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BUGEN5930 Business, Society and the Planet Assignment - Federation University, Australia

ASSESSMENT OF BUSINESS SUSTAINABILITY REPORTING

Task - Analyse and compare the values and approaches to sustainability/CSR reporting of two companies.

Answer - Assessment of Business Sustainability Reporting

i. Identify and describe the two companies you have researched; their core business activities and the countries and/or industries in which they operate.

Identification and description of the companies

The companies that have been chosen for this assignment are Nike Inc., and H&M. Nike is the largest supplier of apparel and athletic shoes in the entire world (Nike, Inc, 2018), and have an annual revenue of more than $20 billion. The company also employs over 44,000 people worldwide, and has a brand value of $29.6 billion. The company was ranked at 89 in the Fortune 500 list of corporations in terms of total revenue.

H&M, on the other hand, operates in over 62 countries and employs more than 100,000 people. It is the second-largest clothing retailer and is just behind Zara. The company also has over 4,500 stores worldwide and has a significant online presence in 33 countries.

Industries and countries in which they operate

Nike Inc. is a multinational company based in the USA, with headquarters in Oregon. The company is part of the apparel industry, and also manufactures sports accessories and equipment.

H&M is also a multinational company, with headquarters at Stockholm, Sweden. This company is also part of the apparel industry.

Relevant social reporting / performance issues

As far as the apparel industry is concerned, a social reporting or performance issue that organisations such as Nike Inc. and H&M might be faced with, is that of environmental sustainability. It is one of those emerging issues that has arisen due to the demand for the incorporation of manufacturing processes that are more environment-friendly, such as the dyes, assembling, fibre production and packaging (Ksiezak, 2016). Moreover, since this industry is quite labour-intensive, it is important for them to show that they care about their employees, including their health and safety. Furthermore, there could be supply chain management issues as well, since the apparel industry is heavily reliant on the relationship it maintains with its suppliers and retailers. Some of the factors that drive the initiatives for sustainability or corporate social responsibility include public pressure, environmental issues such as global warming, stakeholder interests, and so on.

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ii. What differences are evident between the two companies in terms of the range of issues dealt with in their social reports and the depth of coverage on specific issues? Please note - this question does not ask for a description or summary of the content of each company's reports. Instead, you need to analyse the types of information, the major themes, the presentation, formatting and tone of each report - and explain the ways in which the reports are similar to each other and the ways in which they are different.

Comparison of the style, content and presentation of the social reports

On careful analysis and study of the social reports of Nike and H&M, the following comparisons could be drawn -

  • Both the reports begin with a dedicated letter from the CEO. Although the letter from the CEO of Nike relates straightaway with the report and the social change that the company intends to create, the report on H&M gives a brief account on how the company has evolved over the years and grown to become one of the largest apparel brands in the world.
  • The report on H&M mentions the achievements it has been able to attain right at the commencement of the entire account, Nike has elaborated on the approach it follows, together with the sustainable innovation model that they have endorsed for their processes.

Critical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches to social reporting

In case of Nike, the social report was very concise and compact, which is a major strength that can be mentioned in comparison to H&M, as their report was highly elaborate, which might come across as unnecessarily long to some. Furthermore, both the reports had been constructed with much care and in detail, which indicates the strength in the companies' approach to social reporting.

Depth of coverage and range of issues covered

Both the social reports covered a wide range of issues with great depth and care. For instance, in case of Nike, the report has covered the arenas of energy consumption and emissions, waste and water management, and has also addressed the idea of manufacturing its products, which the company has been seeking to regulate and transform to a sustainable process. The company has also addressed the issue of sustainable sourcing, as they have claimed that they intend to source the materials only from those outlets that meet their definition of sustainability. Also, in case of H&M, the company has mentioned their efforts at manufacturing products that are 100 per cent renewable, and the social report has covered numerous arenas, such as the efforts for sustainable production, reduction of carbon emissions, the changes in design and manufacturing, and so on.

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iii. Discuss which of the Sustainable Development Goals you believe are most relevant to these companies, their industries and the countries in which they operate. Discuss the extent to which these SDGs were addressed, explicitly or implicitly, in the CSR/Sustainability reports of your companies?

Identification of the key sustainable development goals and their relevance

In case of Nike, there are numerous goals, which can be outlined as below (BusinessWire, 2016) -

  • Reduction of carbon emissions
  • Increase in the efficiency of water usage
  • Working with fewer but better factories on a contractual basis
  • Improving the sustainability of the products
  • Reduction of waste through proper management and manufacturing processes.

These goals are relevant as the company believes that adapting to what the future would bring for them is not enough for sustainability, due to which they intend to create the future they wish to enjoy. Sustainable innovation is the key to constructing this harmonious future.

In case of H&M, the sustainable goals can be mentioned as below (H&M Group, 2017) -

  • Use of 100 per cent sustainable materials by 2030
  • A positive contribution to climate and climate change by 2040
  • Use of 96 per cent renewable electricity for the processes
  • Collaboration with stakeholders for better management of the supply chain.

These goals are relevant to the company, because H&M as a brand intends to contribute in a manner that is long-lasting and brings about an improvement of the environmental conditions. The organisation also intends to maintain transparency with the key stakeholders, and involve them in the sustainability processes.

