Several years ago, I got a new assignment at work and suddenly found myself immersed in sustainability reporting. As I set out to learn my new job, I discovered an alphabet soup of acronyms that made my head spin on a daily basis. I tried to make sense of what the experts were saying, but thelanguage seemed to barely resemble English. So, one of my first orders of business was to learn the key acronyms of this new discipline. It was clear to me that if I didn’t understand these, I would continue to be lost and confused a good bit of the time.
Producing a Corporate Sustainability Report (CSR) is a big job that requires significant time andexpertise. It’s easy to underestimate the full scope of resources that reporting requires. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of consultants and agencies available that can help handle many parts of the workload – from strategy, to writing, to data management, to graphic design, as well as agencies that can do it all. Typically, reporting teams only consider hiring a consultant or agency in order to fill obvious gaps in internal resources orexpertise.
President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney each addressed the nation’s major challenges in their recent convention speeches. With different perspectives and emphases, the candidates spoke to some or all of these issues: job creation and economic recovery, deficit reduction, education, healthcare, alternative energy development, and the elimination of poverty. In addition to the solutions offered by the candidates, the “third sector”--nonprofit organizations--can be a vital partner to the government and business sectors in achieving success.
Many including this author, believe that forward-thinking companies will integrate sustainability goals into their business models and will use their visions of sustainability to help define revenue-generating strategies. Certainly the recent implosion of financial markets around the world offers a clear and disturbing picture of what happens when people lose faith in the long-term viability of businesses and business models.
Sophisticated and experienced NGO/nonprofit board members and CEOs routinely ask me to explain the role of the board. It's not surprising and I'm glad they do. So let me share my four essentials for effective governance.
1. Achievement: The role of the board is to achieve the organization's greater potential as well as its mission.
In order to build a good corporate sustainability report (CSR), it is important to have a solid team in place. The steps to recruit and motivate that team, however, are not unique to sustainability. Solid project management, expert networking and persuasive leadership are among the key business skills needed to guide your team in delivering a world-class report.
Producing a corporate sustainability report (CSR) is a team sport. The stronger the team is, the stronger the report will be. Each player needs to bring specific expertise that is complementary to the team as a whole. So, it is important to recruit and rally the key experts that can deliver what you need to make the company’s report a success. Choose carefully and look for people who already demonstrate some passion about sustainability.
Not all corporate sustainability reports (CSRs) are created equal. Some reports areglossy marketing brochures that lack substantive data. Others are so data focused that reading them requires a strong cup of coffee to resist boredom-induced sleep. The best reports provide a balance of accessible, engaging text and comprehensive, material data presented in a well-designed format. It is both art and science.