Transform your sustainability reporting to a tool for a positive future

Let's talk about how to transform reporting from a burden into a tool to build a better future. Our earlier posts zoomed in on materiality, but in the end, it's all about creating that better future. Here's our take on how to get more out of your reporting efforts. Just in time for the people in the midst of planning the next sustainability reporting cycle for their organization.

Every year, the reporting cycle returns and, every year, it turns out to be a lot of work. So it should raise questions around whether it’s worth the investment. Does the report itself add value to the company’s strategy and the sustainability efforts for a better future? Does it serve a strategic purpose beyond compliance with regulations and the accountability expectations of our stakeholders? For a strictly “by-the-book” type of reporting process, the answer to these questions is probably no.

Why? First, sustainability reporting suffers from a strange dichotomy. While sustainability is all about the future and long-term thinking, most corporate reporting is all about the past and has a horizon of just one year. Second, most companies do not use the reporting process to really connect the present performance to the future they to build and be part of. With our tips below, you can overcome this dichotomy and transform the reporting process into a powerful tool. So here we go!

Report the past in the context of the future

Start from the world you want in the future! In what kind of world does the company want to operate five to ten years from now? Instead of only looking back, we strongly recommend starting your sustainability report from the long-term vision and mission of the company. The report then gives an account of where the company is on your envisioned path

What does your company have to do to achieve that vision? How are your efforts to get there evolving? When you start from the vision and these questions, you report in the context of the future. This is a much more useful perspective for the company and for the report readers.

Focus on what's material for the future

Take your materiality analysis beyond the report! Most reporting frameworks include a so-called materiality analysis to identify the sustainability topics to be included in the report. The “by the book” analysis is mostly about what stakeholders want to know or what the company considers key risks, based on past performance and fears for the future.

To raise sustainability to a higher level, go beyond and ask: “what are the key topics we need to manage strategically to create value for the company and society?” Involve senior management in this analysis. Not only will the materiality analysis then inform the sustainability report content, but it will also provoke a strategic discussion and add a new perspective on what matters. That's the moment for sustainability (reporting) to enter to the board room.

Focus on what's material for the future

Involve your stakeholders in value creation! Stakeholders are vital to really create value for the company and society, so don't just engage them for selecting material topics for the sustainability report (as most reporting guidance recommends). Again, frame this step in the reporting cycle at a strategic level rather than the limited scope of reporting. And then continue the conversation from there.

Don’t limit the role of stakeholders to helping you choose your material topics. Really listen to what matters to them, what their goals are and jointly explore the world you want to build and the path you envision to get there. Only then can you find opportunities to collaborate and co-create on joint goals to make both your company and society stronger.

With these tips, we trust you can make your report a tool for positive change in the future, rather than just a report on positive change in the past. Let us know which of the tips you found most useful!

This blog post is part of a series on sustainability reporting and materiality. It is co-authored by Marjolein Baghuis of The Terrace and Nelmara Arbex of Arbex & Company. At GRI, they worked together on the creation and stakeholder engagement around GRI’s G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. They now collaborate to support companies with strategic sustainability challenges, materiality analysis, and communications.


Developing roadmaps for reporting - for positive change

On June 22 and September 28, 2017, The Terrace held a workshop on sustainability reporting for companies just starting on their reporting journey and those eager to take their reporting to a higher level. Here are some of the key learnings from the workshop.

Start from why

We kicked off the workshop with a brainstorm on the reasons to publish a sustainability report. The participants came up with many: engaging stakeholders like clients, suppliers, and NGOs; having something tangible to prove what we claim to be doing; measuring and communicating our impact; accountability; informing and influencing employees to deliver on our sustainability strategy and more. Some are more internally focused, others are more externally oriented. Some relate to managing risks, others to identifying opportunities.

Make the complex simple

At the start of the workshop, we provided all participants an empty template for the reporting process. Using interactive exercises and group discussions, we jointly walked through the various steps in the reporting process. Here are some of the key questions we answered in the course of the workshop.

Prepare: Who's on the team? What are the tasks and timings? what budget is available? What are your initial ideas on topics to include in the report?

