While it is comprehensive in nature, Nestlé’s report is too long and just a bit boring

The release of Nestlé’s fourth full Creating Shared Value (CSV) report solidifies the company’s position as a nutrition, health and wellness leader. The comprehensive report is available online, where it is enhanced with case studies, audio content and videos, and also in pdf format. It describes the company’s approach and performance in each of its three focus areas: rural development, water and nutrition, with the latter being the main theme of a separate pdf summary version.

The depth and breadth of this hefty 309-page report underscore an impressive amount of activity in each focus area, as well as Nestlé’s recognition of the role it can play in addressing global challenges. Ambitiously – and for the first time – Nestlé publicly commits itself to more than 30 goals in areas of nutrition, water, rural development, environmental sustainability and human rights. These goals are a welcome addition to the impressive array of metrics present in previous reports. They combine measurable targets with softer, qualitative commitments and are mostly short-term, ending between 2014 and 2016. Just one goal, related to the volume of responsibly produced coffee sourced, looks further ahead to 2020.

The length, detail and serious tone lend an air of credibility but do not make for an emotive report. The repetitive, academic writing style and minimal use of images create a textbook feel. Even the case studies lack visual appeal. Perhaps this is why the report is delivered in two parts; the summary report, issued one month before the full version, is a little more visually engaging and provides interesting additional content, such as an essay from two public health academics. With 48 pages of fairly dense text, though, even the summary takes commitment to read in full.

Clear structure

Despite the minimal design, the full report is clearly structured. Each section begins with a summary of actions taken, challenges faced, performance highlights and relevant external recognition, before delving into a candid explanation of the issue at hand. However, the pages that follow are unnecessarily wordy without always saying a great deal. This obfuscates rather than accentuates the fantastic work Nestlé has done. “How we’ve performed” data tables would be more helpful if they used the same metrics and baselines as the newly announced commitments, providing readers with all the data they need to evaluate progress in one place.

Easy navigation and clear links make the online version of the CSV report easier to digest than the pdf. The long, wordy pages are made more manageable using “concertina” functionality so readers can expand or contract content on the screen. This is particularly helpful for viewing commitments and performance indicators, though it would be helpful if these tables used hyperlinks to take the reader directly to the relevant narrative sections of the report – a simple but time-saving technique.

In addition to straightforward data tables, the online version offers an interactive summary of key performance indicators where users can select the data and format for the charts they view, and even apply statistical functions. Buttons enable sharing on social media, graphs to be exported as images and data to be downloaded into spreadsheets. It would be interesting to know who Nestlé sees as the audience for these interactive data tools, and whether they were provided in response to stakeholder feedback. The tools are fun, but not necessarily all that useful.

Here, too, targets and KPIs are shown separately, making it tricky to quickly get a sense of both historical performance and future goals for key metrics. Nestlé would benefit from adopting competitor Unilever’s approach, where targets and performance sit together with a clear indication of whether or not goals are on plan, how far Unilever has progressed to date and how much work there is still to do.

Despite the length and detail of the report, Nestlé’s CSV priorities are clear and its new commitments will enable stakeholders to follow its progress more easily. Those who manage to read it will find this an impressive report that provides many examples of leading work. A materiality matrix and contextual information about the issues provide a good sense of why Nestlé selected its priorities, and how the company can contribute to addressing global problems.

But the report would pack a greater punch if it was shorter, less repetitive and written in a more straightforward tone for a wider audience. After all, Nestlé needs the help of all stakeholders if it is to achieve its commitments.

Lisa Leath is a consultant at Context


Follows GRI?              Yes; A+

Assured?                     External assurance from Bureau Veritas.

Materiality analysis?  Yes

Goals?                         Yes

Targets?                      Yes

Stakeholder input?    Yes

Seeks feedback?       Yes

Key strengths?            Breadth and depth of reporting, especially metrics.

Chief weakness?       Too long and repetitive.

Pleasant surprise?    Public commitments disclosed for the first time.

CR report review  CR Reporting  Lisa Leath  Nestle CR report  sustainability reporting 

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