Friday, July 2, 2010

AHA! It's a sustainability report

I was intrigued to read the news release of AHA! Sustainability Report. Intrigued because with a name like AHA!, you kinda expect something special, something well AHA!. CEO Betsy Henning says: "We wanted our first report to be as creative as we are and showcase the kind of strategic, engaging work we can do for our clients. We believe a sustainability report that is informative and also interesting will better connect with a wider audience. Rather than a document that sits on a shelf, it can be something people actually enjoy reading and learning from."  Hmmm, sounds interesting.  Can't wait. Race to open report.

The AHA! Sustainability Report is one web page. Includes a little scrolling, I admit, but one page. My first reaction, being a critical scrutineer of sustainability reports (you know me by now) was 23-20-6 ! (that's code for a popular phrase which is inappropriate to write in a blog. Hint: 23 = W, 20 = T, 6 = F) . How can this be a report? But then I said to myself, "Elaine, come on, give it a chance." I answered myself. "OK Elaine, but you have to give me a Chunky Monkey reward afterwards." I agreed to these terms and started reading. As I progressed, I began to sense a certain authenticity and I warmed to the Company and what they are trying to do.

AHA! is classified as a small business, 35 employees, one of the 48,158 similar sized businesses in the USA (a fact I learned from the AHA! report), and their story does reflect a genuine change in the way they run things, and a number of positive impacts. Whilst is not the standard type of report, not packed with the traditional data we might expect, skips sections that us reporters would normally include, and is far from the structure we have become familiar with,  the storyboard gives a good insight into the kind of key impacts that a small business can control  (environment, community, workplace culture) supprted by credible numbers. It's  an inspiring read, actually, showing both how AHA! onboarded sustainability principles and benefitted the business at the same time. There are also interesting pieces of contextual data which explains some of their thinking against the backdrop of external factors. The presentation is fun - little text bubbles pop out as you read and interactive flags highlight interesting tidbits of information.  I would certainly recommend the other 48,157 small businesses to read this piece. And yes, AHA! met my expectation of causing me to think AHA!

As AHA! mature in their own sustainability efforts, they should start to move their thinking from direct impacts to indirect impacts - how to leverage their core business propsition to generate new value. What is it that a communications company can do best to advance sustainability? AHA! are doing some of this with significant increase in revenue (now 35%) coming from communicating their clients' sustainability. I loved the HP Changing the Equation 2009 Sustainability Report that AHA! worked on . Telling their own story is a great next step in this process. Moving forward, there is a natural progression that this punchy and creative company could follow to realise much greater business benefit and sustainability advances beyond recycling paper and cycling to work, that will make them even more sustainable. As HP says in their report: While the IT industry contributes 2 percent of global carbon emissions, the larger opportunity is using technology to lower the other 98 percent. In almost any business, the indirect impacts are exponentially greater than the directs.  AHA! creatively show us they can do the 2% . But 98%, in their sector, is their real sustainability  opportunity. Congrats to AHA! on an inspiring unreport report.

Oh, and Elaine, you promised Chunky Monkey ...  a deal is a deal ...

elaine cohen is co-founder and co-CEO of Beyond Business, a leading social and environmental consulting and reporting firm. Visit our website at


Sona Pai said...

Thanks for your comments on our sustainability report Elaine. Glad you enjoyed it! In your post, you ask: "What is it that a communications company can do best to advance sustainability? That's an excellent question, and it's exactly what we asked ourselves. Our answer: By helping companies with global reach effectively communicate their sustainability efforts, we can help move even more toward sustainable practices. To us, that means using the goldmine of information in a standard CSR report to engage a range of audiences and inspire them to act. It's a topic we write about frequently on our own blog: Hope you'll check it out.

elaine said...

Hi Sona, thanks for responding. Yes, I have seen your blog. Interesting stuff. Good luck in your ongoing CSR programs. Warm regards, elaine

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