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Basically charming

By Elaine Cohen (BeyondBusiness) on January 03, 2009 at 4:11pm.

One-line summary: Charming report – lots of positive but not enough impact – good basic first report

Content:

A  first GRI C report from imc2. I love first reports. There's something about first reports that gives you the sense of starting to gain momentum. And this report from icm2 is no exception. Quite charming. Quite a sense of revelation and  purpose. However, I often find that first reports fall just a little short of transparency.  And this report from icm2 follows the pattern. But let's face it, this is a 500 employee business turning over less than $100 million. This first report is a massive leap forward. Sincerely, well done imc2.

An example would be the field of workplace impacts: Here is an area where I feel imc2 could have been a little bolder, despite their ‘firstness’.  A semi annual employee survey is conducted – and there is a good list of areas which the Company selected to action in response to feedback. Would have been nice to see a number or two. Why would a company choose to produce a positive impact report and leave out all data which confirms their positive impact? Culture club, people advisory committee, positive impact council … great programs but no data, which leaves me feeling that imc2 aren't really doing themselves justice in this report. Another example: community. Nice list of community involvement programs but how many of imc2's 523 employees are actually involved? How many hours? Even an estimate at this stage would have been welcome. What was the company's cash investment in these programs? No data. Even if a C level report doesn’t require lots of data, I still feel imc2 could have been a teeny weeny bit more explicit. Basic demographic data is well disclosed – including salary ratios - something not all reports manage to deliver.

Finally, positive impact on the environment. Good Carbon footprint data – the main data area in this report. Interesting that after all the company's efforts, emissions per employee were 7.5% higher than prior year. But good to see this reported, even if it isn’t quite a positive impact. Future plans include improved tracking measures and improved performance. I would have liked to see some level of concrete target in some area of environmental performance.  

Communication:

The report has a good structure, a nice, clear overview of progress on page 2, and a good attempt to cover all reporting topics, even if there isn’t all that much to say, like stakeholder engagement (a confession by imc2: "it was limited!") Maybe that's an overstatement  rather than a confession. There is a clear branding approach to CR, reflected throughout the report. Chatty straightforward  style, creates an air of authenticity, plain language. Addresses some core issues like levels of trust in the advertising industry, and high levels of turnover in the business. Overall, a refreshingly pleasant report, reflecting a sound approach, high on motivation but rather heavy on storytelling, light in data in most core sustainability performance areas.  Nice to see the difficulties as well as the successes. It’s a great read, flows, speaks to you, first grade language, my 10 year old can get it.  It describes, expresses both pride and frustration, tell stories, explains the background, but falls short of deep disclosure. It's a C level report which adheres to the bare minimum of disclosure against the GRI indicators. The report has a nice, clean design, well-spaced, appealing.

Credibility:

This report's subtitle could be: "We've seen the light". They have just flipped the on-switch, but they are still wearing shades. A lot of the report is about stuff that has just started or just been dreamed up. imc2 has set itself a challenging agenda for 2008 – which at the publication of this report is concluded – so as we write we would expect that the momentum has been continued strongly.

There is nothing on governance. Even a private company without a Board of Directors has some form of governance. Material issues are not explicitly stated but core issue of trust in marketing is addressed. This report leaves me feeling just a little deflated. Such high and noble objectives – improve relationships, build trust, be transparent, lead the market, change the world. But this report falls just short of transparent disclosure of substantial progress to give confidence that actions will take place over rhetoric. However, you can't help but take to the charm and simplicity of this report and its innovative context – a private online SME marketing business  – I haven’t seen many of those amongst the thousands of annual issues. So this report also leaves me feeling just a little optimistic and hopeful.

Recommendations:

1. Review and consolidate approach to governance and reporting
2. Develop and implement stakeholder dialogue and report on material issues
3. Keep doing it – generate depth in all the new CR activities and report data and outcomes

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.