Thursday, October 29, 2015

Six ways to say sustainability at Strauss Group

Strauss Group is a food and beverage company, dedicated to enriching and improving people's lives through our fresh, delicious, nutritious, and innovative products. The Group's portfolio of five companies provides a response to two leading trends in food and beverage consumption: Health & Wellness, and Fun & Indulgence. Strauss Group is active in 24 countries, generates more than $2 billion in consolidated sales and employs more than 12,000 people. Last month, Strauss Group published its eighth annual Sustainability Report. (Disclosure: Strauss Group is my client and we supported the preparation of this report and two prior reports.)

This is Strauss Group's first report following the publication of the Group's 2020 Sustainability Strategy last year. The strategy is based on three degrees of impact supported by three levels of performance. 

Degrees of impact reflect the progression of Strauss Group's impacts on different stakeholder groups and the degree to which the Group is in a direct position to create positive value. The first degree is colleagues, the most direct relationship of all between the Group and any of its stakeholders and through whom all our other stakeholder groups are reached. The second degree of impact is on consumers, whose lives are enriched by the products Strauss Group develops and markets. The third degree of impact is citizenship - impacts in the supply chain, in the environment and in local communities. Each strategy dimension is backed by targets - some of which require the Group to meet expected standards of behavior, such as upholding ethical conduct and governance, while other targets require a stretch to exceed past performance or to lead the market with performance that is among the best-in-class in the industry.

Strauss Group's 2014 Sustainability Report was written in three broad parts aligning with the strategic approach. Within this, six most material impacts guided and focused the content of this G4 Core report. These are the six ways that Strauss Group says sustainability.

Healthy lifestyles:  Strauss Group promotes and supports healthy living through a wide range of products and innovative new foods such as fresh vegetables and salads, super foods such as hummus and kale, functional foods that offer added health value such as probiotic yogurts or foods with added vitamins and minerals. Also, Strauss continues to improve the nutritional profile of its foods by reducing sugar, salt and fats across a wide range of the portfolio. 

But making great healthy products is not enough. Consumers have to get used to the different taste of low sugar content, for example, or venture into new territory by using vegetables, such as kale, that they have not tried before, so much of Strauss's efforts go towards consumer education and awareness. Similarly, consumers can be encouraged to consider lifestyle in a more holistic way - it's not only about food. Strauss Water develops and markets WaterBars for hot or cold purified water at the push of a button. Research shows that families that have a WaterBar drink more water. And in 2014, Strauss developed a mobile app that helps people get moving by connecting them with free outdoor gym spaces, personal trainers and like-minded others who seek more physical exercise. Sabra engaged with thousands of consumers in the U.S. at a specially created Hummus House, to help consumers get to know the health (and taste) benefits of hummus as a part of our daily diet. 

Innovation is often a key to improving the health profile of food products, and for some years now, Strauss has taken the lead as a food-tech enabler, providing a platform for sustainable food technology innovation. In 2014, this was formalized in the form of a collaboration to create a food-tech incubator over 8 years with the Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel at an investment by Strauss of up to more than $10 million to help transform the food industry through breakthrough new approaches to food product development, design, manufacturing and delivery. 

Product transparency and responsible marketing: Strauss meets consumer expectations and regulatory requirements for all food products. Labels are clear and aim to meet all consumer information needs. Responsible marketing standards are upheld, especially in relation to non-marketing of fun and indulgence products to kids. Strauss makes significant efforts to be transparent and open up many different communication channels for consumers - via call centers for consumer queries, or via social media or the company's website. 

Reducing resource consumption and waste: In 2014, Strauss Group reduced energy consumption per ton of product by 8% and GHG emissions per ton of product by 25% across global operations, achievements that follow on the heels of significant resource reductions in prior years. Similarly, Strauss Group reduced water withdrawal per ton of product by 12%. While overall waste did not show a reduction in 2014 (increase of 23% per ton of product), the amount of waste diverted to landfill remained high at 83%. Several initiatives are advanced throughout the Group to reduce resources and environmental impacts, including the conversion of all Israel operations to natural gas, and the expansion of the Sabra production facility in the U.S. to LEED silver green building certification. 

Engaging employees: Strauss continues to invest in leadership development, training and education for employees across the Group's operations, as well as in occupational health and safety. In Israel, for example, a focus in 2014 was safety in the sales force with a significant improvement in results.

Ethical supply chain: Sustainable sourcing continues to be a prime consideration for Strauss Group and Strauss Coffee continues to source a portion of green coffee that is certified sustainable. In addition, advances were made in 2014 in the sustainable sourcing of cocoa and sesame seeds, two top ingredients for Strauss. 