Engage: Which stakeholders are impacted by how you do business, and vice versa, which impact your business success? How can you engage with them effectively to understand their issues?

Focus: What are the material (or important) topics to include in your report (and in your strategy of course)? How does the prioritization of these topics compare for senior management versus the stakeholders' interests? What are the targets and measures for each of the material topics? And how will you achieve these targets?

Collect: Which sources are available to collect the information for your report? Who needs to be involved? And when do they need to deliver the information? Is it realistic to get this all ready in time for the first report?

Report: What are the key building blocks for your report content? How can you best structure this for legibility and engagement? Who will write, edit, check the report content?

At each step along the way, the workshop participants filled in parts of their roadmap.

Show the positive side of business

We closed the workshop with a brainstorm on how to make the best use of the report once it's done. All agreed that reports and their content are currently underutilized in communications. Besides sharing the report in its entirety with stakeholders and the press, the brainstorm also generated ideas like sharing parts of the report on the website or in social media, tailoring the content to engage different teams internally, training sales reps to use the report in sales calls, and - our favorite - throwing a party to launch it.

Don't be afraid

This advice came back again and again throughout the workshop. Be honest with yourself and your stakeholders and therefore also share things that are not going so well. Of course always in combination with your learnings and next steps. Or perhaps there are material topics you cannot yet measure. Again, signal that you understand this is a material topic, combined with how you will address and measure it in the coming year. A balanced, honest report that goes beyond the good news show is so much more credible! And don't be afraid to ask for help in the reporting process. A reporting consultant can add expertise and extra capacity to your reporting team at every step of the reporting journey.

At the end of the reporting workshop, the participants were certainly less afraid to get started on their (next) reporting journey. We closed the workshop by toasting to the personalized, actionable reporting roadmaps which they had each created during the workshop!

Interested in how The Terrace can support your sustainability journey? Please contact Marjolein or join one of our future workshops. The next sustainability reporting workshop will most likely take place in September 2017. Interested to join? Please let us know by sending an email to hello@theterrace.nl. We look forward to welcoming you in a future workshop!


Shared learning and action to reduce plastic waste

On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, The Terrace hosted a diverse group of people to talk about plastic waste and the circular economy. The evening kicked off with an interview with Leontine Gast, founder of The Terrace, followed by a roundtable discussion on plastic waste in our lives, led by Nelmara Arbex, CEO of Arbex & Company.

The past and future of plastic

Leontine Gast is an expert on bringing purpose to business. At this event, she was interviewed by her colleague Marjolein Baghuis. Leontine has worked in sustainability for over two decades, including ten years as the founder and managing director of The Terrace, the agency for positive change. She has contributed to a more circular economy through her work with companies and other types of organizations. Her top tips from that experience regarding plastic waste target both users and producers of products that contain plastics. Consumers need to be much more aware; once they really understand what they are buying, they will make different choices. Producers need to continue to pioneer solutions and share their learnings. Not just solutions related to waste streams, but also as early as product design; i.e. with design for disassembly such as Ahrend’s vision on office furniture. For the years ahead, one of Leontine's dreams is that we’ll find a way to consume and produce less stuff – and better stuff – including a reduction in the amount of plastic we create. Other dreams include the transition to renewable energy and a switch to a more plant-based diet.

Sharing issues and questions on plastic waste

After the interview, Nelmara Arbex led a roundtable discussion on plastic in our lives. We all agreed that there is a role for plastic is our lives (to protect food, to store cosmetics, etc), but that its use had really gotten out of hand. For all of us, our awareness of the plastic problem started with an eye-opening moment. Bananas individually wrapped in plastic, bottled water in countries with excellent tap water, plastic littered beaches, a shampoo bottle in the middle of the jungle. But also by simply separating plastic from the other household waste, and being shocked that this was more than half of our waste. We shared our ways to avoid plastic waste as much as possible, such as:

  • Bring your own bags to the supermarket, even for fresh produce;
  • Carry your own reusable water bottle and coffee mug;
  • Making more food and other household items from scratch;
  • Collecting plastic waste separately;
  • Influencing peers to start recycling plastic.

