Monday, December 11, 2017

Speeky Engleesh 3

It's been a while since I posted on the charms of translated Sustainability Reports.  Check out:
Now, here's Speeky Engleesh 3. 

As I have said before, it's the content that counts, and wobblies in translation are not always easy to avoid. I do not judge a Sustainability Report on the quality of its English translation and I am truly appreciative of companies who make the effort to produce their reports in English, enabling me and many others to read them. When I look through the GRI Disclosure Database, I am always so disappointed that so many companies publish only in their home language. Of course, I can't fault them for that, really, but, as a geek, I'd like to be able to read those reports too. For example, in one sector, the Household and Personal Products sector, of 32 reports published in 2017 in the database, just 50% are standalone sustainability reports in English. In the Automotive sector, I counted 69 2017-published reports in the database of which just 26 (38%) are standalone sustainability reports in English.

Translation oddities often lend a certain charm to a report and they make me smile. That's all part of what makes reporting so sticky for us reporting geeks. The reporting world would be far less fun if every Sustainability Report were translated perfectly. 

In sharing some of my reporting-chuckle-moments this time around, I asked myself whether it was fair or proper to name the companies. After all, it's only a translation, right?  It's not substance. Local stakeholders, who read reports in their local language, are not distracted by poor English. I answered myself that, well, in the spirit of the CSR Reporting blog's mission to help improve reporting, and in line with my practice of referencing reports for all sorts of reasons, there's no reason not to name names in this post. Even the finishing touches of translation and design are part of the reporting process. Presentation, while not substance, plays an important role. But, in the end, I decided not to name the names of the eight reports the quotes below are drawn from - from different countries and sectors. After all, providing a translation is going the extra mile and I am grateful to companies who do. Still, maybe you can identify one of the quotes below from your report and you can work it out. Maybe you know that your report is translated and you should take another look. If you really want to know, you can always drop me a line. Either way, although I love a chuckle, I would counsel companies who translate their reports to invest in professional proofing in English. Perhaps it's a potential customer who's reading it. Or worse, a reporting geek!

Here is my chuckle-pick from recent reports. Company names and other identifiers redacted.

"The Company has a gratification practice control system that is built and developed continuously." 

"In 2016, the customer satisfaction survey stood at 82.61%, which is an increase of 4.70% from 78.9% in 2015. This proves that customer service management got better in 2016."

"XXX proceeded in accordance with the sustainable management strategy as well as risk management effectively all the whole supply chain."

"The Company gives priority to the stakeholders by considering the stakeholders."  

"The Company emphasizes to build the anti-corruption mind to management and employees as well as provide the support to its trade partners, allies, and stakeholders."

"The XXX Organisation represents the highest ideals of corporate governance and a rich value system which resonate across each of its entire area of business presence."

"XXX still hold our intention in operating business along with providing social benefits by promoting innovation and developing infrastructure that is prompt for dealing with changing."

"To develop everything to be prosperous, it is necessary to develop from existing foundation. If exiting foundation is poor or unstable, it is difficult to develop further. Accordingly, it is necessary to understand clearly that besides emphasizing on prosperity, it is also necessary to maintain foundation stably without any defect simultaneously."

"The Governance and Nomination Committee is responsible for recruiting directors by establishing Board Skill Matrix in order to consider on necessary skills that are lacked from directors and propose to the Board of Directors for approving."

"In addition, XXX also propvides some models of innovations for the ultimate experience of customers bouderlessly as follows:"

"Our compny has also retold our employees to behave themselves to be consistent with conduct, policies, and practices along with organization’s values fostering."

"XXX considers that employees are the most important foundation of the company to make the company to be successful continuously with outstanding contributions and become acceptable with outstanding knowledge and abilities in building excellent work standards for building and maintaining superior competitive capabilities."

"The company’s approach to achieving a good working climate is to create both a healthy organization and a happy workplace under the business condition requiring improvement of competitive capabilities and more challenging."

"We encourage our employees to thing independently and express their ideas."

"This will help XXX to ensure that employees are happy at work, resulting in a sense of ownership, well wishing thoughts and loyalty."

