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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : May/June 2004 : Headlines

HEADLINES

Rewarding Reporting
Five companies are rewarded for their reporting transparency.

By Penny Bonda



Three primary goals were identified in 2003 when the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) partnered with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) to organize the first annual Sustainability Reporting Awards. The first was to encourage better reporting of social, economic and environmental performance by corporations and organizations in the U.S. and Canada. The second goal: to reward best practices and provide guidance to others. Thirdly, organizers wanted to increase accountability and responsiveness. In other words, the awards aim to encourage and reward transparency rather than evaluate performance.

CERES and ACCA recently announced the winners of the most recent awards program, given to reports on year 2002 performance that were published in 2003. Of the 48 reports submitted, the eight-person judges panel chose five to receive awards. Expressing appreciation for the substantial efforts of all the entrants that prepared and submitted reports, judges commented on some of the noteworthy features of this year’s submissions. Uppermost were the organizational improvements, such as the use of summaries and indices that enable readers to easily grasp the content. With materiality emerging as a key issue, the judges recommend that “reporters prioritize the issues most relevant and material to their business, rather than use the report to ‘data dump’ and overload users with non-significant information.” Innovative reporting approaches and the increased use of the internet as a means of stakeholder engagement were praised.

In light of recent corporate scandals and with increased shareholder activism, the judges also hope that stronger links between corporate governance and sustainability issues will become standard, as well as better disclosure of public policy issues and the increased use of verification statements.

Best Sustainability Report: Suncor Energy Inc.

Suncor is a Canadian integrated energy company whose core business is meeting consumer demand for hydrocarbon energy. It is strategically focused on developing one of the world’s largest petroleum basins—Canada’s Athabasca oil sands—and in 1967 made history by producing the world’s first commercial barrel of synthetic crude oil from oil sands. It continues to explore new resources and technologies in its vision of being a unique and sustainable energy company.

For the 2003 report on sustainability, Suncor’s auditors reviewed performance data in 12 categories, nearly twice as many as were audited in 2001. In addition, Suncor asked its auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, to provide them feedback on areas of strength and opportunities of improvement in sustainability performance, monitoring and reporting processes.

The judges commended Suncor’s submission as an excellent example of sustainability reporting prepared in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines, the first Canadian company to do so, for its uniqueness in providing systemic indicators and the inclusion of absolute and normalized data, presented clearly, with five or more years of data for many of the indicators.

Rick George, Suncor’s president and CEO, states that, “To reach any goal you need a strong sense of where you’re going. Suncor’s stakeholders are the compass that keeps us moving in the right direction—toward our vision of becoming a sustainable energy company. Their experience and insights have shaped our organization’s culture, influenced our decisions and helped set the course for our existing business and future growth. We recognize that sustainability is about earning stakeholder consent to operate and grow our business. By communicating openly and honestly and engaging their interest, we are more likely to find mutually beneficial solutions to difficult challenges.”

Best Environmental Report: Dell, Inc.

Entitled “Creating a Model for Sustainability,” Dell’s environmental report begins with a substantive message from CEO Michael Dell and president Kevin Rollins describing the company’s environmental stewardship. “Dell’s mission,” they relate, “is to fully integrate environmental stewardship into our business of providing quality products, best-in-class services and the best customer experience at the best value.” As the first U.S. computer company to initiate global performance recycling goals, Dell has proven its commitment to this pledge.

The Dell Recycling Consumer Program nicely details end-of-life strategies and helps establish Dell’s leadership in dealing with electronic waste. Dell has also included information on its corporate philosophy, known as “The Soul of Dell,” which: defines the kind of company it is and aspires to become; serves as a guide for its actions around the world; and, ultimately, forms the basis of its “winning culture.”

Judges praised the use of an innovative structure for reporting based on four key stages of a product’s life cycle: concept and design, manufacturing and operations, the customer ownership experience and the end-of-product life. The inclusion of GRI approaches were also noted as well as stakeholder engagement activities.

Best First-Time Report: Kinko’s, Inc.
Kinko’s 2002 Sustainability Report is, not surprisingly, the most graphically handsome of all the winners. Its centerfold is a clearly articulated ecological footprint of the flow of natural, human and financial capital at Kinko’s: seven million square feet of real estate, nearly 19,000 U.S. employees, 36,000+ computers, monitors and scanners, more than 18,000 copiers and printers and more than 1,000 company vehicles.

Commitment from the top is expressed by president and CEO Gary Kusin as “careful, long-term decision-making that generates economic, social and environmental value today, while ensuring access to these same values for future generations. The report,” he continues, “also examines the challenges that lie ahead if we are to become a truly sustainable company and drive value to the triple bottom line of people, profits and the planet.”

The judges liked the excellent graphics and text which augments technical performance data with “accessible” metrics to show energy saving or waste reduction and measures and uses innovative normalization factors to examine trends. They characterized the report as a pioneering effort by a retail services company.

Commendation for Sustainability Reporting: Ford Motor Co.
The first page of Ford’s 2002 Corporate Citizenship Report includes this 1926 statement from Henry Ford: “Business must be run at a profit, else it will die. But when anyone attempts to run a business solely for profit and thinks not at all of the service to the community, then also the business must die, for it no longer has a reason for existence.” This is followed by Bill Ford’s 2003 version of the same corporate value. “We are committed to building great cars and trucks, and passing along a stronger business and a better world to future generations.”

On its 100th anniversary, Ford’s report is organized around the company’s seven business principles keyed to a color associated with each principle, making the document extremely readable. The business principles and how Ford will use them to move toward sustainability will guide decisions and actions globally. As a whole they set the standards by which Ford judges itself and by which it hopes to be judged by others.

The CERES/ACCA panel of judges praised the use of the business principles and how they are linked to sustainability performance and stakeholder engagement as well as the extensive coverage of product impacts. The straightforward discussion of progress made toward meeting climate change commitments and the successful use of the Internet to provide supplemental text and data were also singled out.

Commendation for Innovative Reporting: Dofasco, Inc.

Dofasco, not as well known as the other winners, is a significant force in the North American steel industry. For the third year running, this Canadian company has integrated its sustainability report with its annual report, providing, as the judges stated, substantial financial and sustainability performance information in an effective format. The report is supplemented by an excellent newsprint summary that is distributed in newspapers where Dofasco operates.

As they did with most of the other winners, the judges noted the presence of a message by the CEO that addresses progress and challenges. The statement from Dofasco’s president and COO, Don Pether, along with the outgoing chairman and CEO John Mayberry, conveys the company’s philosophy. “Dofasco strives to practice the principles of sustainability in the broadest sense, by enlisting every company stakeholder—our employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers and host communities—in our ongoing prosperity. They know that we will deliver, because they know who we are, where we come from and what we stand for.”

The judges also commended Dofasco’s stakeholder focus as exemplified in an open letter from key constituents who previewed the report and found that the report “accurately presents useful data and reflects the company’s challenges and successes from the environmental and social perspectives.”


For more information about the awards, and to download copies of the winning reports, visit: www.ceres.org/our_work/2003_repawards.htm.


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