We also shared the many questions we had regarding plastic. For some we found answers (in italics), others remain unanswered, such as:

  • Can biodegradable plastics be recycled with other plastics? No, please put them with your organic waste.
  • How much plastic is recycled in our city (Amsterdam) and what actually happens to it? Amsterdam's citizens collect only 8% of plastics separately. After sorting, cleaning, and shredding, recycled plastic are turned into new products like fleece sweaters, toys, furniture, and pipes.
  • Why are the ingredients for food and clothing spelled out in detail, but those for packaging nowhere to be found?
  • Where can I buy groceries without superfluous plastic packaging?
  • How to balance food waste with plastic packaging to keep it fresh longer?

Supporting behaviour change beyond rules and regulations

We also wondered what kind of regulation exists on packaging. New EU legislation is on its way, but we also realized that rules and rational information alone will not change our behavior. We need to appeal to emotions, feelings, and instincts in people to help drive change. Some of our recommendations include:

  • Teach sustainability as a topic in school at every level;
  • Make it easy and practical for consumers, retailers, and manufacturers to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics, potentially through interactive apps to support recycling or to help you find places to shop with less packaging;
  • Label products not only with calories and food content but also with a waste indicator to make people aware;
  • Leverage emotional storytelling on plastic waste to generate more awareness;
  • Ask CEOs to live without plastic for a week and to share their learnings publically;
  • Involve celebrities to make it aspirational to turn your back on today’s throwaway culture.

It was great to meet like-minded people at this event. Thank you for your active participation in the discussion Jacobien Crol, Nierika Hamaekers,  Frank Kohl, Sari Kuvaja, James Rowbotham, Kajsa Rosenblad, and Tal Ullmann. All with a strong belief that we can have an impact, each with a strong personal motivation to create positive change!

This blog was written by Marjolein Baghuis to share the outcome of the roundtable discussion on the OpenIDEO platform. It also appears on the website of Changeincontext.com. 


Join the OpenIDEO plastics circular design challenge on May 23!

Love them or hate them, plastics are everywhere around us. In fact, demand for plastics is expected to double in the next 20 years. Yet our plastics system is broken. Most plastic items are used only once before being discarded. Only 14% is recycled, meaning a loss of USD 80-120 billion per year to the global economy. One-third of all plastic packaging escapes collection systems and ends up – inadvertently or not – as litter in the environment.

If nothing changes, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050.

So, how do we fix this? If we want to free our oceans from plastics, we have to fundamentally rethink the way we make and use plastic items so that they don’t become waste in the first place. That’s why we are inviting you as citizens, consumers, designers, scientists, entrepreneurs to find solutions that keep plastics in the economy and out of the ocean.

"Join us on Tuesday, May 23 from 5 to 7 pm at The Terrace offices in Amsterdam to explore how to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics in our personal - and professional - lives."

Around 5:30 pm, Leontine Gast, founder and managing partner of The Terrace, will kick off the event, showcasing some of the circular economy projects in which she has been involved.

We will then continue with a more personal exploration around the plastic in your life. How much plastic waste do you generate per day? How much of it are you able to reuse, recycle or upcycle? Plastic is collected separately in most of the Netherlands, but not even 50% of plastic is recycled. Why do you think that is? When you confirm that you're joining us, we'll send you a plastic waste diary to keep for a few days ahead of the event.

Nelmara Arbex (Arbex & Company) and Marjolein Baghuis (The Terrace) will facilitate the dialogue and discussion around plastics in an energizing way. At the end of the session, as a group, we'll create something to share with other people participating in this circular design challenge around the world.

 

Sign up and we'll see you there!

Sign up by sending an email to hello@theterrace.nl, so we can send you the plastic waste diary and more details. And ensure that we have plenty of drinks and snacks! We look forward to welcoming you at WG Plein 153-156, Amsterdam.

This event is a voluntary contribution to OpenIDEO, IDEO's open innovation portfolio, empowering people to design solutions to the world's toughest challenges, and working with partners around the world to bring these solutions to life. From May 18 - May 28, people around the world will be designing experiences that reimagine how we get products to people without creating plastic waste. 


