Thursday, September 7, 2017

What Singapore stands for. [Hint: ReportingMania]

What does Singapore stand for? Prepare to be enlightened.

S is for Strawberry Cheesecake  - The favorite ice cream flavor of the 2017 Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit creator and host, Mr Rajesh Chhabara. He is making no promises that Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream will be served at the summit, but if it is, it's all for MEπŸ˜€. 

Rajesh is managing director of CSRWorks International, a leading boutique sustainability consulting firm in Singapore. Deeply passionate about sustainability, Rajesh specializes in sustainability strategy, sustainability reporting, stakeholder engagement, supply chain and training. Rajesh has over 20 years of experience in sustainability in diverse industries across Asia. His sustainability strategies have helped clients win global rankings and recognition. He is an inspiration for us all and is the undisputed leader of #ReportingMania in Singapore and Asia.

I is for Insight - Two full days of #ReportingMania will fuel us with enough insights to last us a full year until the next Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit. Whether your thing is Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Reporting or regional trends in sustainability reporting regulations or dealing with inconvenient reporting topics, this summit is going to ooze with insights, all there for the taking. If you have been feeling a little short on insights after the summer break, just come along.

N is for No PowerPoint - haha -well, probably ALMOST no PowerPoint. What's wrong with PowerPoint anyway? Well, it's true that sometimes the PowerPoint becomes the conversation instead of supporting the conversation. Too many long decks with colors that blind you and words you can't read with too many long diatribes have characterized conferences since the days of Fred and Wilma. Now, in 2017, the Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit promises, yes, I know it's weird.... conversation. We will be getting past the slides and experiencing authentic voices. Rajesh talks about why this summit is different - including No PowerPoint. "First of all, this Summit is the only regional conference is Asia dedicated to sustainability reporting. The Summit will be addressed by more than 50 speakers, each one of them bringing a wealth of expertise. The Summit’s format is also unconventional. There are no boring monologues or lengthy power point presentations. Each session has been designed to have engaging panel conversations on practical topics seeking active participation from delegates. There are eight powerful masterclasses offering great choices to beginners as well as experienced reporters. In every sense, the Summit is really a unique opportunity for anyone interested in sustainability reporting."

G is for Goal - The goal of Rajesh, our conference wizard, says the 2017 Summit is just the beginning of a great journey to becoming Asia’s most engaging conversation about sustainability reporting. The goal is to make the Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit the most exciting sustainability event of the year. Rajesh promises: "Attendees can look forward to learning from top experts, sharing their own experience, exploring solutions to common challenges, understanding future trends and more importantly networking with their international peers." A worthy goal. Doesn't that make you want to be there to help make it happen? [Hint: of course.] 

A is for Always On - In Singapore, the #ReportingMania conversation will be Always On at the September summit. If you think you can come and idle around for two days, think again. No nodding off in the plenaries. No snappy snoozes in the breaks. No power naps in the restrooms. Snoring will definitely be frowned upon. It's going to be an intensive conversation and it's not going to stop until the last delegate has left (or until the ice cream runs out, whichever is earlier). For all you reporters out there, here's a chance to talk about reporting without someone saying every five minutes: "Who reads reports anyway?" (The last time someone asked me that, I said, "Who doesn't?")

P is for People - The 2017 Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit will be attended by hundreds of delegates from at least 15 countries. That's a lot of people getting excited about #ReportingMania. After all, what is sustainability reporting about if it's not about people? Most of us think a sustainability report is some sort of publication. But it's not only that. It's the culmination of many people performing responsibly and collaborating to tell their story. Reports are more than words on a screen. Reports are about making a difference. By people, for people.

O is for Opportunity - No sustainability conversation is complete without opportunity. Opportunity is what the visionary Rajesh Chhabara saw when he thunk up the Asia Summit. His vision in a nutshell: "As a Sustainability Consultant and Trainer, I enjoy helping businesses adopt sustainability strategies to become better and smarter business. Even though sustainability reporting is relatively new to Asian businesses, an increasing number of companies have started producing sustainability reports. As such, sustainability reporting community is rapidly growing in Asia. I thought we should create a regional platform for the reporting community to come together, learn from each other, celebrate their successes and find solutions to common challenges. This is how the Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit was born. The inspiration for creating the Summit also came from the huge success of the Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards or ASRA, another powerful platform we built three years ago to honor and recognize sustainability reporting leaders."

R is for Reporting - Rajesh explains: "The number of companies with no sustainability report is much larger than the companies which produce sustainability reports [in Asia] A very small number of companies chose to report on voluntary basis. In the past 2-3 years, several stock exchanges in Asia have introduced regulations requiring their listed companies to publish annual sustainability reports. Because of this there is a big surge in the number of reports from Asia. Unfortunately, sustainability reporting in Asia is mostly compliance driven, at least for now. However, there is a growing number of high quality reports, as we see every year at the Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards (ASRA). ASRA is now recognised as Asia’s top recognition for sustainability reporting. We are seeing significant increase in the number of entries as well as in the quality of reports. Last year we received nearly 450 entries from over 100 companies from 16 countries. This year’s entries are already open and the trends are looking very strong. I am confident that the number of companies participating this year will be much higher than the last year. I would like to mention that this year’s ASRA have a new category: Asia’s Best SDG Reporting. ASRA continues to be a non-profit project with highly independent judging process."

E is for Experts - Little quiz: How many experts can you cram into a Sustainability Reporting Summit over 2 days? 10? 13? 18.34? Noooooooooooo. 50. That's how many folks will be on stage sharing their expertise with hundreds of delegates, all experts in their own right as well. So 50 plus hundreds is the right answer. But, you knew that, right. That's why you registered. Not registered? Go register.

So, by now, your have realized that S I N G A P O R E stands for #ReportingMania. Come and get some. 🌟

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 Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit in Singapore on 19-20 September 2017 and the edie Conference on Smarter Sustainability Reporting  in London on 27th February 2018

Monday, September 4, 2017

People Planet Play at Caesars

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been horrified (as I am sure we all have) by heartbreaking first-hand accounts of people fighting for their safety and facing the loss of their homes in Houston, Texas and the region in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. I am sure we cannot begin to understand the challenges each is facing, nor the length of time it will take for the people of the area to achieve some sort of return to normal life. Our hearts go out to all those affected.

In the corporate world, many are mobilizing to provide emergency assistance and relief to the people of the area. It is no surprise to me that Caesars Entertainment was one of the first to announce support. See this post on LinkedIn:

This doesn't surprise me because I know Caesars Entertainment to be a genuinely caring company that invests in communities without hesitation all year round and not just in times of crisis. But when a crisis hits, Caesars can be counted on. I have been working with Caesars Entertainment for several years now, supporting annual citizenship reporting and other initiatives. I have had the privilege to personally engage and interact with hundreds of team members at Caesars in the U.S. and other parts of the world, from the President and CEO and senior executives to a very wide range of individuals in diverse roles. 

Without exception, I am struck every single time by the genuine passion and deep engagement of those I talk to, and their appreciation for the caring, nurturing, inclusive culture that is easily recognizable throughout the organization. Whether it's the CEO, Mark Frissora, who places employee engagement on a par with customer satisfaction and financial performance as a fundamental tent of the company's success (check out his  welcome message in the Caesars 2016-2017 Corporate Citizenship Report), or Mary Thomas, Executive Vice President of Human Resources, who says: "Our employees want to feel that our company is contributing to a better world," or a Caesars HERO (community volunteer), or a Health Wellness Nurse, or a Responsible Gaming Ambassador, or, in fact, just anyone at all, the folks at Caesars care. So it was certainly no surprise to see that Caesars is one of the first corporations out there taking action to support fellow citizens through the trauma and devastation that Hurricane Harvey has wrought. 

Which brings me back to Caesars eighth annual 2016-2017 Corporate Citizenship Report, this time under the theme of 

People Planet Play

People Planet Play is the new way Caesars is talking about citizenship and sustainability - to employees, to guests and to all of us. It's a corporate strategic framework for planning, reporting and communicating, setting out clearly what Caesars stands for as it does business. Jan Jones Blackhurst, Caesars' Executive Vice President of Public Policy & Corporate Responsibility explains:

People Planet Play enables the organization of all citizenship themes and programs under one umbrella:

So, for example, highlights for 2016 are organized in this format.

In this report, key members of the Caesars Executive team explain how this People Planet Play framework works for them and how it aligns with the vision of Caesars business development and growth in coming years. The report is written in accordance with GRI Standards, core option. More compact than prior years, it covers all key areas of progress in the past year or so, including:

Development of science-based emissions targets: For the past ten years, Caesars has set ambitious environmental intensity targets and has steadily achieved them each year. In establishing science-based targets, Caesars joins industry leaders in respecting planetary limits with absolute emissions targets through 2050.

