What I learned from my Integrated Report

Integrated Reporting

As we prepared to start working on the 2017 edition on what was to be Ecotone’s third integrated report  I wanted to push us to a higher standard with a more formal methodology vs our previous reports where more ad hoc based on a simple (but effective) triple bottom line structure.  I wanted to be able to model good reporting to our clients what showed reports that were action based and tied to strategy. I did not want a report that looked pretty that no one would read.  After a number of discussions with Bob Willard of Sustainability Advantage, author and speaker on the business case for sustainability, he suggested the International Reporting IR Framework.

The <IR> framework is a set of guidelines to help companies create a comprehensive integrated reports.  The focus is on how a company impacts the six capitals -financial, manufactured, intellectual, human, social, natural over various time horizons.

 

Here’s what I learned:

  1. It’s a challenging framework.  

But to paraphrase Kennedy “we don’t do things because they are easy but because they are hard”.  Part of what makes <IR> to challenging is that it is so comprehensive.  It’s start with considering the purpose of the business (the why) and the stakeholders (the who), next it covers the governance structure of the organization,  then an exploration of the business model, risks and opportunities, and resource allocation.  Only then do you get into a detailed accounting of the performance of the company against the six capitals. Finally there is a discussion of report preparation and finally outlook for the future.  It’s a lot of ground to cover.

  1. Data is only half the battle.

Being our third report I thought it would be fairly straightforward as we had put systems in place in prior years to capture the data.  <IR> added two challenges: the six capitals required reclassifying a lot of our data but more importantly <IR> focuses on a lot of things beyond performance metrics – they why, how, who and what of the business as outlined in the previous section.

  1. The Flourishing Business Canvas Helped A lot.

Back in December/January Ecotone participated in a workshop series called Business Design For Success which was focused on helping companies get B Corp Certification, but more importantly it was about the intentional design of businesses to be focused on the triple bottom line. One tool that we used throughout was the Flourishing Business Canvas – an extension of the traditional Business Model Canvas (BMC) but adding a social and environmental layer.  In retrospect this went along way to preparing the content for our report.  Unlike the BMC, the Flourishing Business Canvas specifically addressed natural capital through sections for ecosystem services, biophysical stocks, and ecosystem actors.  It also takes a stakeholder vs shareholder approach.  It specifically addresses governance as well as both value co-creation and co-destruction which is inherent in the six capitals model in that everything is interrelated.

  1. A Framework too Far.

Our original goal for the report was to use The Future Fit Business Benchmark (FFBB) as the evaluation methodology.  Future Fit is a new benchmark with uses 23 Do No Harm Goals plus 20 Do Some Good Goals to help evaluate if companies are truly sustainable.  But as we started down the <IR> path it seemed like there was a potential to try to do too many things and none of them well.  We didn’t want the report to be too long.  But FFBB is a great benchmark worthy of its own supplemental report to be issued later in the year.

  1. Tell a Story.

As mentioned in lesson #3 our data was in pretty good shape, but numbers alone are meaningless – we need to tell the story of our company and how we create value for multiple stakeholders across the six captials.  Fortunately <IR> provides an excellent framework for this.  Thanks to Barry Martin from Hypenotic for bringing up the issue of “why would someone want to read another report, it must be compelling”.  You’ll get to judge for yourself in a few weeks whether we meet this bar!

 

 

 

Ecotone Announces Partnership with Sustainability Dashboard Solution Carbon and More

carbon and more logo-1

We are excited to announce we have signed a reseller agreement with Gem-Up Inc. to sell and support their Carbon And More SaaS Sustainability Dashboard tool.  Targeted to the SME sector, the software quickly lets companies communicate their environmental and social impact, using a visually engaging dashboard which you can link to your corporate website.  The dashboard can report on the following

Environmental Factors:

  • Carbon emissions and offsets
  • Employee travel
  • Energy consumption
  • Water consumption
  • Paper and waste production
  • Air Quality

Social Factors:

  • Employee volunteer hours
  • Corporate donations

Carbon and more dashboard

In addition to the shareable dashboard, the system can generate a weekly email to your stakeholders with the same information, helping to build your brand and leverage your impact.  The solution is perfect for small to medium enterprises that want to self report their metrics but don’t have the expertise to employ complex sustainability frameworks.

Benefits:

  • Cloud based, no software installation required
  • Easy to use, no technical knowledge required to setup
  • Easy to understand for all stakeholder segments
  • Visually compelling, infographic style presentation convey a professional image

Software comes in three editions:

  1. Boutique Edition for up to two users.  Free
  2. SME Edition for up to 100 users.  $USD 19/month.  Includes shareable dashboard.
  3. Enterprise Edition for unlimited users.  $USD 49/month.  Includes shareable dashboard and Team challenges.

Contact Andrew Simpson at (416) 706-6412 or email: andrew@ecotonesoftware.com to arrange a demo.

You can also start a free 30 day trial here: https://csr.carbonandmore.com/#/register

 

2016 Integrated Annual Report

We are excited to share our 2016 Integrated Annual Report with our stakeholder community.  This is our take on a combination of the traditional annual report which is primarily focused on financial performance, and a sustainability report which highlights environmental and social metrics.  By combining these into a single report, we feel we are leading by example in modeling a triple bottom line approach to business, and showing how we can help our clients automate their own sustainability reporting.

