Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Corporate Sustainability Indicator Reports: Case Study

Here's an interesting analysis in Ethical Corporation newsmagazine that takes Nestlé's "Creating Shared Value" report and examines it according to sustainability practices and indicators measured. Along the way, the author Aleksandra Dobkowski-Joy shows us the complexity in asking for large-scale corporations to engage in sustainability indicators reporting, as well as why it's important.

In Report Reviews: Nestlé’s 2007 Creating Shared Value report – Still lacking the winning formula, Dobkowski-Joy speaks positively of Nestlé's efforts, but challenges the organization to do more. She writes:

Nestlé’s list of material issues, for example, is broad enough to encompass
almost anything the company does – including manufacturing and environmental
footprint, people, agriculture and rural development, nutrition, and marketing
and communication. The company reports precious few quantitative goals and
targets. Nestlé flip-flops between its intention to develop clear financial,
environmental and social goals, and contradictory positions, saying it
“generally considers historical performance trends to be more revealing and
useful for future planning than setting individual forward targets”.

One of the interesting ways in which she praises the use of data is how efforts are put into a global context.

In discussing water extraction for bottled water, Nestlé accomplishes what few
reporters even attempt. Namely, the company quantifies the global ecosystem
impact of water use for production of bottled water at 0.0009 per cent of total
human water withdrawal. Though some may see such quantification as a defensive
ploy to deflect criticism, Nestlé in this instance has begun to get to the heart
of what sustainability reporting should really be: a discussion of how companies
can operate within the absolute limits of ecosystems and societies. Nestlé
should concentrate on this type of transparency and context in future reports.

Do businesses in your community publish CSV reports? Do they engage the community to help identify what should be measured? What experiences do you have in coordinating your community indicators efforts with business reporting?


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