Continued achievements in employee wellness: The Wellness Rewards program helps employees get healthier as they get older and in 2016, another year of strong participation enabled Caesars 50,000+ employees in the U.S. to feel well, save money and enjoy life. 

Ongoing leadership in Responsible Gaming: This is a core element of citizenship at Caesars, and has been for more than 25 years when Caesars developed the first industry efforts to address problem gambling among guests. Caesars continues to demonstrate leadership wherever it operates so that people who choose to take part in gaming activities can have fun doing so and know that help is at hand if this is not the case. This report includes major strides to advance responsible gaming in the UK where Caesars operates several casinos, as well as ongoing activity in the U.S.

Economic and social contribution in communities: Caesars has established strong ties within all the communities that host its properties, and makes a significant economic contribution. In addition to the >400,000 hours of community service that Caesars volunteers invested in their communities last year, Caesars distributed more than $9 billion of economic value to its stakeholders. A third-party analysis shows that contributed value by Caesars (wages, taxes and corporate giving) was almost three times the estimated average of U.S. corporations. 

Taking a public stand: As usual, Caesars doesn't shy away from speaking up for justice.  Whether it's on policy relating to LGBTQ rights or taking a stand against human trafficking, Caesars voice is where it counts. Gwen Migita, Vice President, Sustainability & Corporate Citizenship puts it like this:

(By the way, if you are heading to Singapore in September by any chance, come and join us at the Asia 2017 Sustainability Reporting Summit where Gwen will be speaking on embedding a culture of citizenship and the People Planet Play framework.)

Finally, who said sustainability reporting is not fun? Caesars 2016-2017 Citizenship Report also gives you the opportunity of a chance to win two nights at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Just by completing a super fun crossword.

Check it out, follow the instructions and you could be waking up to breakfast in Nevada. But even if crosswords are not your thing, I recommend you taking a look at this report from a clear citizenship leader in the gaming-entertainment-hospitality industry. There's much more in there that I have been able to mention in this post. As usual, send your feedback!

Disclosure: As you probably realized, I worked on this report (as well as on Caesars' prior four reports).  It's always a pleasure and honor to work with Caesars. But shucks, that makes me not eligible to enter the draw for the crossword prize.

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 Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit in Singapore on 19-20 September 2017 and the edie Conference on Smarter Sustainability Reporting  in London on 27th February 2018

Monday, August 14, 2017

Materiality: from meaningless to differentiating

Pretty much anything that's important these days is material. High material, medium material, low material... material for the business, material for stakeholders.. materiality assessments, materiality analyses, materiality matrices. We can't get enough of materiality. In fact, materiality has become so commonplace that it's almost materially meaningless. Since the coming-of-age of materiality via G4 in 2013, and the subsequent move to GRI Standards published in 2016, you are not on the map if your map is not material. While companies publish a list of material issues, at whatever level of granularity they (arbitrarily) choose, by and large, in many, many cases, the list does not really influence sustainability strategy, stakeholder relationships or sustainability reporting. It's often a list of broad-brush, carefully-massaged any-company issues that can be universally relevant. So what's the point of conducting a materiality assessment, if all you are going to come up with is what everybody already knows?

We love it when we have a nice matrix. If it's on a matrix, it must be right, right? The matrix surely indicates that companies have embraced materiality and that give us great comfort. The matrix must be a result of something, the company must have done the work, they must have truly understood what's important in terms of their impacts on society. Yes, materiality matrices inspire the warm fuzzies about a company and its reporting. If there's a matrix, all is well with the world.

So who are we kidding? I am reminded of Woodie Allen's well-known observation that "80% of success is showing up", and this certainly appears to be the driving motivator for many materiality matrices. The remaining 20% is the differentiator. A materiality matrix without this 20% is like an iPhone without IOS.

80% of the outcome of any materiality process is a known given before the process even starts. This is why:
  • There are topics that are universally relevant - climate change, energy consumption, employee rights, anti-corruption - this is just a selection of issues that are relevant for any company anywhere. 
  • There are topics that are business or sector-relevant - if you have an extended supply chain with tons of outsourced suppliers, ethical supply chain will always be material for you. 
  • The markets speak to you - a company, in the natural course of business maintains interactions with the market that make it clear what the markets wants and where the market is dis/pleased with performance. Just ask Abercrombie and Fitch.
  • The watchdogs woof at you - Check out Oxfam and its Behind the Brands ranking, or Know the Chain's food company rankings, or any of the ranking and rating analyst companies - they woof their message and any company on their radar cannot fail to hear.    

So, 80% of the issues are predictably material and do not need extensive analysis paralysis to determine. Engaging stakeholders then becomes an exercise that helps determine the remaining 20%, or fine-tune the prioritization. That is, of course, if you actually engage... and if you engage with stakeholders that are relevant. Not all stakeholders are created equal and not all should be represented with equal voice. Sending out a survey may sound like fun, and 500 responses may sound robust, but if the 500 voices are a random mix, and if the survey is the only tool you use, then it's quite possible that your outcome will not reflect a differentiating set of issues for your company.

GRI Standards, the most widely used sustainability reporting framework, has in part been responsible for creating this  double-edged sword. On the one hand, the notion that companies should focus on what's most important/impactful (material) makes absolute sense. On the other hand,  what's the point in going through a whole process to articulate the obvious? Maya Angelou is quoted as saying: "Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it." (This works well for me at the ice cream store). GRI asked for a list of material priorities - and that's exactly what GRI is getting in GRI Standards-based reports (and G4 reports before them). But is that really what GRI wanted? A generic list of material topics that are relevant to any company? While GRI Standards also ask for disclosures about stakeholders engaged and topics raised by them, responses by companies to this disclosure are often template-ish and not necessarily correlating to the final list of material topics presented.

Let's recap - my assertion is this:
  • Materiality is the crux of sustainability strategy and relevant reporting.
  • Material sustainability issues are 80% predetermined and 20% differential
  • The material differentiators are business or sector specific.
  • Most companies take a blanket approach to materiality - everything goes in the mix and every stakeholder has equal voice. What comes out the other end is a blanket list of material topics that could apply to most companies.
  • The process of determining material impacts lacks specificity and robust structure. 
So this is what I am thinking:

There should be a harmonized standard baseline of disclosures that are relevant to all companies -  some will be more critical than others for different companies - but they are relevant - and material - for all. I call this Operational Materiality.

Then we should have materiality that is precise enough to differentiate - focusing on the specific aspects of a company's impacts that are a directly relevant to its business, the locations it operates in and the influence it has on society.  Let's call that Precision Materiality.

I recently came across a framework which shows how this Operational Materiality part might work. It was via an interesting interview on Forbes by Christopher P Skroupa of Evan Harvey, the Global Head of Sustainability for Nasdaq. Evan Harvey explains: "Nasdaq published an ESG Reporting Guide for our European markets in March, 2017. The Guide is meant to provide an overview of the “business case” for sustainability strategy, management and performance disclosure. We identify 33 different metrics across the ESG space — the common denominators in global reporting frameworks, the most revealing and insightful measurements of company vitality — and make the justification for each. Reaction has been almost uniformly positive, and many investors have thanked us for helping to declutter a crowded data landscape." I looked at this guide, which I hadn't seen before.

The guide is primarily written to help companies traded on Nasdaq provide the information that investor markets need. The guide presents a set of 33 "Operational Materiality" metrics that all companies should report.

 For each metric, there is an explanation, following the format;
  • What does it measure? 
  • How is it measured? 
  • Why should it be reported? 
  • How does this metric correlate with other major sustainability frameworks? 
  • Research Notes

Now, the great thing about this guide is that is does not replicate the detail provided by other leading frameworks. It leaves the detailed metrics definition to the expert standards developers such as GRI and leaves the choice of which framework to use to the reporting companies. BUT, it elevates the most universally relevant metrics for all publicly-traded companies (and why would this not apply also to privately owned companies?) into a clear, well-worded and well-explained document that any corporate exec can understand, not just the ones with a post-doctorate in sustainable development. No jargon. Just plain, clear, straightforward language. This is a good start-point for what I call Operational Materiality.

(The Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) also hints at this approach. While it does not strictly prescribe reporting topics, but rather adherence to a known framework, it does include guidance as follows: "In broad terms, environmental factors would include materials, energy, water, emissions, effluents and waste as well as environmental complaint mechanisms. Social factors would include health and safety, employment practices and labour rights such as collective bargaining, as well as product responsibility, anti-corruption and supplier assessments. The framework chosen is likely to have additional factors that the issuer would report on." 