Diversity in everything we do: A diverse workforce for Strauss means both advancing women in management and creating an inclusive workplace for employees from all backgrounds. In 2014, Strauss Group achieved a level of 40% of women in management positions. In addition, Strauss in Israel was recognized by the Forum for Diversity Hiring for advances in hiring populations that are traditionally excluded from the mainstream workforce.

That's six ways that Strauss Group says sustainability and just a few examples of the activities that back up the words. As always, it's a privilege to work with companies that have a genuine desire to make a positive impact on society through the business they do.

Take a look at the report. Give feedback!

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 first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

10 Sustainability Insights from the Oil and Gas Industry

I have often said that business is done in sectors. A sector-based approach offers a platform for developing a shared appreciation of sustainability opportunities, risks, benefits and challenges while providing leverage for change and a support network for non-competitive knowledge sharing. Last month, I was delighted to engage with the Oil and Gas Industry for a day of working together all about sustainability reporting. I was able to share insights, recommendations and an external perspective while gaining a deeper understanding of the constraints and considerations that reporting specialists share in the large, complex, established companies in this industry, most of which have been reporting for years. For me, this was both an enriching experience and an opportunity to help. 

My reporting day was hosted as part of an annual meeting of members of IPIECA - the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues. IPIECA was formed in 1974 following the launch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). IPIECA is the only global association involving both the upstream and downstream oil and gas industry on environmental and social issues. IPIECA’s membership covers over half of the world’s oil production. 

The core of IPIECA's mission and practical agenda is the development of the sector as a social and environmentally responsible player. IPIECA's most recent publication a couple of months ago was the Third Edition of Sustainability Reporting Guidance for the Oil and Gas Industry to help companies report across the industry's most common sustainability issues in a consistent way and in line with shared stakeholder expectations.

The 180 page volume of guidance draws on several years of reporting experience in the sector and external independent stakeholder input. It covers both the reporting process (and principles) and reporting guidance including what's material for Oil and Gas. The principles are simply stated: relevance, transparency, consistency, completeness and accuracy.

The IPIECA guidance also suggests a set of the most significant issues commonly associated with the oil and gas industry, broadly referring to types of sustainability aspects, including risks, impacts and benefits, related to the life cycle and value chain of a company’s activities.

The IPIECA reporting guidance suggests a list of 34 performance indicators that are likely to be relevant to companies reporting in this sector. Fairly straightforward - 11 greenie ones, 5 health and safety, and 18 across workplace and community.  

But then... the reporting guidance makes a distinction between three types of reporting elements: the common ones... that means, essentially, there's no point in producing a report unless you include these; the supplemental ones, that means, basically, a good selection of your peers probably already report so you should consider including if you want to be at the top of the game and finally, others. Others is what differentiates you.

And here is an example I prepared earlier:

So E1 - greenhouse gas emissions - actually becomes 10 separate indicators, some of which are very specifically tailored to the oil and gas industry. Ultimately, it's not so different from the GRI approach, where performance indicators are grouped into categories and aspects. IPIECA has selected 34 aspects for its member reporters - GRI G4 as you may recall has 46 aspects. Many companies in this sector choose to report GRI as well as being guided by IPIECA, and a cross-reference of the different performance indicators in each framework is provided.

The IPIECA approach makes for a simple and straightforward content index - see this one in Chevron's 2014 report - it is somewhat less cumbersome than a full GRI Content Index as the sub-indicators - the different reporting elements - are not identified in the index.

I think it's a great thing that a sector proactively provides guidance and comprehensive tools for the member companies. It's more than just guidance - it's a demonstration of accountability for driving the sector forward with a shared expectation around sustainability practice and transparency. The value of the debate in developing the framework, the value of the learning in applying the reporting guidance and the value of reviewing the challenges of reporting are immense. That's how it seemed to me in my working day with many companies from the Oil and Gas industry, including sustainability reporting representatives of BG Group, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation, Marathon Oil, Noble Energy, OMV, Repsol, Shell, Statoil, Total and Tullow Oil.

In our workshop day, we discussed three aspects of reporting that are always fascinating:

  • planning the reporting process
  • defining and reporting materiality
  • reporting climate change
And while I am not able to disclose the details of the discussions that took place throughout the day, I did receive permission to share a small selection of the closing insights that the 25 or so people in the room shared at the end of the day. 

