Friday, May 8, 2015

Between the Lines in CSR Reports

I consider it a great privilege to do the work that I do, helping companies develop a strategic approach to corporate responsibility and account for their impacts on society through reporting. While, in general, I am guided by a business approach to corporate responsibility and sustainability, with lots of formal frameworks and disclosures and numbers and charts and value accounting in different forms, some things just make you sit up and stand back and realize again that, ultimately, it's all about people, relationships and solidarity. My work exposes me to the so many ways that companies touch people's lives that even the longest Sustainability Report in the world could never even begin to capture the positive ripple effects on individuals and communities. There are some things so inspiring and so moving that they truly change your awareness and appreciation of the real meaning of community at work. The workplace does not have to be only somewhere you go to earn a paycheck or learn new skills. It can be a place where people thrive and help others to thrive, and this is something you just can't adequately reflect in a Report. I am often deeply moved by the dedication and selflessness of individuals as I talk to so many people in the course of gathering information for the reports that I work on with different companies. I have many stories, but this one, this week, was exceptional. 

I am working on helping to prepare the Caesars Entertainment Corporation Citizenship Report for 2014-2015, the third G4 report that Caesars will publish later this year. We have a lot of numbers to crunch and narrative to edit before then! But in meantime, I have had the privilege to connect directly with some of the Caesars HEROs. HEROs is Caesars long standing corporate volunteering initiative that engages thousands of employees, collectively clocking up almost 200,000 hours each year to engage with causes they are passionate about, including initiatives funded by the Caesars Foundation. The opportunities that Caesars Entertainment creates for employees to get active in their communities help employees enrich their own lives and the lives of others in incredible ways. There are so many HEROs throughout the Caesars organization and each one is deserving of recognition. I have had the good fortune to connect with several during the work on this and prior Citizenship Reports and all are equally inspiring. The one that prompted this post is the story of Joan Bish, Boat Operations Supervisor at Horseshoe Hammond Casino

Joan is a dedicated volunteer, donating hundreds of hours of her time each year to several causes. One is the Employee Garden where employees come together to nurture vegetables and sell the resulting produce, directing funds to a local food bank to help in the  fight against hunger. Another is the St.Baldrick's Foundation's event, where employees shave their heads or donate their locks to raise money for childhood cancer research. And at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, Joan completed a walk of more than 50 miles. However, what really caught my eye and captured my emotions was the initiative Joan undertook to recognize, support and pay tribute to fellow workers who are fighting their battle with cancer. In a personal mission, covering hours of travel across two U.S. states and visiting with 7 families, Joan created a video that is... well.. I have no more words. Watch it for yourself. 

Watching this video brought home to me the many ways that workplaces become communities of people, good people who want to be good to others, who want to leave a legacy of good and who actually do. The opportunities that companies create that enable employees to step up and get involved are probably one of the most important  aspects of corporate citizenship, and so often, we report that as a number or a result in a chart. There is no chart than can express the profound meaning of this kind of activity and no spreadsheet that can express the way this activity truly enriches lives. That's why I had to stop and share my reflections with you. Perhaps there may be some inspiration you can gain from this in your workplace. 

Perhaps this story touched me so specifically because, just a couple of years ago, my dearest sister-in law heartbreakingly lost her battle with ovarian cancer at the young age of 63 after a three year heroic fight with the support of our family and community. Ovarian cancer is the one that, by the time it's diagnosed, it's usually too late, as it creeps up on women, almost symptomless, until it's so deeply embedded in your body that you can never cut it out. Early detection is the only way to beat ovarian cancer, and new research proves that. I am incredibly proud of my two nieces who, as they continue to suffer the pain of losing their mother, maintain the fight to raise awareness for ovarian cancer, support cancer research and help women be proactive about demanding tests for early detection. My niece, Sarah, who runs her own consultancy, The Athena Programme, that supports safeguarding of children in our communities and workplaces, was interviewed this week for the local news in the UK.

As, during this period, I am deeply embedded in "reporting season",  which consumes pretty much all my time and energy for several months, I have to put my other true passion, blogging about reporting (you know I am a geek) on a back-burner until I resurface in another few weeks. But I couldn't help stopping everything and writing this post to recognize Caesars, all the hundreds of Caesars HEROs including Joan, Sarah and Susan (my nieces) and all the unsung heroes who are making the world a better place. It's worth remembering that, as you look at numbers and charts in Sustainability Reports, there's a another dimension that's only visible between the lines, but it's no less relevant and probably, in the long run, more important.

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? Contact elaine:   
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