If we accept that the Nasdaq selected indicators together form a sensible "common denominator", then companies are freed up to focus their materiality discussions on their "precision" topics. Precision topics go beyond the common denominator baseline to the real difference the company makes in our society. Such a process would be efficient. By doing precision, engagement becomes targeted on a smaller number of issues at a deeper level. An example might be a pharma company referencing access to medicine, or a casino company referencing responsible gaming or a food company referencing nutrition or an Indian bank discussing local access to finance. Instead of debating whether water is more of a priority than energy or otherwise,  you get to spend your time reviewing topics that have a differentiating impact, and you target stakeholders to engage with specifically on these topics, such as subject-matter experts, local communities, watchdogs etc. What we need is a process for determining Precision Materiality. 

Let's do the litmus test. I randomly picked a few reports that use GRI Standards (selected using the GRI Sustainability Disclosure Database).  

CapitaLand 2016 Global Sustainability Report: The "critical" material topics could easily be part of a common denominator of Operational Materiality. "Stakeholder engagement" has not been defined by GRI as an impact - it is a principle and process - but there's no rule to say that it couldn't be material, if the process of engaging stakeholders actually delivers an impact in society as well as being necessary to understand stakeholder perspectives. This could be precision. In the moderate and emerging section, building materials and construction waste are hints of business specific areas and could be precisionally material.

Fauji Fertilizer Company Corporate Sustainability Report 2016: Top-right quadrant topics listed are all Operational Materiality with the exception of Farmer Advisory which is definitely business-specific for agri companies. The other quadrants of the matrix are also fairly Operational. I might have expected to see something related to sustainable agriculture or groundwater contamination as material for a company in the fertilizer industry.

Hershey 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report: Wow. So many issues plotted in such detail. How long did THAT take? The red blobs indicate the most material priorities. "Product Ingredients and Transparency" is a clear precision topic for the food business, as are "Consumer Wellness", and "Food Safety". "Global competitiveness" is matched by Hershey to GRI Standard Anti-Competitive Behavior and is therefore operational not precision. "Supply Chain Sourcing" is also highly relevant to a food company - which includes, according to Hershey, "topics related to supplier management, supply chain transparency, sustainable and ethical sourcing, and practices to ensure supply chain continuity. This issue also includes our agricultural sourcing practices and support for farmers."  So, in a precision matrix, where all the operational priorities are removed, Supply Chain Sourcing could probably become two or even three precision issues - Sustainable Raw Materials, Agricultural Practices and Supplier Management. Hershey's report covers these topics in detail.

Target 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report:  Operational topics in the main, though "Better Products" and "Better Services and Experiences" are precision topics expressed in a not-very precise way. What does "better" mean? And does this refer to all products? All services? All experiences? "Resilient and Vibrant Communities" could also be precision, if it's more specific than general community contribution and employee volunteering. "Forest" is an interesting one - Target has a new Forest Products Policy - this could well be precisionally material as well. So, if you strip off the Operational Materiality from this list, you are left with a much shorter, focused, precise list that differentiates Target and its business. Together with  operational disclosures, that would make for a clearer focus and strong presentation of materiality and reporting. 

Wacker 2015/2016 Sustainability Report: There are 32 dots on this matrix (3 fewer than the Hershey matrix). Compliance, Product Safety and Plant Safety stand out as being the most significant topics. Compliance doesn't feature in the Nasdaq 33 metrics explicitly, and probably that's an omission. Every company must be compliant, that's a basic prerequisite for all sustainability initiatives and performance. However, stakeholders can benefit from understanding processes the company uses to ensure compliance, train its people and the outcomes of compliance (or non-compliance). I would call this Operational Materiality and include it as metric number 34. Plant Safety is operational. Product Safety is precision -  in this case, it relates to chemical products where safety may be critical. As for the rest, there is not much that's not operational.

So, in this very brief review, we can see that just a fraction of the material issues are truly material in a very specific sense. Most of the issues labeled "material" are direct impact accountability as defined by 33 metrics - or a few more if required. Why spend so much time debating things that we all know to be a given? How many more hours will we waste moving dots around on a matrix? Yes, I hear you saying that some companies may not have as big an impact on energy, water, waste or other areas and therefore these issues are not universally material. I disagree. I think every company of a certain size must have accountability for its resource consumption, for its people management and for its governance practices and should report performance. Where companies have a greater impact in these areas, their disclosure can be more extensive.

I think there is an opportunity to simplify and harmonize sustainability disclosures in this way and use a standard set of fundamental, universally relevant operational disclosures to form the basis of sustainability reporting. The Nasdaq guide is based on recommendations from the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE) so we know this would resonate with an investor audience and be a good core for inclusion in integrated reporting. Beyond this, Precision Materiality would enable us to understand the company specific impacts, the area where added value is generated and/or where specific risks are managed.

In considering the next evolution of GRI Standards, in particular the Core / Comprehensive options, which are not terribly helpful, GRI might consider encouraging reporters to report all Operational Material Metrics (with policies, goals and targets etc in line with current GRI standards) as the GRI Standards Baseline Material Reporting Option. Each company would report on all of these metrics, using the relevant individual GRI Standards and the General Disclosures (GRI 102) to frame their reporting as now. In addition, companies would select additional business/company/sector specific topics using input from internal and external expert stakeholders, to disclose on precision material issues as the GRI Standards Advanced Material Reporting Option. In this way, companies won't be able to hide behind a materiality matrix filled with things that are relevant to everybody, but will need to elevate their focus to the things that are relevant to them and their specific stakeholders.

Phew. That turned out to be rather a long ramble that I hadn't intended. I haven't mentioned things like impact assessments and outcomes reporting - or even all those capitals that it's so sexy to talk about these days -  more on these on another sunny day - it's all relevant to materiality. But in the meantime, this could be a way of demystifying of black-box materiality to satisfy multiple stakeholders. Wondering if anyone thinks it's too much and I need a vacation? (preferably one where there is lots of ice cream)

elaine cohen, CSR Consultant, Sustainability Reporter, former HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, 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, August 1, 2017

Empowering connected with Liberty Global

Can you recall what life was like without technology? Or more specifically, connectivity? Just a few short years ago, connecting with people was a very limited thing. You lived with people, you met people in person through frameworks such as school, university, and work, you travelled to meet people in different places, you used a landline telephone and you wrote letters (on paper with pens) and sent postcards. C'est tout. The amount of people you could connect to using those methods was limited and the frequency was constrained by cost, time and logistics. Today, there are simply no limits on how we connect both to people we know and also to people we don't know, in so many ways, across so many channels. I could cite oodles of examples, but I am sure you have your own thoughts about how connectivity has changed your life and enabled you to expand your reach, interactions, influence and even capabilities. 

The thing is, connectivity is more than just hooking up to a computer screen or gluing a pair of iPhone 7+ bluetooth earpods to your ears. It's more than drilling a trench to lay fiber-optic cables and it's more than surfing the web. What matters about connectivity is what you do when you connect, it's the empowerment and inspiration you derive, it's the things you can achieve with people you connect with that you could never achieve alone. It's what you can create. It's how you can change the world. Connectivity is the platform; connecting is the opportunity. 

The CEO of Liberty Global, Mike Fries, opens up Liberty Global's 2016 CR Report this year with this promise about connecting:

"We live in connected times. Never before have we had the possibilities that we have today to connect people, ideas and places that were otherwise out of reach. The power of technology is transforming the lives of people around the world. At Liberty Global, we intend to use our collective imagination to help create an even more promising future for all."

This sets the tone for Liberty Global's 2016 CR Report. Compact and focused as usual, the full breadth and scale of the largest international TV and broadband company's contribution to connecting and empowering millions of people around the world is hard to capture. No-one wants a 3,247 page CR Report these days, right? And it would take at least 3,247 pages to reflect everything that Liberty Global is doing to connect, empower and inspire people in its various markets. That's ok though, because Liberty Global's subsidiary companies (Telenet, UPC, Virgin Media, and VTR in Chile) all publish their own market-tailored reports each year, adding local detail to the global overview that the parent group delivers.  

In this year's report, Liberty Global reminds us of its CR strategy Connected Purpose, a framework for "Empowering Positive Change through Technology" (which also serves as the report's title). This brings together the contribution of the Group to enabling and accelerating beneficial technology and managing business in a responsible manner. With 50 million services provided, more than 10 million mobile customers and 41,000 employees, Liberty Global isn't sitting quietly in a corner waiting for sustainability mumblings to pass. Proactively, consistently and with perseverance and determination, the Group keeps pushing forward in all areas of the Connected Purpose it has established for itself. 