10: Prioritizing material issues: Care needs to be taken when prioritizing material issues - it's not always as straightforward as it might seem. Overly mechanical formulas or highly detailed positioning of issues on a matrix may not be as valuable as the time invested. Not every material issue is more or less important than other issues. Sometimes they are the same. There also needs to be a balance in reporting to ensure that issues that are not identified as most material are not completely omitted as some stakeholders may require these.

9: Additional resources: You don't have to cram everything into your report. In some cases, supplementary content can be added as an appendix or a web-page. Not everything needs to be upfront narrative.

8: Less is more:  (ha ha, no further comment)

7: Tighten the timeline: In the oil and gas industry, companies are very large and complex and global data collection takes the time that it takes. Often this, together with other reporting considerations, can drag out the reporting timeline across several months - in a survey of IPIECA member companies before the workshop, we discovered that the average reporting cycle was more than 8 months. If you are reporting annually, this doesn't leave too much time to go to the beach. I am pretty clear on this. Any report that takes more than 6 months to prepare from concept to publication is taking too long. And that's generous. While there are often practical considerations that delay the publication of the report, the more you can compact the timeline, the more time you have for making progress rather than making reporting.

6: Give up the search for the perfect formula: This is so true. In preparation for my work with the sector, I reviewed 15 Oil and Gas Sustainability Reports from 2014. Despite the fact that all these companies are in the same industry, the reports all have their individual character, style, tone and content focus. Each company is at a different stage of development along the sustainability journey. So, while I was able to share insights on the different ways of defining, prioritizing and presenting material issues, and participants took away new ideas, one size does not fit all and there is absolutely no perfect reporting formula for all organizations, only one for each organization.

5: Balance the broad and the narrow: It's important to find a middle ground between reporting at a broad level about complex issues versus increasing the resolution to report at a more granular level on specific issues. How do you represent that your overall carbon footprint reduction is made up of a thousand small actions and impacts, and which of those, if any, are worth highlighting? This is something worth thinking about as you plan your report process and content.

4: Get the design right: Everyone would agree that content precedes design. If you don't have relevant content, even the best of designers will fail to make your report credible. Yet, getting the design right for your corporate culture and sustainability content can make the report come alive in ways that words alone cannot. Careful use of infographics, any photography other than stock photography and controlled use of colors, fonts and styles will only improve the appeal and readability of your report.

3: Stakeholders were not all born equal: Don't let individual stakeholder groups dominate your content and do map and prioritize your stakeholders in advance and decide what you need from them and how you will represent their voices in your report. Giving stakeholders a voice - letting them tell your story - is often a proven route to credibility.

2: Link materiality to metrics: How many reports, especially with the fuller adoption of G4, now include a materiality matrix or list of material impacts. Yes, most or all. How many create a clear linkage (I call this the "materiality audit trail") between what's stated as material and all the rest of the report content - performance indicators, case studies, policy narrative etc? Oops. Rather few. So often, there is a gaping dissonance between what the report says it should be about and what it actually includes. But getting this alignment is not enough. The report user should be able to easily and quickly find the link between material impact and reporting content about that impact. I generally apply the "ten-minute rule" - if I can't find something after ten minutes of trying, for me, it doesn't exist. We have to make the link between materiality, content and metrics both available and quick to locate.

1: Have confidence: It's tempting to get derailed in reporting - there are so many frameworks, guidelines and complex rules and requirements that you can spend forever questioning yourself on the right way to go and the best way to pull it all together. But this can lead to a spiral of indecision that can delay the report process and dilute the content. Often the best way is simply to make your selection of how to frame and develop your report, and then have confidence in your approach and make it happen. No-one knows what you might have done. Everyone sees what you do. Best feel good about it and present it with pride. There are no bad Sustainability Reports. There are only Sustainability Reports that can help us improve our sustainability performance and disclosure. Each report is a learning platform, but it's also an achievement to be proud of.

And one more insight from me:

Even though we didn't have ice cream throughout this day-long meeting :-), it was one of the best sustainability days I have had in a while: a dialogue with like-minded professionals who are eager to do their honest best for their company, society and planet. I didn't even miss the ice cream!

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 first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

Monday, October 26, 2015

7 examples of inspiring corporate citizenship

It's that time of the year again when I share with you the publication of Caesars Entertainment's annual Citizenship Report. This time the selected theme is "Inspiring Citizenship." Inspiring because citizenship inspires Caesars employees to perform their roles in the business with citizenship in mind. Inspiring because as Caesars employees engage across a host of activities to advance society and preserve the environment, they inspire others. This is the sixth annual Citizenship Report by this leading gaming-entertainment company and the third that I have been proud to work on. It's the third G4 core report, and covers performance in 2014 with stories through part of 2015.

