Corporate Eye

A Sweetbox of Integrated Sustainability

Can I can I can I can I can I? The refrain of pester power, through which children have “persuaded” their parents into a course of action for millennia.

Often parents agree simply to get the little angels to belt up. Often the little devils come to learn that if they repeat it often and loud enough, their wish will come true.

Many companies have assumed the parental role, embarking upon programmes of disclosure simply to simply to get external pressures (including regulators) to belt up and not bother them.

In the meantime sustainability professionals keep repeating the mantra that sustainability has to be embedded into all of a company’s activities, not just bolted on as an afterthought.

More Sweeties, Please
But once in a while there comes along a parent who is truly enlightened and gives the children what they want before the little darlings even realise that’s what they were after.

Astoundingly, this enlightened fairy godmother is Petrobras, a Brazilian Oil & Gas company traded on the São Paulo Stock Exchange. The Financial Times lists it as the fiftieth largest company in the World and it is believed to hold the fifth largest oil reserves.

The thing is, when visiting a website it’s usually a bit of a hunt to find the sustainability section. When there’s a link from the homepage, there’s a small sigh of relief and a brief prayer of thanks to the company in question.

Petrobras have turned this normality on its head. There’s the anticipated “Environment and Social Responsibility” link from the front page. But there’s also a “Culture” one, and a “Sport” one, and even another, separate, “Environment” one.

So what’s in the “Investor Relations” section? Well blow me down, yet more sustainability content along with assorted guidelines and policies, happily rubbing shoulders alongside more traditional financial analysis tools.

There’s even a few pages about the company’s transparency in the “About” section and the “Business” section links back to the “Investor Relations” sustainability content.

Enough! I’m going To Burst!
Phew! The list goes on and on with news and publications frequently featuring sustainability issues and the ability to sign up for dedicated newsletters. It would be harder to avoid the sustainability content than try and find it!

The most impressive fact about all this content is that there’s no repetition. The Investor Relations side sticks to strategies and governance. The Environment bit talks about environmental nuts and bolts.

And the 160 page Social and Environmental Report towers over it all, accounting for the company’s progress against the principles of the UN Global Compact and how it is contributing towards the Millennium Development Goals.

A Small Advantage
Before getting too carried away, it’s worth remembering Petrobras is 57% state owned and has tripled its market value in the last two years. It’s active social engagement programme is almost certainly driven by politicians seeking to redirect astounding profits for the good of the electorate.

However the main purpose of this blog is not to comment upon a company’s specific activities or how those activities are reported, but how both are covered on the company’s website.

From that point of view, Petrobras have gone further and deeper that any other into integrating their sustainability reporting into their everyday business activities.

It can only be hoped that others will follow their example, for as the website points out:

You don’t win admiration: you earn it.

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A former CTO, Chris has a broad and varied background. He’s been involved with blue chips, consultancies & SMEs across a wide variety of sectors and has worked in Europe, the Middle East and Australia. In 2007 he decided to combine his knowledge of business and IT with his passion for all things sustainable and has been busy writing ever since. However, his greatest ambition remains to brew the perfect cup of coffee.