In 2016 we achieved a major milestone in becoming a Certified B Corporation.  We believe in B Labs mission to “make business a force for good” which aligns with our values around service to our customers, communities, and the environment.  We see in the B Corp movement, an army of potential collaborators who recognize the myriad of opportunities in products and services with triple bottom line benefits.  This was apparent when we attended the annual B Corp Champions Retreat held in Toronto this year.  It was amazing meeting so many purpose driven companies who are genuine about doing well while serving people and the planet.

Talking to fellow B Corps reinforced the value of our revised service offerings around sustainability reporting and CRM for the Cleantech.  We are confident these strategies will lead our growth in the coming years.

2016 saw us devote a lot of time and energy to helping address the Syrian Refugee Crisis both as private sponsors and as co-founders of WelcomeHomeTO – a not-for-profit that connects resources, organizations, and people supporting newcomers.

We continued to support our local community both as donors and active volunteers to various environmental not-for-profits.

We hope you will take a few minutes to look at our report and think about how your organization would follow our lead in sharing your triple bottom line story.  We’d be happy to help you start on that journey.

2016 Integrated Annual Report

Bob Willard: Sustainability ROI Workbook Master Class

The Roots Collaborative, a co-op sustainability consulting company that I helped to co-found is please to present Bob Willard conducting a half day workshop on his upcoming Sustainability ROI Workbook. This a great opportunity to take a deep dive on this tool for building the business case for your sustainability initiative.
Wednesday May 17th, 9-12 am
Centre for Social Innovation

Registration
https://goo.gl/oSWfuE

2015 Integrated Annual Report

We are pleased to release our first annual Integrated Annual Report.  So what exactly does this name actually mean?  We were originally going to call it our “Integrated Sustainability Report” – integrated to cover the financial aspects of an annual report and sustainability was to encompass the environmental and social dimensions.  After conversations with our board about the goal of normalizing triple bottom line reporting to put all three elements are on equal footing, it was decided to change the name to emphasize an evolution of the traditional annual report to have a broader meaning.

So why did we do it?  As part of our B Corp Assessment we committed to producing an annual sustainability report that would be reviewed by our board and publically available.  As a small service based company our environmental footprint is negligible, but we thought there were ample opportunities to share the many initiatives Ecotone has undertaken to live up to our mission ”…to enable clients to achieve their sustainability goals by leveraging people, process, and technology.  We strive toward a net zero environmental footprint from our operations and work to make a positive contribution to our communities.”

Some highlights we’d be happy if all organizations large and small were to follow: formalized 1% for the planet donation program, paid our fair share of taxes, used public or active transportation to office and clients, performed pro bono consulting for NFP clients, contributed volunteer roles on solar co-op, and tracked our environmental footprint in energy, water, and waste.

The goals of the report were to present information so it was transparent, comparable, easy to understand and relevant.  In doing so we hope to model good data stewardship to our clients and encourage companies of all sizes to share more information about their efforts to balance their financial, environmental and social impacts.

You can find our report here.

 

B Corp Certification™ – We Did It!

It was a long journey but we got there.  To paraphrase JFK “We do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Thanks to Bob Willard for inspiration and encouragement, Joyce Sou and B Corp staff for ongoing support and advice, and the CSI B Corp Working group, many of whom should be not far behind getting certified themselves!

So why are we so excited about this?  Because  B Corporations are leaders of a global movement of people using business as a force for good™. They meet the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability and aspire to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.  Learn more about B Corporations here.

You can see our profile here: https://www.bcorporation.net/community/ecotone-software-consulting-inc

In order to become certified, your company needs to go through the B Corp Assessment which consists of 172 questions about all aspects of your business including: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers.  You score points based on your company’s ability to demonstrate superior performance in these areas.

So what did Ecotone do to achieve Certified B Corporation status.  Well, it took alot of hard work…..

We changed our articles of incorporation to acknowledge all stakeholders have to be considered in business decision making – owners, employees, customers, the community, and the environment.

Formed a gender balanced Board of Directors with 4 independent members representing customers, academia/sustainability professionals, and environmental NGO sectors in addition to the owners.

Switched banking to Alterna Saving Credit Union.

Wrote an Integrated Sustainability Report as a publicly available record of our impacts financially as well as on the environment and our community.

Revamped our time tracking system to track daily hours by client and activity including volunteer and pro bono time.  Also tracking distance and method of transportation daily (public transit, bike, car, walking).

Implemented a Environmental Management system using EnergyStar Portfolio Manager to track our electricity, gas and water usage by month.

Developed polices on:

Charitable Giving Practices including formalizing company’s commitment to following 1% for the Planet for the past 4 years.

Pro Bono/volunteerism during business hours.  Commit to taking on at least one pro bono project per year.

Supplier screening – including emphasis on local and women owned businesses.

 

Other than that is was easy!  But staff at B Labs were extremely helpful in suggesting ways to add points even after we lost a whole lot because as an owner/operator we are deemed not to have any employees.  Hint to Canadian companies – Canada Pension Plan, health care, and maternity/paternity leave are all areas you can score points on your B Corp Assessment.

I am excited to start meeting my fellow Certified B Corporation owners and staff to learn how we can all “use business as a force for good”.

Andrew Simpson

Principal Consultant

Ecotone Software Consulting Inc.