Thursday, December 22, 2011

A COP can be a good thing

Some people think of the UN Global Compact Communication on Progress (COP) as a lightweight entry into the world of transparency. In some cases, they would be right. To submit an Active level COP, all you need to do is describe how you uphold the 10 Principles of the UNGC, describe the positive things your company is doing and sit back and wait for next year's deadline. However, in November 2011, 106 companies were delisted for not communicating, bringing the total delistings to 2,953 companies, so maybe it's a little more challenging.

Last year, the UNGC made a change to the COP structure, introducing what the UNGC calls the "Differentiation Programme". This gives companies two choices: Active Level and Advanced Level. Basically, "Active" means the old-style COP, in which companies do the Good News thing, saying how good they have been in advancing the 10 Principles. This could be compared to an Application Level C Report using the GRI Framework, though it doesn't quite require the same degree of rigor in terms of Management Disclosures. "Advanced" is another affair, requiring companies to report on how they meet 24 criteria of responsible and sustainable business practice, grouped in 5 broad categories:
  • strategy, governance and engagement
  • UN goals and issues
  • implementation of Global Compact principles
  • value chain implementation
  • verification and disclosure
Essentially, anyone aiming for an Advanced level COP is working at the level of a GRI Application Level A Report. But, as anyone who has ever written an A Level report knows, this is no small task. If you have the capability of producing an Advanced Level COP, in practice, you are capable of writing a Sustainability Report and posting it on the UNGC Website, thereby also fulfilling the UNGC COP requirements. The Sustainability Report will include a reconfirmation of the CEO commitment to the UNGC and a cross-reference index of UNGC principles to GRI Indicators.  In practice, this is what most companies who report at GRI B or A Level do.

For companies which are not quite ready to report at this advanced level, an Active COP could be a positive alternative. It provides an opportunity for transparency in a globally recognized context and allows some flexibility regarding what to disclose.  In some cases, companies invest quite a significant amount of effort to deliver an Active Level COP.

Take a look at this (Active Level) COP by (my client) , ECI Telecom.

ECI Telecom is a global provider of telecommunications networking solutions and this is the Company's second COP. Beyond confirming the Company's commitment to the 10 principles of the UNGC, ECI discloses how the company makes a Green Impact with ICT Technology. If you don't know your DSL from your VDSL, ADSL and HDSL, or the environmental significance of Vectoring, you can learn a lot from reading ECI's COP. ECI is a champion in low-power applications and E-band technologies. If this is all gibberish to you, don't worry. It was to me until I started to learn what it all means. It's actually surprisingly simple, once you get the letters in the right place, and confirms that ICT is one of the most significant opportunities for companies to provide services which improve their environmental footprint and those of consumers.

Additionally, ECI makes many environmental disclosures relating to  its own environmental impacts. With an E-TASC (Electronic Tool for Accountable Supply Chains) score of 96%, the company's best to date, ECI demonstrates a commitment to managing, measuring and reporting. The company achieved a 20% reduction in paper consumption in 2010, a 20% reduction in electricity consumption per employee, a 12% reduction in water consumption and a 9.75% reduction in waste. Great progress.

However, my favorite part of this COP is the description of the Green Camera project that ECI Telecom's CSR Manager, Eynat Rotfeld, organized in 2010. Employees were invited to submit their "green" photographs and the three winning photos were selected from around the ECI globe. The photos were breathtaking. Here are the winning photos:

My Green Life in Huangzhou by Tony Xu (China)
Tony Xu said about this photo: "Bicycle is a green, healthy and convenient choice for me. In Hangzhou, the government purchased a mass of bicycles and offer free use for residents in order to improve the condition of traffic and reduce the usage of cars. You can borrow near the home and return at your destination. It is very convenient, saves money and good for health for everyone. That is my reason for choosing this picture."

Harvesting the power of nature by Glenn Leis (ECI Philippines)
Glenn said about this photo: "I was amazed when I saw those windmills up-close and personal and wonder how the force of nature, which is the wind, drives those giants to produce electricity without any bi-products / pollutants. I’ve been to some power plants during my college day field trips and I have compared it to those diesel-fed engines that are very dependent in oil in which we do not have here (yet) in our country. The power of nature is everywhere, we just need to harvest it in a way we do not destroy it in the end because it's FREE...."

The ECI Biking Team in Georgia by Amit Singer (Israel)
Amit said about this photo: "This picture was taken during our "green" sporting activity, an ECI team bike ride, which doesn’t cause any form of pollution. The team also gets involved in a lot of volunteering activity, including making donations to hospitals, supporting underprivileged children and more. The photo itself represents the spirit of the group – riding in an atmosphere of calmness and blending with the green of nature."

ECI Telecom's 2011 COP is a comprehensive document of 65 pages covering a wide range of social and environmental disclosures, demonstrating year on year progress in advancing sustainable practices. Not a lightweight entry by any means.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability 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, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

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