Sunday, January 25, 2015

Our second Sustainability Report - hot off the press


Announcing the Beyond Business 
2014 Sustainability Report

Yes, we finally made it to our second report. Just a little behind schedule. But there is something entirely uplifting about completing a Sustainability Report so for us, it was worth the effort. This report tells the story of our little company that has been making a BIG impact over the past few years and the roller-coaster journey we have been on since our last report covering 2010. 

Of course, our report is in accordance with the GRI G4 Reporting Guidelines. Of course, because we have come out strongly in support of the G4 framework and have encouraged our clients to adopt G4 where possible. Therefore, believing it is right to practice what we preach, we had no other reasonable choice. Having said this, the G4 framework worked well for us. It helped us define what's most important in a concise way, leading us to focus on the top six impacts, after having started with a much longer list. And this helped us keep our report short and focused. 

We also pioneered the new GRI Content Index Service - a check by GRI that all the disclosures and performance indicators that we included in our content index are actually present  and correctly located in the report. This was a useful exercise, and we did correct a few details in order to receive the coveted icon. We felt it was important for us to experience this check so that we know how it works if/when we recommend it to clients. Happily, for us as GRI Organizational Stakeholders, the check was free of charge. 

It's clear that our small business is not especially complex - we don't have a supply chain to speak of and governance isn't really in our lexicon. In terms of direct impacts, there is not much to speak of either. Even our commitment to addressing climate change by being carbon neutral since 2009 is unlikely to make a big dent in the global temperature rise. Recycling all our electronics and printing both sides in our minute quantities is hardly going to save the world. Where a company like ours can shine, however, is in the contribution we make to helping our clients advance along their sustainability journey and in helping the conversation around sustainability evolve in general. That's something we cannot measure in a direct way, but the confirmation we receive from our clients and the position of respect we (modestly) hold in the sustainability community indicates that, overall, our impact is positive. 

Of course, as with our last report, we included a page of failures - yes, we had some of those as well - recognizing that people only believe the good things if they also read the bad things. 

On a more philosophical level, our reporting demonstrates that SMEs can do it, that G4 can work for SMEs and that there is value in the process. We have long advocated that SMEs should report - both for the benefits it brings to their business directly and for the supply chains they are part of. I believe that SMEs have important stories to tell, and reporting is within reach. And it can be done on a modest budget. We did not need external assistance to prepare our report so that was not a budget line for us, but we did save (again!) by not having our report professionally designed, preferring to make it look as nice as we could using our own resources. Hopefully it's reasonably legible.  As part of our commitment to supporting SMEs in adopting a sustainable approach and transparency, we are holding a free workshop for SMEs in early March in our home market, to teach them the essentials and hopefully get them into the transparency habit on a low budget in a way that adds value for them. 

Finally, our report reflects our approach to reporting, which is that reporting is serious but also fun. We hope you will think so too. 

We'd love to hear your feedback!

Thank you.  

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, 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 Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing YOUR Sustainability Report in 2015? Contact elaine:   

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