Thursday, June 26, 2014

This is an unsustainability unreport unreview

This is not a post. This is not a blog. This is not a review of EMC's latest sustainability report.

Haha. Of course it is all of the above.

However, I wanted to draw attention to Kathrin (Kate) Winkler's brilliant unblog post which totally made me want to read EMC's seventh annual sustainability report.  I recommend you read her post before you carry on reading mine. By telling us everything that she wasn't going to do, or isn't going to do, Kate effectively describes everything she has done. It's not only creative, it's truly insightful about the value of reporting and the process, recognizes key players that made a contribution and totally has the effect of getting you interested. Totally.

Naturally, I had to not take a peek. Which, in Kate's language, means, take a peek.

EMC has take a big (positive) step forward this year by organizing the report around sustainability (material) issues rather than the traditional triumvirate of people, planet and profit. This year, the body of the report is in 12 sections, representing the issues identified as most material and displayed in this infographic.

Oddly, these are listed in alphabetical order. I wouldn't have thought this is particularly helpful when reviewing material issues. Rather, order of size or magnitude of impact might have been more meaningful. Perhaps they are all equal? With corporate governance at the top, I tend to think that makes corporate governance the most important. As a result, since the report content  is ordered in line with this list, you end up with a whole bunch of corporate governance stuff at the start of the report. Now, anyone who reads reports knows that corporate governance is the most boringly tedious mind-melting yucky section of any sustainability report. Fortunately, at EMC, this is only two pages. But it's still boring. So I skipped to what I thought would be the most fascinating section: the role of IT in society.

Indeed. In this section, after some copywritery type generalistic stuff about how the cloud is transforming our lives and Big Data has become Big Everything, EMC provides three truly interesting case studies about the use of technology that makes a difference.

First: How better IT solutions have helped the fire service streamline its operations and make it possible to help save lives in Australia, one of the world’s most susceptible areas for bush fires.

Second: The ShieldMe App, activated  in situations of distress when no immediate help is available, using virtual channels to send out various types of SOS alerts. This was developed in India, in light of the increasing (despicable) situation relating to crimes against women that we have been witnessing for some time.

Third: Providing IT support and interactive data visualizations to bring the reality and impact of climate change to life for an online audience, during the 640-kilometer trek from the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica to the South Pole by environmental campaigner Parker Liautaud.

In each of these short summary stories, that indeed give a view of how technology is helping make a difference, EMC provides additional clickable detail in the form of videos or other website content. If you want more stories (I did), you have to download an expanded customers section that is a supplementary piece of the executive summary report, focusing on EMC's customer interface.  (I did). There was one additional story .. and a further half a dozen pages of explanations about EMS's Voice of Customer program and other background.

For EMC, "the role of IT in society refers to the impacts, both positive and negative, of the use of EMC® technologies, products and solutions, with particular focus on the enabling effects of cloud, Big Data, and Trusted IT." No negative examples, mind you.

As for the rest of the material issues, information security and privacy became the next topic of most interest to me. More blurby copy. In order to get the full picture, we are referred to three more sections to download. (I didn't).

Overall, I find EMC's report to have been developed with creativity and for that, I am happy to magnanimously confer a CSR Blog Cone Award.

The report comes in an Executive Summary of 40 pages and a suite of downloadable report sections, that together form the entire report, that can be accessed separately or as a comprehensive suite.  Self-service menu style. It's a bit unwieldy. I prefer a good old one-size-fits-all PDF. But it's creative. The Executive Summary is long and short enough to get an appreciation of a range of positive impacts that EMC is advancing without it putting you to sleep (except for the governance section haha). Each material issue starts with describing EMC's approach and follows with highlights of the year's activities.

The section on Goals and Targets and Progress follows the material disclosures. Multi-year targets for operational emissions and renewables show (good)  progress made to date. One target on ewaste was achieved. A range of other targets (all environment or supply chain related, with the exception of two community involvement targets) appear to be new targets. Most are detailed and measurable, as targets should be. And there is even a is a hidden gem! In the supply chain highlights we can find this short but really powerful update:

"Strategic direct material suppliers are now formally required to publish sustainability reports to the GRI standard."

 And the 2020 target is:

That deserves a load of cones:

I have maintained for years that the way to get more companies to advance sustainability practice in their business and report on sustainability is to have their customers require them to do so. More than regulation, more than consumer pressure, the need to do business will leave many companies with no choice other than to act and report. I am pleased to see that EMC is making the commitment to drive this forward. I'd love to see a list of EMC suppliers that have already published sustainability reports (especially the ones that wouldn't otherwise have done so). 

All in all, I am glad that Kate Winkler didn't write her blog post and that I didn't take the time out of my busy ice cream schedule to take an unlook at the report. 

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Beer is made of people

If you thought that beer was made of barley, yeast and hops, you would be only partially right. The real ingredient in beer production is people. At least, that's the story at MillerCoors, and with the recent release of the company's "Great Beer, Great Responsibility" 2014 Sustainability Report, you can understand why.

Opening up with the story of the Phoenix team that provided 37,000 safe rides to prevent drunk driving on New Year's Eve, the report follows with the story of Brooke from marketing and the campaign she created with Harley-Davidson to promote safe biking. Enter Steve, who created a community entrepreneurship campaign, and Jay, who drives talent development. Fernando Palacios, Executive Vice President and Chief Integrated Supply Chain Officer then takes the floor to explain supply chain efficiency and Tyler Shannon, environmental health and safety specialist displays pvc strips that are routed for recycling at MillerCoors' Golden brewery in Colorado. Kate goes on to deliver her philosophy on supplier diversity and Judy Jolly, an agronomist in the southern Colorado region, talks about best management practices around water conservation in agriculture and collaboration with MillerCoors. 

While all of this reads a bit like a series of inspirational press releases, rather than data-based case studies in a sustainability report, the intention is clear: get to know the people behind the beer, and reinforce the message that beer is made of people. 

This was my insight after I talked with Kim Marotta, Director of Sustainability at MillerCoors. Passionate about her role and the headway made so far, Kim was generous enough to spare me some time to tell me about how MillerCoors is doing in sustainability and what's been important to her in advancing the company's efforts and reporting on sustainability performance. Here are her insights:

Your record on sustainability strategy? 
We have two parent companies, SABMiller plc and Molson Coors Brewing Company, and they both have an influence on our sustainability programs. But, we are all operating off the same sheet, in line with the same broad strategy. When SABMiller or Molson Coors sets global targets, we play our part to contribute to those targets. We track our performance and report our progress to both our parent companies. However, as the U.S. joint venture, we are focused on the issues that are material to our stakeholders in the U.S. For example, for SAB-Miller, support relief for victims of HIV/Aids is a major part of their program. For the U.S., this is not as material to our stakeholders. We prefer to work on things that are more directly related to important issues in our own market and relevant to our local stakeholders. 

Your record on reporting? 
We are always considering ways to do things differently in order to get the message across more effectively. In this report, the main difference is that we have devoted much more attention to the people in our business and telling their stories. The reason we are successful is our people – they have a strong desire to make things happen, we wanted to tell their story. We wanted to help others learn about our people and get a glimpse of their world view and how that supports our organizational goals, understand the daily pressures and challenges. In this report, we have tried to bring this out much more than in the past. 

Also this time, we aligned our reporting with GRI G4 disclosures, though we did not specify core or comprehensive level. We had already done the work on materiality, so G4 did not pose a significant challenge. 