Connected Purpose links well to six of the Sustainable Development Goals and specifically to the targets that underpin the goals. 

But, back to connectivity and connecting. Liberty Global has been very selective about the stories in this report, in order to keep the narrative short and the message uncluttered. This enables connectivity to shine through - starting with the CEO promise through to giving voice to the Digital Imagination that frames the way Liberty Global delivers 

The story in this report that captures this entire spirit and program, as well as our hearts, is that of 14-year old Aoife Kearins, a young winner of Liberty Global's Future Makers Awards. Aoife connected in a youth coding club CoderDojo in Sligo, Ireland and using her skills, created the Eye Opener app that prevents drowsy driving accidents. The wearable device measures changes in a driver’s core body temperature and warns them when they are at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. Now, if this is what Aoife can come up with at age 14, just think of how much amazing potential she has to change the world through technology as she advances in her teens and adult years. Multiply that by all the young people who learn coding and are inspired to change the world. Nurturing this potential, recognizing it, fuelling it and giving it space to grow is exactly what Liberty Global's Future Makers focus within the Digital Imagination strategy is designed to do. Liberty Global has a long-standing partnership with youth coding club, CoderDojo, and supports 90 CoderDojo clubs across Europe. Who knows how much of our future will start in the imagination of these incredible youngsters? This is Connected Purpose (and Corporate Responsibility) at its best.

In other areas, too, under the Responsible Connectivity part of the Connected Purpose strategy, Liberty Global has made strong progress with renewable energy, and a new 2,400 panel solar array in Puerto Rico, reducing energy costs as well as GHG emissions.  At the same time, in Liberty Global's operations around the world, strong improvements in energy and carbon efficiency have been achieved. 

With a separately downloadable GRI Content Index, adhering to GRI Standards, core option, professional readers can get the data they need, including detailed disclosures of stakeholder dialogue and engagement throughout the year by stakeholder group. 

I often hold up Liberty Global's reporting as an example for others to learn from. The annual, compact narrative-based report packs a punch and provides just enough information and evidence of strong performance to paint a credible picture of how Liberty Global empowers positive change through technology and acts responsibly in business. The GRI Content Index gives additional detail for those who need it. Other disclosures, such as CDP and a well-populated corporate responsibility website add further transparency. 

As usual, my disclosure: Liberty Global is a client and I worked on this report, as I have on all previous reports. There is nothing more satisfying that working with clients who have a clear vision, take bold action and are scrupulous and meticulous in their reporting. I believe Liberty Global is making a positive contribution to our future. I count myself as very fortunate to be able to contribute to the contribution :)

And, as usual as usual, take a look. Give feedback.

elaine cohen, CSR Consultant, Sustainability Reporter, former HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, 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: 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Reportingmania in Singapore

There's definitely going to be a lot of talk about reporting in Singapore in September. This will be at an event I am totally looking forward to - except for the long-haul flights that I try to avoid - but in this case, it's worth it.

The Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit will bring together some of the leading experts in business, sustainability and reporting from the region as well as from the international scene. Take a look at the speaker page:

You'll notice I snuck in there at the end. I'll be moderating a few sessions over the couple of days, and also running a breakout session on Sustainability Reporting for Human Resources. 

It's not by chance that I will be taking part in this summit. Here's why I decided to help bring on the reportingmania in Singapore in 2017. 

  • Organizer Rajesh Chhabara of CSR Works is a veteran gentleman professional of the reporting  landscape and I admire tremendously his advancement in and of the field. When Rajesh says I have to be there, I am there. 
  • I heard there is great ice cream in Singapore.
  • I'll be humbled to share a stage with two super sustainability professionals (and clients): Gwen Migita, Vice President Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship with Caesars Entertainment, coming in all the way from Las Vegas, and Uday Gupta, Managing Director, Mahindra Sanyo Special Steel from Mumbai. These are leaders who are passionate, knowledgeable and forward-thinking in their approach to sustainability and reporting. I'll be honored to introduce them to you in Singapore.
  • Even a 10 hour flight has to come to an end sometime. I am prepared. I have a Power Bank.
  • The Summit is a "brand-extension" of the Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards (ASRA), now in their third year. (Submissions for ASRA2017 open until 24 November 2017). It is my pleasure and privilege to have been involved as a strategic partner and judge since the inception of the Awards and experience the amazing wealth and diversity of reporting in Asia. Each year so far, to be repeated again this year, I read and review ALL the sustainability reports entering the Awards, and contribute my scores and recommendations to the judging panel. For me, this is more than judging. It's a wonderful way to learn about current issues in the region, new approaches, and of course, experience some delightfully creative and innovative reports. During the summit, I expect to meet many of the reporters from different countries in Asia who have enlightened and educated me over the past couple of years. You can read about some of them in the brochure (I was the writer) Learn from Asia's Best which was published after the inaugural awards of 2015 to showcase how the winners won and what it takes to make the grade.
  • We are super-fortunate in being able to welcome not one but two leaders of the reporting movement from the Global Reporting Initiative. Chair of GRI, an experienced business leader, Christy Wood, will give an opening address on The Future of Sustainability Reporting and GRI's South Asia Director, the accomplished Aditi Haldar, will talk to the potential of Asia's leadership in reporting. GRI's voice in the reporting landscape remains the most prominent and the most influential, and this is a great opportunity to hear perspectives from two top women in the organization.
  • I heard there is great ice cream in Singapore.
  • As always, there are many dilemmas and choices in any reporting journey. The main sessions of the event will focus on what's new across a range of topics that drive the way companies report - from global and regional influences, to investor expectations, regulatory drivers and of course, one of my absolute favorites, the quality of reporting. We'll have a chance to hear from leaders, engage with practitioners and learn from each other. I expect this to be an empowering event for all who attend. 
  • I am looking forward to hearing from many other speakers and panelists over the two-day event. While I have called out just a few in this post, I will be writing more as the event approaches. It will be the first time that such summit focusing on reporting has been held in this region  - but, I expect, not the last.
  • I heard there is great ice cream in Singapore. 
If you have any chance of joining us all in Singapore in September, please do. I'd love to see you there! You can register here.

Include promotional code BLOG17 at registration to enter a prize draw to join me and my guests at a special private event during the conference (details to be revealed to the lucky two winners). πŸ˜‰

elaine cohen, CSR Consultant, Sustainability Reporter, former HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, 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, June 16, 2017


If anything could force me out of too long a silence on this blog (apologies, I haven't been able to keep up the pace this year due to client work and other commitments) then it has to be the desire to express my appreciation for Ernst Ligteringen, whose passing yesterday has come as a total shock to family, friends and the entire sustainability reporting community. I dedicate this post to his memory and in appreciation of his contribution to making reporting real.

I'll take this summary of Ernst's accomplishments from the statement that GRI published today:

"Ernst joined GRI in 2002, and transitioned it from a project that was started under CERES, in Boston, US, into an independent international organization with a solid independent governance structure and system. He was instrumental in establishing GRI’s leadership position in sustainability reporting with a balanced focus on economic, environmental, social and human rights issues. Ernst developed the evolution of the sustainability reporting guidelines towards G3, then G4 and finally the GRI Standards. He introduced GRI’s organizational stakeholder program, which acquired more than 600 members in just a few years, and developed GRI’s training program with certified trainers on all continents."

While I never worked closely with Ernst, I met him many times at different events and meetings over the years. I will always recall when we shared a stage at the Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference in 2012 which I chaired. GRI at that time was right in the middle of the journey towards G4 which would be launched in May 2013. Ernst was obviously delighted with the process and referred to "good things cooking in the kitchen" through he wouldn't tell us exactly what. But he inspired us that day with the promise that GRI would continue to evolve the role of sustainability reporting and expand its relevance, and he did indeed fulfill that promise. In 2014, Ernst left GRI to continue his professional journey in other directions.

One of these directions was the support for innovations in sustainability and this included his work as a Strategic Advisor at Datamaran. Marjella Alma-Lecourt writes a moving tribute to the support Ernst provided to this growing company.

"He was passionate, well-spoken and credible – he was able to get anyone to listen to him, connect with people from any background and social status, and with that skill he was able to make significant moves in society and the global business community in particular. I started as an intern at GRI in 2007 – Ernst was my CEO – he was impressive and always traveling, I so looked up to him and still do. When we started eRevalue (now Datamaran), he got involved immediately and became a mentor like no other. I asked him how to be a CEO, and he started guiding me."

More than all of Ernst's professional leadership and accomplishments, he was a genuinely good man. As I knew him, he was always smiling, always positive, always ready to spread a little optimism. He even accepted my friendly provocations and occasional teasing in good spirit, with humility and readiness to engage. Ernst was the gentleman of sustainability reporting and a gentleman in our community. His passing comes as such a shock - it's 30 years too early.