In search of purpose for Fairphone: the power of purpose for brands

To really connect with consumers, brands can no longer present a facade and sell. To thrive, brands need to create an emotional connection with people, stemming from a clear brand purpose. A purpose that addresses a real societal issue and that strives to create a movement to resolve this issue. In May 2017, we organized an event about purpose marketing at Fairphone, a social enterprise that makes the world’s first ethical, modular smartphone. The event was organized by the Nyenrode Business University Alumni Circle for Sustainability, in collaboration with the Alumni Circle for Marketing & Digital. Here are some of the key outtakes from the event on purpose marketing.

Creating a fair phone isn't easy

Lina Ruiz, Fairphone's strategic partnerships and events manager, kicked off with an introduction to Fairphone's mission: making a positive impact in how phones are made, used and recycled. Interestingly, she used a video by Milton Friedman  to explain the complexity of supply chains. She then shared Fairphone goal of creating positive social and environmental impact from the beginning to the end of a phone’s life cycle. They do this in four ways.

Fairphone's long-lasting design creates products that last and that are easier to repair. The design helps people understand how to get more years out of the device and move away from the mindset that consumer electronics are semi-disposable objects.

Fairphone traces where the parts come from and therefore creates demand for fair materials that are good for people and planet. One material at a time, Fairphone strives to increase awareness and source better ingredients for their devices.

Fairphone wants to improve working conditions in the electronics sector. With experts, NGOs and other partners, they develop innovative programs to improve worker satisfaction and representation. 

 

To progress towards a circular economy, Fairphone encourages the reuse and recycling of electronics. Withspare parts and recycling programs, they support both consumers and producers. 

The power of purpose for brands

Consumers are increasingly oversaturated with advertising messages. Brands constantly try to sell themselves with beautiful messages, but not all of them are authentic. No wonder the Edelman Trust Barometer shows an implosion of trust in business. At the same time, people look to business to be drivers of change for a better society. From brands, people demand something they can relate to, authenticity and higher ethical standards. The brands that succeed are therefore those that offer shared value for both society and business. That have a purpose that truly connects their business to societal issues in a relevant way. Some companies, like chocolate maker Tony's Chocolonely and transportation company AirHunters, had a clear societal purpose from the start. Tony's wants to abolish slavery in the cocoa industry. Airhunters wants to decrease the carbon footprint and congestion caused by suboptimal transportation. Their brands, therefore, radiate their respective purpose very clearly. Other older and larger companies, like Unilever and Heineken, seem to have veered further from their original purpose but are redefining purpose for their brands with great success. Year on year, Unilever's purpose brands like Dove, Lifebuoy and Ben & Jerry's, outgrow the other brands by 30%.  And Heineken's responsible consumption campaign with DJ Armin van Buren created a global movement of DJs urging people to dance more and drink slowly.

Guiding brands toward purpose

Using the purposeful positioning model developed by The Terrace, the participants then got to work on Fairphone's positioning. The model helps companies and brands find their purpose through an outside-in approach.

1) What are external societal issues that a brand can or should address, such as environmental problems, social issues, latent consumer needs, stakeholder issues and true customer needs?

2) Through the lens of those key issues, how can a brand create shared value? Where are the opportunities for impact or societal value? And how can it create business value in parallel?

3) Who are the people to engage and keep in mind? Through the shared value angle, who are the people that will use the brand? With whom would the brand compete? And which parties are potential collaborators striving for the same societal value?

4) What does the brand really stand for? What are the brand's key benefits, personality, promise and the reasons to believe? This is often more comfortable territory for the marketer.

5) Why is the brand really here? What is the brand's true purpose? The heart of the model brings together the input and perspectives from the previous steps. Once that purpose is distilled and chosen, then go back from the inside out to refine all elements in the model.

Collaboration for positive change

Combining the forces of Nyenrode's sustainability and marketing alumni and their guests, the group came up with various alternate business models. Each stemming from a different angle on the purpose that Fairphone could adopt. Therefore each leading to quite different engagement strategies and tactics. The conclusion of the evening was that there are many opportunities for Fairphone to further focus its purpose and marketing tactics. Even with limited time, the group came up with very actionable ideas, which were gratefully received by the Fairphone team. The other conclusion was that crafting purpose takes more time than the 30 minutes we had available in the context of this workshop - and that is was incredibly inspiring for all involved! Over drinks, the participants continued to talk for hours, sharing how they could put more purpose into their own brands and lives.