Your record on water conservation? 
The initiative that makes me the most proud is our water reduction achievement. We had set a goal in 2008 to reduce water consumption by 15 percent. After a couple of years, we weren't seeing as much progress we had planned. In 2008, we were using more than four barrels of water to make a barrel of beer, and in 2009 and 2010 it was roughly the same. A group of leaders within our integrated supply chain traveled to SABMiller’s plants in South America, which were doing well in this area. Their water consumption was much lower. After a week learning the processes employed there, they came back and immediately started to make changes. They set up war rooms and solicited ideas from everyone in the brewery on how best to capture water savings. This really helped change the culture. In total, we’ve saved 1.1 billion gallons of water since 2012. In 2013, we further reduced our water use by 9.1%. At the end of 2013, we were at 3.48 barrels of water to make one barrel of beer. After getting every single one of our breweries engaged, we hit our 2015 goal early at the end of 2013. This was an incredible process. 

Your record on waste diversion? 
One of the things that distinguish us as beer producers is our record on zero waste to landfill. Six of our eight major breweries achieved zero waste to landfill. We expect that to be eight out of eight in the not too distant future. I don't think that too many companies can attest to zero waste to landfill. We are delighted with the progress our teams have made to deliver this result. 

Your record on drunk driving? 
The work that we do to promote responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving is a core part of our sustainability efforts. We have reached 12 million people in our safe ride program. We have partnered with several organizations around the country and created many opportunities for people to order safe rides or get a free safe ride home. For example, Miller Lite is the exclusive sponsor of 1-800-TAXICAB, a national dispatch service that connects passengers to locally owned cab companies. During 2013, more than 700,000 calls were placed to 1-800-TAXICAB. We have ramped up the amount of people taking a pledge to be a designated driver. We pay for public transportation in certain cities for major holidays and events. All in all, we are making a big difference in helping people stay safe and avoiding injury to others caused by driving drunk. Ultimately, it's about enabling people to have fun and keeping them safe. 

Your record on supplier diversity? 
Supplier diversity has been an important objective for MillerCoors. Supplier diversity helps us grow and be a better business. We have invested more than two billion in contracts with diverse suppliers, and this includes partnerships, mentoring relationships, funding educational opportunities and more. We have one person in a full-time role just looking after our supplier diversity program, identifying and advancing opportunities. We work together collaboratively with diverse suppliers, it's not just about compliance. For our purchasing people, this has become a regular way of doing business. Our CEO maintains a personal interest and commitment, personally reviewing the numbers and progress toward our goals.

The MillerCoors 2014 Sustainability Report is nicely laid out in a friendly-design hyperlinked PDF. The Materiality Map is prominently positioned and identifies 8 high priority issues for MillerCoors.

Following the introductory people story section, the report splits into five areas of progress in 2013, each starting with a 2015 goal and recording progress made in 2013. In each area, overall policy is described and examples of practice are provided. While this is a look-good-feel-good type of report, providing little context beyond the specific activities of MillerCoors, the company records progress across many fronts. Beyond water and waste management, as mentioned above, highlights include:
  • GHG emission reduction 
  • Strong employee safety performance 
  • LGBT community support 
  • Investment in education in the community 
  • Watershed risk assessments 
  • Packaging design environmental improvements 
  • Sustainable agriculture and water conservation techniques 

Four external commentaries close out the report. They are also PR quotation material but also indicate that good relationships are in place. Overall, the generally positive nature of this report does not detract from the amount of progress in evidence. A little more balance and local context in future reports may add to credibility levels. 

The G4 content index is indicatively included for a selection of G4 disclosures – 21 general disclosures (about two-thirds of the 34 required for core level reporting) and 24 performance indicators, 14 of these in the environmental category. The actual disclosures in many cases do not meet the full requirements of the G4 Performance Indicators. A material case in point is G4-EN8 – water consumption. MillerCoors reports a water-to-beer ratio but no absolute data for water consumption or water withdrawal sources, as required by the indicator.

However, the GRI Content Index serves to help match disclosures with stated material issues – and this, after all, is one of the main purposes of the index and one of the main goals of G4: aligning disclosure with stated materiality. 