It's always hard to summarize a report that contains a wealth of information about so many aspects of the company's operations. At Caesars, whether it's about Responsible Gaming, employee engagement, charitable giving, sustainable sourcing, policy activism or another topic, the report covers the ground. I've had to work really hard to limit this post to just 7 examples of how Caesars creates and gains value through inspiring citizenship to give you a flavor of what you can learn from the Caesars report this year.

ONE: Contributing to economic development 
Each year, Caesars has loads to tell about the way its core business actively advances economic development wherever the company operates. This is more than just doing business; it's doing business in a way that's designed to make a positive impact. In Baltimore, for example, in a year of operation, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore supported tourism with a big welcome to more than 2 million guests, created almost 2,000 jobs, hired more than 66% of the workforce from the within city limits, and established an ongoing community program with support for more than 45 social organizations through donations and >800 hours of employee volunteering time. Through Horseshoe Baltimore, Caesars has provided opportunity for many small businesses who have set up shop in the casino’s food court and has partnered with celebrity chefs including John Besh and Aarón Sanchez to bring Johnny Sanchez to Baltimore for an upscale dining experience. In its inaugural year, Horseshoe Baltimore contributed to developing local prosperity for the citizens of Baltimore though paying more than $42 million in taxes (casino companies are one of the most highly taxed businesses in the U.S.). In fact, overall, Caesars generates $5.9 million of contributed value for its communities for every $10 million in revenue, triple the estimated average of U.S. corporations. 

TWO: Transforming resorts and tourist venues  
When Caesars invests in new facilities, it invests in a big way, making a difference to the value and appeal of cities and resorts that need a boost. This is the case in the Las Vegas where Caesars has invested nearly a billion dollars in the heart of The Strip with the addition of The LINQ and the High Roller, the world's tallest observation wheel.  In Atlantic City, Caesars has just opened up a new $126 million conference center project, the Waterfront Conference Center at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, that is already attracting big events and has bookings through 2019. 
THREE: Encouraging employees to be well 
Caesars has for years maintained one of the most extensive award-winning wellbeing packages for employees available in the market. Employees are incentivized to look after their own health and wellbeing by taking advantage of the benefits that Caesars provides through the Wellness Rewards program. Caesars employs 28 qualified WellNurses that are stationed at Caesars properties throughout the U.S. to help care for employees. Employees who participate in wellness activities earn two things: they feel better, get more out of life and are more productive at work AND they save money - up to $3,600 per year for themselves and their partners in tangible rewards through the program. This benefits Caesars who saves millions of dollars in medical plans and it benefits society as the healthcare burden of cost is significantly lower. The program has delivered tangible outcomes to date in terms of lowering health risks across Caesars employee base.

FOUR: Preserving the environment 
Caesars' CodeGreen strategy established in 2007 includes environmental targets as well as other social targets. On the environmental side, Caesars continued to make progress, achieving cumulative reductions in resource usage, exceeding several targets for 2014 and 2015.

In early 2014, in the light of strong performance, Caesars updated long-term targets and added new 2020 targets for energy, GHG emissions, water and waste diversion. This also includes a commitment to science-based climate change targets for 2020 and 2025 to reduce GHG emissions per 1,000 airconditioned sq. feet by 30% and 40% by 2025 respectively on a cumulative basis against a 2007 baseline. This is industry leading performance to date and industry-leading commitments for the future.

FIVE: Engaging employees in citizenship 
One of the things that Caesars does tremendously well - and having worked with Caesars now for a few years I experience this first-hand in the conversations I have with people from all around the company - is inspire employees to contribute to making the world a better place. Employees are invited to take part in a range of CodeGreen activities - far too numerous to mention here (you will have to read the report ;-)). However, one of the highlights I did want to mention is the recognition for employees who work so hard for their communities. In the 2014-2015 Citizenship Report, Caesars celebrates outstanding employee HEROs. HEROs is Caesars employee volunteer program that offers a host of opportunities to get involved in community causes, including those supported by the Caesars Foundation. In 2014, Caesars started a new peer and manager HERO Stars recognition program for HEROs and seven employees were selected and honored in the first cohort. Actually, in 2015, after the Citizenship Report was published, three of these HEROs were invited to Caesars Client Educational Experience Week in  Atlantic City to take part in one of Caesars Meeting and Events Team's week of meetings involving community volunteering with customers. A fabulous way to recognize and reward employees whose dedication and investment in local communities is unwavering. In the 2014-2015 Citizenship Report, Caesars celebrates these HERO Stars.

