Sunday, December 24, 2017

Santa Claus Inc. 2017 Harmonized Report

It's that warm fuzzy, jingle-belly, goodwilly time of the year again when we preview Santa's annual ESG disclosure. Santa has been reporting now for almost 2,000 years. It's amazing how Santa manages to keep reporting fresh, relevant, topical and most of all, impactful. Just like all those other companies that report year after year. Check out Santa's prior reports:

πŸŽ…Santa's 2016 Material Topics Report
πŸŽ…Santa’s 2015 SDG Report 
πŸŽ…Santa's 1750th Sustainability Report 2014
πŸŽ…Santa's First G4 Comprehensive Sustainability Report 2013 
πŸŽ…Santa's First Integrated Financial and CSR Report 2012
πŸŽ…Santa's 1,747th 2011 Annual CSR Report
πŸŽ…Santa's 1,746th 2010 Annual CSR Report
πŸŽ…Santa's 1,745th 2009 Annual CSR Report

Santa Claus Inc. 2017 Harmonized Report
πŸŽ… Leadership Message πŸŽ…

Dear Stakeholders,

I am delighted present you once again with Santa Claus Inc.'s annual disclosure of everything related to sustainability, making the world a better place, saving the planet, improving the quality of life, especially mine, and improving the impacts of business in society. In the true Christmas spirit of goodwill, sharing and joy to all women, men and children, I have decided that this should be a harmonized report, encompassing the best of all the sustainability frameworks that we know in one seamlessly blended, uniquely jargon-ridden, multi-platform report that will meet the demands of investors (YAY! Love investors) and all other stakeholders, unless they blink. I know this is venturing into ground hitherto uncharted by humankind and that, despite years of harmonization hype, aligning frameworks has never been anything more than a smokescreen for different organizations to pursue different dreams and funders. But Santa has always boldly aimed to go where all Santa lookalikes and CSR Managers have never trodden. I am therefore delighted to share our harmonized account of our value-creating, investor-ready, multi-stakeholder driven 2017 sustainability net positive impact report on all our capitals in all their resplendent transparency. 

2017 was not a particularly harmonious year for Santa. Troubled by fallout from Climate Change, Trumpification, Brexitisation, Falsefactsification, SDGification of every problem known to man (and woman), and the fact that Santa has STILL not been invited to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres show, for the first time in more than a century, we did not hit our quadruple net profit target. In 2017, we grew toy-distribution value only by 563% and profits increased only by 99.5%, making this a year in which Santa had to tighten his belt. In fact, Santa tightened his belt so much that he was rushed to Grey Sloane Memorial Hospital ER where Meredith Grey had to perform an emergency heart transplant. The problem was finding a heart big enough to hold all Santa's love for the children of the world, which simply wasn't possible. Therefore, as Meredith is so creative and resourceful, she transplanted Santa's heart with four new hearts, making Santa even more loving, generous and positive-spirited than before. As a result, Santa immediately ordered double toys for all the world's children, which caused a further drop in profits and heart failure in three of the four new hearts. To resolve this problem, Meredith fitted 3D printed hearts to replace the failed hearts and created a medical history phenomenon in the process. Santa is now charging a special Santa Heart-4-Heart Viewing fee payable to the "I Love Santa " Fund and has raised $4 billion to date.  In addition, Santa has created a "Perform Emergency Heart Surgery on Santa" Donation App, modeled on a similar educational app, and this has already been downloaded more than 2 million times. The moral of this story is: Watch Grey's Anatomy. You can never have too many hearts.

But 2017 did bring some nuggets of optimism. On Sept. 4, Kensington Palace announced that Prince William and Duchess Kate were expecting a sibling for Prince George and Princess Charlotte. That makes three toddlers who now require special Santa gifts. Santa loves the Royal Children, though finding toys for such privileged children is always a headache at Christmas. In 2017, Santa decided to be true to the Chopra Center's Law of Giving and Receiving where it says: Each time I meet someone, I will silently wish them happiness, joy, and laughter.  So, this is what Santa is getting for the Royal Children this year and for the Royal siblings en route. And let's not forget of course that Prince Harry has announced his entry into show business with his engagement to Meghan Markle, so no doubt the pitter-patter of tiny feet will be sounding through more corridors of the royal residences before long - so silently wishing them happiness, joy and laughter will be a smart strategy going forward. But in fact, the betrothal of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is a tremendous commercial opportunity. Already you can buy incredible Harry and Meghan merchandise online and in all the best stores. This is brilliant. Santa, never one to miss a hint of profit potential, is now thinking of announcing his own marriage in order to be able to sell Santa Wedding Memorabilia. Santa doesn't want to get married, so this is a double opportunity. In a few months' time, we can announce Santa Wedding Cancellation Memorabilia. The Royal Family is always a good source of inspiration.

Also in 2017 we decided to renew our mission and values. Here are the old ones we developed in 2011.

To perpetuate the love of Santa

Faith in Santa
Disabled-Access Chimneys
Elf Emancipation
Reindeer Rights
Children's Universal Right to Gifts
Santa World Domination 

In the interests of brevity, we have decided to reduce our values to two.

Santa World Domination and Sustainability
Santa World Domination and Sustainability

In this way, we can use our new values to more effectively guide us in our mission and enjoy all the fuzzy feelings that are generated when people hear us talking about sustainability. From now on, focusing on Santa World Domination means that we will no longer be at the mercy of Reindeer Freedom Fighters, Elf Emancipation Activists or Teresa May's Brexit negotiation strategy. In fact, as a result of the UK Brexit vote, we have moved all our toy assembly centers out of the UK and transferred them to other parts of the Eurozone. If you are a kid in the UK, you will now receive toys saying "FabriquΓ© en France" or "Hergestellt in Deutschland" together with a language pack for reading the instructions in another language. But don't worry, all the carbon emissions generated by long-hauling toys across Europe will be offset by funds generously donated by Berlitz.

Santa's Materiality Matrix
In this 2017 harmonized report, we have recreated our new materiality matrix, recognizing that our GRI, SASB, IR, Future Fit and UNGC Reporting framework must now appeal to shareholders, stakeholders, landholders, smallholders, cardholders, freeholders, pen-holders, upholders and with-holders. As a result, we completed a deep-dive materiality process, starting with a thorough scan of the entire universe of sustainability topics using advanced data-mining algorithms powered by Datamaran, and this yielded a list of 3,564 relevant topics for consideration. After 23 elf and reindeer focus groups, and of course our assumptions about what's important to our stakeholders, we managed to whittle this down to just 4 topics that represent our most material impacts on the world and the most significant assumed concerns of stakeholders, and taking into account the SDGs as well. These are:
  • Santa's well-being
  • World happiness especially in Lapland
  • Elimination of everything bad in the world including hunger, poverty, sickness, lying, cheating and Santa counterfeits
  • Free distribution of money to everyone who needs it especially Santa
Based on this list of material topics, we have formulated a new Sustainability Strategy. It's quite a simple one. It's Santa-centric. If Santa is not at the center, it doesn't count. We will progress actions that advance Santa centricity and provide solutions to the material topics above. An initial step will be to build a wall around Lapland to restrict immigration of unwanted elves and then we will declare war on a few countries. In this way, we will make beneficial Santa Domination far more sustainable for current and future generations.

New Year's Giving - the UNGC Way
From 2018, we have adopted a new approach to giving, modeled on the super creative UN Global Compact new plan for 2018. As you may know, the UNGC is now offering two new ways of confirming support for the largest global responsible business initiative. You can become a new-style first-class Participant and pay lots of money, or you can become a second-class Signatory and pay less lots of money. What you cannot do is stay as you are and pay no money. This is a wonderful approach to giving. All the 8,000 plus business signatories of the UNGC will now have to pass on a part of their bank balance to the UN account or be reduced to oblivion, wiped forever off the face of the UNGC website. Santa thinks this is a wonderful approach to giving for 2018. Therefore, effective next year, those who are eligible to receive a gift from Santa will first have to register as a Receiver or an Observer. As a Receiver, you get to pay lots of money and receive a toy that you can play with anywhere you like. As an Observer, you get to pay less lots of money, you get a toy but you are not actually allowed to play with it outside your own home. If you do not register, and/or do not pay money, all the gifts you have previously received will be removed and destroyed and you will never get them back. This is a modern way of spreading the Christmas spirit and enables everyone to enjoy the goodness in the world, for a fee. In this way, Santa will be able to continue to enjoy the lifestyle to which he is accustomed and the UNGC will continue to be able to hold conferences and meetings and have a blast on Black Friday.

