Ericsson puts sustainability in context

The most dramatic revelation in mobile communications giant Ericsson's latest annual corporate sustainability and responsibility report is certainly this: It's reached its five-year commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by 40 percent more than a year early.

An equally intriguing statistic, however, is that this is Ericsson's 20th anniversary of publishing a report of this nature. That's a relatively long time in the scheme of green business practices.

Companies that are only a few years into this exercise might take a cue from its example, and from the changes that Ericsson has made along the way -- specifically its ongoing evolution toward integrated reporting.

"The process, for sure, has changed dramatically," said Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, head of sustainability and corporate responsibility for Ericsson. "If I go back to the 1990s, companies did environment reports and it was reporting emissions, primarily. Nobody was into promoting the benefits to the business. … That was before anyone really started thinking about the triple bottom line."

So what's different? For one thing, the analysis surrounding Ericsson's progress – especially when it comes to philanthropy -- is squarely focused on discussing the role of mobile phones and broadband communications solutions in sustainability, both internally and for Ericsson customers. If you look back 20 years ago, it was all about compliance, and this is not the right focus for a contemporary report, she said.

Next page: Focus of the report