Friday, May 17, 2013

We love Sustainability Reports!

This week, in Bucharest, I had the opportunity to deliver a Sustainability Reporting training workshop attended by Corporate Responsibility leaders in several large and leading companies in the Romanian market. The training workshop was organized by, who is running the exceedingly popular European CSR Lessons, taking place as I write (16-17 May 2013, and which I regrettably was not able to stay on to attend) and was hosted by GSK Romania, the first GRI-based sustainability reporter in the Romanian pharma sector,  and 2nd runner up in the CRRA'13 online reporting awards in the First Time Reports category.


My training covered a review of global trends, a taste of what might be to come on the Sustainability Reporting horizon (including some explanation and speculation about the upcoming G4), guidance in the process of developing a report and the essential indicators worth reporting on for any business, small or large. With a range of participants from different companies and sectors (energy, telecoms, food, technology, communications, pharma and beverages), we had a lively discussion and debated fascinating reporting dilemmas and questions. With the European Directive for Reporting doing the rounds with decision-makers in Brussels, Romania has a long way to go in order to develop a sustainability reporting culture, with relatively few reporters on the current landscape in that country. A few companies show leadership:
Siveco: An IT software and solution provider which as been reporting since 2008 and has now published four sustainability reports, the last one for the year 2011. Siveco also participates in the UN Global Compact and has published three COP's, the last one covering 2012. This privately owned IT company, employing 1,200 people, demonstrates and authentic and serious approach to sustainability and the development of digital Romania.
Petrom: Petrom, an integrated oil and gas company employing around 30,000 people, has come a long way in reporting. Starting with a Health Safety and Environment Report (HSE) for 1999-2000, in 2007-2008 Petrom switched to publishing online sustainability reports, with the most recent for 2011 being available as a PDF download.  The report is clearly written and contains progress against prior year targets and new targets for the coming year.
Cosmote: Cosmote's last report covers 2011 and is a GRI-checked Application Level B report, the company's second, though Cosmote Group, based in Greece, Cosmote Romania's parent company, has been reporting annually on sustainability performance for several years. Cosmote Romania is a large mobile telecommunications operator with a network covering 90% of Romania. Cosmote Romania's report is a serious affair, with detailed reporting against GRI indicators and specific updates on progress and new targets.
Heineken Romania: This second and most recent report covering 2011 is called "Brewing a Better Future" and covers similar themes to the global Heineken, though it takes less water to brew a pint of beer in Romania than it does elsewhere in the Heineken world. That's definitely worth reporting.
There are a few more companies who have reported in the past, but whichever way you look at it, both the extent and maturity of reporting in Romania is still in its early stages. With most of the participants in the workshop having a desire to start reporting, or take their existing reporting to the next level, I am looking forward to seeing many more reports coming out of Romania in the future.
However, that wasn't the point I wanted to make in this post. I don't do a lot of training, so when I do, it's quite special. Training always help you see things through the eyes of others, through the questions they ask and the comments they make. Their takeaways from the training session help you understand how you are making an impact. One of the most significant messages, for instance, that some of the group confirmed coming out of this session, was a new understanding of the way materiality fits into sustainability reporting. So many companies report without considering the real issue of their role in society and the material issues that arise from that role, and yet, that's the compelling core of reporting. We all know that materiality is going to become even more of a focus with new GRI G4 framework and organizations such as SASB that are creating a new standard for identifying and reporting on material issues. Reporting is not just about transparency. It's about relevant transparency.

The overwhelming feeling that I always come away with from such events is that, all around the world, whether it's in Romania, or Slovenia where I ran a similar event in the early part of the week, or in any of the countries I have visited to spread the Sustainability Reporting message, it all comes down to people with passion who are doing the best job they can with the tools they have available and the knowledge they have acquired. We think of reports as words on paper or on a screen. But they are people. They are a reflection of an increasingly complex business environment with ever-more challenging demands in a reporting landscape which is getting more difficult to decipher. Hopes for harmonization in reporting seem still to be a distant aspiration. The act of training groups of passionate people just brings home to me that all reports are good, all reports are an attempt to do better, all reports are worth the words they contain because each word is one that a person somewhere, doing the best job they can with the best of intentions, has put herself, or himself,  on the line to deliver.  That may sound shmaltzy, and it's sometimes difficult to get that when you read clumsily written reports, or ones that don't quite match up to expectations. But it is worth keeping in mind.

Sustainability reporting is a reflection of people, not of companies.
If you love people, then you must love sustainability reports!
In Bucharest, we all agreed on that!  
Elaine Cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)


Dragos Dehelean said...

Thank you for the great training, Elaine! Romania will have one of the most advanced corporate transparency legislation, I can promise you that. No matter what :)

elaine said...

Thanks Dragos! Looking forward to being back in Bucharest! Best, elaine

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