Our comfort is that his legacy lives on in much of what all of us do every day. Ernst helped make business better and that affects us all. He personified determination, decency and positive spirit and that continues to inspire us all. I will remember him with respect, deep affection and always a smile.  

My heart goes out to Ernst's family. I wish them strength to keep going in the face of such an unexpected and tragic loss. 


elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, 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, February 19, 2017

The Top 15 Sustainability Reports of 2016

Here we are again, albeit a month later than usual (apologies), time to pronounce my Top Ten Sustainability Reports for 2016. I have been picking Top Tens now for several years... 2010, 2011, 2012 , 2013, 2014 and 2015. These Top Ten posts are always the most popular posts of the year and get thousands and thousands of views. Every year I say that selecting my Top Ten is the hardest thing I do on the CSR Reporting Blog and every year I am right. I am always soooooo tempted to increase the number to more than 10. And this year, I broke.
I decided to go for  πŸ’™ 15 πŸ’š reports this year.  

As I did last year, I will acknowledge once again a small group of favorite reporters and its very tempting to include them year after year ... great, consistently high quality reporters such as Impahla, Telekom Austria, Larsen and Toubro, Westpac Australia, BT, Tiffany &Co, Marks and Spencer, Kingfisher, Hang Lung Properties and several others. I know when they publish that their report is going to be informative, professional, useful and good quality. But if I included these reporters every year, I wouldn't have room for any others. The entire purpose of the Top Ten 15 is to spread awareness and recognition beyond the reporters that already have a good share of attention. I have not included reporters that have been included  in past lists.

My Top Reports selection is always based on reports that cross my radar throughout the year, not a scientific or strict methodical evaluation of report quality. I try to select a cross-section of companies, sectors and countries, rather than the big names in reporting that generally pick up reporting awards around the world. I focus on reports by corporations / businesses, not public agencies or non-profits or trade associations - although there are some really great innovative and important reports coming out of these sectors. Of course, I exclude reports of clients of my firm Beyond Business which we have helped prepare.

As I have done for the past few years, I loosely use the AIM MODEL as I consider the reports that I find worthy of mention. Each report adds value in its own way, and each report is evidence of progress. Therefore, in mentioning a mere 15 reports of the thousands that were published in 2016, I continue to do reporting somewhat of an injustice. On the other hand, highlighting 15 reports and their unique elements may provide insights and inspiration for new, or potentially better, reporters. In any event, this is always a post I find both challenging and fun all at the same time. 

Here is a quick reminder of my AIM MODEL: 

Authenticity: I look for whether the company has reported in an honest way, using stakeholder voices to supplement performance data. Authenticity for me includes balance, accuracy and completeness. I look for targets and progress against stated targets. 

Materiality: I look for whether the company has clearly defined the most important issues for the company and its stakeholders and described the way in which those issues have been identified and prioritized. Reporting materiality should also include a certain amount of contextual information which can assist us in understanding the issues and why they are material. 

Impacts: I look for whether the company identified impacts rather than just presenting a shopping list of activities. This means discussing the outcomes of what was achieved. The outcomes are the achievements (impacts), not the activities. This is by far the most difficult thing for companies to address and very few do it well. By the way, even the Top 15 reports have opportunity for improvement. So don't expect me to be exclusively gushing. That's not in my nature. 

In alpha order by company name, here is my Top 15 pick for 2016: 

🍨 Amtrak 2015 Sustainability Report (USA) ​
🍦 Baoviet Holdings Sustainability Report 2015 (Vietnam)
🍧 Bursagaz Sustainability and Annual Report 2015 (Turkey)

🍨 CLP Group 2015 Sustainability Report (China)
🍧 2015 Sustainability Report (Malaysia)

🍨Drummond Ltd 2015 Sustainability Report (Colombia)
🍦 Lion FY15 Sustainability Report (Australia, New Zealand)
🍨 Malta International Airport Sustainability Report 2015 (Malta)

🍧 Mindtree Sustainability Report 2015-16 (India)
🍦 Sega Sammy Group CSR Report 2016 (Japan)
🍧 Siloso Beach Resort Sustainability Report 2015 (Sentosa, Singapore)

🍦 VanDrie Group Annual CSR Report 2015 (Netherlands)
🍨Viña Concha y Toro Sustainability Report 2015 (Chile)
🍧 Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc Corporate Responsibility Review 2015/16 (UK)
🍨 Zain Sustainability Report 2015 (Kuwait)

Amtrak 2015 Sustainability Report
USA, GRI G4 Core, 5th Report, 80 pages

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) operates a network of intercity long-distance, shorter commuting-distance and high-speed passenger rail services spanning 46 states. Nearly 30.9 million riders traveled on Amtrak in FY15, generating more than $2.1 billion in ticket revenue. Amtrak is a federally chartered corporation, operating as a for-profit company, with the federal government as a majority stakeholder. Amtrak has more than 20,000 employees.

Amtrak's report is cleanly designed, no clutter, easy to read and materially focused. The 2015 materiality assessment is presented as a list (I always prefer this to a matrix) with 11 issues that are company specific and not simply a selection from GRI's pre-prepared list. This demonstrates focused thinking about materiality, even though Amtrak does not appear to have consulted stakeholders specifically in the preparation of this list.

However, Amtrak states: "We plan to conduct external stakeholder interviews in the future to make our materiality assessment and sustainability reporting processes as comprehensive as possible." I like this. It shows that the company is moving forward with what they have and plans to improve and validate. Better than sitting on the sidelines until it's all bottomed out.

Separately, Amtrak lists stakeholder groups, key methods of engagement and areas of stakeholder interest in a table which also links to a case study on engagement with each stakeholder group.

An early section of the report describes the economic and social benefits of rail travel. This is a nice way to position to social value that Amtrak rail services bring across the U.S. and a good backdrop to understanding Amtrak's impacts and material focus. Later, an environmental benefits are also described.

The report is  structured in chapters which align with the material topics: Safety and Security; Customer Focus; Financial Excellence; Environment; Human Capital and Planning for the Future.  All 11 material issues find a home in these chapters.

The Amtrak report contains several case studies about different aspects of the operations presented throughout the report.  Each gives a glimpse of the complexity of rail operations, such as the extensive preparations that were required before the papal visit in 2015.

Amtrak applies the GRI framework well, and links all its material issues to GRI material aspects. I always find this helpful - simply posting a materiality matrix and a GRI Content index without linking the two makes it hard for readers to track how what's important is managed and measured. Often, that's because there is no connection. By making this explicit in the GRI Content Index, as Amtrak has done, we can not only easily find what fits with what, we know that the company has adopted a structured and integrated approach to materiality management. 

Amtrak is also upfront about where it has not been able to comply with GRI disclosure requirements.

In summary, Amtrak's report fits the AIM model well. It's an impressive report, professionally done.


 Vietnam, GRI G4 Core, 4th report,142 pages

Baoviet was established on 15 January 1965, and is the leading financial-insurance group in Vietnam. It has been accredited as one of the top 25 enterprises in the country by the State Government. The Group is headquartered in Hanoi with more than 150 branches across 63 provinces nationwide. Baoviet was the first insurance company incorporated in Vietnam and employs 5,467 people.

It's not by chance that I came across this report. As a judge in the ASRA (Asian Sustainability Reporting Awards) again in 2016, I had the pleasure of reviewing close to 100 reports from several Asian countries across several categories. The Baoviet report stood out as one of the best, and indeed, it bagged first place as Asia's top sustainability report of the year. A well-deserved win and one that I endorsed as a member of the judging panel. 

The report is beautifully presented in a tasteful design which combines compact narrative with charts, tables, infographics and imagery that are pleasing to the eye. The opening message from the Chairman is a good mix of business context and the relevance of sustainable development, and reads Authentically. This is followed by a presentation of sustainability highlights from 2015, either as a taste of more to come in the body of the report, or as a quick overview for those who do not plan to cover all 142 pages. 

Also, Baoviet links to the Sustainable Development Goals, one of the earlier-adopter reports to make the connection and start to align with this global agenda. A set of specific goals and initiatives for implementation in 2016 support six SDGs.

Baoviet's Materiality focus is presented in a matrix, making the connection between material issues and the location of relevant disclosures in the report. 

Chapters start with a Disclosure on Management Approach and GRI disclosure labels help locate relevant performance indicators and discussion of Impacts. Presentation of charts and graphs is simple but effective.

 AIM. Check.


