Corporate Eye

Crucially Crucell | CSR Website review

Occasionally (just occasionally) I get mistaken for a rabid anti-corporate watermelon* who froths blood at the mouth and would give the most ardent exorcist a run for their money.

Not a bit of it.  It’s just that I’ve had it bred into me that if you create nexuses (nexii?) which are too large they become catastrophic single points of failure… as evinced very neatly by the ongoing banking crisis.

However there is also something to be said for the aesthetic loss of something precious, different and often beautiful when a smaller company gets absorbed by something larger.

Crucell, a Dutch antiviral biotech company now owned by Johnson and Johnson, is a good case in point.

Keep the website simple, stupid

2009 was not just a milestone year for Crucell, it was a monumental one.

Not only did they announce a major breakthrough in flu antibody research, but Johnson and Johnson snapped up 18 percent of the business, to be expanded to 95 percent within 18 months.

Best of all though was its annual report, whose microsite has an elegant beauty which has rarely been matched by any other I’ve seen.

The report is split into six sections.  Three of these contain 21 PDFs containing various financial information and other management reports.  The Overview is, well, an overview and the Our business section tells you succinctly about the various products the company produces and has under development.  We’ll come to the Crucell’s commitment to CSR section in a moment.

These sections are generally laid out simply but highly effectively in a two column style, with an overall menu in the header and the usual disclaimer, downloads etc in the footer.  On the left there is a navigation menu for each of the sections’ subsections along with basic report tools such as print, email and download, whilst in the main column there are a series of expandable items.

It is this combination of left hand navigation and right hand expandable content which gives the microsite its overall effectiveness, meaning you have to do very little scrolling around to get to the content you’re after.

An additional nice touch, which enhances the microsite’s overall elegance, is the fact the sections are lightly colour-coded.  It’s nothing extreme, just the “swoosh” and the highlight text for the subsection you’re reading are different and colour co-ordinated.

Hitting all the nails

I remember writing once that I felt Eni’s CSR website hit all the nails on the head.  I have the same feeling about Crucell’s, although the size of the business and so the scope of data and descriptions is much smaller.

Key to the business’ approach is its take on triple bottom line accounting, the Crucell 4P framework of Performance, People, Planet and Philanthropy.  This includes uncommon yet valuable insights, such as the the number of women in management and an overall breakdown of the business’ ethnicity.

There’s even a very comprehensive list of stakeholders the business recognises, including legislators, investors, customers and sustainability organisations, and details of consultations the business has had with them during the year.

But then life changes

CSR made its debut in Crucell’s 2008 annual report, with that year’s report and previous ones being a much more staid list of HTML links without the elegant design described in this post.  The 2009 report definitely built upon this as it was determinedly visionary in what the business’ values were and where it intended to be guided by those.

But then the purchase by Johnson and Johnson happened and, as an independent and publicly traded business, Crucell disappeared.  There is nothing for 2010, and the 2011 online CSR report is nothing more than a representation of the accompanying PDF, with the introductory text stating:

As the center (sic) of excellence for vaccines within the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, we anticipate that the ways we measure CSR progress may change in the future. What will remain is the spirit that has inspired this initiative and, indeed, everything we do as a company dedicated to bringing innovation to global health.

This is by no means a criticism of Johnson and Johnson who have their own, overarching and thoroughly reputable CSR programme.

However you get the feeling that something good and special was happening at Crucell and that that has now been left by the wayside.  However, thankfully, the 2009 report is still available online, so I strongly urge you to go and have a look at this deceptively simple, highly elegant and surprisingly in-depth report in case it’s removed in the near future.

* watermelon: green on the outside, red on the inside; a derogatory term from the US implying that all “green business” people are really closet communists.  Sigh.

Picture Credit: IMG_1496 / dhester / morgueFile

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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.