A big thank you to Fairphone for hosting this event, to the many people who participated so actively and to the many people involved from the Nyenrode Alumni Circles for Sustainability and Marketing & Digital. Interested in finding out more about purpose marketing, please contact Marjolein.

This blog was originally written by Marjolein Baghuis (@MBaghuis) and Tim Mazajchik (@tmaz85) for the Nyenrode University Alumni website. It has also been posted on the websites of Heartbeat Strategy and Change in Context.


Non-financial reporting: from comply and complain to explore and explain

In the past months, there has been quite some noise about corporate reporting. There's nothing unusual about that, as many companies publish their annual report in the first months of the calendar year. But this year, there seems to be more discussion about non-financial (or sustainability) reporting. Part of this is caused by the new EU Directive on Non-Financial Reporting. But it's also driven by the ever-increasing number of companies seeing true value from integrating sustainability factors into how they assess and report on their performance.

Complying with the EU Directive on Non-Financial Reporting

Assuming that transparency about sustainability topics will lead to better performance, the EU adopted a directive on non-financial reporting. By now, it has been transposed into national legislation in nearly all EU countries. It applies to all listed companies, banks and insurance companies with over 500 employees. As of the 2017 reporting cycle, it requires disclosure on select non-financial topics to provide stakeholders a more complete picture of a company's sustainability approach and performance. So what are the topics to be included? At a minimum, it should cover the company's approach, the risk assessment, as well as the results and key performance indicators regarding:

  • environmental matters;
  • social and employee aspects;
  • respect for human rights;
  • anti-corruption and bribery issues;
  • diversity on boards of directors.

The directive is not very prescriptive in how to report on these topics. If companies cannot (yet) report on these topics, they can simply explain why not.  And companies are free to choose how they structure this information and where they publish it. This can be part of the annual report or in a separate report. Unlike financial reporting, the data does not need to be externally assured. But the accountant does need to check whether the relevant information has been disclosed and whether any of it conflicts with other information provided.

Complaining about the reporting burden

An estimated 6000 European companies fall under this new EU directive. So perhaps you'd expect quite some sighs and complaints. Yet most of these companies already disclose their sustainability efforts on their websites, in separate sustainability reports or integrated into their financial reporting. Does this mean the directive will have no effect? Fortunately not. The voluntary practice on sustainability reporting has yielded positive results so far. But there are also quite some companies that seem to tick the box on sustainability reporting, yet have not truly integrated sustainability into their strategy. They report on what's easy to collect, or on things that at first glance may make them look good. For these companies, meeting the requirements of the EU directive could be a challenge. As they may not yet have policies, targets, and results in the areas listed above, the new legislation does indeed increase their reporting burden.

Exploring the value of integrated thinking

Many of the companies embarking on the transparency journey have found opportunities to improve their impact and their companies in parallel. The companies that benefit most are the ones that really try to understand what their materials topics are. These are the topics to include in their reporting, but more importantly, to focus on in their strategy. In a materiality assessment, a company assesses the impacts - both positive and negative - that their business can have on society at large. From their own perspective, but also through the eyes of their stakeholders.

From this analysis, they begin to understand how the relevant social, environmental and economic factors work together, ideally to create value for shareholders, stakeholders, and society simultaneously.  An in-depth materiality analysis provides the foundation for an integrated strategy with clear focus areas, each with their own goals and action plans. This strategic integration exercise is useful for all companies, not just the ones covered by the EU directive.

Explaining your focus, dilemmas, and results

Once you've chosen the focus for your strategy and reporting, be ready to explain and communicate it. This may include why you've decided not to include some of the topics included in the topics listed above. In your reporting cycle (and most likely elsewhere), get ready to share the achievements from your integrated strategy, yet also be ready to share what dilemmas you've faced and on which topics you've not yet reached your goals. An honest account of your performance will build trust with your external stakeholders and is a great way to engage your internal stakeholders - your employees - to celebrate success and to find better ways to reach your business and sustainability goals.