SIX: A leading light  
Every company needs a leading light to drive corporate citizenship activities, in addition to a committed CEO, and at Caesars, passionate and unwavering inspiration for great citizenship comes from Jan Jones, Executive Vice President of Communications, Government Relations and Corporate Responsibility. A former Mayor of Las Vegas, Jan is very present in supporting Caesars' citizenship strategy and guiding the reporting process. She is outspoken on behalf of Caesars on important matters of public policy, including immigrant rights, LGBT rights and healthcare. Her delight was tangible when in mid-2015, the U.S. Supreme Court published a breakthrough ruling to make same-sex marriage a fundamental right across the country. Jan immediately published her support on behalf of Caesars Entertainment, emphasizing the relevance this ruling has for businesses and workforce diversity and inclusion. Perhaps it's no surprise that with Jan at the helm, the Caesars workforce includes 41% women managers as a total of all mangers, 57% employees from minority groups and 36% of employees over the age of 50 - a diversity record to be proud of.  

SEVEN: Gwen  
The final highlight of this report is mainly behind the scenes. Gwen Migita, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship, is the one who tirelessly makes it all happen, driving CodeGreen, community partnerships, employee awareness and engagement and reporting. Always with an eye on the big picture, Gwen works at a level of detail and precision to move corporate citizenship forward at Caesars with determination, skill and boundless passion. Want to know a little more about what makes Gwen tick? See these two recent interviews: the first from April 2015 in the Guardian Sustainable Business where Gwen talks about coming out at work and the second from Fortune Magazine from May 2014 with ten questions to Gwen on sustainability and social justice and more.  If you don't have someone like Gwen in your company, you need to. Every company needs a Gwen. 

Finally, as always, take a look at Caesars 2014-2015 Citizenship Report. Give feedback!

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 first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

Friday, October 23, 2015

Where will you be in May 2016?

I'll be at the 5th Global GRI Conference in Amsterdam, having a great time.

If my experience of all the previous GRI conferences I have attended (all but the first one) is anything to go by, it's going to be a fabulous few days. There's always a sort of community vibe at GRI conferences - more so than any of the other global susty gatherings I have attended over the years. I think it comes from a shared interest in the present and the future of reporting and the genuine professional collegiality that sets the tone for the conference. It's like being among friends, even the ones you haven't met yet. Anyway, I have booked my travel and my hotel, and am looking forward to seeing how the program develops. GRI has shared an outline of the event with us, but leaves us guessing as to who will be the big name keynoters and other plenary and breakout speakers - past conferences have always had a host of first-class speakers so I don't expect to be disappointed in 2016. Of all those who took center stage at the last conference, the voice of dissent of Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) was one of the most memorable. Instead of playing nice on stage, she played tough - and talked about the dissonance between the annual filing of Sustainability Reports "with no conscience" and the continued abuses of human rights across workforces around the world. Hers was a wake-up shake-up call and no-one fell asleep as she was talking. 

In the same way as Sharan was asking, (my paraphrase), how it is that companies are publishing all these Sustainability Reports and the world has still not been fixed, GRI is opening with a conference plenary with a similar question: 20 years on: are we making a difference? Of course, that's a bit of a rhetorical question. No-one in their right minds will stand on stage and say no to that question. But as everyone answers yes, the very next question is: how much of a difference are we making and in what way?  And that's where the debate sets in, and the opinions differ and we are all called to account. I hope that this upcoming conference will seek out the voices of dissent, and will hold back from being somewhat of a predominantly self-congratulatory affair as has been the tendency of GRI conferences in the past. In looking at success stories and how much has been achieved, there has been an inclination to minimize what has not yet been achieved. I won't get into a balance sheet of wins and losses of GRI and/or of companies who use GRI guidelines, but I will say that I hope the debate will be real and meaningful. That's why we are coming to Amsterdam. Not just for a pat on the back, but also for a kick in the pants. Something to help get us to a new level of sustainability thinking and strategy and into new territories of effective and useful reporting. 

An example of new territories, I think, is the way GRI has been advancing sustainability reporting with SMEs in large company supply chains in the GRI Business Transparency Program funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). In 2014, 14 SMEs in India took part and their G4 reports can be viewed in the GRI Sustainability Disclosure database. In 2015, a further 14 SMEs in the supply chain of Arçelik, a Turkish household appliances manufacturer, took part in the program and are expected to publish first reports in due course. Of course, as we all know, the value of reporting is at least as much in the process as in the words on the pages of a published report, and I expect these SMEs should be deriving great value from this program. Which brings me back to the conference....

