What 'Where the Wild Things Are' Can Teach Us About CSR Reports

One thing I love about my job is helping explain the business value of being a more sustainable company. We just published our 2010 sustainability report showing how our investments in things like deploying more fuel efficient fleets and working towards stemming the high school dropout crisis are paying off.

But after three years of doing this, I know that reading a sustainability report isn't high on most people's list of fun things to do. Although some reports -- like those published by Starbucks and Timberland -- are trending slimmer and more easily navigable, most tend to be dense with facts and figures that appeal to a relatively small group of folks.

However, there's a broad and growing mix of audiences concerned about sustainability -- from investors who rank companies' performance, to consumers who make purchasing decisions based on what they know about a brand. Even Prince William and the former Kate Middleton got into the act this year, using a sustainable florist for their royal wedding.

So what's keeping companies from crafting a sustainable report that interests more people? If there's one thing most of us have in common it's that we like a good story. For example, my kids can't get enough of Where the Wild Things Are.

Inspired by that idea, we decided to bring sustainability to life through stories in this year's report. It's not quite Where the Wild Things Are. But for sustainability managers, it can be just as compelling to talk about the business value of sustainability through the words of real people in the places in which they live and work.

One of our most surprising discussions was with our energy director, who talked about how his team helped lead the company to $44 million in energy savings in 2010 by implementing 4,200 energy efficiency projects. One initiative, the Energy Scorecard, grades energy performance at 500 of our top energy-consuming facilities and sets efficiency goals for real estate managers to cut energy use.

But as you may have noticed, we think sustainability is about more than being energy efficient and preserving resources -- it's also about sustaining our communities. Companies' success -- and America's global competitiveness -- is linked to the long-term health of our communities.