Interested in finding out what non-financial or sustainability reporting could do for your company or in getting started with sustainability reporting? Find out more in our upcoming reporting workshop on June 22, 2017. Find out more via this link. Does the EU Directive apply to your company and would you like a quick-scan on whether your reporting is compliant with the new EU directive? Please get in touch with Marjolein via marjolein@theterrace.nl.

Written by Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis) for The Terrace, published simultaneously on changeincontext.com. 


The Terrace boosts reporting practice with Marjolein Baghuis

Marjolein is an expert and thought leader on corporate accountability, sustainability reporting and communications. At The Terrace, she will lead the reporting practice and support companies progress reporting from a burden to an inspiring communications opportunity. She will also be involved in sustainable strategy and communications projects.

The Terrace founder Leontine Gast: “We are pleased to add Marjolein's specific knowledge and expertise to our team. Her enthusiasm for positive change fits perfectly with the values of The Terrace. Together, we have all the skills to support companies in their ambitions to deliver positive change”

Through her work for the Global Reporting Initiative, Innate Motion and Change in Context, she has supported companies and people to create clear strategies and reports for positive change. Marjolein is the founder of Change in Context, an online platform for change towards a sustainable economy, which hosts her well-read blog. She also teaches sustainability at Nyenrode Business University. Previously, Marjolein worked for Procter & Gamble, Synovate and Greenpeace.

She is an active board member for the Nyenrode Alumni Circle for Sustainability and the regional Amstelland library. In addition, she serves on the advisory board of eRevalue, a British service provider in the area of ESG/sustainability big data, and speaks regularly at conferences on sustainability, accountability, and reporting.


Can the Netherlands lead the way in how the world eats protein?

Dutch food probably doesn’t conjure up images of very healthy eating. Lots of cheese, stroopwafels, chocolate sprinkles on bread, fried meat-based snacks and fries drowned in mayonnaise. And yet, the Netherlands might just be the country to lead the way to new eating patterns that are healthier for both people and the planet. In the past years, there have been many initiatives by the public and private sector. All working to encourage people to eat healthier with more plant-based protein. But as food patterns are probably the most deeply ingrained of all, this is no easy feat!

The complicated value(s) chain of protein

Did you know that 40% of plants grown in the world are fed to animals? Of the soy grown in the world, that percentage is even higher, 85%. The visual to the right shows the complicated and interconnected food chain for protein. It comes from the Protein Challenge 2040 by Forum for the Future. Simon Billing of Forum for the Future said: “It’s undeniable that protein is an indispensable part of the human diet, but the way we produce and consume it today presents many challenges – both in terms of global consumption patterns as well as their social, environmental and economic impacts.” It’s clear that doing a bit better on food productivity or food waste isn’t going to be enough, we really need to change the way we eat.

For centuries, the Netherlands has been leading in the area of agriculture. Perhaps not Dutch cuisine, but cows, potatoes, and cheese, as well as agricultural expertise, are important export products for the Netherlands. With many interesting initiatives underway, the Netherlands is well-placed to be a catalyst for positive change in the transition to plant-based protein.  Supported by the Dutch government and knowledge partners, a group of forward-thinking food companies joined to form the Green Protein Alliance, a coalition dedicated to progressing the protein transition. In February 2017, they launched the Green Protein Growth Plan with the objective to reduce the animal protein percentage from 63% in 2015 to 50% in 2025.

On the same day, Minister for Agriculture Martijn van Dam launched the New Food Challenge. The goal of this challenge is to increase the number of new healthy products offered in food retailers. Based on plant protein, which is not just better for people, but also better for the planet. The New Food Challenge will invest €1.8 million in product ideas from new and existing companies; ideas driving a change in eating patterns by making plant-based protein more attractive.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has convened a coalition of Dutch companies and NGOs to contribute to the global transition to more plant-based protein. What’s so interesting about this specific CSR-covenant that it is designing this relatively new sector in a sustainable way from the start. First-time-right, as opposed to various other CSR covenants, which have to reshape and redesign existing industries and therefore often raises quite some resistance from the parties with vested interests in the old systems. The international CSR-covenant for plant-based protein is expected to be signed in March 2017.

