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Thoughtfully mechanical

By Elaine Cohen (BeyondBusiness) on January 16, 2009 at 1:35pm.

One-line summary: By the book, perfectly perfect, contextual , sleek, appealing design and broadly credible. But lacks passion. A thoughtfully mechanical report.

Content:

Great. Open up the PDF and there to greet you after the CEO blurb (I tend to skip this bit as it never really offers anything meaningful, this report is no exception) and right there on page 3, one of my favorite sights: a MATERIALITY MATRIX. Well done for Allianz for including this in their 7th report, a demonstration of the evolutionary understanding of reporting. It's a little top-line and rather generic, not specific enough to the Allianz core business, but it's good. Covers climate change, demographic change, terrorism and investing in employees as some of the key things to watch. So let's see how these things have been covered in the report.

Take this quote on page 15: " 40% of all damages that Allianz now pays out are due to natural catastrophes. " What a compelling reason for Allianz to support sustainable development (though it would have been nice to hear what % this was, say 10 years ago, for perspective). Allianz reports a comprehensive approach to climate change and more importantly, lists the core products and services that Allianz offers to clients. Seems good. Beyond a mention of terrorism and AML (anti-money-laundering for the non-initiated), I didn’t see much reference to this high-material topic. But microinsurance, now there is a brilliant social business concept which Allianz has invested heavily in developing in highly material emerging and developing markets, reaching around 1 million policy holders. A social growth business for Allianz.  Sounds leading edge to me. Demographic changes mean the need to plan for old age, say Allianz, and their product portfolio has been developed to incentivise young people to invest in their future, and their Talent Management program geared towards managing the impacts of an ageing workforce. Good reporting of their response to a material issue.

There is enough, but not more than enough, data in the Allianz report, and also a lot of contextual data ("Our average lifespan has increased from 45 to 65 in the second half of the 20th century", "By 2030, it's estimated that there will be a shortage of 20 million people of working age in Europe"). Helps us laypeople understand why Allianz places strategic focus on reported issues.

Communication:

This is a well structured report, short on generalities but providing useful context.  It follows a materiality-based flow, with goals and performance right up there at the beginning, thereby enabling an overall sense of where Allianz is before you get into too much detail. The contents page is minimal, so you have to delve into the report to find a particular piece of data. A bonus in this report is page 24, which provides data against an albeit limited number of key performance indicators annually 2004 – 2007. This gives a good understanding of the progress this company has made over this 4 year period and represents best practice for transparency and context. More data is available on the Allianz website and the report contains many web-references. There is a linked index running through the PDF report which assists navigation. Nice touch. They thought about us readers. 

Credibility:

This is a credible report, as far as it goes. There is strong evidence of sustainable practices in core areas of the business. The thing that puzzled me is the lack of an assurance statement. Although the report is B level (without assurance),  Allianz states that environmental data and group management has been assured. I scoured the report and the website for an assurance statement. Guess it must be a secret.  I would have welcomed a little more about where Allianz's materiality matrix comes from – what level of stakeholder dialogue did they engage in and what was important to whom. Nothing about this in the report.  Another secret. The other thing I find marginally disturbing about this report is its focus on positive impacts. Where Allianz has generated a positive impact, surprise surprise, it's in the report. And, fair to say, it's credible. But what about the other bits? The bits that explain why there is only 29% of women in middle and senior management, why business travel per employee has increased every year since 2004, why CO2 emissions per employee are higher today than they were in 2004 and 2006 (2005 was a real Co2 high). It's fine to write 6 pages on environmental management and climate change, but why is the Allianz workforce travelling and emitting more than ever ? Hmm?

Recommendations:

1. Disclose the assurance statement
2. Provide a commentary on less positive data

Elaine Cohen is the Joint CEO of BeyondBusiness Ltd, www.b-yond.biz, a leading CSR reporting and consulting firm in Israel,  specializing in a wide range of consulting services for the development of social and environmental responsibility of businesses.