Turkey, GRI G4 comprehensive option, 2nd report, 172 pages
References SDG in GRI Content Index (SDG Mapping)

Bursagaz was established as a subsidiary of state-owned company and started to sell natural gas in 1992, before being privatized in 2004. In 2008, Bursagaz was acquired by EWE Turkey Holding. Bursagaz has 884,000 total subscribers and is Turkey's second largest natural gas distributor, employing 259 people.

I love the concept and design of this report. You can't help being attracted to the bold and beautiful, creative and uniquely special design of this report, which gets more appealing every time you take a look, and then draws you in to the report content. Themed "The Essence of Life", the report takes us through a young girl's journey in "The Story of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" - a journey prompted by the fact that she knows that "Everyone needs a future in which they attach more importance to one another." Throughout the report, the little girl goes on her journey, stopping to meet an amazing array of exquisitely-designed members of the animal kingdom, each of whom has an inspirational message for the little girl, in its own language. It's a story of the wonders of nature and how we can be inspired by nature .. the very essence of life indeed. 

Alongside the spellbinding design, the substance of this report is also highly respectable. The focus is clear with both a Materiality Matrix and targets aligned with material topics.

Performance against 2015 goals is noted, and 2016 goals are stated. This is one of the few material approaches I know that includes Stakeholder Engagement as a material topic in its own right and has specific and measurable 2016 targets relating to this aspect. Later in the report, Bursagaz provides narrative relating to stakeholder engagement, listing all stakeholders by name in order of priority, the nature of the relationship with them and the category (social or economic) of their prime interest.

A selection from the Bursagaz 2016 goals page

Throughout the report, Bursagaz is earnestly, almost fanatically, transparent, providing details of policies, decisions, processes and changes for every topic.  It's a little too much to read, but it's evidence of a genuine desire to achieve strong transparency. If you stay with it you realize that it's a feat of disclosure. Data is presented well in clear tables and charts  throughout the report. Data labels to the G4 Content Index are included and my spot check brought me to the disclosures I sought from the Index.

Even my top pick reports have opportunities for improvement. I believe Bursagaz has an opportunity to continue its journey by maturing its communication in future years. I would recommend including more context in describing Bursagaz key impact areas, indication of the depth of stakeholder engagement with quoted voices and contributions in the report and a case study or two demonstrating examples of practice. The report should also be much shorter - this one has early onset TMI disease (TMI=Too Much Information). The narrative is trees not forest, and the English translation is poor. An extra investment in tightening up the language and an English QC check would improve the Anglophone experience. Here's a little error that made me smile:

The English in this report is a bit of a neramiss 😊

However, it's definitely a Top 15. Bursagaz's sheer investment in creating this report is a testimony to the commitment and passion of the company to make a sustainable contribution and be transparent to stakeholders. The imagination and creativity of the storybook, aligning sustainability with nature at its most spectacular and telling the story of the essence of life, present sustainability in a positive light and inspire optimism. It seems Authentic, it's guided by Material and it's clear about its Impacts.


China, GRI G4 Core, 14th report, 238 pages

CLP Holdings Limited is a publicly held company since 1901, one of the largest investor-operators of power assets in the Asia-Pacific region, with businesses across Hong Kong, Mainland China, India, Southeast Asia and Taiwan and Australia. CLP Group's business includes power generation, transmission and distribution, and electricity and gas retail activities, employing over 7,300 people, and serving over five million customer accounts.

This is by far the longest report in the 2016 selection, dwarfing other reports with a whopping 238 fully populated pages. CLP clearly gets through a lot of stuff in a year and has much to report. And it does so professionally and aesthetically. The report is laid out tastefully, with photo imagery, infographics and color coding by section to make this report a true work of art.

The report opens with a joint Chairman and CEO message which provides a useful overview of business context as well as highlighting some sustainability imperatives including a science-based target to reduce carbon intensity by 75% to 2050. 

CLP provides a detailed review of extensive stakeholder engagement processes in the reporting year, walking us through the stakeholder engagement framework, key stakeholder groups, concerns raised by each group and CLP responses in the reporting year. This is one of the most detailed descriptions of such processes that I have seen. It culminates with a description of the materiality process and list of issues.

There are many more positive and impressive elements of the report, too numerous to mention in this very long post, such as the alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals, the presentation of a climate vision with targets through to 2050, a whole section about business context, megatrends affecting sustainability, risks and opportunities and much more. In each core section of the report, the material aspects are identified and disclosures are presented accordingly. The PDF is hyperlinked so navigation is super easy.

While many would consider such a long report to be a bit too much, and there is a definite trend towards shorter reports today, the CLP 2015 report is a bible among reports and it delivers its content so clearly, attractively and comprehensively that it's definitely deserving of recognition. AIM. Check.

Oh, and this is one of the nicest ways to solicit feedback:

Malaysia, GRI G4 Core option, 5th report, 30 pages

DiGi.Com Berhad is listed on Bursa Malaysia and is part of the Telenor Group, a global telecommunications provider. DiGi provides mobile voice, Internet and digital services to 11 million customers in Malaysia with around 2,000 employees.

This is a report that immediately strikes you as clean, orderly, well-planned and well-presented. It probably takes the prize for the highest number of icons across 30 pages. It's a pleasure to read this kind of report - it's simplicity belies the investment that I expect went into its generation. The structure lacks clutter.

I like the CEO statement. It's plain talk and includes reference to the challenge of growing the business while limiting environmental impacts. "During the year we accelerated rollout of our LTE network, doubling our footprint to serve growing demand for quality high-speed internet on our widest 4G LTE network. While this brought about higher energy intensity, the higher cost per kilowatt is temporary and we expect sequential improvements in our energy intensity over the years as we gain better leverage from having more Malaysians benefiting from being connected to our high speed LTE network on the go." It's sounds authentic and upfront. is not the only business to face this dilemma.'s materiality matrix is set against the framework of Telenor parent company's materiality priorities, tweaked, it seems, to reflect local relevance. While the process of developing the local matrix is not disclosed in any detail, includes a section called "Meet the Stakeholders" where each stakeholder group is presented, engagement channels described, issues raised and approaches described to address issues.

The body of the report provides updates on performance, covering the material topics in turn. It's short, focused and well constructed. In some cases, a lack of outcome weakens this disclosure - I always look to understand what kind of a difference a company made, not just what it did - but in other cases, a sense of outcome is provided.

And just so there is no confusion, Digi.Com makes the end of its disclosure quite clear:

AIM: well done.


Colombia, GRI G4 core, 5th report 164 pages

Drummond Ltd. is a mining company that operates only in Colombia, property of Drummond International LLC, a company based in Alabama, United States. Drummond's operations include the exploration, production, transportation and exportation of steam and coal. much of which is exported around the world.  Drummond employs almost 5,000 people.

This is a creatively designed report with attention to detail. The use of color is extensive (a frequent characteristic of South American reports). Just take a look at Drummond's value chain and other visuals:

Aside from the color and creative graphics, this report provides a comprehensive disclosure structured in three main sections: economic, social and environmental. First, Drummond presents a materiality process, indicating the key elements and sources informing the selection and prioritization of material issues, followed by the matrix, followed by a more detailed explanation of each issue and its alignment to GRI aspects and corresponding performance indicators. This is a positive attempt to describe the materiality process - and while the actual prioritization of issues is still not entirely transparent - it's more revealing than vague descriptors we find in many reports.

(As an aside, though, the color coding of issues makes it rather difficult to decipher which is which. A number or symbols system might be a better approach.)

Drummond provides goals and targets for 2016, and in many cases, for medium and/or longer term in each section of the report. Also in each section is a description of Impacts with quantitative qualifiers in some cases.


Australia, GRI G4 Core option, 7th Report, 49 pages (plus separate GRI Index)

Lion is one of Australasia’s largest food and beverage companies, employing approx 6,700 people across Australia and New Zealand marketing premium brands in the dairy, juice, soy, beer, cider, fine wine, spirits, alcoholic ready-to-drinks and non-alcohol beverages categories. Lion is the leading brewer in both Australia and New Zealand, and its overall portfolio, produced across 33 sites, collectively generates revenues of around $5 billion each year.

Lion's reports are always beautiful, creative and easy to read. Despite a rather wishy-washy any-year leadership statement, the report starts off with a clear business strategy with embedded sustainability, Lion presents strategic quantitative targets to FY18 and progress to date. 

The material topics and targets are company and sector specific - not the generic all-company type of materiality matrices that we see in so many reports. However, it would be nice to see a clearer link between strategy and materiality and performance targets.