Changing the way we eat - for health and planet

Great to have so many public and private parties working together, but in the end, will we eat it? Last but not least on the list of interesting institutional initiatives is the Netherlands Nutrition Center. This government-funded institution encourages consumers to develop healthier and more sustainable eating habits and advises the food industry to produce a more sustainable range of food products. In 2015, it overhauled its food advice (the wheel of five). The key change is to reduce the intake of animal products and to include more plant-based protein.

We all know that people won't simply change their eating habits because a government agency tells them that this is better for them. The real challenge, perhaps, is fought on the high street, in the supermarkets. How do you encourage people to try new products that are better for them and the planet? Plant-based protein does not sound too tasty, so we'll have to find other ways. Amsterdam-based market research company Motivaction identified two kinds of shoppers who are more likely to buy plant-based protein products. The conscious quality shoppers want to progress to a more plant-based diet and are quite knowledgeable. To market to them, build on their existing knowledge and inspire them with real stories. The impulsive comfort shoppers are eager to try appealing new products. To market to them, make plant-based foods exciting, luxurious and easy to use. Manufacturers of plant-based protein products must know some of this already. In 2016, the market showed double-digit growth and this is just the beginning!

Top tips to contribute to the protein transition

From the varied initiatives above, it does look like the Netherlands has a reason to be a confident leader in the transition to a more plant-based diet. Here are our top tips to join the movement, wherever you're from!

  • Explain positively how plant-based protein fit into everyone's daily life. For most people, this probably will avoid the words plant-based protein, but rather focus on other benefits like health, flavor, innovation and for some, perhaps, the environment.
  • Convince clearly that plant-based protein is a healthy option for everyone.
  • Share knowledge within the sector to really progress the green protein growth plan
  • Activate together, joining forces with public and private parties, inside and outside the sector - for positive change!

Written by Leontine Gast (@theterraceNL) and Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis) for The Terrace and Changeincontext.com blogs. Mostly inspired by the content of the Green Protein Alliance event held on February 16, 2017. To stay up to date on other events and The Terrace activities, please subscribe to our newsletter. 


Top tips to cut the crap: tips to help you and your organisation improve reporting

In the last decade, transparency and corporate reporting progressed tremendously, allowing society access to performance information that is usually not available in financial reports. Sustainability (or non-financial) reporting enable stakeholders – like investors, regulators, employees, NGOs, communities, partners, etc. – access to information about a company’s social, environmental and economic impacts, directly from the source.

But it’s not all good news from the reporting field, as many sustainability reports still consist of a hundred (or more) pages, difficult to navigate and to extract what matters. Many look just like glossy magazines and some even offer the same shallow content. They often present an overly positive, distorted picture of reality. They risk being considered greenwashing and useless for people intending to use the information to take decisions. Or to evaluate the readiness of an organization’s management to deal with social and environmental issues.

So ... it's time to cut the crap!

High-quality reports are clear, balanced, and focused on key issues. Corporate reports that are difficult to navigate, overly positive and/or unfocused do more damage than good for a company’s reputation. When not clearly showing the efforts, dilemmas, and results in tackling concrete societal issues, such reports just add to the overwhelming amount of useless information that surrounds us nowadays.

The European Union Directive on Non-Financial Reporting requires thousands of companies to start integrating sustainability topics to their annual reporting cycle, from the 2017 report onwards. This is a great opportunity for all involved in corporate reporting to make a step towards better reports. Cutting the crap in reporting helps experienced and new reporters generate more focused reporting. It improves the quality and reduces the cost of reporting - just what you need!

Here are our tips on how to cut the (reporting) crap!

Charming, but irrelevant

Reporting is not a beauty contest. Sustainability reporting standards, such as those provided by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), do not require a specific design or format. These standards offer guidance on how to prepare high-quality content. Well-organized, clear information is what really counts. If in addition, you want to make it look pretty and the visuals support clarity and navigation, that’s great. But well-structured, relevant content comes first. Always.