Empowering sustainable decisions. That's the new GRI strategy tag-line and the 2016 conference will create room for exploration of what this means and for whom. The tag-line needs be translated into tangible and practical actions that deliver sustainable outcomes that we can measure and replicate. To help us do all of that, GRI 2016 offers four plenary sessions - you can read about these in the conference flyer - and hey, check out who's quoted! (If I had known my feedback would be included, I would have included "Hi Mom" at the end).

In addition to the plenaries, the conference has 6 tracks that do a good job of covering the reporting landscape and challenges that we all face.

Also at the 2016 conference, GRI is providing a platform for sustainability service providers to deliver master classes (14 options, fees per 3-hour class in addition to conference registration). I was thinking of offering a master class in the art of ice cream consumption but I wasn't sure if everyone would agree to bring the ice cream.

You can download the conference program here, complete with all the session headings but not yet with speaker and panelist names. More detail of each session is provided on the conference website.

Earlier this week, I had a chat with Rashmi van de Loenhorst, GRI's Director of Marketing & Communications. She told me: "This conference will bring together a wide diversity of delegates interested in reporting and the value of reporting to empower decision-making. It's a vehicle through which we can help drive change - we want to acknowledge the good things that have been achieved but also encourage difficult conversations about what needs to change. It's not a conference about G4 - there is no single session about how to use the G4 guidelines - rather, with this conference we want to focus more on how we leverage the value created through the reporting process as an even more effective catalyst for collaboration and progress. We'll be doing some interesting new things at the conference - a hackathon, for example to explore how we can be part of a new movement for using sustainability data in a different way, and what is meant by by "data is a platform" and how we can demonstrate that."  

I am looking forward to meeting up with loads and loads of CSR Reporting Blog readers at #GRI2016  in Amsterdam next May. By that time, I hope to have worked out what a hackathon actually is .....

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 first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I published a review of PepsiCo's report - guess what happened next ....

Over the years I have written many reviews of Sustainability Reports for different publications, in addition to the comments and observations I make here on my blog. My most recent report review was published in the October edition of Ethical Corporation Magazine and it was all about food and bev giant PepsiCo's 2014 Performance with Purpose Report. As Ethical Corp. is a subscription-based publication, I won't share the entire review here. However, I will share two interesting things, one insight that particularly impressed me in the Performance with Purpose Report, and one after the review was published. 

The insight

I'll reproduce a short section from the published review:

"A very positive feature of PepsiCo’s reporting is the linkage between sustainability performance to business growth and profitability. Most companies keep financial and non-financial messaging conveniently separate and it is rare to find an economic expression of sustainability benefits in standalone sustainability reports. PepsiCo’s press release leads with a highlight of financial benefits: “Environmental sustainability programs, including efforts to use less packaging and energy, have saved the company more than $375m since 2010.” 

Throughout the report, these references are specific: in 2014, PepsiCo recycled and reused 90% of waste with estimated savings of $3.5m compared with 2009; decreased absolute water use by one billion liters, generating $17m in cost savings; removed over 89m pounds of packaging materials resulting in $48m of cost savings and improved energy efficiency delivering energy cost savings of more than $83m. This is good for the financial community who use sustainability reports, and for PepsiCo stakeholders who are interested in impacts on society, and it also serves as an encouragement to other companies, demonstrating that sustainable practice can also be profitable practice. 

In other areas, PepsiCo incudes outcome-type statements that show the impacts of performance which are less easily quantifiable in money terms. For example, in 2014, PepsiCo India supported water-saving programmes that benefited more than 50,000 people."

I think you get the picture. Sustainability helps a business make a positive contribution to society AND do business. While it's great to declare how we are doing on energy savings and other sustainability-type metrics because we value our future on the planet, positive economic value realized from sustainability activities is nothing to be ashamed of. The opportunity to link sustainability impacts in the business to the sustainability impacts of the business is still not considered deeply by most companies. Just because a report is a Sustainability Report doesn't mean it cannot mention money. In fact, it should. Only a handful of companies get this. Marks and Spencer has for years demonstrated the economic contribution of Plan A in a clever way.

BT also makes an explicit link between business and economic benefits of sustainble practice. In BT's Better Future Report for 2015, the company confirms that global portfolio revenue from products and services contributing towards BT's goal to help customers reduce carbon emissions by three times more than the carbon impact of BT's business was GBP 3.4 billion in 2014-5 FY.  And there is of course the Kering Environmental Profit and Loss model that turns everything into money to the point where just reading the report may well generate economic impact. UPS also makes an impressive connection between environmental and economic efficiencies in UPS's 2014 Sustainability Report.