Extent to which the SDGs have been addressed and the effectiveness of the reporting

The sustainability development goals for both companies have been addressed adequately in both the reports. For instance, in case of Nike, emphasis has been given on the efforts that the company has undertaken to minimise the environmental footprint to the maximum possible extent. The report also talks about the establishment of profitable partnerships for bringing about accelerated change in the industry. Furthermore, the company has also explained the impacts that it has had on the communities and the employees, together with an elaborate explanation of the approaches that they have been undertaking to address the previously mentioned sustainable development goals.

As can be deduced from H&M's report, the company has explained the manner in which they wish to initiate and lead the change, and has given an account for transparency maintenance in terms of the sustainable and social goals. The company has also reported the steps that they are undertaking to be able to positively impact the environment.

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iv. Based on your analyses of your companies' sustainability/CSR reporting, identify in which Sustainability Phase/s (Dunphy, Griffiths & Benn) each of your companies sit. Explain your reasons for these assessments.

Identification and description of the sustainability phase

Dunphy, Griffiths and Benn (2011) outlined a six stage model that elucidated the different phases of organisational consciousness in terms of sustainability, which were essentially based on the relationship between culture, performance and leadership commitment. These six stages can be briefly outlined as -

Denial, when the organisation does not recognise or acknowledge the role that sustainability can have in its survival or success.

Non-responsive, when there is a certain degree of awareness but there are no active measures to address the issues.

Compliance, when the organisation attempts to collect information to help with the change and measure it.

Efficiency, when the organisation acknowledges that change is necessary but feels that it can be achieved by simply modifying the existing policies.

Strategic proactivity, when the business has identified the need for sustainability, and has become committed to bringing about change.

Sustaining, when the on-going changes are treated as being integral to the commitment of the organisation towards the betterment of society and the economy.

Both Nike and H&M are in the sixth or the sustaining stage of the sustainability phase. The sustainability phase provides businesses with the opportunity to create a culture that is constructive in nature, and has the capacity to continually renew the viability of the organisation in the long run. Moreover, it also involves the reorganisation of the company's supply chain processes, the building of both human and relational capital, and the implementation of a culture that is encouraging towards debate, innovation and constructive participation.

Evidence and reason for the assessment

The reason why this stage can be attributed to the companies is because they have recognised the need for taking appropriate action, and are setting relevant goals and outlining policies that are in accordance with these sustainability goals. Both the companies are working towards providing the society as well as the environment with a better future. For instance, Nike and H&M have set specific goals for sustainability, and are working proactively to realise them. Nike Inc. collaborates with only those factories that meet their requirements in terms of sustainable production, while H&M is attempting to inspire innovation through the policy of 100 per cent renewable products.

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v. Discuss the extent to which the social reports provided by these companies reflect their stated values.

Identification of the company values

Nike: The mission of the company is to "bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world." The core values of the company revolve around performance, innovation, authenticity and sustainability (Nike, Inc, 2018). These factors are what drive almost every business decision of the company. The company's vision statement is to remain the most connected, authentic and distinctive brand in its industry.

H&M: The company believes that design is something that can be available for almost anyone, and the intention has always been to promote democracy in fashion. This implies that the company is dedicated to making fashion a sustainable choice, and the vision is to lead the change towards the development of a fashion industry that is not only fair and equal but also circular and renewable (H&M Group, 2018). The company feels that this vision is important not only from the environmental perspective but also the social, and the long-term investments that it makes in this regard provides them with the opportunity to keep themselves relevant in the world. H&M's values lie in their ambition to promote innovation, while stimulating a positive change in terms of its supply chain as well as the climate.

Critical analysis of the company's social reports in alignment with their values and approaches to CSR

The social reports for both Nike and H&M have a very positive alignment with the values and approaches that they have towards corporate social responsibility. For instance, Nike is dedicated to reducing its carbon emissions, and increasing its efficiency in terms of water and waste management. The social reports mentions in detail the degree to which these goals have been met by the company, while providing anecdotal evidence for the same. Similarly, in case of H&M, the social report outlines in detail, the sustainability measures such as the efforts for 100 per cent circular and renewable products, and also emphasises on the various stakeholders such as the suppliers and the employees.

vi. Briefly reflect on your group's discussions of these companies. In what ways did the ideas presented by your group confirm your own conclusions, influence your thinking and/or present another perspective to you? Please note: this question does not ask for a summary of what your group decided or who said what. This requires reflection on how your thinking, understandings and perceptions developed through your engagement with your group.

Reflection on group discussion and the selected companies

The group discussions that took place for the selection of the companies and the relevant social reporting were important as it helped us understand the different factors that were necessary to understand the various instances of social responsibility and sustainability. Furthermore, it also enabled us to draw a parallelism between the reports and the goals that the companies had outlined for themselves.

Identification of key points of agreement and disagreement

There were some points on which we agreed and disagreed. For instance, my opinion was that Nike and H&M had sustainable goals that were quite realistic in terms of being able to achieve it, but my group members had different reservations regarding it, as they felt that the goals that they had set for themselves were quite challenging and therefore difficult to be attained.

Contribution of the perspectives to the consideration of the companies' performance

The fact that more than one of us were present as a group for evaluating the performance and the social reports of the two companies was quite useful, as it helped us single out those ideas that might have been missed if only one of us were working on it. Furthermore, the availability of different perspectives made it easier to critically analyse the report, as all of us were able to provide our separate and distinctive inputs, which ultimately led to the formation of a comprehensive and detailed report.

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