Random and unfocused

Don’t get distracted! Create focus through materiality analysis, an important step in the process to create a high-quality sustainability report. It helps to define the topics to focus on to sustain the company’s future in connection to society’s needs. These topics are selected by combining management’s strategic vision with inputs from strategic stakeholders’ representatives like employees, clients, regulators, and communities.

If done well, the analysis generates a focused, short list of topics that expresses the issues of high concern for society directly related to the strategy and core business activities. Once you have your material topics list, you are ready to think about which indicators (and other disclosures) best help you to tell your report readers what the organization is striving for and achieving on these topics. That’s it! These topics are the only ones you need to include in your report.

Annoyingly abundant

Don’t add extra information. Basic details about the organization – such as company size, the number of employees, markets where it operates, the location of the headquarters - as well as indicators related to material topics have to be included. Nothing more, nothing less.

Check the list of basic information to be disclosed, find the information required, organize it and present it in the clearest way you can. No tricks, no misleading. And if you can’t report on a required disclosure for some reason, explain why not. It’s really that simple.

Don’t add unnecessary information, even if it makes the organization look good. A report needs to balanced; the challenges and dilemmas should not be buried in strategically irrelevant content. Excess of information – even when presented in a beautiful way – can be quite detrimental to your reputation.

Poorly planned and costly

Gathering high-quality information isn’t cheap. Financial and human resources are needed to determine the units, the boundaries, the process, as well as for the systems for actual collection, aggregation, checks, approvals, and analysis of the data.

Preparing a good roadmap of what exactly has to be reported not only increases the quality of the report but also helps you make the best use of your valuable resources. Define a clear owner for the reporting process, if necessary supported by experienced outside professionals. Such as people with specific expertise on reporting, sustainability communications, etc. Good planning and ‘cutting the crap’ reduces the costs even more in case you’re involving an external service provider to assure the sustainability content of your report.

These tips can help you and your organisation improve reporting - and reduce costs - by progressing from:

  • Charming to clear
  • Random to relevant
  • Abundant to accurate
  • Poorly planned to professional

In times like these, when critical, well-informed decisions are needed, we can’t let useful information go to waste. Don’t bury your company’s impact and performance on key topics in the cacophony of useless information that surrounds us every day.

Join our campaign to cut the crap!

This blog is co-authored by Marjolein Baghuis of The Terrace and Nelmara Arbex of Arbex & Company. It also appeared on www.changeincontext.com and www.arbexandcompany.com


Have a bath before you open your kimono: sustainability reporting

Is your company ready to open its kimono? In 2010, South African corporate governance expert Mervyn King made the audience laugh at the GRI conference. "If you're going to open your kimono, you better have a bath first." It's actually a great analogy for sustainability reporting and performance. And for companies with more than 500 employees in the EU, it's more timely than ever.

EU directive on non-financial reporting

As of 2018, many European companies with over 500 employees will have to open their kimonos. They will have to publish their 2017 performance on select non-financial topics. The European Union adopted the Directive on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information. And the EU member states have transposed the directive into national law. Therefore, many companies will publish their sustainability performance for the first time in 2018, covering 2017. According to KPMG research, 74% of the largest companies in Europe already publish a sustainability report or integrate non-financial performance in their annual reporting cycle. But thousands of additional companies will have to start reporting when this new directive takes force.  

Time to have a bath!

green-bathFor those companies new to reporting on their sustainability performance, this is the perfect time to create - or update - your sustainability strategy. Or better yet, (further) integrate sustainability into your overall strategy. The EU directive requires reporting on "as a minimum, environmental, social and employee matters, respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery matters". It all starts with a thorough analysis to focus your strategy for the years ahead and your action plans for 2017. How do these topics relate to your business future? And how do your stakeholders view this? Are there other societal issues that are relevant to include in your strategy and reporting?

For some companies affected by the EU directive, this bath is just a nice-to-have, as they already have a strategy in place, are making progress and "just" need to take the extra step to start reporting. For others, the bath is a need-to-have to get going with sustainability and start the journey in 2017. So there's real progress to share when they have to open their kimonos in 2018.