And if you were thinking of giving feedback – MillerCoors will make it worth your while. Unobtrusively positioned at the end of the report is an invitation to take part in a feedback survey. Here is the link: After taking a look, I realized that, in return for completing the survey and leaving my contact details, by, I could win a tablet! So, if you need a tablet, telling MillerCoors what you think of their report might just be the way to get one. I confess to being skeptical about these types of survey, and their true value in helping understand what stakeholders want. In the worst case, at least MillerCoors will know who wants a tablet. 

It's always good to read a report and talk to the folks responsible for developing it. Reporting is always an opportunity to engage and I was impressed with the way Kim at MillerCoors was happy to address my questions and provide a personal perspective. 

And this brings me back to a point I often make. Not only beer is made of people. So are sustainability reports.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Using sex to sell ice cream at Nestlé

By now, anyone that reads the CSR Reporting Blog knows how much I love ice cream. So perhaps it's not by chance that a Facebook post about ice cream caught my eye. Yesterday, I noticed a such a post by Eyal Carmi who criticized an advertisement for Joya ice cream in Israel by Osem, which is 63.7% owned by Nestlé. His Facebook comment drew attention to the soft-porno nature of the ad, apparently aired on prime time TV.

I don't wish to promote Nestlé ice cream or lend any sort of support to this marketing campaign, but, before I offer my thoughts, I have to let you judge for yourself. A screen shot and the ad itself on Youtube - proclaiming Joya ice cream the hottest ice cream around.

I have to wonder how this kind of marketing passes the ethics test at Nestlé.

Beyond the fact that I personally find this ad rather nauseating, serving only to make me resolved NOT to try Joya ice cream,  I wonder why it is even necessary to create such a campaign that borders on pornography. Why does Nestlé need sex to sell ice cream? Does fabricated sensuality really make people buy ice cream? What does this ad say about the way Osem-Nestlé thinks about women, when corporate marketeers are prepared to air a voluptuous woman lustfully sucking on a phallus-shaped ice cream bar, vigorously licking her fingers, in what appears to be the way advertisers think women scheme to attract a man's attention? Is this the kind of ad that should be seen by kids on prime time TV?  Or on YouTube alongside fun ads for kids' snacks on the company's YouTube channel?

I sought another opinion from a respected colleague who is an expert in corporate and business communications. This is what he said:

I recall putting the issue of responsible marketing to the director of sustainability who was speaking at a conference one day while his company was running an ad featuring almost voyeuristic images of a woman’s body that bore no relation to the product being sold. His reply - the the effect of “it wouldn’t happen if I was in charge of marketing” - spoke volumes about the lack of integration of sustainability into day-to-day practices, which is so often claimed by corporations. How companies approach marketing is emblematic of the way they understand consumers but so often merely seeks to plug into stereotypical, out-dated attitudes in order to grab (men’s) attention for the brand name."
James Osborne, Senior Partner, Lundquist  

Nestlé's Consumer Communication Principles is a four page document that prescribes the way Nestlé companies should develop and air marketing content. It states: "The Nestlé Communication Principles have been defined as the highest standard on which all marketing and communication to consumers must be based." Here are some of the principles:

  • The content of consumer communications must reflect good taste and social responsibility in accordance with each country’s laws and regulations and voluntary codes and standards. Although standards will vary from country to country, it must not display vulgarity, bad manners and offensive behavior and there must never be an intention to shock or offend. 
  • Advertising content must not depict attitudes that are discriminatory or offensive to religious, ethnic, political, cultural or social groups. 
  • Advertising should avoid exploiting media events that could be in bad taste.
Nestlé is no stranger to ethical problems. In fact, it's one of the corporations that exemplifies the most extreme levels of emotion, as, one the one hand, the most boycotted company in the UK, and on the other hand, the most admired for its' work in "creating shared value" and advancing global food science and technology for the benefit of everyone. A quick internet search brings up a host of ethical issues over the years related to different parts of the Nestlé business, including a recent $680,000 fine for anti-competitive marketing tactics in the coffee business. In fairness, Nestlé claims to be addressing many of the concerns of stakeholders around the world with several supply chain assessments, and a host of other initiatives under the CSV banner, as you can read in the 2013 Nestle Shared Value Report. The company even made a bold commitment to no deforestation traceable palm oil, after the Greenpeace campaign disaster that had everyone associating Kit-Kats with bloody orang-utan fingers.