The more we accept that it's OK - in fact, it's imperative - that sustainability benefits equal business benefits as well as social and environmental benefits, the more we will see these sort of linkages in Sustainability Reports and also in Annual Reports. I have often said that you should write a Sustainability Report with a financial hat on and you should write an Annual Report with a sustainability hat on. That's assuming you wear a hat when you're writing. PepsiCo, in the 2014 report, has made great progress in making this connection.

What happened next 

No less interesting than the linkage of integrated sustainability to business performance is what happened after my review was published in Ethical Corporation. I received an email from Camille Aylmer, Sustainability Communications Director at PepsiCo, who wrote: "......we really appreciate the careful attention you gave to reading through our materials....There was some great feedback in the article that has created a lively discussion internally. I’d love to grab 15 minutes with you by phone to discuss some of these items....." 

Now, while my review included praise for PepsiCo's best practice in creating aforementioned linkage, it also included a few criticisms and recommendations. (So you all know me by now, it's rare that I don't have something challenging to say)  (even though my intentions are positive!). Yesterday, I chatted with Camille and was impressed by her questions. She wanted to know about my approach in reviewing the report, whether I had looked at prior reports, what stood out for me as I reviewed the report, why I had highlighted certain aspects. I genuinely felt she wanted to learn about what was important to me, and that this might help PepsiCo in developing strategy and reporting going forward.

I am one of mbillions of PepsiCo stakeholders and my teeny weeny voice is hardly the loudest, coherentest, intelligentest or importantest among all the experts that I imagine PepsiCo engages with on sustainability matters. But the fact that Camille took the time to track me down (ok, that's not hard), and have a really positive conversation with me (that's harder) earns her and PepsiCo top marks (and ice cream) from me.

I was happy to respond to Camille and share my thinking. I was delighted to know that someone actually reads my report reviews (apart from the Ethical Corporation editor) and that maybe they do a little good. Kudos to PepsiCo for reporting and for not being too big to take note.

Oh, and while you're here, take a look at PepsiCo's 2014 Report. Give feedback. They listen. 

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 first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Happy Birthday Netafim!

Some people get to age 50 and think of slowing down. Nice early retirement, small beach-house somewhere, prepping for the grandkids, nothing too strenuous, bit of golf, tennis or bridge maybe, catch up all that reading that you didn't manage in the last 15 years. Our valued client, Netafim, has a different approach. After working tirelessly to lead the drip revolution for the past 50 years, the company is stronger, faster, more agile, more experienced, more capable and more poised than ever before to turn Mass Adoption of Drip irrigation into our new reality all around the world. At age 50, Netafim is just taking off. And that means that the next 50 years are going to be one helluva ride. Before I go on, there's one thing I wanted to say to Netafim: 


And what a birthday year it has been (and still is). A fitting culmination of everything that Netafim has been passionate about for almost a billion days. For those of you who don't yet know Netafim, suffice it to say that this company has made drip irrigation virtually a household name in the world of agriculture. Drip - or micro- irrigation enables improved agricultural yields with lower water, energy, chemicals and land use through targeted irrigation systems that precision-feed water and plant nutrients to crops. With 3,700 employees at the end of 2014, working with large agricultural concerns and thousands of smallholder farmers across emerging markets, Netafim has succeeded in expanding the use of drip irrigation, advancing both social and environmental sustainability in a systemic way. There are few companies that produce a product that is inherently net positive for the planet. Netafim is one of them. 

Here are some of Netafim's 2015 stories:

Publication of Netafim's 2014 Communication on Progress (COP) to the UN Global Compact.

Netafim publishes a full Sustainability Report every two years. In the interim years, Netafim meets its commitment to the UN Global Compact as a member of the UNGC's LEAD program and the CEO Water Mandate by publishing a COP. The 2014 COP covers 21 UNGC LEAD criteria and references Netafim's 2020 Sustainability Strategy that was defined in 2014.

The COP includes case studies from Netafim's recent activity. Netafim always has a host of fascinating projects to talk about. One, for example, is the breakthrough use of drip irrigation for rice.

