Review of the 2008 Procter & Gamble Sustainability Report

After spending some time over the past few months discussing other Sustainability topics I would now like to add another review of a Sustainability Report. Todays review will be on the Proctor & Gamble 2008 Sustainability Report.
This is the third Sustainability report review I have done so far. Here is the link to all the reviews and an introduction to how I review Sustainability reports.

Titled ‘Designed to innovate…sustainably’ is Proctor & Gamble’s 10th Sustainability Report was published roughly 2 months ago. I will assess the report with the help of my rating system.

But here are some overall comments on the Website and the Report itself before I will move on to the rating system.

General Comments

Placement on the overall website
The sustainability section of the website is very hard to find through the navigation (after looking around for a while I found it in the Company section). I also think that the navigation on the left side is a little awkward and the content is really all over the place in most cases.
The Sustainability Report itself does not seem to be part of the actual website. It seems to be a separate microsite. This is not a good positioning in my opinion. A company should provide a clear navigation for the user to find what they are looking for. But you are not able to find the term „innovating sustainability“ anywhere on the website. This is  misleading and not easy for anyone looking the Sustainability Report.

Good feature – The Sustainability Report Front Page
The large banner is a nice feature and the ability to scroll over links is very use friendly. Interesting structure with Defining, Investing, Managing, Delivering and Leading. I like the approach.

Nice Idea -Strategy and Goals
I like the strategy and goal section. Really useful to see the progress against their targets.

A Good Way to present the P&G Goals – The Report Card
I also like the idea of a Sustainability report card. This is very useful for the user to get an overview of the P&G Sustainability Goals.

So here we with a more detailed report review on the basis of this rating system. I started this rating system to make reports more comparable.

Fabians Sustainability Points System

Reporting Period – 10/10
They report annually. Full marks.

Topics & Clarity – 7/10 points
Well I think they have chosen their topics very well in order to make their enormous product lines somehow fit into topical areas. But the navigation lets it down as it is hard to find what you are looking for right away. Everything seems to be hidden away somehow. Starting with the fact that the user needs to click on “Company” first and then on “Our  Commitment” to get to the relevant sustainability pages.

Reporting Of The Material Issues – 8/10 points
This is done in a good and satisfactory way. Well done.

Reporting On Performance Indicators? – 3/10 points
Well there is some sort of a performance indicator section. And there is the GRI Performance Indicator section. But this is by no means sufficient information for a global company as important as P&G. A lot more could be done there.

Reporting According To The GRI G3? – 4/10 points
P&G only provide information about the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in the PDF Sustainability Report document but not on the website. This is not best practice and does no provide sufficient access to interesting GRI related data for the users.

Reference To Other Parts Of Their Website – 5/10 points
P&G could do more with linking the other parts of the website and connect these parts more with the content of the Sustainability Report. This has been done in some places but not enough in my opinion.

Which Communication Tools Are They Using? – 4/10 points
Not many. There are some parts of the website with a good visualization and random interactivity tools. But P&G could do a lot more in terms of interactivity.

CSR Report Contact: An Actual Contact person or Just An Email Address? – 3/10 points
Here P&G is only providing an email address: This is not enough for one of the largest firms in the world. An stakeholder section with an easy and more direct way to contact P&G would be the ideal solution.

Do They Provide Information What They May Have Omitted? – 2/10 points
No. But they at least they report on how they are doing on some of their targets. That is a start.

Assurance: Has The CSR Review been Assured By An External Auditor? – 1/10 points
P&G have decided to not have the report and its content assured. No external verifier and no checks by the GRI. This is not best practice and devalues the report to a better marketing tool. But they are stating that this is their view. That is why they get one point out of ten here.

Total points for the Proctor & Gamble 2008 Sustainability Report: 47/100 points

Overall Opinion: This report including the website have some good and interesting sides to it but this is does not make this report a good report. I am of the opinion that this report is below average in terms of the sustainability information provided, stakeholder communication tools and the decision to not seek external assurance for their content and data. This on its own devaluates this good effort to nothing more then a marketing tool, unfortunately.

The current State of the Sustainability Movement

Two days ago I participated in a very interesting Skype Conference call with 7 other people from across the globe. The purpose of this call was to exchange thoughts and experiences of current state of the Sustainability movement in the economic crisis. Not a very happy topic but a very interesting one in these challenging times. We had a wide variety of people with different backgrounds on the call but I was the only one from Europe. So I talked about the European perspective of the state of the Sustainability movement at this point in time.

Here is in essence what I had to say about the current situation here in Europe (I only talked about the countries I live(d) in or know a little bit more about:

United Kingdom (Where I currently live)
A much tougher business environment in the UK is forcing companies to cut their Sustainability budgets and postpone/downsize upcoming projects. Time will tell how this will affect the long term Sustainability movement. But the signs are not good.

Germany, Austria, Switzerland (Where most of my clients are from):
This is a different situation to the UK. The economic downturn is not as bad (yet!) and the Sustainability movement as a whole can still be regarded as underdeveloped. This is a situation where companies will, despite this economic downturn, get new Sustainability projects of the ground and aim to  make change happen in their business and stakeholder environment. That is why I am of the opinion that the Sustainability movement is still going to thrive in this part of Europe.

Scandinavia (Where I used to live):
Here we have a different situation again. Scandinavia has long tradition when it comes to Sustainability. That is why I believe that once the first economic problems have been overcome Scandinavia will again be one of the leading regions in Europe to take Sustainability to the next level.

New members of the EU (Where a lot of my friends and colleagues are from):
Here the future of Sustainability is very uncertain. I believe that these new member states such as the Czech Republic and others will have a hard time to keep their Sustainability projects going the way they are being promoted now. In these countries more then in all other EU member states the economic will lead to major cuts in Sustainability projects and engagement of companies in their local community. This is very sad but unavoidable in my opinion.

So where does that leave us? Well the call concluded with a feeling of uncertainty about the future of the Sustainability movement but at the same time (and this was very encouraging to hear) with a feeling that a new beginning is also in sight.

Changing times will also bring new opportunities. And a more sustainable future is an opportunity worth fighting for.

Picture Credit: gilderic