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  • Fran 3:06 pm on June 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , trust   

    It’s the materiality, stupid 

    The GRI launched the G4 reporting guidelines in style in Amsterdam in May. One Stone was there, and we can confirm that the keyword over the three day conference was ‘materiality’.


    Shorter and smarter
    Addressing the need for shorter, more relevant reports, the G4 Guidelines put materiality at the heart of disclosure. The G4 requires a robust materiality process to identify the Aspects (new GRI speak for ‘issues’) material to the company and its stakeholders. Those that are most material must be reported on. But crucially and radically, those Aspects deemed less material do not require disclosure under G4.

    Be honest: how did you do it?
    The quid pro quo for waving goodbye to huge reports is that all companies must be much more transparent about their materiality decision making process. In a major change since G3, any organisation wishing to report ‘in accordance’ with G4 must disclose the way they identify, validate and prioritise their material Aspects.

    What are Aspects?
    GRI provides a list of Aspects (issues) in established categories (Economic, Environmental and so on). There are 47 Aspects in total and many are familiar, but some, for instance those to do with suppliers, now pop up under several categories.

    Core v Comprehensive
    Having identified their material Aspects, organisations can be ‘in accordance’ with G4 by choosing either Core or Comprehensive reporting. Core reporting is a great entry point for SMEs, allowing them to report on only one indicator per material Aspect identified, whereas Comprehensive reporters must disclose information relevant to all the indicators relating to each of their material Aspects. Thankfully, the old A-C system that encouraged organisations to report rafts of superfluous data has gone.

    Boundaries and the value chain
    Recognising that an organisation’s biggest impacts are often in the value chain, they are required to identify where impacts occur for each material Aspect by describing whether their significance is internal to the organisational boundary or external (eg suppliers or other stakeholders), or both.

    Where’s the hitch?
    Clearly the quality of the report hinges on the robustness of the materiality process, and since this is primitive in many organisations, major questions remain about whether reports will really represent the organisation’s impacts and its sustainability context. It will be up to the organisations themselves, assurance providers and other stakeholders to scrutinise, critique and improve the materiality process. Fertile territory for rating agencies perhaps?

  • Fran 3:48 pm on January 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ecocide, story of stuff, , trust, WEF   

    Is the WEF’s Sustainable Consumption report credible? 

    Last week, The World Economic Forum published a report proposing a leading role for the private sector in scaling sustainable consumption. The document is clever but who, apart from companies, is going to believe it?

    More with Less: Scaling Sustainable Consumption and Resource Efficiency
    does a good job of setting out the challenges and opportunities. It points out that over US$2 trillion in global economic output to 2030 is at stake, and that business-as-usual won’t work in a resource constrained world.

    Business, it says, can play both a leading and an enabling role in scaling sustainable consumption by transforming:
    • Demand through interactions with the consumer
    • Value chains through new business models
    • Rules of the game through public-private partnerships.

    A thrusting and can-do proposal, but one that also suffers from tunnel vision. And without a broader outlook WEF has little chance of wooing partners and building the trust needed to deliver on sustainable consumption goals. The solution? Tackle a few uncomfortable truths head-on:

    1. Credibility. The enormous popularity of Annie Leonard’s critique The Story of Stuff (15 million views and counting) shows that many people see corporates as the perpetrators of unsustainable consumption. So how will businesses persuade consumers, NGOs and governments that they are serious about driving the turnaround?

    2. Laggards. If businesses want a lightly regulated ‘leading and enabling’ role in the transformation to sustainable consumption, they must show how they will manage their own slow-movers and laggards. They are currently way too silent and clubby on this topic. It’s time to break ranks.

    3. Lobbying. Too many companies promote sustainability publicly and then privately lobby governments for short-term economic gain. To be credible, leading companies must fight for sustainable solutions and make loud protests against unsustainable ones. That means standing firm against, for example, irresponsible tar sands exploitation –unanimously condemned as ‘ecocide’ at a mock trial at the UK Supreme Court last year. Are they ready to do that?

    4. More is more. Apart from mentioning Patagonia’s bold ‘don’t buy this jacket’ advert, the report fails to address the idea of how less consumption can be scaled, probably because most companies are just too uncomfortable with the notion. Nothing’s changed then in the 17 years since SustainAbility’s report Who Needs It? triggered similar reactions.

    5. Values. The report’s business case of cost avoidance, cost reduction, revenue growth and revenue protection shows how financial value can be captured in the switch to sustainable consumption. But the values case is absent from the report, even though it urges ‘emotional’ communication with consumers to get them to embrace sustainability. Shame.

  • ChristineNT 6:42 am on March 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Edelman, Japan, , , Tepco, trust   

    In Search of a Positive Side to Japan’s Nuclear Disaster 

    Glued to the daily news as we all are, the question still unanswered following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster is, what is really going on there? How much radiation is leaking and what are the true dangers for the people living and employed in the region, especially those left working at the plant? No one seems able to answer this question. Prime Minister Naoto Kan learned about the first explosion in Reactor 1 a full hour after the fact and since then seemed in some denial about the events.

    While Japan’s preparation and handling of the earthquake and tsunami may be commendable, there is much to be learned from the information management associated with the power plant crisis. Transparency, or lack thereof, comes first to mind. Historically this is not an area where the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has excelled. Given their somewhat imperfect past, (read more about historical cover ups here) it is easy to be suspicious of TEPCO, and man-on-the-street reports indicate Japanese consumers aren’t exactly trusting. Latest Edelman Trust Barometer 2011 figures from the Annual Global Opinion Leaders Study find that just over 50% of Japanese surveyed believe they can trust government to “do what is right,” up from 42% last year. Slightly more consumers, 53%, trust companies to “do what is right,” but interestingly, this figure is down from last year’s 57%. After the events of the last weeks, what will next year’s numbers show?

    Edelman’s study found that what matters most for a corporation’s reputation are “quality, transparency, trust, employee welfare.”  Currently, TEPCO is failing in all of these areas. But TEPCO’s dashed reputation may be positive in more than one way.

    Japan’s disaster has sent many of the other nuclear-powered countries around the world scrambling to review and validate their own safety measures. That can only be positive.

    Nuclear may still have a role to play in the global power mix, but clean energy can’t help but shine brighter in comparison. Perhaps the legacy of Fukushima will be clean power alternatives getting the attention and funding they deserve.

  • Astrid von Schmeling 5:20 pm on July 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 'oil leak', BP, , credibility, language, trust   

    Small people and big intentions 

    Day 80 of the BP oil leak and cyberspace continues to be inundated with thoughtful insights and interesting commentaries. Just take the sentence— ‘We care about the small people’— which has received a permanent place in crisis management textbooks.

    As sustainability strategists and communicators, BP’s blunders and the ensuing public outcry are a powerful reminder to One Stone of the importance of credibility, trust and nuance.  As someone who lives in Sweden, statements made by BP Chair Carl-Henric Svanberg (a Swede) on ‘Small people’ at the steps of the White House also underline how easily misconceptions arise when culture and language confuse intentions.

    Svanberg is a man used to being under pressure and facing media. In all the other times I’ve seen him, he appears comfortable with his command of the English language and is accustomed to doing things his way.  Was it nerves that brought about his unfortunate choice of words and an accent like that of the Muppets’ ‘Swedish Chef’’? Or was it a cheap trick to gain sympathy from a hostile audience?

    Swedes pride themselves on their written and spoken English. And in nine times out of ten they can conduct their business credibly and professionally. But all too often, I’ve encountered people that believe that their ‘Swenglish’ is just as effective as proper English. In fact, many believe that dumbed-down English can be an even more effective communications tool in crucial times. As Svanberg has now learned, there are instances when nuance counts, and where it is not endearing to play the Swenglish card.

    Why bring this up now, one month after Svanberg apologized for his slip in translation? Because BP seems to have finally gotten something right–it put Bob Dudley officially in charge of clean-up efforts a few weeks ago. And on July 1, he made a daring debut on a joint PBS, YouTube and Google production. Broadcast live, “America Speaks to BP,” invited people to pose questions about the BP response. Dudley, a native of Mississippi, started his reply to the first question by naming the beaches, islands and endangered pelican rookeries he’s visited in the past weeks, saying “I see the devastation that is down there.”

    Mixing long-term promises and short-term response, Dudley conveyed a sincere desire to ‘make everyone whole’. But compassion is one thing, action is another, Dudley also emphasized that he had the power and clout to achieve that. Watch this space to see if BP really has turned a corner in building the trust and credibility they so desperately need.

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