It seems that as soon as one ethical problem dies down, another one crops up. This ice cream advertisement is, in my view, poor judgment and poor ethics. If the marketing is in bad taste, I wonder if the ice cream comes with a bad taste too.

Perhaps it's time to refresh that set of consumer communication principles and get the folks that market ice cream at Osem-Nestlé up to date with today's values.  

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  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

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Test your knowledge: 20 questions on G4

Here is a chance to test your knowledge of the G4 Global Reporting Initiative Guidelines. There are no right answers. Whatever you think is right, is right.  That's because this quiz was designed in the spirit of G4. But,  please note, you might want to involve your stakeholders as you consider your answers. 

Q1: Why was G4 launched?
A:  To keep the sustainability reporting debate alive
B:  To make sustainability reports shorter.
C:  To encourage companies to be more transparent.
D:  To give sustainability reporting consultants lots of headaches.

Q2: Who wrote G4?
A:  Optimists.
B:  Psychics.
C:  Experts in sustainability reporting.
D:  Experts in anything but sustainability reporting.

Q2: What's the right length for a G4 report?
A:  Extreeeeeeeeeeeemely short.
B:  No more than 100 pages - where 97 pages are full-page graphics.
C:  As long as your stakeholders can stay awake.
D:  Longer than your main competitor's report.

Q3: Should a G4 report contain failures as well as achievements? 
A:  Only if you want to win an award
B:  What? You had failures?
C:  Only if you are publishing your report at the time of a  global natural disaster. Then, no-one will notice
D:  The more the better. Then you won't be around to publish a report again next year. That'll be a relief.

Q4: Do you understand the G4 Implementation Manual?  
A:  Of course. Except everything from page 5 onwards.
B:   I don't' need to. I have a copy of Elaine Cohen's fabulous book: Understanding G4: The concise guide to next generation sustainability reporting
C:  Is this a trick question?
D:   I don't think G4 was actually meant to be understood.

Q5: What's the best thing about G4?  
A:  It's too soon to tell.
B:  Not doing it.
C:  It's now available in Chinese and Indonesian.
D:  It rhymes with ignore.

Q6: What's the right number of material issues you should report?   
A:  More than most
B:  What SASB says
C:  There is no right number. There is only a relevant number.
D:  Enough to create the impression of having completed a materiality analysis.

Q7: Can you write a G4 report with just one material issue?   
A:  Yes, but everyone will be jealous.
B:  Yes, as long as it's a very big issue, such as : contributing to global sustainability.
C:  Yes, then the Materiality Matters check at the GRI will be really quick and won't delay your report publication.
D:   Yes. Consult with one stakeholder and ask about one issue.

Q8: G4 eliminated the A,B,C classifications and moved to Core and Comprehensive. What's the difference? 
A:  There's no difference. If you write a comprehensive report you are more wonderful than if you write a core report. Just like A, B, C.
B:   With A,B, C, many reporters got an F. With core and comprehensive, everyone wins.
C:   You have to change the title on your Press Release.
D:   SMEs can now report at core level without reporting at C level.

Q9: Why does G4 list only 46 material Aspects?  
A:  GRI didn't want to make the manual too long. 266 pages is enough.
B:  There is nothing else really really really important .
C:  It was a design choice.
D:  Sustainability Managers can only count up to 46.

