Friday, July 29, 2016

Liberty Global: Empowering more than digital

There is something empowering about Liberty Global's 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report - and it's not only the title. While Liberty Global may be referring to "Empowering Positive Change through Digital", the truth is that this report is an empowering experience for most who read and publish reports. 

Once again, the folks at Liberty Global set themselves a challenge... at 22 pages, this is the shortest, but probably the most powerful report yet from Liberty Global. It's a full 10 pages shorter than 2015, and less than half the length of the (first) 2011 Report .. all the while the company has been growing, expanding, acquiring, developing and connecting more and more millions to the digital world. There is a certain skill to delivering more performance, writing fewer words and, at the same time, producing a Corporate Responsibility Report that gets the message through, is G4-compliant and actually, very interesting. Liberty Global not only continues to improve sustainability performance; with every report, the reporting team demonstrates greater skill in articulating it succinctly.

In my post about the 2015 report, I offered four process points that explain this winning formula.

First, get the strategic framework right. 
Second, be completely selective about what to include and what to exclude. 
Third, once you have selected the content and stories, keep the narrative compact, minimal, and avoid repetition. 
Fourth, where you can, use visuals to tell the story and save on words. 

I think today, I would probably add a fifth element: Plan and stick to the plan. Starting your report by clearly envisioning the outcome, planning the page-by-page content and making choices before the keyboard starts to rattle, is the key to maintaining the discipline required of all the four other steps. In this way, the process becomes empowering. It enables all the players involved to focus on what's really important and wastes less time in often unproductive debate. Also, a shorter report means fewer words to proof and correct, fewer drafts to revise, fewer content-providers to herd in to approve their sections and far less overall time investment than most longer report counterparts. And, stakeholders still get to know what they need to know.

This year, Liberty Global published a new strategic framework. It builds on the legacy framework that Liberty Global created four years ago, and still plays in the space of opportunity, positive impact and doing good with digital. With an overarching theme of Connected Purpose, the new framework has two clear pillars: Digital Imagination and Responsible Connectivity. 

You will also see the connection to the material impacts reported by Liberty Global, that informed the new strategic framework.

The 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report follows the structure of the strategic framework. Learning about Digital Imagination, we read about how Liberty Global is helping share skills that are needed in the digital economy, investing in innovators and entrepreneurs to use digital technology to inspire social change and bringing people together to use digital technology to solve the most pressing issues facing society. A few select case studies show that it's not all (just a few) words. It's (just a few) words that are underpinned by real actions. 

In Responsible Connectivity, Liberty Global walks us through how the Company is improving customer service, protecting customers’ personal data and helping keep children safe online. In the section on Sustainable Growth, Liberty Global demonstrates strong progress against 2020 environmental goals and describes how it connects with industry colleagues to reduce grid dependency and improve the emissions efficiency of the telecommunications sector as a whole. In Empowering People, the narrative describes how Liberty Global continues to invest in and develop its workforce which has now grown to more than 65,000 employees (including outsourced employees). Here again, a light sprinkling of case studies adds credibility.

In this case study, the picture shows Crystal Crawford, Liberty Global's CR
Manager (left), and Marta Pagan, CR Reporting Team Member (right)
one of the smartest reporting teams I know
The report finishes up with Liberty Global's signature Performance Summary - two pages packed with four years of environmental, workforce and other social data points, the most essential ones for most stakeholders. Presenting data in such a concise and well-ordered way is yet another element of skilled, focused reporting. This presentation empowers report users to get to what they need fast, and easily see trends and performance ups and downs.

As in prior years, Liberty Global publishes a separate GRI Content Index, also available for download. This includes one of my favorite tables - the G420-21 table - providing a road-map showing the route from material impacts to performance indicators. So many G4 reports still fail to make this bridge - and leave a list of material issues hanging in mid-report with no connection to the performance indicators actually reported. Every G4 report should have a table like this.

As far as reports go, Liberty Global has again produced a report that is both short and empowering in more ways than one. I'd love to write more but I am worried that this post might actually become longer than the report itself .. haha.

And, as usual, a little disclosure: Liberty Global is my client and I worked on this report.

And, as usual as usual, take a look. 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: 

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