The report is structured in line with these material topics - each report section representing a material sub-set. Despite this report claiming to be in accordance with G4, there are some gaps. Lion reports just 10 Performance Indicators, and these are spread rather thinly for the 22 "highly material" issues listed on the matrix. In some cases, the indicators are not reported in line with G4 requirements. I would recommend reviewing the material alignment of this report both with strategy and performance progress and tightening up disclosures to meet stated standards.

On the other hand, what really stands out about this report, and the primary reason for its inclusion in the Top 15 (in addition to the fabulous presentation) is the outside-in focus. The predominant content of this report refers to the way Lion is helping change the industry and consumer behavior. Rather than just being a company that sells stuff, Lion presents impressive detail of a host of public policy changes and engagements that affect food regulation and support consumer benefit, describing the context and stating the Lion position and actions. A commissioned independent assessment of Lion's economic impacts provide detail of how Lion makes a contribution to economic life in Australia and New Zealand, including tax transparency. The supplier engagement section discloses ways in which Lion contributes to farmer prosperity through engagement and support with some case studies, including a nice story about how Lion supports dairy farmers through promoting the benefits of drinking milk. A few external stakeholder find their voice in this report as well.

Lion is also changing consumer behaviors through raising awareness of health and nutrition, improving the nutritional profiles of its products and engaging in several consumer awareness campaigns.

The report presents a picture of a retailer that is connected to its consumers and communities and understands their needs. I find this relevant and Authentic. In several cases, Impacts are reported, for example, shifts in behavior of 18-24 year-olds in response to Lion's Drink Wise campaign. Materiality, as mentioned, is presented as a credible set of issues for this type of business.

And another example of nicely-done graphics to round off this Lion review:


Malta, GRI G4 (Core), 1st report, 52 pages

Malta International Airport (MIA) welcomes over five million passengers each year and links three continents with over 90 airports directly to Malta. Economic activity involving aviation and non-aviation enterprises contributes to more than 15,000 jobs and over 9% of Malta’s GDP. MIA has 289 employees.

MIA's first report (you know I LOVE first reports) is structured in line with the GRI G4 framework, indicator by indicator. This is a safe choice and enables disclosures to be easily located and easily verified against the framework. Reports that follow this framework tend to be technically sound but lack a little sparkle and creativity. By reporting in the order of the GRI disclosures and indicators, the report tends to flow in a way which doesn't necessarily reflect the real story of company and its predominant impacts on society. Disclosures tend to be limited to disclosure requirements, which make for a rather limited narrative. However, for Malta, for a first report, this is a respectable choice and one that the company applies meticulously.

Material issues are presented in a list rather than a matrix, and are the prescribed GRI Aspects rather than a company-specific list of issues. Stakeholder interests are presented in a table showing key channels of engagement and key interests by stakeholder group. No specific stakeholder engagement appears to have been initiated for this report.

Each of the main sections - economic, environment and social - kick off with targets for 2015 and performance. Throughout the narrative , MIA provides local context which is helpful in understanding MIA's performance and impacts. The layout is clean and tables and graphs are easy to understand.

The meticulous application of the GRI Framework is also found in an appendix to the GRI Content index where MIA describes all the bases for calculation of the metrics provided in the report. This is a useful chart. However, in other cases, it seems that MIA has responded to indicators in order to complete the GRI framework without aligning these to material priorities and providing a relevant management approach disclosure.

However, reporting is a learning curve, and I feel that, as MIA becomes more confident in its GRI reporting and deepens its understanding of the framework (now standards), the company could report more memorably in the future. In the meantime, big congrats on a first-timer and for showing that even smaller organizations can deliver very solid and meaningful sustainability reports.


Mindtree Sustainability Report 2015-16
India, GRI G4 Core, 4th report, 115 pages

Founded in 1999, Mindtree Ltd., headquartered at Bangalore, is an information technology company with a turnover of USD 715.2 million, employing more than 16,600 people in India, North America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions.

The Mindtree report is another uplifting report from the people behind "Welcome to Possible". This is a modestly toned report, describing a philosophy as well as a way of doing business. A materiality process is included and a set of goals that align with material issues.

The highlight of Mindtree's report this year is the creation of a new learning center - Mindtree Kalinga. In several pages devoted specifically to this sustainably designed facility to "train engineers of tomorrow", Mindtree describes the detail of the structure and the philosophy behind the learning approach - including the eternal pond, the magic bricks, the LEED platinum certification expected, solar array, bio-rich gardens and more.  Makes you want to be a budding Mindtree engineer.  "We built Mindtree Kalinga to create complete software professionals out of campus-fresh entrants and gift them to Mindtree, to the industry and to the society."

The body of the report contains sections introduced by Mindtree execs, each sharing a personal perspective.

AIM. Check


Sega Sammy Group CSR Report 2016  
Japan,  GRI G4 (Core), ISO26000, UNGC, 10th report, 48 pages

The SEGA SAMMY Group is an entertainment company employing just over 7,000 people in businesses including pinball machines, digital games including amusement machine development and facilities, development of video content and toys and the development and operation of resorts, hotels and golf courses.

I have noticed Sega Sammy's reports for years and somehow, I never included then in the annual CSR Reporting Blog Top Ten, despite always coming close. This year, it's here. There's an authentic optimism about this report that I find very appealing. 

Sega Sammy's report is quintessentially Japanese presenting all the tell-tale signs of the Japanese reporting culture: it aligns with both GRI and ISO2600 (downloadable content indices for both frameworks); it includes an external stakeholder opinion and company response; it includes a few "focus" pieces at the beginning of the report presenting key issues; texts are short paragraphs rather than long stories; it crams as much information as possible on each page using extremely small fonts; it uses charts and infographics extensively. You don't need to read this report to know it's from Tokyo. 

Sega Sammy's report is structured by primary stakeholder group. with six main sections: customers, partners, shareholders and investors, employees, environment and communities. Each section opens up with a reference from the company's CSR Charter, a statement of management approach, major initiatives from the reporting period and the "voice" of an internal stakeholder. 

An overview of strategic (Material) themes and broad objectives, performance in the reporting year and aspirations for the next is included. The chart notes page references for disclosures in the report,  making life easier for the report reader to locate relevant content. The "voices" of team members profiled in the report are personal reflections which appear Authentic.The report is a little light on describing Impacts - this is an area for further consideration in the future. 


Siloso Beach Resort Sustainability Report 2015
Sentosa (Singapore), GRI G4 (Core), 4th Report, 170 pages

Located along Siloso Beach on the island of Sentosa, Siloso Beach Resort is a tranquil and rustic leisure complex. Purposely built from its conception to be an Eco Hotel and to apply best sustainable practices throughout all its operations, this privately-owned resort employs 50 - 100 people. 

Siloso Beach Resort's report is  one of those very personal, invested and thoughtful reports that make it fun to read about sustainability. Eco, green, nature and beauty, passion, fun, humor and some serious performance and data all come together in this charm of a report about a charm of a resort. Billed as "not a conventional report", it's not a conventional report. Yet it does conform to GRI G4 - so it's unconvention also combines with best convention in terms of reporting guidelines as well as the UN Global Compact COP requirements.

While the Authenticity of this report cannot be doubted, materiality is right up there too with a clear statement of Siloso Beach's sustainability priorities. With the flexibility typical of a privately-owned company, Siloso states that economic aspects are less important than guest and environment-related matters. They need to be "self-sustaining from a financial point of view" but social and green considerations drive the approach.

Siloso Beach presents (mostly) quantitative targets for 2014-2015 and aspirational longer term objectives and goals. All goals and targets are explained with a contextual insight and often, a local comment. 

The Authenticity of this report is projected not only in the jargon-free consumer-facing language but also through the use of sustainability symbols that are part of the Resort's actual operation. Two characters walk us through our stay at Siloso Beach Resort in this report: "Prof Monitor plays the role of the knowledgeable source which we use to convey accurate key messages. Squirzy (the squirrel), on the other hand, is a more funny character which serves the purpose of asking the right questions, but sometimes in a humoristic way." A monitor lizard and a squirrel were selected as the Resort's "eco ambassador mascots" because they are often observed in the resort and represent Siloso's commitment to wildlife preservation and biodiversity. They reinforce key messages and add a touch of humor and interest to the report.

Additionally, stakeholder concerns and feedback are presented honestly and responses provided. 

Siloso Beach's report is an education in eco-living and eco-management. In great detail, the company shares with us the green and glorious aspects of its operations from construction of this Resort inside a rain-forest using micro bore piling to avoid damage to trees, the rooftop vegetable farm, the live trees that continue to be protected and grow right in the guest villas, the biodiversity conservation program, energy efficient lighting, clean-tech filtration systems, solar panels, efficient heat chiller exchange systems, environmentally friendly mosquito control and more. 

