Wednesday, December 1, 2010

15 first time reports in CRRA 11: my vote

This is a second in a series of posts on the CRRA 11 Reporting Awards, one of my favourite events of the year. The first was to comment on the awards announcement and urge all of you to VOTE!
Voting is open until January 28th 2011.

This post will focus on my favourite category: first time reporters.

(NB: Links in this post are to, you will have to register on the site to view them)

There are 15 first time reports in this category amounting to a massive 768 pages of narrative, pictures, tables and graphs. Of these 15 reports, 9 are in accordance with the GRI framework, of which two are at the highest transparency level A. Here are my (occasionally irreverent) views on the contenders in this category:

Aegis Ltd, India
GRI A+ self declared report, 64 pages
A global outsourcing services provider, employing 38,000 people, Aegis strives for Happy Customers, Happy Employees, Happy Shareholders and a Happy World! Guess it's ok for their suppliers to be down in the dumps. Haha. They also have a policy of sharing Happy Experiences! This report follows a GRI structure and appears to have a monopoly on bullet points. Almost every page contains bulleted lists, which makes for bulleted reading - like having hiccoughs. Happy Hiccoughs. It's a nice report, though, providing a good level of detail for a first effort. One thing, though, is that with this company targeting to contribute to everyone's happiness, I looked for they way they measure success. In an employee satisfaction survey, for instance, we can see that the Company does get good results such as a 95.75 score on "exciting growth opportunities" . But I was wondering if they asked empoyees the question: Are you happy at work? Doesn't seem like they did. Happiness is such a personal thing, I find a company whose mission is to make people happy a little surreal. Call me a party-pooper if you like.

GRI C self declared report, 23 pages
Alma Media is a Finnish media company, publishing 35 newspapers and providing a range of online services, turning over 300 million euros and employing 3,000 people. Not a small business by any means. I like the way this report addresses head on some core issues relating to media, journalism and sustainability. A key issue is the way local newspapers support a local sense of community. Very interesting reading. Another nice feature about this report is their consultation with stakeholders and the presentation of results.

Not GRI, 28 pages, environment report only.
Alaska Air Group is the holding company for Alaska Air and Horizon Air, the ninth largest carrier in the USA, employing 13,000 people and a net income of $121 million. They call themselves "fuel efficiency trailblazers" and do demonstrate good carbon emission reductions during this reporting period. In fact, though this environment report covers a range of topics relating to airline environmental impacts, the only data provided relates to fuel efficiency and emissions, with no data on any other parameters - water consumption, quantities of waste, recycling etc. Whilst this is a nice basic first effort from Alaska Air, as an Environmental Report it only goes so far, and as a Sustainability Report it doesn't make the grade. This one doesn't get my vote, I'm afraid.

ArcelorMittal India, India
Not GRI, 38 pages.
ArcelorMittal India (AMIL) is a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal, the global steel maker. This report is full of big photos and small print. It is mostly photography and graphic design work and light on content. It does provide some nice local flavor, making it an interesting report, but not a serious contender for winning an award, in my view.

ArcelorMittal USA, USA
Not GRI, 7 pages

This is declared to be an "addendum" to ArcelorMittal's global report and as such it has a very local USA focus, and nicely covers performance highlights of this division of the global company. It packs a lot into 7 pages, but falls way short of a full sustainability report, and seems to me to be not quite beefy enough to compete in this category. Having said that, the initiative to publish a local report is laudable and I wish many more subsitiaries of global businesses would take this approach.

Biogen Idec Inc, USA
GRI C self declared, 14 pages
Biogen is engaged in developing innovative therapies to meet unmet medical needs, employing 4,700 people. This report shows that you can cover quite a lot in 14 pages in a clever way, projecting a nice all-round CSR approach. This report was reviewed by Michelle Bernhart - you can read the full review here. This is a paragraph from Michelle's review: "The report is somewhat light on specifics. Some topics are covered with nicely written words but little substance. And, with two of the company’s founders having won the Nobel Prize for breakthroughs in biology, one might expect a more empirical approach, but the report is short on data. Environmental performance, for instance, is boiled down into just four metrics, although this does make for accessible presentation. It also appears the company has selected 2006 as its baseline year for performance data, which makes the limited data even more surprising. Apparently, Biogen Idec has been tracking these metrics for several years."

GoLite, LCC, USA
GRI A+, 157 pages
GoLite is an outdoor apparel company, outsourcing all manufacturing, and also a Timberland brand licensee, adopting the Timberland Code of Conduct."Transparency weighs nothing. Therefore I GoLite" is a nice introduction to this first report which doesn't go very lite at 157 pages, of which over 50 are appendices, of which 14 pages form a glossary dictionary of sustainability terms. This is one of those reports that rigidly follows the GRI indicator list, including the indicator number(s) with each subsection. It makes for a dry, disjointed report which doesn't allow the true nature of this company's unique sustainability story to shine through, which is a shame, because this company takes sustainability seriously. It is probably the most transparent of reports in this batch, going into great detail about almost everything. Slightly more focus on the trees and a little less on the wood would have been helpful.   Assurance of this report was conducted by a Sustainability Committee of external experts who did not verify the data or content of the report, but commented on whether it is comprehensive. (Frankly, at 157 pages, it probably didn't need a committee to determine if they had left anything out) .On a  positive note, I was surprised to read that this company employs only 25 people (I had to enlarge the PDF to make sure I had read that right!) . With such a small employee base, the production of such a detailed report is quite an achievement.

Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company, Korea
GRI B+, 92 pages
A beautifully crafted first report, creatively and comprehensively presented, pleasing to the eye and following a nice TBL flow. It is structured around the GRI well enough for the familiar themes to be recognizable, but also follows a clear concept so as to be readable without the disjunctiveness (is that a word?) that rigid GRI adherence sometimes dictates. The report is entitled "We build tomorrow" and this theme is nicely woven throughout the texts. A performance dashboard at the beginning of the report and good reporting on stakeholder engagement  and materiality make this report one of the best in the pack. The assurance statement is a little weak but this doesn't detract from the quality of the report. As an aside, when you look at the photo of the 17 smiling male directors of this company, it is easy to understand why there is no mention of diversity or disclosure on gender issues in this company.

Not GRI, 21 pages
This is the company that owns Standard and Poor's, amongst other things, so it is fitting that a company who claims to help restore "transparency and trust" to financial markets should report transparently on its own business. This is quite a nice report, reasonably revealing for a first effort. It's straightforward, no pryrotechnics but modestly designed, if a little cramped, and it is a worthy entry in this category in my view.  It glosses a little over materiality and stakeholder dialogue, but covers most other stuff at a mainly declarative level. I was pleased to note the company offers chair massages for employees.

GRI B+ self declared, 76 pages
This report is entitled "We care" . Then I read that ONGCians work 24 X 7 throughout the year, and I wondered who cares about getting some sleep occasionally. The report is printed in a font which was designed not to be read, and the language is often amusingly stilted and contains spelling errors, but I battled on using speed-read and goggles. This is a report with a strong patriotic flavor, crediting its success to the vision of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, who had faith in the potential of a domestic oil and gas industry. The report clearly shows a serious approach to sustainability, even if I had to skip a few pages where my goggles steamed up, and its materiality matrix, presented in the form of a Sustainability Risk Radar is quite a nice representation of what matters most in this company's sustainability efforts. Another nice feature of this report is the presentation of performance by the Company's Directors.

Pacific Hydro Pty Ltd, Australia
GRI B+ , 41 pages
This is a 240 people company generating over $118 million (AUD) through development of hydro and wind energy, with a net positive environmental impact. A nice first report, presenting CSR strategy well and including a number of focused case studies which give nice insights into the way this company is contributing to low-carbon energy production and serving communities. There is even a basic attempt to describe some indirect economic impacts of the company's activities - it falls way short of a quantified in-depth assessment of indirect impacts but it demonstrates a good conceptual approach to understanding and managing impacts beyond the limits of the company front door.  

Sanctuary Group, UK
Not GRI, 48 pages
Operating under a "non-profit umbrella", this organization provides housing in the UK - rented, sheltered, student and other forms of housing, employing 6,000 people. This is a wonderful first time report, written in a nice informal style and pleasingly designed. It has a people touch to it, with great coverage of the faces of the business and its stakeholders and relevant case studies. It's a little light on data, but a very good start into the world of reporting, with some nice insights about how reporting has helped this organisation advance its CSR objectives.

SGS Societe Generale de Surveillance, Switzerland
GRI C self-declared, 68 pages
SGS is an inspection, verification and certification company employing 59,000 people in 1,000 ofices around the world. The design of this report is rather disjointed and difficult to follow with awkward shapes and fonts and photography which doesn't relate to anything much. The report doesn't follow a storyline which brings out the unique contribution of this company to sustainability. It also contains an "Internal Assurance" statement, which is somewhat of an oxymoron. If it's internal, frankly, it can't be assurance.

The Hong Kong and Shangahi Hotels, Hong Kong
GRI C+ , 30 pages
Actually I reviewed this report for a while back - you can read my full review here. This is a little clip from that review: "This is a credible report, though light on data, responding only to a small number of GRI indicators. What is presented is clear and supported by relevant commentary. The report appears to be a solid reflection of where this company is on their sustainability journey, ie at the very early stages. However, they have woken up with a burst of energy and made a very good start."

Virgin Group Ltd, UK
Not GRI, 84 pages
Virgin open up this document which is called a Corporate Responsibility and Sustainable Development Report with a comment that "it's not really a report but  more of a think-piece or a discussion document." I am inclined to agree with them. It's masterfully oddbally creative in its design and is a real showpiece, much like the personality of its guiding light, the impressive Mr Branson. However, as a report to stakeholders, it doesn't really do the job. It's a collection of anecdotal and shiny stories about what Virgin has done well, but with no index and no reference to any external framework. It is hard to track where this company is in terms of sustainability. Each section is a separate topline summary of the different Virgin businesses, because, they say, "since Virgin companies span so many sectors, it wouldn't be relevant for us to outline just one set of targets". I don't buy that. And furthermore, I didn't see any set of targets. Just one target per individual business in the Virgin Group, as far as I can tell. However, this "report" is fun, it's peppered with interesting facts about the state of the environment and overall impacts of and on society, and interesting perspectives. It's a nice brochure to peruse, but not easy to navigate. A great document but not a winning report.

So, after all that, whether you are wondering or not how I will be allocating my vote in this category, I will tell you. Drrrrrrummmmmmmmmmrrrrrrrrrrollll:

First place: Alma Media Oyj
Second place: Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company
Third place: GoLite
Fourth place: Biogen Idec
Fifth place: The Sanctuary Group

I wish all first time reporters good luck in the CRRA 11 awards, and looking forward to them all becoming second time reporters.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails