Liberty Global’s Quest for Leaner Sustainability Reporting

Largest international cable company releases 22-page CR Report
Liberty Global’s Quest for Leaner Sustainability Reporting
Publ. date 2 Sep 2016
As a major company with over $19 billion in revenues, a workforce of 45,000 employees and 29 million customers in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, it can be easy to get lost in ambiguity when you talk about your role in society. Not at Liberty Global. The company recently released its compact Corporate Responsibility Report 2015, showing that even large, publicly listed companies do not need hundreds of pages to tell their sustainability story in a convincing manner.

Liberty Global’s corporate responsibility (CR) performance has been recognized by leading sustainability indices, including the FTSE4Good Index and the Dow Jones Sustainability World and North America Indices. Additionally, in 2016, as one of the top-scoring companies in the media industry, Liberty Global received the Silver Class Sustainability Award from RobecoSAM for its excellent sustainability performance.

At 22 pages, Liberty Global’s CR Report 2015, entitled Empowering Positive Change through Digital, is definitely worthy of the name ‘lean’. Liberty Global’s Crystal Crawford, Corporate Responsibility Manager, and Marta Pagan, CR Data Collection & Reporting Specialist share their vision on lean reporting and explain how this year’s report came to life.

A new narrative: Connected Purpose

One big change this year is that the 2015 report introduces Liberty Global’s refreshed Corporate Responsibility framework. Crystal: ‘To maximize our impact, we recently clarified and sharpened our Corporate Responsibility strategy. We now talk about our Connected Purpose, which is the overarching name of our CR strategy. This year, we developed a CR narrative that we can use throughout all of our communications. We also updated our CR framework to better reflect our priorities as a responsible business. We’ve split it into two key pillars: Digital Imagination and Responsible Connectivity.’

‘Digital Imagination is our new flagship community investment program, it’s really at the heart of what we do. It is a collective movement to create digital solutions that respond to pressing societal challenges. This change reflects the evolution of our previous CR framework, which focused on ’Promoting a Digital Society’. We are moving from just promoting it to actually driving innovation and innovating and empowering people to do good.’

Focus on the company’s most material issues

Condensing and focusing on reporting on the company’s most material issues has helped Liberty Global to put together a concise report. ‘While we may have 12 material issues that we looked at in our materiality assessment, what we did for the GRI reporting is to really focus on that upper right-hand quadrant of the matrix: our six most material issues,’ Crystal states. ‘With GRI reporting and the move to G4, I think there’s a real opportunity to leverage the focus on materiality to produce leaner, more meaningful reporting.’

The company is also very clear about its objective of reporting: not reporting for the sake of reporting, but having people actually want to read it. While the physical report itself does not create the engagement per se, it serves as a basis where individual stories can be pulled out of to share with key stakeholders, including employees, investors, local markets, and customers.

For example, the report includes the company’s performance summary - two pages packed with four years of environmental, workforce and other social data points, the most essential ones for stakeholders. This format, mostly tailored for the social responsible investment community, allows report users to get to what they need fast, and easily see trends and performance ups and downs.

Streamlining the reporting process

Liberty Global’s reporting process is an on-going, twelve-month cycle involving over 250 colleagues from across the business in fourteen countries and three headquarter offices. Marta says, ‘We put particular effort this year in further simplifying and streamlining the reporting process. Any data points that were not part of the material issues or were not used in the report, are no longer captured. Community investment data points, for example, were cut by 30% as a result.’

Many of Liberty Global’s local subsidiaries also produce their own CR report. By standardizing the final dataset under a thorough governance process and the use of international reporting standards, it is ensured that the same figures are used throughout all reports, and that they are correct and only have to be collected once. ‘We found that by producing a shorter report, it has also reduced the burden on the subject matter experts who provide input and feedback, and who ultimately sign off on the report. But also it forces them to also think about their most material issues’, says Crystal.

Crystal and Marta see that the internal reporting management process functions as an instrument to facilitate change. By collecting data, a very black and white picture occurs, and: ‘what gets measured gets managed.’ Also, by coming back to internal topic owners every year, a dialogue emerges that strengthens collaboration between CR and business departments.

Looking ahead: going digital

Looking at how the Liberty Global CR Report will evolve, both content and form are likely to adapt. In line with developments over the past few years, Liberty Global’s CR Report is likely to evolve into a more digital form, with the use of more videos and info graphics as new and interesting ways to communicate the company’s performance on an on-going basis. As a media company focused on empowering change through digital, becoming more digital yourself only makes sense.

It ain’t easy being lean

The ongoing efforts to be focused and concise have definitely paid off for Liberty Global. ‘Challenging yourself to create a leaner report will not only help you being more focused and more strategic, but also improve efficiency and streamline the overall process, which is very beneficial for the company,’ Crystal concludes. For other companies looking to transition into leaner reporting, she recommends to do three things:

  1. Focus on the most material issues and the company’s core message. Then make a plan and stick to it!
  2. Avoid the trap of capturing data points that are easy to gather, instead measure what matters to your business.
  3. Avoid working in a silo. Report writers should be engaged in the data collection process, otherwise you could run the risk of missing the proof points to back up your story.

More information about Liberty Global’s corporate responsibility approach and reporting can be found at www.libertyglobal.com/cr.

About Nikkie Vinke

Multidisciplinary advisor in ESG benchmarking, sustainability strategy development and execution. | nikkie@finchandbeak.com

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