The report is structured in the order of GRI disclosures and each sections is labelled accordingly. However, this structure does not prevent Siloso Beach interweaving a range of creative elements to deliver a document that looks more like a magazine than a stuffy old sustainability Report.  So many companies avoid using the GRI framework because they feel constrained by its requirements. This report embraces the GRI framework and make it its own. Similarly, Siloso Beach has made an earnest attempt to define its ESG impacts. As a single Resort, of course, not a sprawling multinational, the overall impacts on society and the planet are modest. Nevertheless, they are relevant and this report demonstrates an awareness and level of transparency that is a model for many small businesses.  

Siloso Beach Resort, AIM model, check. PS: Congrats to Siloso Beach Resort for winning ASRA16's Best SME Report.

Netherlands, not GRI, 6th report, 67 pages

The Dutch-owned VanDrie Group is the world market leader in veal, founded in the early 1960s. Today, with more than 25 companies, VanDrie group is the largest integrated veal producer in the world and the global market leader in veal and the largest producer of calf milk. Approximately 1.4 million calves are processed each year, mostly for export. The VanDrie Group supplies around 28% of European demand for veal.The Group employs 2,250 employees and works with 1,100 veal farmers.

Well, I guess the vegans, vegetarians and animal rights campaigners won't like this choice. And there are possibly parts of the veal production process that even veal-eaters may prefer not to know. However, in today's world, where meat is a significant part of food demand and supply, I believe it makes sense to acknowledge meat producers who do their job responsibly, with attention to animal welfare and all other aspects of business with ethics and integrity. You may disagree. In that case, skip this report. For everyone else, or if you focus on reporting quality alone, VanDrie presents a transparent and professional story of responsible business, caring and professional attention to what matters. A materiality matrix places animal welfare way up at the top of the priority issues.

In fact, I had to laugh at myself when I reviewed this report. Number 11 issue on this list is "zoonoses". Perhaps I am showing my ignorance but I had no idea what zoonoses meant. Perhaps a disease that animals get from living in zoos? The paragraph in the report didn't totally enlighten me

Eventually, after a trip to Wikipedia, I realized that a zoonosis (zoonoses = plural) is an infectious disease in animals that can be transmitted to humans. Another reason I LOVE sustainability reports - every report teaches me something!

The VanDrie Group report reflects a pride in an job well done. Throughout the report, employees and farmers express their views, alongside interesting facts about the veal supply process.

These real people present an Authentic story. The report covers all the issues you might expect from an animal agriculture business, including antibiotics, calf health, breeding practices, food safety and more. Narrative provides context and different perspectives on important, sometimes controversial, issues. Dialogue with stakeholders is presented in detail, aligning with material issues. Data highlights are presented with effective infographics.

AIM. Check


Chile, GRI G4 Core, UNGC, 4th Report, 100 pages

Founded in 1883, ViΓ±a Concha y Toro is Latin America’s leading producer, currently exporting to 147 countries worldwide. It owns around 10,800 hectares of prime vineyards in Chile, Argentina and United States. The Concha y Toro Group comprises successful brands such as Don Melchor, Almaviva, Casillero del Diablo, Trivento and Fetzer. The company has 3,450 employees and is headquartered in Santiago, Chile.

This is one of the reports that captivates you by its incredible photography and imagery, well before you start to focus on the written word. This is as much an artistic creation as a sustainability report.

However, the beautiful images do not detract from the professionalism of this report, they only add to it. They are also supplemented by aesthetic infographics throughout the report. Disclosure labels are used throughout to identify G4 responses.

The report is structured in five main sections which are pillars of Concha's sustainability strategy: People, Society, Supply Chain, Product, Customers and Environment. There are also separate mini-reports for three subsidiary vineyards. Material issues are listed in a table:

The disclosures in this report are fact-based - not much in the way of embellishments or case studies. But important issues are addressed head-on.

The detailed disclosures in this report are highly informative and demonstrate transparency. From the data relating to all processes in the supply chain to the amounts of different materials used in each stage of wine production to the number of customer audits of Concha's facilities to detailed environmental data including Scope 3 emissions to forests inventoried for biodiversity, this report ensures that all relevant information is accessible to stakeholders in a clear and careful manner.  AIM. Check.


United Kingdom, not GRI, 10th report, 30 pages

Morrisons is the fourth largest food retailer in  the UK, founded in 1899 in Bradford, Yorkshire and currently operating 498 stores with more than 117,000 employees serving 11 million customers. 

It have always liked Morrisons reporting - it has tended to be simple, plain-talking and eye-level over the years. This 2015/16 review is another strong example of getting the message through. It's focused, direct, disciplined, professional - and considerably shorter than prior years. It's not written in accordance with any particular framework - never has been - but it is externally assured and includes the key elements that I believe stakeholders need to know, for the most part. In fact, it's appeal is probably broad enough to interest consumers - the directness of the language and easy-to-follow format make this report accessible (and interesting) for any reader, not just investors or professional report-users. Just by calling themselves a "food maker and shopkeeper", Morrison's makes a more personal connection to what consumers identify with, rather than a national (or global) grocery chain that smacks of anonymity and distance. Morrisons has developed a personality in its reporting that is distinct from other major grocery retailers.

The clear message in this year's report, influenced, it seems, by the new CEO, is the strong emphasis on listening. In fact, this report is all about responding to what Morrisons has been hearing. In 2015, Morrisons performed a customer insight survey and the result was a set of priority issues for consumers.

While not a "materiality assessment" in the strictest sense of the word as it is defined for sustainability reporting, as it is determined only by consumers rather than a range of stakeholders, the list is reflective of issues that stakeholders in other categories might prioritizes - employees and environmental supporters, for example. Interestingly, while waste is seen as an issue, reducing energy and water use, or climate change, did not make the top 12 issues for consumers. However, Morrisons does report energy, carbon and waste performance against targets.

Upfront, Morrisons provides an overview of what was achieved in the reporting period and ongoing commitments across all issues, including some quantitative targets to 2020.

The report then follows a symmetrical structure of one page per issue, in a standard format: what we did in 2015/16, who we are working with, and what's next. It's short, sharp and does the job.

The report rounds off with a detailed performance summary and KPIs against all commitments and targets.

As an individual and focused review with broad consumer appeal and compact updates on performance, this report delivers the AIM model. For data-hungry professionals, who want to see charts of data and trends over multiple years and a little more depth in reporting, this report does probably not meet the need.  On the other hand, many 100+ page reporters could possibly learn a thing or two from this report.


Kuwait, GRI G4 Core, 5th report, 134 pages

Zain is the pioneer of mobile telecommunications in the Middle East, founded in 1983 in Kuwait as the region’s first mobile operator. Today, Zain has a commercial footprint in 8 Middle Eastern and North African countries with a workforce of over 7,000 providing a comprehensive range of mobile voice and data services to over 45.8 million active individual and business customers. 

This report from Zain addresses the challenges and volatile circumstances of the region head-on. "Operational context" is a significant part of this company's daily reality and sustainability focus. Messages from the Chair, the CEO and the Head of Corporate Sustainability all refer to these challenges across the 8 Middle Eastern countries that this group operates. Quoting the Head of CS, Jennifer Suleiman,  "2015 was a year filled with dualities ranging from great promise to immense human tragedy and suffering. During the year, the world experienced devastating consequences from the war in Syria which impacted millions of people seeking a better life in other parts of the world. This was further compounded by the ongoing acts of terrorism and social unrest in Iraq, which precipitated the crisis and the mass migration of that symbolizes the breakdown of the essential fabric of life that binds us together ", we gain a glimpse of the daily impact of operational context.

This is only indirectly represented in the company's materiality matrix, which puts governance, ethics, economic performance and employment at the top of the ladder.

However, in the report, challenges are addressed in different sections with direct and frank narrative.

What is most appealing about the Zain report is that it presents a holistic picture of the role of the company in society and the communities it serves, almost all of which are troubled by hardship and where communications technologies can help. Whether it be refugees, war-stricken areas, infrastructure deficiencies, currency challenges, youth unemployment, empowering women and more, Zain's report presents its performance in the context of these social issues and the role that the company plays in providing services and assistance to strengthen the people and the region.

In addition, the report covers all the bases in terms of direct impacts, governance, environmental stewardship and more. This is definitely an AIM report.


That completes the round up for this year. Even with 15 reports, I still feel that I have not done justice to many great reporters and reports that saw the light of day in 2016. I hope this selection provides food for thought as you move forward with your reporting.  Thank you to all the Top 15 (and many other reporters) for providing me with inspiration and interest.

Wishing you all Happy Reporting in 2017! 

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Trust Across America 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, 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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