The Hallbars is an international organization, established at the beginning of the year that brings together talent from Europe and Asia, focusing on the promotion and readership of corporate sustainability reports as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We believe the long-term solution is sustainability, through the combined action of the most powerful international institutions and corporations. We are all together in the same boat," says Edouard Coinreau, founder and President, Hallbars Research Institute for Sustainability Reports.
The United Nations vote in 2015 of the Sustainable Development Goals were the real start of a global expansion of these reports, giving them a universal framework beyond the financial concepts -- Edouard Coinreau, founder and President, Hallbars Research Institute for Sustainability Reports
With its headquarters in Sweden, the background of its members include publishing, food and drink as well as finance, real estate and start-ups.
Coinreau says sustainability reports were generally seen as a separate annex of the financial annual reports of stockmarket corporations, and known as Corporate Social Responsibility Reports.
"The United Nations vote in 2015 of the Sustainable Development Goals were the real start of a global expansion of these reports, giving them a universal framework beyond the financial concepts. Today these reports have become independent from investor relations in corporations, and just as important or even more than the financial reports. The sustainability reports are now published by many international organizations, non-profit entities, and family businesses. This is is a very deep cultural change in the business and government world," he says.
Hallbars means 'sustainable' in Swedish and its objectives include:
1. To help the promotion and distribution of sustainability reports across the world. It is hoped the focus on the awards winners will motivate the publication of more sustainability reports and will increase the engagement in sustainability.
2. The Hallbars competition rewards sustainability reports as books. It does not rate the sustainability efforts.
3 . The Hallbars competition honours the team that made the sustainability report possible, including the authors, the stakeholders and the publisher.
Some studies have proven that investing in sustainability can increase financial profits for the corporations by taking into account society and the long term. New studies show that in 2020, sustainability reports have become essential in the decision making of investors.
"The pandemic has accelerated this trend," says Coinreau. "Before the pandemic, one key concept of accounting was that corporations and organizations were on-going concerns. The pandemic has suddenly confronted corporations to a catastrophic scenario. It obliges corporations to make sustainability a priority. Sustainability was taken for granted by some, the same way breathing is unconscious for humans. Sustainability reports show sustainability is complex, and a long term effort. It puts back long term planning at the core of the corporations. Financial planning was increasingly short term, even quarterly."
Monitoring can be done thoroughly by auditing firms and certifying international institutions. In the food and drink sector, Hallbars has found that approximately 30% of sustainability reports are now reviewed by the top four international auditing firms, while there are over 60 international certifying bodies, often specialized by sectors. For example, SMETA (SEDEX Members Ethical Trade Audit) certifies approximately 12% of the sustainability reports of the food and drink sector. Detailed numbers for these audits were first published on hallbars.org in the summer of 2020 in its news pages.
As an organization, the Hallbars believe sustainability reports are books and deserve a wider distribution, but to make them more credible and not just a vanity printing project for internal use, the readership has to be developed.
"This is the mission of Hallbars, building on our experience in publishing. We consider these printed reports are books that deserve and need more readers. The news pages on hallbars.org show our first efforts. On November 1-3 for instance, we exhibit 188 sustainability reports posters from 60 corporations and 14 institutions from 33 countries in the China Forum for Entrepreneurs of Hangzhou. They expect over 6,500 visitors, mostly from private industry, big companies like Alibaba or Wahaha, both with headquarters in Hangzhou, or startups. The main sponsor is Moutai, the number one brand in China," Coinreau says.
Hallbars' first focus is on the food and drink sector, more essential than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our first step is to reach professionals, the second is to expand recognition to the public. Movies have the Oscars, sustainability has the Hallbars. We are ahead of our plan to reach professionals at the moment, which is satisfying, given 2020 is a really difficult year to launch new projects, it is a challenge to get people's attention," says Coinreau.
This year’s event took place in the Alfred Nobel House Björkborn in Karlskoga and judges looked at sustainability reports in the the food and drink sector from 53 countries.
In the cocoa category, the winners were:
1. SWITZERLAND - Barry Callebaut - Forever Chocolate Progress. GRI Report 2018 -2019, 11 pages.
2 GERMANY - Ritter Sport - Sustainability Report 2018, 54 pages.
3 FRANCE - Valrhona - CSR 2018, 44 pages.
Hallbars said it is already planning a live event in 2021, coronavirus permitting, on October 21, in the Blue Room of Stockholm Town Hall, where the Nobel Prize banquet takes place on December 10, the date of Alfred Nobel's death.