Q10: How should you respond to General Standard Disclosure G4-11: Describe your supply chain.
A:  Keep it short. Our supply chain is short.
B:  Add a little detail. Our supply chain is short and we have many suppliers.
C:  Add substantial detail: Our supply chain is short and we have many suppliers. We also have a few warehouses of different sizes strategically located at major urban intersections to guarantee immediate availability of our products to local customers.
D:  Don't. Say it is an omission and you will report in 2018. That will give you time to actually think about what your supply chain does.

Q11: How can you demonstrate the principle of stakeholder inclusiveness?
A:  Hold a stakeholder party (with ice-cream).
B:  Conduct an online survey and send it to everyone including your mother and her mother.
C:  Just keep repeating it in your report.
D:  Identify your stakeholders and include them. It's that simple, isn't it?

Q12: How many times does the G4 implementation manual contain the word "material" or "materiality"?  
A:  I lost count after 3,473.
B:  More than it contains the words ice cream.
C:  Why count? It's hard enough defining it let alone counting it.
D:  Enough to dilute its meaning so that it refers to everything that's not material as well.

Q13: Is it OK to publish the G4 content index separately from the actual report? 
A:  Yes, as long as you do so within the same decade.
B:   Yes, provided you are referring to your report and not another company's report.
C:   Sure, then you can conveniently forget to upload it to your website.
D:  Yes. Then it is easier to recycle every year.

Q11: Must a G4 report be externally verified?  
A:  Only if you have a VERY BIG budget.
B:  Only if you are on a suicide mission.
C:  No, but you risk people not finding mistakes that the verifiers wouldn't have found anyway.
D:  No, what's written in black and white must be true.

Q14: What if your Aspect Boundaries change while you are preparing the report?  
A:  This depends. If the Aspects and the Boundaries change, Houston, we have a problem.
B:   If the Boundaries change but not the Aspects, then you can readjust and no one will notice.
C:   If the Aspects change but not the Boundaries, then you probably didn't define the Boundaries well in the first place.
D:   Can someone actually explain to me what Aspect Boundaries really are?

Q15: What if the CSR Manager resigns while you are preparing your G4 report? 
A:  Get another one.
B:  Get a lawyer.
C:  Use last year's report and change the dates.
D:  Make it an In Accordance report with a lot of omissions.

Q16: How much ice cream do you need to consume while preparing a G4 report?  
A:   A lot.
B:   A very lot.
C:   More than that.
D:   You don't want to know.

Q17: Which G4- expert consulting firm was the first in the world to help clients deliver three G4 reports before the end of 2013?  
A:  Beyond Business Ltd
B:  Beyond Business Ltd  
C:  Beyond Business Ltd
D:  Beyond Business Ltd
E:  Beyond Business Ltd
F:  Beyond Business Ltd
G:  Beyond Business Ltd
H:  Beyond Business Ltd

Q18: How does preparing a G4 report change your personality?  
A:  It brings on fatigue and disorientation disorder, commonly known as G4 disease.
B:   It makes you anxious, irritable, impatient and critical, until it's published. Then you sleep.
C:   It makes you a better person. Yes, it does. It does. Seriously.
D:   It's doesn't change your personality, so if people are calling you weirdo, crazy person and zombie they are probably mistaken.

Q19: Does publishing a G4 report mean you are a great company? 
A:  Of course. Being transparent about your bad results makes you really great.
B:   Of course. Doesn't G stand for Great?
C:   Of course. If we weren't before we will be after.
D:   Of course:  Greatness comes from the knowledge that you transparently disclosed your most material issues and called them Aspects.

Q20: What will happen when every company in the world  produces a G4 sustainability report?
A:  G5
B:  The world will suddenly become a brighter place.
C:  Climate change will stop.
D:  Poverty will be eliminated.
E:  All of the above.
F:  Not.

How did you do? By now, you all know that I love G4 and I think it has definitely moved sustainability reporting in the right direction. But, like everything, if we take it toooo seriously, we are likely to miss out on some of the fun. Hope you enjoyed this little test. 

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  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
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