"During the year 2016, there were no criticalities emerged from the activities of stakeholder engagement."

"Our growth and sustainability and, therefore, our ability to meet our commitments to our stakeholder, are conditioned by the customer’s satisfaction"

"To reduce the so-called "abnormal" behaviour among the employees we have adopted a disciplinary code that defines sanctions in connection with possible violations of company rules on safety." 

"XXX Group assists its employees in the transition from employment to retirement, which sometimes causes problems. Since a few years it also created the “XXX Pensioners Group" to give the opportunity to the retired employees to meet and, together refresh the binding of long working life spent within the company."

"XXX tracks and summaries all international environmental regulations including hazard substances, green marks, environmental labels and so on. Relevant units report the regulatory compliance and response measures on the regularly Steering Committee (SC) meetings."

"Over 60% of our managers were local people in our major operation sites so as to practice the concept of talent localization"

"We provide timely cares and helps for employees, while enhancing our company’s productivity as well as reducing employees’ turnover rate."

"Despite having a lot of difficulties in business activities, XXX still had a certain concern on the community and society by participating in CSR campaigns."

"The above training strategy is proven to be efficient as all the new promoted person-nels are doing their jobs well and gain high appreciation as well as credibility by the clients."

"We improve our design and development ability of the product of which value can be increased and accepted as it meets the needs of the customer by our own design and technology."

"We believe that the company will sustainably grow by the important driving factor which is employees to accomplish the vision and mission targeted. Therefore, the company focuses on developing the employees at every level to be ones who have good moral and improve their skill and knowledge, including professionalism that corresponds to organizational culture to create value for themselves, organization and society as per the master plan of smart people."

"The company has encouraged employees to do good. By committing mercy on every day, monks, by invitation of the monks from the various communities around the factory to rotate around the corpse. And bless the employees It also promotes activities related to the religious maintenance. Both activities are done with external agencies. And the internal activities that the company held regularly. This will result in better staffing. And refine the mind with merit and charity, and also create a good relationship with society and surrounding communities as well."

"The company encourages employees to donate blood to the Red Cross four times a year. Because the XX Red Cross as a center Donate and serve blood. Need large amounts of blood because of the current need for more blood. Resulting from Disasters and accidents This activity demonstrates employee involvement in social responsibility."

"The Company has featured on the creation and development of corporate culture. Because it is the foundation that drives the organization to achieve its vision. And grow sustainably. It is used as a tool to manage and develop people as both good and good."

"In 2016, the Company implemented significant regulatory compliance risks"

And my absolute favorite:

"We promote our employees who are knowledgeable, potential, and smart, and have morals."

On a positive note, I will add that it was much harder for me to find examples of Speeky Engleesh this time around. My last post was in 2011. One of the reports I highlighted then, Ambuja Cement, has an impressive report in English for 2016 that is well written and seems linguistically accurate (after a brief scan).

Chuckles or no chuckles, reporting is always fun!

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 edie Conference on Smarter Sustainability Reporting  in London on 27th February 2018  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Is your report long and boring?

One of the numerous tests I use when I am reading and reviewing sustainability reports is how far into the report I can get before it becomes tedious, boring or generally rather meaningless. Some reports are so full of verbiage before they tell you anything substantive that it rather turns you off and makes the rest of the report hard to digest. This is the problem with looooong reports. No-one has the patience these days to read long waffly explanations of every thought process about every bowel movement of the reporting team. 

Reports today need to be concise: they need to state clearly and quickly the most material impacts of the business and efficiently update us on what has changed over the past year. Companies that maintain an online "policy bank" -  a list of policies and positions on core aspects of sustainability -  save themselves time and space in the annual sustainability report. They also gain reader attention, as we don't exhaust our patience on long diatribes and lose energy before we get to the main course. Let's face it, when you go out for a meal, if the first course is massive, you don't have room to eat the main course, let alone dessert. It's the same way sustainability reports. Your material content is your main course. A light starter provides context and background, and a healthy dessert provides the GRI content index and other references. The main course, your materiality process, topics and performance, is where companies should focus their reporting efforts. You can offer a menu of snacks - sustainability stories, anecdotes and case studies - on your website.

