At a time when companies are moving towards more transparent sustainability reports that not only trumpet successes, but challenges, some companies still insist on issuing a static PDF report filled with platitudes. In the case of MGM Resorts the initial review of its latest corporate social responsibility report looks impressive. But while the report is full of words touting everything from water stewardship to diversity, the impression the brochure leaves the reader with is a feeling that the writers wanted to get the task done and over with.
In fact, combing through the onslaught of pictures, graphs and lists reads more like a travel brochure than a CSR report. Analyzing MGM Resorts’ latest report is akin to Alicia Silverstone’s character, Cher, describing a Monet painting in the cult classic, Clueless: from far away, it’s okay, but up close it’s a big old mess.
Some of the report’s highlights include:
Employee engagement: MGM Resorts insists invests in employees and works hard to engage and inspire them. In addition to a safe environment and tools for healthy living, the company makes it easy for their employees to part with their wages by making it seamless to book hotel rooms at the company’s property as well as learn about special offers from business partners. Employees also have the option to sign up for the company’s email newsletter via their personal email addresses.
“Despite our monumental successes, we continue to work to implement additional progressive solutions to conserve our precious natural resources.”- 2011 MGM Resorts CSR report.
Environmental stewardship: Indeed MGM has made some impressive gains, from ramping up the installation of energy efficient light fixtures in its hotel rooms to slashing water consumption by 1.9 billion gallons of water in the past five years. For example, the company claims its switch to energy saving electronics and lighting in the Bellagio alone saves enough energy in one year to power 500 U.S. homes.
Volunteerism: MGM Resorts is a union shop, and in the interest of living “the Cesar Chavez creed day-in and day-out” employees do help out in the community. Activities ranged from sugar skull decorating booth duty at a Day of the Dead festival to the sponsorship of a 5 kilometer run to raise awareness about childhood obesity.
There is no dispute that MGM Resorts is brimming with employees who want to make a difference in their communities in which they work. And there is no doubt that the company wants to address upcoming water crises in Las Vegas and other areas that confront water scarcity. The company’s latest development, City Centre, is a LEED-certified development and more renovations are underway across the world. But the company’s latest CSR report is an example of what occurs when such a document is more of an exercise of public relations than stakeholder engagement. Readers are led to believe the company is sustainable and responsible because the company says so. For example, MGM concludes its report with vignettes that include clarion calls stating that “we strive to be a global leader in sustainability” and that the company continues to “research innovative technologies in renewable energy.” But words like “strive” and “dedicated,” even if they come from the heart or the head, come across as artificial as the Las Vegas Strip when they lack the examples and data to back them up. The report, however, is chock full of pictures that would make anyone want to stay at the Bellagio or New York, New York.
Leon Kaye, based in California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and covers sustainable architecture and design for Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.
Photo of City Centre, an MGM property, courtesy Leon Kaye.