (we made it in the face of adversity type of thing) and never strays from the party line. All technical or bordering-on-technical terms are explained in layman's language for members of the local community (the ones who didn't grow up in the paper mill).  A couple of anecdotes add a human touch to the report such as Grandma Ford whose grandson is third generation on the mill floor and Ocean Protein who micht have had to shut up shop had it not been for Grays Harbor Paper helping them out with waste treatment facilities. Environmental data is well covered and this small business is undoubtedly  sharp on its environmental commitment, manufacturing  using their own renewable biomass-powered turbines for energy, and 30% post-consumer recycled pulp for paper manufacture. (oops, that sounds like 70% virgin pulp). The report design is fabulous!

I found myself wondering just how much Grays Harbor Paper could have included in this report but chose to leave out. But maybe that's just me. What is apparent is that GHP is a small business with a big vision and, rightly so, proud of what it has accomplished. Their first report can be forgiven for being a touch self-congratulatory, because this Company sets a positive example for many other small businesses. If this Company can deliver a high-quality report such as this. then any 200+ people Company should be able to. President and Saviour Bill Quigg says in his opening remarks that this first Sustainability Report is "another defining initiative". I like that phrase, and I believe it to be true as far as reports are concerned. A Company who has reported, no matter at what GRI Level, can never go back. However cautious a Company's entry into the journey of transparency, the first step inevitably leads to more steps. I hope that more SME's will decide to have defining initiatives.

I wonder if my first ever Chunky Monkey was a defining intiative? 

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

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