Here's an example of a report I came across while doing some research on the consumer goods sector. Ontex Group is a Belgian-based company listed on Euronext Brussels, employing more than 11,000 people and enjoying sales of almost Euro 2 billion. Ontex is a supplier of disposable personal hygiene products including diapers and pants, pads, tampons and panty liners in more than 110 countries. The Ontex 2016 Sustainability Report is a credible report that focuses on its defined most material impacts of the business.

It's a GRI Standards core report, crafted around SDG priorities, and does its stuff in 44 pages (including 5 pages of GRI Content Index) in an attractive, pleasant and clean design. Ontex provides contextual background on trends that have influenced the selection of material impacts and sustainability strategy.

And presents a materiality matrix

While aligning the report with Sustainable Development Goals

And on the Ontex website, the company discloses specific strategy and policy documents to complement and complete the sustainability picture.

But beware: Concise does not mean skeletal. 

Reports that are 2-page infographics are not reports. Four-page summaries are not reports. If they are not infographics of a concise report, or summaries of a longer report, they are not useful in lieu of a sustainability report. While it is possible to reference a host of other documents where disclosures may be located (and the GRI framework allows this), in practice, the beauty of a sustainability report is that key information is on one place and we don't have to go searching for all the individual elements separately. We want the essence of everything that's material without having to trawl the web, download multiple other documents and search forever for references that all too often are not there anyway. So, up to around 45 pages, for me, is concise enough to deliver a complete story with enough detail and context for me to understand the company's impacts and accountability. If I want supplementary information for interest or deeper understanding of quantitative data, I am happy to get this online, via a policy bank or other downloadable appendix.

I know that many people will consider even 40 pages too long....and there are many reports that are much shorter than that and do a good job. While the quality of reporting should not really be measured in terms of the number of pages, my rule of thumb for something that fits in the space between feeling stuffed and still feeling hungry - sort of nicely satiated - is around 40 pages.

Here's another nice example: Ramboll's 2016 Corporate Repsonsibility Report.

Ramboll is an engineering, design and consultancy company founded in Denmark in 1945. Ramboll employs 13,000 people across the world. This is a 40-page GRI G4 almost-core report that packs a ton of information in a well-structured concise framework, pleasingly designed and easy to read, with no distracting glossies and frills. The GRI Content Index and key KPI tables take up 4 pages.

One of the positive things about this report is that the material impacts are right there up front on page 5, immediately after the CEO statement, making it very clear what we are going to learn about Ramboll in the remaining pages. I like reports that state materiality up front - not only does this help clarify the report context, it also drives credibility. If it's one of the first things a company reports, it must be one of the first things a company thinks. And that's what materiality means. It should never be an afterthought or a summary of what you are doing. Materiality is a guide to what you should be doing.

The remainder of the report is split into two main sections, a format that I particularly favor. The first section is called "Shaping sustainable societies" and it addresses what are broadly the indirect impacts of the company's business - through the projects it advances and the role it takes in shaping the sector and public policy. The second section covers direct impacts, called "Demonstrating our progress", and includes sections on employer of choice, environment, safety and integrity - linking these also to UN Global Compact and SDG priorities.

Ramboll also uses its website to supplement information with policy statements and commitments - here's an example from one of the sections:

While this report could be even more reporting-year focused, with fewer perennial policy statements that could be policy-banked on the website, this report offers comprehensive coverage of material impacts in a concise way.

So, if your report is long, it is almost certainly also boring (at least in parts). It's totally worth reconsidering how you can deploy other ways of getting your content out there and delivering on your transparency obligations without crowding your report with content that causes us to doze off instead of inspiring us to buy in.  Incentivize yourselves. For every page you save, treat yourself a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.

(NB: I have previously written about Liberty Global's last Corporate Responsibility Report - a masterpiece in concise, precision reporting).

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 edie Conference on Smarter Sustainability Reporting  in London on 27th February 2018

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