Wednesday, May 6, 2020

A winning formula for sustainability reporting

Last week, I was delighted to co-host the Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards (2019) annual awards gala. I have been a partner of ASRA since its inception and a judge every year, reading and reviewing almost all report submissions in almost all categories. Usually, I cannot attend the in-person event in Singapore, rather a long trip for me for one evening. But this year, lockdown offered a silver lining, and the virtual event enabled me to both co-host and share reporting insights, and partner with the creator of ASRA, Rajesh Chhabara, to reveal the winning reports in an exciting 2-hour ceremony attended by hundreds of reporters representing companies around Asia. 

In this post, in addition to congratulating ūüĎćall the entrants and winners, I'll focus on the Charoen Pokphand Group, whose team has made obvious efforts to enhance the quality of reporting, winning several awards this year, both as a Group and also through its reporting subsidiaries. In total, the Group won 11 awards across 9 categories - including the coveted Asia's Report of the Year, ASRA's highest honor. Of the total 11 awards, 7 were at the group level and 4 were for two subsidiaries (Charoen Pokphand Foods plc and  C.P. Intertrade Co., Ltd)

This year, we simplified the scoring methodology for the judging panel, with a scoring framework in five broad content buckets:

CONTENT: Does the report reflect a strategic approach to sustainability? Is there clear relevance to the business? Are material topics identified and is the materiality process clearly described? Does the (integrated) report describe value creation for all stakeholders?
CLARITY: Does the report present management approach and multi-year data clearly? Does the report properly use leading reporting standards such as GRI, SASB, UNGC, Integrated Reporting Framework or other sector guidance? Are graphs and charts clearly presented? Is the report easy to navigate and information quick to locate? 
COMMITMENT: Does the report clearly state targets and performance against targets? Is the report externally assured? Does the report describe challenges and issues rather than only "good news"? Is there evidence of effective stakeholder engagement that underpins strategy and materiality? Is there alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals demonstrating commitment beyond direct impacts? Does the CEO or Chair introduction effectively reflect leadership commitment?
CREATIVITY: Do creative communication and visual elements make this report stand out from the crowd? Is the overall look and feel appealing? Are case studies effectively used to provide examples of practice? Is this report credible?
CATEGORY: Does the report provide a full and relevant disclosure specifically for the Awards category in which it was entered, covering the key elements comprehensively and transparently?

For a list of all the 2019 winners, see here.
But now, back to THE winner.

Charoen Pokphand Group is a conglomerate headquartered in Thailand, employing a team of more than 300,000, and operating across many industries including agriculture, food, retail and distribution, media and telecommunications, e-commerce, property development, automotive and industrial, pharmaceutical and finance sectors in 21 countries around the world. 

Let's have a look at what distinguished Charoen Popkhand's reporting in ASRA 2019:

The Group Sustainability Report 2018 goes under the theme of Force for a Sustainable Life. It's the Group's third report, and uses GRI Standards: Core option, and serves as a UNGC Communication on Progress. It's externally assured.


Several of the Group subsidiaries also report - something that makes sense for a conglomerate that operates in such diverse sectors. While one global report presents aggregated Group performance, stakeholders in different sectors and geographies have more specific information needs. 


Charoen Pokphand Group's Report of the Year winning formula included:

CONTENT:
A clear strategic approach to sustainability, expressed as the Heath- Health - Home Strategy.

Materiality presented by industry sector (according to the Group's business lines) as well as overall for the Group. The individual matrices show the relative positioning of the Group level sustainability topics - 12 topics in total.


By now, anyone who follows my writings knows that I am not a fan of the materiality matrix -  I find the time spent in positioning dots in little squares could be better spent creating meaningful change. And if you are going to provide a materiality matrix by sector, then I would expect more sector-specific topics in the individual matrices, rather than a spot-the-dot exercise with all the same dots. Which just goes to show that even the Report of the Year might consider opportunities to further clarify and align reporting content. Notwithstanding, this is evidence of what appears to be serious consideration of sustainability priorities beyond the Group level, and transparency in presentation, and this, I think, is a good thing. 

COMMITMENT: 
The Report is introduced with messages from the Senior Chairman, the Chairman and the CEO. 

Multi-year targets are presented in each area, aligned with SDG priorities.


Progress against each of the targets is clearly noted.
As well as progress by SDG:


In many sections, a description of the challenges the Group faces in driving improved performance is provided.

CLARITY: 
This report is GRI Standards, Core Option and UNGC COP compliant. Data is presented visually in dashboards or easy to read aesthetic summaries across all performance dimensions. In some cases, Group data is provided and also data by business line.




CREATIVITY: 
A colorful and visually creative report, using many design elements across different content areas, ranging from images, thumbnails, infographics and charts.







The Report is peppered with Case Studies that provide useful examples of practice and note outcomes of different initiatives. (Incidentally, in a poll of attendees at the ASRA Winners Ceremony last week,  37% of respondents said that case studies were the most interesting parts of any Sustainability Report - closely followed by the Materiality Analysis at 29%). 




CATEGORY:  
The creative presentation of the Report earned Charoen Pokphand Group the top honor in the Asia's Best Sustainability Report (Design) category. In other categories such as Environmental Reporting and Supply Chain Reporting, in which the Group also earned first place, I'll leave you to delve into these different sections and see the winning formula for yourself.


Sustainability Reporting is no simple task, and it's even less simple when you are reporting as a conglomerate across diverse business lines. Charoen Pokphand settled on a mix of Group-level reporting with a selection of elements by business line, which works well on the whole for key stakeholder groups. And, it certainly was a winning formula that impressed the judges! 




elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Owner/Manager of Beyond Business Ltdan inspired Sustainability Strategy and Reporting firm having supported 107 client reports to date; author of three books and several chapters on Sustainability Reporting and the Human Resources connection to CSR; frequent chair and speaker at sustainability events and judge in several sustainability awards programs each year. Contact me via Twitter , LinkedIn or via Beyond Business     
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