New App for iPhone X: SantaPay
All of us here at Santa Claus Inc. have been impressed with the development of Apple Pay. Apple Pay transactions are becoming exceedingly common, and parting with your money has never been easier. Having discovered the benefits of Apple Pay, Santa saw a clear opportunity to develop a way for people around the globe to painlessly support world salvation, environmental sustainability and Santa Domination. With the new Santa Pay app specially designed for iPhone X, no matter what you buy or where you buy it or from whom, a portion of your payment goes directly to the Santa Retirement Fund. In an unprecedented mega-deal with Apple, all sales of the new iPhone X will contain a special spiritual Santa Pay message, advising the new iPhone X owner that all toys purchased this Christmas through Apple Pay will automatically create a double transaction, whereby the equivalent value of an additional toy will be debited in parallel to Santa Pay. Sums accruing to Santa Pay will be delivered to the tax-free Santa Retirement Fund, which, in 2017, reached a total of $932 billion, enough to fund the acquisition of a private island in the Caribbean so that Santa can live out the remainder of his days in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, due to climate change, the island Santa had in mind is now partly submerged in the Caribbean Sea. In addition, therefore, to stocking up on mince pies and Hallmark Christmas movie DVDs to enjoy during his retirement, Santa is investing in land reclamation technology, a desalination plant and several snorkels. 

A new Santa Blockchain Initiative
As the blockchain economy is starting to gain ground, Santa has been considering how best to leverage blockchain for the benefit of children everywhere. Unfortunately, blockchain is so complex that Santa hasn't quite got to grips with it yet. His first attempt to create a blockchain failed when the block fell off the sleigh and the reindeer ate the chain. The second attempt was equally unsuccessful. The block was chipped and the chain slipped off and got caught around Santa's ankle, causing him to fall and break three bones in his foot. As a result, the Santa Claus Inc. Lost-Time Injury rate tripled in 2017 (The incident in which fourteen elves were found dead following a fire in the toy factory was not recorded in 2017, as there was some doubt as to whether the cause of death was actually the fire, or a suicide pact among senior elves. Elves were protesting against distribution of bitcoins instead of real toys at Christmas, reducing the need for toy assembly, quality control and distribution and therefore reducing several elf jobs. Despite attempts to reassure the senior elves that job security would not be affected by the introduction of bitcoins, many elves suffered severe depression and set fire to both the factory and themselves. However, Santa was not overly worried, as the elf headcount has now reduced sufficiently to avoid significant layoffs in 2018.)

According to Santa, bitcoins are the new toys, and children of the world can collect bitcoins and trade them, thereby offering children great flexibility and choice for their personal entertainment and leisure time while having a positive impact on the environment. Unfortunately, the first 500,000 bitcoins distributed were triple-traded by cryptocurrency-savvy kids who circumvented the blockchain. This resulted in the market being flooded with invalid bitcoins and ultimately crashing - reducing the value of all bitcoins to little more than zero. Many bitcoin traders lost their jobs, their homes and their dignity. Several bitcoin trading houses closed down and the U.S. federal government intervened with a massive bailout. People were evicted from homes they bought with bitcoins. A senior commentator likened this to the economic crisis of 2008 and blamed greed, excess and selfishness.

Santa was initially devastated but eventually realized that bitcoin fraud is simply another capitalist scam that forces people to realize that family, friends, love, harmony and joy to the world are actually more important than amassing great virtual wealth. Therefore, Santa reverted to supplying real toys distributed by real elves and real reindeer to real kids in the real world. Of course, he kept a few bitcoins back for himself, just in case. Bitcoins and blockchains may be a little before their time, but Santa plans to be ahead of the game when they come back to dominate our economy.

Reporting on the capitals
As this is a harmonized report, we include a special feature for the very first time, covering our impact on the capitals. We are not entirely sure that this is a sensible way to report performance, nor does Santa think it represents a consistent way of presenting value creation. However, as modern, forward-thinking, good-life-appreciating stakeholders like to talk in capitals, we decided to fall in line. 

Financial Capital: This represents the financial value we create for our shareholders and communities. Of course, as you all know Santa Claus Inc. is a form of social enterprise because we perform our main function of disseminating joy in the world through the toys we provide for children free of charge. Therefore, we do not have revenues, we do not pay taxes and we do not manage working capital or cash flow. Indirectly, we contribute to improving financial capital by making people happy. Happy people are more motivated at work and therefore make more money for the world economy. 
Manufacturing capital: We do not have any manufacturing capital as all the toys we distribute are manufactured by someone else. Our elves do some toy assembly work, but this is mainly reserved for elf interns who we do not pay. In lieu of payment, all interns are treated to a personal meeting with Santa each year and can include working at Santa Claus Inc. on their resume, thereby significantly enhancing their future employability.
Human capital: We do not have any human capital as all our work is performed by elves and reindeer. We did once think of hiring humans but most did not want to relocate to Lapland, and several did not have chimney sweeping skills. The value we create in terms of human capital at a global level is indirect: through the educational toys we distribute to children, they become more intelligent, well-rounded individuals that have enhanced potential to make the world a better place. Of course, we do have a plan to stop distributing toy rifles, fidget spinners and waitress uniforms.
Social and relationship capital: Our social and relationship capital is expressed in the positive partnerships that Santa forges with toy suppliers everywhere in the world. Santa's ability to persuade toy-makers to contribute their goods for free every year represents an unprecedented level of social capital that results in happy kids everywhere. (Except for the ones that asked for iPhone X's in their Christmas stocking. Even Santa draws the line at toys that retail at more than $1000).
Intellectual capital: We don't have intellectual capital and frankly we don't need it. In any case, we aren't entirely sure how to measure it. We just continue to spread joy and goodwill - for that we need a big heart and not a very big brain. Santa did once consider joining MENSA but they refused to approve his application after he responded "ice cream" to the question: "What is the most important food on earth that no-one can live without?"
Natural capital: Our impact on natural capital is minimal. Over several years, we have reduced our carbon footprint through use of renewable reindeer power for our sleighs, low-methane diets for our reindeer and carpooling for our elves. We only use water from recycled melted local Lapland ice and we recycle all our packaging and other organic waste. Our bathrooms use dry-flush and our faucets are metered. Therefore, our natural capital is hardly noticeable and there is nothing terribly interesting to disclose.

Ah well, so much for reporting on all the capitals. I am sure you found that very enlightening. Not. However, at least we cannot be accused of not joining the integrated reporting revolution rumor.

Business development - Santa diversification
In 2017, Santa developed several new business lines designed to ensure the Santa brand continues to be top of mind and top of credit card. A few of our new sustainable business lines are just getting started:

Santa Eco Spa and Relaxation Resort: Relax in an authentic, elegant, secluded getaway on Santa's private eco-island in the Caribbean. Immerse yourself in nature in a fully carbon-offset environment where the locals pamper to your every need (unless you are sparing with the tips). Whether you are looking for a sumptuous spa experience, expansive green golf courses, exhilarating tennis, visits to a live volcano (don't forget to buy insurance) or spending a quiet evening watching Hallmark Christmas movies on DVD, Santa's Eco Resort has something for you. Santa personally greets each guest and models the latest Santa fashions for you to purchase for your next Christmas Party.  

Santa Cookies: Lose weight with a new line of delicious Santa Cookies that reverse the metabolic process of calorie burning in your body. Instead of gaining weight, Santa's cookies actually cause the reverse effect - the more cookies you eat, the more weight you lose. The cookie has been developed by an army of Santa elf scientists and nutritionists after years of dedicated research in an attempt to fulfill the most wished-for Christmas gift - getting slim. Now, with Santa's Cookies, available in a range of flavors (charcoal, sour milk, toad's finger, bat droppings), you can consume cookies till you burst and still be able to slip easily into last year's skinny jeans. With recipes under patent, Santa's Cookies will revolutionize weight loss and finally put an end to the growing obesity epidemic that has been plaguing the first world since McDonald's invented fries and food companies learned to drown food's natural flavor in sugar.

Santa in Shondaland: Santa has signed up to star in two new Shondaland series: How to Get Away with Murder while you are Delivering Toys and Santa's Anatomy. Both will air in 2018, and while we are not allowed to share any spoilers, suffice it to say that the first is a storyline about Santa delivering toys to the White House, and the second is X rated.

Sexual Harassment - Santa under fire
Like most of today's male celebrities and prominent political figures, Santa too has been under fire for alleged sexual misconduct. Following a complaint by a (now retired) female elf of inappropriate personal contact and sexist language by Santa, a further 4,534 female elves have now registered complaints with the Santa Ethical Conduct Authority for misconduct between the years 1843 and 2013. Santa maintains that he has the highest respect for all his elves, male and female, and has no recollection of any inappropriate behavior on his part. Santa apologizes if any of the elves got the wrong impression at any time as he would never wish to offend. Litigation is ongoing but in the meantime, Santa expects to continue delivering toys and making children happy. He is hoping that, if he continues with business as usual, it will all just go away. The fact that the new hashtag #MeToo:Elf is trending on Twitter might indicate that this strategy has some holes in it.

Safety first: toys we delisted this year
In an ongoing effort to ensure the toys Santa distributes are safe for all children, we have taken bold steps to delist the following toys from our distribution this year:

  • Motorized alligators with moving jaws and real teeth (423 toddlers now only have nine fingers)
  • Doctor sets with real opioids (the grown-ups kept playing with it)
  • High-flying drones with magnifying photo lenses (too many complaints from neighbors who left bedroom curtains open)
  • High-bouncing trampolines (85 toddlers reported sighted in outer space) 
  • Build the Eiffel Tower with matchsticks construction kit (Eiffel Tower kept burning down during construction)
Diversity in the Workplace
This year, Santa introduced a new approach to diversity in the workplace. Neurodiversity is a competitive advantage  says the Harvard Business Review. Neurodiverse people bring different considerations to the workplace and seriously boost innovation. When looking for neurodiverse elves, we found that we had to adapt our regular recruitment procedures. Now, instead of having elf candidates take a multiple-choice test, similar to the GRI Standards Exam, which is a pretty useless predictor of their ability to perform Santa's outstanding work, we actually get to know the neurodiverse elves and encourage them to feel welcomed and express themselves freely. So far, we have recruited 4 neurodiverse elves and they are already making a positive contribution and we were delighted to feature in Diversity Inc.'s list of top 500 neurodiverse workplaces for 2017. In fact, we are now considering expanding our neurodiverse recruiting practices to all potential elf employees. Perhaps there might be some advantage in seeing all potential employees as individuals rather than as numbers on a resume. You never know. We can only try. 
Recognition from our Stakeholders 
As usual, this year, we received far more awards than we are able to mention in this report. Suffice it to say that the most welcome ones included a cash payment to the Santa Retirement Fund.

Feedback on this Report 
We will be happy to receive your feedback on this report, as long as it's positive.

So, until we meet again.....

We Wish You and Everyone in the World a Happy Holiday Season and a Happy New Year 


elaine cohen, CSR Consultant, Sustainability Reporter, former HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Ice Cream Addict, Author of three totally groundbreaking books on sustainability (see About Me page). 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: 

Elaine will be chairing  the edie Conference on Smarter Sustainability Reporting  in London on 27th February 2018 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy Holidays to all our Readers

At this time of year, we usually wish the CSR Reporting Blog readers a traditional greeting as the holiday season approaches. The CSR Reporting Blog is grateful for your readership and your engagement. Thank you for another year in 2017 of interesting conversations about sustainability reporting and for much inspiration. Dr. Sustainability, the Blog, I and myself would like to wish all readers and sustainability practitioners a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

And to all our readers with new un-housetrained puppies... Crappy New Year
And to all our readers with newborns... Nappy New Year
And to all our readers who take photos.... Snappy New Year
And to all our readers with long ears.. Flappy New Year
And to all our readers who liked the Heinekin Sustainability Video.. Rappy New Year
And to all our readers who never shut up.. Yappy New Year
And to all our readers planning to consume a combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy .... Happy Stew Year
And to all our readers who have decided that honesty is best....Happy True Year
And to all our readers in a Picasso period .... Happy Blue Year
And to all our readers who didn't get vaccinated.....Happy Flu Year
And to all our readers who believe in humanity ..... Happy Ubuntu Year
And to all our readers who love coniferous trees and shrubs in the genus Taxus .... Happy Yew Year
And to all our readers  who plan on sticking together .... Happy Glue Year
And to all our crossword-loving readers.... Happy Clue Year
And to all our readers who love a good cuppa ... Happy Brew Year
And to all our readers who mourn for Imelda Marcos's footwear collection, now eaten by termites .. Happy Shoe Year
And to all our readers planning on attending Wimbldeon next season ..... Happy Queue Year
And to all our church-going readers ..... Happy Pew Year
And to all our readers who are fond of small mole-like mammals classified in the order Eulipotyphla ..... Happy Shrew Year
And to all our readers with an identity crisis ...... Happy Who Are You Year
And to all our diarrhea suffering readers ..... Happy Loo Year
And to all our melted cheese loving readers  ...... Happy Fondue Year
And to all our readers with the best dog in the world (like ours) ....  Happy New Cavalier

And to all our readers who enjoy the third most popular drink overall after water and tea ..Happy New Beer
And to all our duke, marquess, earl, viscount, and baron readers .. Happy New Peer 
And to all our readers who are preparing a first Sustainability Report this year... Happy New Fear
And to all our readers planning on disseminating negative propaganda .. Happy New Smear
And to all our readers planning to spread good spirits ... Happy New Cheer 
And to all our readers planning to buy a new manual car.. Happy New Gear 
And to all our readers who contribute to the community.. Happy New Volunteer
And to all our determined readers ...Happy New Persevere 
And to all our sad readers .. Happy New Tear 
And to all our ecosystem enthusiast readers.. Happy New Biosphere
And to all our readers acquiring a new male bovine animal .. Happy New Steer 
And to all our nostalgic readers ... Happy New Yesteryear 
And to all our readers in the construction business...  Happy New Engineer
And to all our readers returning from vacation .. Happy New Souvenir

And finally, to all our readers planning to transition to a fantastic, dynamic, uplifting, always-challenging, world-changing, positive-impacting, ultra-rewarding job in sustainability reporting ...

Happy New Career  

elaine cohen, CSR Consultant, Sustainability Reporter, former HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Ice Cream Addict, Author of three totally groundbreaking books on sustainability (see About Me page). 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: 

Elaine will be chairing  the edie Conference on Smarter Sustainability Reporting  in London on 27th February 2018  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Speeky Engleesh 3

It's been a while since I posted on the charms of translated Sustainability Reports.  Check out:
Now, here's Speeky Engleesh 3. 

As I have said before, it's the content that counts, and wobblies in translation are not always easy to avoid. I do not judge a Sustainability Report on the quality of its English translation and I am truly appreciative of companies who make the effort to produce their reports in English, enabling me and many others to read them. When I look through the GRI Disclosure Database, I am always so disappointed that so many companies publish only in their home language. Of course, I can't fault them for that, really, but, as a geek, I'd like to be able to read those reports too. For example, in one sector, the Household and Personal Products sector, of 32 reports published in 2017 in the database, just 50% are standalone sustainability reports in English. In the Automotive sector, I counted 69 2017-published reports in the database of which just 26 (38%) are standalone sustainability reports in English.

Translation oddities often lend a certain charm to a report and they make me smile. That's all part of what makes reporting so sticky for us reporting geeks. The reporting world would be far less fun if every Sustainability Report were translated perfectly. 

In sharing some of my reporting-chuckle-moments this time around, I asked myself whether it was fair or proper to name the companies. After all, it's only a translation, right?  It's not substance. Local stakeholders, who read reports in their local language, are not distracted by poor English. I answered myself that, well, in the spirit of the CSR Reporting blog's mission to help improve reporting, and in line with my practice of referencing reports for all sorts of reasons, there's no reason not to name names in this post. Even the finishing touches of translation and design are part of the reporting process. Presentation, while not substance, plays an important role. But, in the end, I decided not to name the names of the eight reports the quotes below are drawn from - from different countries and sectors. After all, providing a translation is going the extra mile and I am grateful to companies who do. Still, maybe you can identify one of the quotes below from your report and you can work it out. Maybe you know that your report is translated and you should take another look. If you really want to know, you can always drop me a line. Either way, although I love a chuckle, I would counsel companies who translate their reports to invest in professional proofing in English. Perhaps it's a potential customer who's reading it. Or worse, a reporting geek!

Here is my chuckle-pick from recent reports. Company names and other identifiers redacted.

"The Company has a gratification practice control system that is built and developed continuously." 

"In 2016, the customer satisfaction survey stood at 82.61%, which is an increase of 4.70% from 78.9% in 2015. This proves that customer service management got better in 2016."

"XXX proceeded in accordance with the sustainable management strategy as well as risk management effectively all the whole supply chain."

"The Company gives priority to the stakeholders by considering the stakeholders."  

"The Company emphasizes to build the anti-corruption mind to management and employees as well as provide the support to its trade partners, allies, and stakeholders."

"The XXX Organisation represents the highest ideals of corporate governance and a rich value system which resonate across each of its entire area of business presence."

"XXX still hold our intention in operating business along with providing social benefits by promoting innovation and developing infrastructure that is prompt for dealing with changing."

"To develop everything to be prosperous, it is necessary to develop from existing foundation. If exiting foundation is poor or unstable, it is difficult to develop further. Accordingly, it is necessary to understand clearly that besides emphasizing on prosperity, it is also necessary to maintain foundation stably without any defect simultaneously."

"The Governance and Nomination Committee is responsible for recruiting directors by establishing Board Skill Matrix in order to consider on necessary skills that are lacked from directors and propose to the Board of Directors for approving."

"In addition, XXX also propvides some models of innovations for the ultimate experience of customers bouderlessly as follows:"

"Our compny has also retold our employees to behave themselves to be consistent with conduct, policies, and practices along with organization’s values fostering."

"XXX considers that employees are the most important foundation of the company to make the company to be successful continuously with outstanding contributions and become acceptable with outstanding knowledge and abilities in building excellent work standards for building and maintaining superior competitive capabilities."

"The company’s approach to achieving a good working climate is to create both a healthy organization and a happy workplace under the business condition requiring improvement of competitive capabilities and more challenging."

"We encourage our employees to thing independently and express their ideas."

"This will help XXX to ensure that employees are happy at work, resulting in a sense of ownership, well wishing thoughts and loyalty."

"During the year 2016, there were no criticalities emerged from the activities of stakeholder engagement."

"Our growth and sustainability and, therefore, our ability to meet our commitments to our stakeholder, are conditioned by the customer’s satisfaction"

"To reduce the so-called "abnormal" behaviour among the employees we have adopted a disciplinary code that defines sanctions in connection with possible violations of company rules on safety." 

"XXX Group assists its employees in the transition from employment to retirement, which sometimes causes problems. Since a few years it also created the “XXX Pensioners Group" to give the opportunity to the retired employees to meet and, together refresh the binding of long working life spent within the company."

"XXX tracks and summaries all international environmental regulations including hazard substances, green marks, environmental labels and so on. Relevant units report the regulatory compliance and response measures on the regularly Steering Committee (SC) meetings."

"Over 60% of our managers were local people in our major operation sites so as to practice the concept of talent localization"

"We provide timely cares and helps for employees, while enhancing our company’s productivity as well as reducing employees’ turnover rate."

"Despite having a lot of difficulties in business activities, XXX still had a certain concern on the community and society by participating in CSR campaigns."

"The above training strategy is proven to be efficient as all the new promoted person-nels are doing their jobs well and gain high appreciation as well as credibility by the clients."

"We improve our design and development ability of the product of which value can be increased and accepted as it meets the needs of the customer by our own design and technology."

"We believe that the company will sustainably grow by the important driving factor which is employees to accomplish the vision and mission targeted. Therefore, the company focuses on developing the employees at every level to be ones who have good moral and improve their skill and knowledge, including professionalism that corresponds to organizational culture to create value for themselves, organization and society as per the master plan of smart people."

"The company has encouraged employees to do good. By committing mercy on every day, monks, by invitation of the monks from the various communities around the factory to rotate around the corpse. And bless the employees It also promotes activities related to the religious maintenance. Both activities are done with external agencies. And the internal activities that the company held regularly. This will result in better staffing. And refine the mind with merit and charity, and also create a good relationship with society and surrounding communities as well."

"The company encourages employees to donate blood to the Red Cross four times a year. Because the XX Red Cross as a center Donate and serve blood. Need large amounts of blood because of the current need for more blood. Resulting from Disasters and accidents This activity demonstrates employee involvement in social responsibility."

"The Company has featured on the creation and development of corporate culture. Because it is the foundation that drives the organization to achieve its vision. And grow sustainably. It is used as a tool to manage and develop people as both good and good."

"In 2016, the Company implemented significant regulatory compliance risks"

And my absolute favorite:

"We promote our employees who are knowledgeable, potential, and smart, and have morals."

On a positive note, I will add that it was much harder for me to find examples of Speeky Engleesh this time around. My last post was in 2011. One of the reports I highlighted then, Ambuja Cement, has an impressive report in English for 2016 that is well written and seems linguistically accurate (after a brief scan).

Chuckles or no chuckles, reporting is always fun!

elaine cohen, CSR Consultant, Sustainability Reporter, former HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Ice Cream Addict, Author of three totally groundbreaking books on sustainability (see About Me page). 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: 

Elaine will be chairing  the edie Conference on Smarter Sustainability Reporting  in London on 27th February 2018  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Is your report long and boring?

One of the numerous tests I use when I am reading and reviewing sustainability reports is how far into the report I can get before it becomes tedious, boring or generally rather meaningless. Some reports are so full of verbiage before they tell you anything substantive that it rather turns you off and makes the rest of the report hard to digest. This is the problem with looooong reports. No-one has the patience these days to read long waffly explanations of every thought process about every bowel movement of the reporting team. 

Reports today need to be concise: they need to state clearly and quickly the most material impacts of the business and efficiently update us on what has changed over the past year. Companies that maintain an online "policy bank" -  a list of policies and positions on core aspects of sustainability -  save themselves time and space in the annual sustainability report. They also gain reader attention, as we don't exhaust our patience on long diatribes and lose energy before we get to the main course. Let's face it, when you go out for a meal, if the first course is massive, you don't have room to eat the main course, let alone dessert. It's the same way sustainability reports. Your material content is your main course. A light starter provides context and background, and a healthy dessert provides the GRI content index and other references. The main course, your materiality process, topics and performance, is where companies should focus their reporting efforts. You can offer a menu of snacks - sustainability stories, anecdotes and case studies - on your website.

Here's an example of a report I came across while doing some research on the consumer goods sector. Ontex Group is a Belgian-based company listed on Euronext Brussels, employing more than 11,000 people and enjoying sales of almost Euro 2 billion. Ontex is a supplier of disposable personal hygiene products including diapers and pants, pads, tampons and panty liners in more than 110 countries. The Ontex 2016 Sustainability Report is a credible report that focuses on its defined most material impacts of the business.

It's a GRI Standards core report, crafted around SDG priorities, and does its stuff in 44 pages (including 5 pages of GRI Content Index) in an attractive, pleasant and clean design. Ontex provides contextual background on trends that have influenced the selection of material impacts and sustainability strategy.

And presents a materiality matrix

While aligning the report with Sustainable Development Goals

And on the Ontex website, the company discloses specific strategy and policy documents to complement and complete the sustainability picture.

But beware: Concise does not mean skeletal. 

Reports that are 2-page infographics are not reports. Four-page summaries are not reports. If they are not infographics of a concise report, or summaries of a longer report, they are not useful in lieu of a sustainability report. While it is possible to reference a host of other documents where disclosures may be located (and the GRI framework allows this), in practice, the beauty of a sustainability report is that key information is on one place and we don't have to go searching for all the individual elements separately. We want the essence of everything that's material without having to trawl the web, download multiple other documents and search forever for references that all too often are not there anyway. So, up to around 45 pages, for me, is concise enough to deliver a complete story with enough detail and context for me to understand the company's impacts and accountability. If I want supplementary information for interest or deeper understanding of quantitative data, I am happy to get this online, via a policy bank or other downloadable appendix.

I know that many people will consider even 40 pages too long....and there are many reports that are much shorter than that and do a good job. While the quality of reporting should not really be measured in terms of the number of pages, my rule of thumb for something that fits in the space between feeling stuffed and still feeling hungry - sort of nicely satiated - is around 40 pages.

Here's another nice example: Ramboll's 2016 Corporate Repsonsibility Report.

Ramboll is an engineering, design and consultancy company founded in Denmark in 1945. Ramboll employs 13,000 people across the world. This is a 40-page GRI G4 almost-core report that packs a ton of information in a well-structured concise framework, pleasingly designed and easy to read, with no distracting glossies and frills. The GRI Content Index and key KPI tables take up 4 pages.

One of the positive things about this report is that the material impacts are right there up front on page 5, immediately after the CEO statement, making it very clear what we are going to learn about Ramboll in the remaining pages. I like reports that state materiality up front - not only does this help clarify the report context, it also drives credibility. If it's one of the first things a company reports, it must be one of the first things a company thinks. And that's what materiality means. It should never be an afterthought or a summary of what you are doing. Materiality is a guide to what you should be doing.

The remainder of the report is split into two main sections, a format that I particularly favor. The first section is called "Shaping sustainable societies" and it addresses what are broadly the indirect impacts of the company's business - through the projects it advances and the role it takes in shaping the sector and public policy. The second section covers direct impacts, called "Demonstrating our progress", and includes sections on employer of choice, environment, safety and integrity - linking these also to UN Global Compact and SDG priorities.

Ramboll also uses its website to supplement information with policy statements and commitments - here's an example from one of the sections:

While this report could be even more reporting-year focused, with fewer perennial policy statements that could be policy-banked on the website, this report offers comprehensive coverage of material impacts in a concise way.

So, if your report is long, it is almost certainly also boring (at least in parts). It's totally worth reconsidering how you can deploy other ways of getting your content out there and delivering on your transparency obligations without crowding your report with content that causes us to doze off instead of inspiring us to buy in.  Incentivize yourselves. For every page you save, treat yourself a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.

(NB: I have previously written about Liberty Global's last Corporate Responsibility Report - a masterpiece in concise, precision reporting).

elaine cohen, CSR Consultant, Sustainability Reporter, former HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Ice Cream Addict, Author of three totally groundbreaking books on sustainability (see About Me page). 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: 

Elaine will be chairing  the edie Conference on Smarter Sustainability Reporting  in London on 27th February 2018

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