Sustainability reporting—also known as corporate citizenship, CSR, ESG, or non-financial reporting—is widely considered a best practice of companies worldwide. The reporting process—and the resulting report—has become essential for strategic decision-making, enabling stronger long-term planning, stakeholder relations, and data-driven insights. With the growing popularity of disclosure, reports are becoming more sophisticated and useful for decision makers and leaders in the company, as well as for external audiences such as investors—who are using the information to make more accurate market evaluations.
All corporate citizenship work is change management; citizenship programs are designed with the express intent of creating meaningful, positive change in our companies and communities. Citizenship professionals are adept at building the case, marshalling (sometimes scarce) resources, and imagining that there could be better education, safer neighborhoods, and a healthier environment than there is now.
The world has never been so small, nor the issues facing it so far-reaching. Last month, the United Nations convened a general assembly to discuss the broad range of issues facing the world, including climate change, health, and security. In his closing speech, Sam Kutesa, President of the UNGA 69 stressed the need for “financial resources, capacity building, and technology development and transfer” from all global leaders and partners.
The notion of “partnership” is central to the corporate citizenship agenda. Partnerships can serve as strong, unifying forces, gathering the complementary skills and inputs of the public sector, the private sector, and civil society in order to tackle complex social and environmental problems. Partnerships draw diverse resources together and, therefore, are a means to get things done that individual organizations cannot achieve alone.
Two key takeaways emerged from a Lead and Learn session with FedEx and their partner the Salvation Army at the 2012 International Corporate Citizenship Conference.
1. Build relationships: Always steward the relationships you have with NGO partners. By listening to their needs first, the company will be better positioned to provide the most useful services and information.
2: Build resilience: Promote resilience and pre-disaster preparedness through programs that build community capacity. By focusing on long-term relief, companies can reduce drop-off and cultivate better, more sustainable customers.
MasterCard is a successful technology company. Grameen is a microfinance and technology provider to the poorest of the poor in hard-to-reach rural areas. What do they have to offer one another? Apparently, quite a lot.
Partnerships are successful when each partner can both provide and derive value in a way that each could not do alone. As Patricia Devereux, group head of MasterCard International's Corporate Philanthropy and Citizenship division, pointed out, there's never enough money to solve the world's problems. What businesses can offer to NGO's are the time and talent of their employees, the technology or products they produce, and the business expertise they possess. The key to maintaining a partnership is directly related to the ability of both partners to extract value from the partnership, and then the ability to connect that value back for the benefit to the business or NGO.