Model CSR Reporting

The John Lewis Partnership’s 2010 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report, A shared passion, summarizes the business’s progress during 2009/10 at

The report includes an update on the Partnership’s commitments to dealing fairly with suppliers, selling responsibly sourced quality products, making a positive difference to the communities in which it operates and reducing its impact on the environment. The examples of the co-owners’ shared passions, and the loyalty and support of customers, suppliers and business associates, help to demonstrate how the Partnership continues to offer a better and more sustainable way of doing business.

Highlights include:

  • Waitrose and John Lewis exceeding targets to improve shop energy efficiency
  • New Responsible Development Framework to govern and guide building projects
  • Setting out its ambition to achieve an absolute reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, despite looking to double the size of its business during that time
  • Reducing emissions from transport by 6.3%, relative to sales, since 2005/06
  • Charitable and community contributions totaling £7.9 million, equivalent to 2.59% of pre-tax profitGRI
  • Waitrose named UK’s most compassionate supermarket 2009/10
  • John Lewis achieving its target to sell 100% FSC-certified garden furniture.

For the first time this year, the report is aligned with the Global Reporting Initiative’s G3 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, at a self-declared Application Level C.

The John Lewis Partnership’s 70,000 permanent staff – known as Partners – own 29 John Lewis shops, 231 Waitrose supermarkets, an online business, a direct services company (Greenbee), a production unit and a farm, with a combined turnover of nearly £7.4 billion last year.

A model system for developing key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to mandatory UK sustainability reporting has been put forward in a new research report which can be downloaded from Ethical Performance who also summarized the above report the the John Lewis Partnership.

The company was one of many I studied under a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health about 30 years ago, when I was looking for the ideal form of corporate governance. In the case of the Partnership, employees were very lucky to have a founder, John Spedan Lewis, who thought beyond his own family (much like Billionaires Giveaway: Who is Worthy?).

Lewis was careful to create a very forward thinking governance system, including a Constitution, that would allow the firm to be competitive and democratic, giving every Partner a voice in the business they co-own. Billionaires of today might leave a greater legacy by adopting democratic principles to govern their own companies rather than by donating their riches to charities that often address the externalized costs of businesses.

See also, csr-reporting, CSR Reporting: What Investors Want, and Sustainability and CSR Reporting: There’s An App For That. A Letter to SAP and the future.

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