I just read this great post by Elaine Cohen in her blog, csr-reporting, titled 12 CSR Report Resolutions for 2011, it begins: “It’s resolution time! If I were a CSR Report, these would be my resolutions for 2011.” (I have a special fondness for “Get along well with my online step-sister!”)
For me, CSR reporting definitely falls in the ‘un-fun’ category of my work load. So I got a chuckle out of all the foibles the post pokes fun at (and frankly, there just aren’t that many inside jokes in the environmental space). When it comes to CSR reporting, awareness of these failings seems to be high, yet so little changes. [With one exception–I thought Aspen Skiing Company’s 2010 report rocked. If you haven’t seen it, definitely worth a visit.] But I digress.
This one resolution really stuck out for me:
Don’t talk to annual reports.
Look, until this integrated report thing kicks in, I don’t want to have anything to do with annual reports. All you can find in them is money, profits, balance sheets, money, money, money.. as if that was the most important thing in the world. My audience is of a different quality.
The questions at the core of the resolution is where CSR data belongs. I should clarify that I’m thinking of environmental performance specifically, not the many other kinds of programs. This issue of money vs. environment is a recurring theme in my interactions at work. Admittedly it is probably reinforced by the fact that I work in financial services. Still, it can be tiresome.
There seems to be a wide-spread assumption that money and the environment are implicitly dichotomous. As the resolution states, “My audience is of a different quality.” But in my opinion–at least in its current form–this mindset is precisely what holds us back from making a real breakthrough.
Money unto itself is not a bad thing. Nor are annual reports for that matter. And yes, full disclosure, I think environmental data should be included in the latter precisely because it speaks to the thoroughness of a company’s risk management and continuity of business practices. That’s information I would want to know if I’m considering a significant investment.
Having migrated from Academia to the non-profit sector to corporate, I’ve listened on more than one occasion to the ‘tsk tsks’ as people imply my transition equates to ‘selling out.’ It’s a precept entirely based on the concept that money is bad. But really, how many ‘do-gooders’ do you know who would turn down a multi-million dollar lottery winning? My transition path outlines the course of discovery of where I believe real power sits. And it’s not in the universities, government or not-for-profits.
I’ve chosen to work in a place where there is money enough to fund viable projects and where the impact of my work is real, significant and measurable. And no, I’m not going to be able to push through a project without a reasonable business case. I’m okay with that though. The basic norms of our society have been established. The mechanisms that drive our economy are in place. And I’m willing to work within those frames if it means I will have the influence and reach to drive a change for the better.