Rice is a major crop of which the majority is grown by smallholder farmers. The average age of rice farmers is rising as younger generations have no desire to work in such labor-intensive jobs. The decreasing number of rice farmers is a major issue worldwide, as rice is the main source of nutrition in many regions. As rice supplies become more difficult to maintain, governments are seeking new ways to increase production. Drip irrigation is a solution to increasing rice yields while using fewer resources, resulting in lower cost for land preparation and fertilizers, lower greenhouse gas emissions and less physical labor. Netafim currently maintains collaborative research initiatives for rice irrigation in many countries including Japan, China, Thailand, Australia, Ukraine, and Spain to help identify the optimum irrigation conditions in each country in alignment with local climatic conditions and needs. And here's another thing. Did you know that the use of traditional flood irrigation methods has an effect of increasing arsenic absorption from the soil by rice plants? How would you like a little arsenic with your rice pudding? Arsenic exposure has been associated with certain cancer risks if ingested in high quantities. Through Netafim's research with the University of Pisa in Italy, researchers were able to reduce the arsenic content of drip irrigated rice to almost zero.  Hope it still tastes as good! Here's a short vid where Dubi Raz, Netafim’s Corporate Agronomy Director, talks about rice irrigation and other things at Israel's 2015 Agritech exhibition.

Another case study describes Netafim's transformational involvement in Karnataka, India - an initiative that is changing the landscape of farming in this region and improving the local economy and quality of life. The initiative is advanced by the Water Resources Department of Karnataka, a south western state in India. Karnataka's community irrigation program is the largest of its kind in India, covering 59 villages and affecting 15,000 farmers. Karnataka suffers from drought during its dry season, when land irrigated by traditional canal irrigation systems lies fallow. Using water-efficient drip irrigation, double the land-area originally planned for the program can be developed. Netafim India is installing drip irrigation across 11,700 hectares of land and providing crop management tools and training for local farmers. A successful outcome for the Karnataka project will be a turning point for the region and a model for reapplication in several other areas of India.

Publication of a book about Israel's leading role in water conservation - with Netafim's help

In 2015, Seth M. Siegel published "Let there be water - Israel's solution for a water-starved world". The book describes the leading role Israel has played in the development of water technology from desalination to drip irrigation and much more in between. Netafim is featured in the book, with references from Netafim's history and impact and quotes from key figures in the company, past and present. One is Naty Barak, Netafim's Chief Sustainability Officer and relentless campaigner for advancing the human right to water and the use of irrigation to help solve many of the world's problems - including several addressed by the recently ratified Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Few companies have books written about them. Guess this one will take pride of place on the Netafim bookshelf, and on mine... maybe also on yours!

Further market leading innovations

When I first started working with Netafim some years ago, I thought that drip irrigation was just a load of plastic tubing laid on the ground with holes in them to let the water through slowly. I was wrong. Drip irrigation at surface level or at sub-surface level is totally high-tech and deploys top-end technologies for water emitting systems implanted in the irrigation pipes that meet the needs of different crops, soil types, nutrient requirements and much more. Anti-clogging, flow rates, width of tubing, not to mention the fully automated crop management systems that enable farmers to control their fields remotely makes drip irrigation a technology triumph of techy geeks, programmers and agronomists. Netafim stays at the forefront of technology and leads the market with new developments. In 2015, for example, Netafim launched a new low-flow drip irrigation system, the most advanced in the world, that surpasses historical barriers in clogging resistance, durability and operational efficiency.  

I am not much of a techy myself - it has taken me all my time to figure out Win 8.1 and iOS 9.0.2 - but the benefits of improving drip irrigation technology are quite clear.

More business, more markets, more sustainability

Netafim CSO Naty Barak with Vingroup

In 2015, Netafim made further progress in advancing Mass Adoption of Irrigation (MAD) to help farmers and food producers around the world grow more with less. In a $17 million deal in Vietnam, Netafim is supplying greenhouse structures, drip irrigation, climate control systems, know-how, and agronomic support for Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest publicly-traded real estate operator, in one of southeast Asia's largest agri projects. In Senegal, Netafim is supplying an end-to-end drip irrigation solution for the Senegal Sugar Company (CSS), one of Africa’s largest sugarcane producers. CSS – Senegal’s largest private-sector employer – started growing sugarcane over 40 years ago and now produces over 1.3 million tons of sugarcane annually. Drip irrigation is a key factor in the company's expansion and efficiency advances, creating food for the world while supporting the local economy and livelihoods. Around the world, Netafim continued to expand in India and many African markets, making the 2015 birthday year one of the most memorable yet. With every additional drip irrigation system that is sold, our planet and our society become just a little bit more sustainable.

There were many more events and developments in 2015, including a host of corporate birthday celebrations and recognitions. Add this blog post to the list. For us, as consultants, in addition to our pride at working with a company that makes such a positive impact through its core business, what really makes it fun is that Netafim is staffed with simply great and totally dedicated people who are an absolute pleasure to work with.

If I am still writing this blog in another 50 years' time - hmmmm, what's the chance of that?! - I'll update you on progress in 2065. Stay tuned. 

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 first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine:  
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