Monday, March 19, 2012

Intuit: Sustainability Report Cone Award

As we are now almost three months into 2012, I decided to take a look at who's been publishing what (Sustainability Reports  of course - I wasn't searching for the latest true crime bestsellers - though some might not notice the difference).

This starts a series of posts  based on a random pick of Sustainability Reports published in 2012 and some insights about what I found valuable and what I, IMHO, found less valuable.

For some, reading about Sustainability Reports may be rather boring (that's me being responsive to stakeholder concerns). So here's a good tip. It's always best to read the CSR Reporting Blog with ice-cream. This makes every Sustainability Report just a little more palatable. Therefore, for everything I like about the report, I will award One Ice Cream Cone. For things I like less, I take away One Ice Cream Cone. For really bad reports, that leaves more ice-cream for me! However, I will try to be magnanimous. Sometimes I will award a Cone for the quality of the reporting, sometimes for the sustainability activity which is reported. You will have to guess which is which.

(All ice cream cone images are sourced from: Ice Cream Cone ClipArt - the Go-To-Place if you are feeling depressed or suicidal). (The different sizes of the cone pictures are not indicative of anything other than the fact that it's awkward for non-techies like me to size all the pictures equally - blame the pixels.)

Intuit 2011 Corporate Sustainability Report

About the Company:
Intuit is a provider of business and financial management solutions for small and mid-sized businesses; financial institutions, including banks and credit unions; consumers and accounting professionals. HQ in California. Traded on NASDAQ. $4 billion revenue. 8,000 employees.

About the report:
First report. PDF - 16 pages. Not conforming to the GRI Framework. Not externally assured.

Ice Cream Cones Awarded:
This is a great starter report with a very meaningful 16 pages. It's written in eye-level, user-friendly language which is accessible for non-seasoned report readers. The design is simple, pleasant and doesn't give you a headache. The Sustainability Report website makes content accessible online.

One aspect of user-friendliness is the Equivalent To explanations. For key data, Intuit facilitates visualization of environmental achievements through comparisons to things that we can  see in our mind's eye as we read the report. For example, "Intuit’s supply chain accounted for 21 percent of our carbon footprint in 2008. It produced 5,500 tons of waste that year - the equivalent of 1,600 dumpsters."  "During a three-month period in 2011, Intuit removed 21 tons of e-waste from the solid waste stream... that’s roughly equivalent to 138 refrigerators!" Can't you just see 138 refrigerators stacked up outside your office?

Intuit tracks indirect impacts which are enabled through the use of Intuit products. Use of Intuit software enables Intuit customers to reduce paper and energy consumption. Intuit reports on the total paper saved by customers in this way, with a target to help customers cut paper use by 1 billion sheets annually, resulting in the avoidance of 12,000 MtCO2e of GHG emissions and equivalent to saving 400 acres of forestland in the United States. (see that Equivalent To thing again?). This is a great approach - focusing not on what Intuit does, but on the result of what Intuit does - this is what's important when considering sustainability impacts.

I give a Cone to Intuit for telling it like it is. Here is what the company says about Water Management. "We’re attempting to collect Intuit’s water usage data. We’ve made some progress, but before we can report the data we need to collect more and confirm its accuracy." It is often a dilemma for first-time reporters to go public without the data or stay under the radar. The force of a public commitment to doing more next time deserves recognition.

 Another Cone for Intuit's Green Team reported activity. The company has Green Teams at more than 15 locations and describes a enthusiastic activity ranging from engaging 4,000 Intuit employees in Earth Day activities, WasteWatch waste reduction program, Live Green Sweepstakes using the internal social network to make employees aware of a sustainable lifestyle with the chance to win a Vespa, Freecycle@work program to encourage recycling and reuse of "stuff" and a Green Your Business Forum, encouraging small business owners to engage to get Green Tips and advice.

Ice Cream Cones dewarded:

I miss some form of index - while I prefer the GRI Index, any other Index would do. Indexing report contents makes it so much easier to find specific information.

I miss some evidence of stakeholder engagement and a materiality analysis. The fact that Intuit sets out key goal areas and future targets does not necessarily mean that these are the most material issues for the company for all stakeholders. For example, Intuit reports, as mentioned above, on resource consumption avoidance at customers. This does not feature as an area of focus for future goals, but I suspect it is a core material issue.

The report does not contain any information about governance or the way sustainability is managed at this company. The introductory message is written by the CFO and not the CEO. I wonder why? Was the CEO on vacation at the time this report was written? Or did the CEO opt out of Sustainability? Or does the CFO have a particular passion for the subject? Whatever the reason, I have an expectation that the most senior person in the organization will have ownership for sustainability (and reporting) and make a public comment in the Sustainability Report so that everyone is clear about where s/he stands. The CFO, of course, can always add more.

Overall Net Ice-Cream Cone Status:
Two cones for Intuit. But that's ok. They can share them around.

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 (Beyond Business, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

1 comment:

Jan Morgan said...

You are funny and brilliant Elaine - this is a wonderful post that as usual tells it like it is in a memorable way. Thank-you! Jan

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