Excitement is building for our end-of summer GRI certified training courses, one of which is being generously hosted by Symantec in Mountain View, CA September 4th and 5th. We’re always pleased to be able to get to know companies who are using CSR Reporting as a tool to advance sustainability, and as we’ve covered in the past, Symantec has been doing a noteworthy job.
This week, I had a chance to talk to Debra McLaughlin, Symantec’s Program Manager, Stakeholder Engagement, Global Corporate Responsibility about the progress that the company has made on issues of sustainability, and specifically, how CSR reporting has become a valuable part of the company’s sustainability strategy.
Interview after the jump…
TriplePundit: Please tell me a little about you and your roll at Symantec
Debra McLaughlin: I have worked with Symantec for nearly seven years specializing in stakeholder engagement within the company’s Corporate Responsibility (CR) team. I manage the company’s Corporate Responsibility (CR) reporting and other CR related engagement efforts including working with the investor community (e.g. SRI analysts).
3p: Symantec has been reporting in accordance with the GRI standards for many years now. Have you seen your efforts paying off? If so how?
DM: Symantec is publishing its sixth CR report this coming September, however, we complete a GRI report every other year. We reported in accordance with GRI in 2008, 2010, 2012, and plan to do so again in 2014.
We have seen a number of positive outcomes from reporting in accordance with GRI. We took our first report seriously and tied the reporting process closely to the GRI guidelines. This included completing a full materiality analysis for our first report for which we won the “Best First Time Reporter Award” from Ceres & ACCA.
As a result, materiality continues to be an integral part of our CR strategy and reporting process. Our comprehensive and inclusive materiality process has enabled us to focus our strategy and resources on our priority CR issues, and ensure our reporting addresses the issues most important to our stakeholders. Additionally, our alignment with the GRI has increased the quality, transparency and credibility of our reporting.
Lastly, the reporting process is an extremely effective channel to educate internal stakeholders on CR, and bring these key internal players into the discussion around our CR strategy. Our goal is to integrate CR into the company strategy and this dialogue is a great way to communicate this to stakeholders across our organization.
3p: Has reporting allowed you to discover and improve on issues you might not have otherwise been managing?
DM: Yes, most definitely. Reporting has been an invaluable tool in helping us move the needle on many key issues. As mentioned before, our materiality process and engagement with stakeholders around reporting continually identifies new issues, strengths, weaknesses, and where we need to focus our efforts. For example, in our 2012 report we asked for feedback from stakeholders on how we could improve our CR strategy and progress. We included this feedback in the report and the steps we took to improve these areas of our reporting. Additionally, publicly stating CR goals in our reports provides a level of internal accountability for our progress on impacts that we may not have been able to achieve without this process.
3p: How has the company culture at large embraced sustainability? Is it a common discussion topic at the water cooler, or still something of an outlier?
DM: I’d say we’ve made steady progress over the past few years. We definitely see that employees from the top down are more excited about and engaged in CR. For example, our employees are increasingly volunteering in their community on their own and through Symantec. We’ve seen an increase in the number of volunteer hours logged as a result (20 percent in FY12). More and more, people want to take part in CR whether through their current role or outside of the office in their community. As a team, we’ve worked hard to engage our employees through various channels such as our intranet, internal social media, CR in Action Blog, the CR website, and our CR Snapshot newsletter. The real recognition, however, has come with our new CEO communicating to employees and external stakeholders the importance of CR to the success of our company.
3p: What’s next for reporting at Symantec? Any plans to make a more interactive, online platform to share your accomplishments?
DM: In September we are publishing our 2013 CR Report. Following the report launch, we will focus on the G4 guidelines and consider how the changes will impact our reporting process. Although our 2014 report will likely be in accordance with the G3 guidelines, we will likely take steps towards the G4 in our 2014 report.
Additionally, we’ve joined the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)’s advisory council and working group for the Technology & Communications sector to be a part of the discussion of any new sustainability accounting standards that may be adopted for publicly listed U.S. corporations in the future.
3p: Any advice for people new to reporting?
DM: My primary recommendation would be to start with a proper materiality analysis as it will pay dividends in numerous ways – honing in on your priority CR issues, engaging stakeholders and adding credibility and balance to your report.