The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Case study: How alstria ensures compliance with ethical standards across its operations

As a leading German office real estate company, with a portfolio of 120 office buildings encompassing 1.7 million m² of lettable space, alstria is focused on long-term real estate value creation. Accordingly, alstria strives to ensure it conducts its business with integrity, fairness and respect for the law  Tweet This!, building and maintaining stakeholder trust.

This case study is based on the 2015/2016 Sustainability Report by alstria published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Abstract

Maintaining its good reputation and the trust of stakeholders is a top priority for alstria. As a consequence, alstria strives to operate with integrity, promoting ethical behavior among both employees and business partners. In order to ensure compliance with ethical standards across its operations alstria took action to:

  • promote ethical behavior through a code of conduct
  • enable employees to report compliance or ethical concerns
  • offer compliance training to employees

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2015/2016 Sustainability Report alstria identified a range of material issues, such as waste management, financial performance, energy efficiency, contribution to communities. Among these, ensuring compliance with ethical standards across its operations stands out as a key material issue for alstria.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The organization should identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process s of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups alstria engages with:   

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement
Tenants

 

 

 

 

·         Direct feedback from tenants at all the different stages of a tenancy, as collected by alstria’s property managers

·         Direct access to all important documentation by means of alstria’s online platform

·         Regular meetings and constructive discussions with key tenants and their representatives

Business partners
·         Intense dialogue before the beginning of a new business relation

·         Weekly meetings with contractors during construction stage

·         Direct dialogue and online feedback via the company’s website

  Employees ·         Annual appraisal meetings

·         Open-door approach

·         Regular team events

  Local communities

 

·         One-on-one dialogue with affected neighborhood before and during development projects

·         Open dialogue with the local communities

·         Social media tools to provide responsive communication

  Investors ·         Direct contact to all shareholders via alstria’s Annual General Meeting, where each shareholder is entitled to one vote per share

·         Quarterly financial and annual sustainability reporting as well as regular press conferences

·         Participation in industry discussions on alstria’s financial and sustainability performance

·         Discussions at roadshows and site tours of alstria’s properties

·         Social media tools such as LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook, the company’s blog and Twitter

 How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritize material topics alstria carried out a survey among 1,420 stakeholders who included shareholders, debt providers, analysts, tenants, employees, press and others.

What actions were taken by alstria to ensure compliance with ethical standards across its operations?

In its 2015/2016 Sustainability Report alstria reports that it took the following actions for ensuring compliance with ethical standards across its operations:

  • Promoting ethical behavior through a code of conduct
  • To encourage ethical behavior among employees and set out its legal and ethical guidelines, alstria created a code of conduct. Once hired, every employee receives a handbook – issued in both German and English – containing the code of conduct and alstria’s internal policies and has to confirm, in writing, acceptance of its terms. The code of conduct is also available on alstria’s website.
  • Enabling employees to report compliance or ethical concerns
  • All alstria employees are able to raise compliance or ethical concerns with their direct supervisor or the Compliance Officer. In addition, employees may use an external whistle-blower hotline to anonymously report possible violations of the code of conduct or alstria’s internal guidelines.
  • Offering compliance training to employees
  • To ensure compliance with alstria’s internal guidelines, regular training is offered to all employees on the company’s anticorruption policies, data privacy protection and unlawful behavior. Moreover, every new employee receives, once hired, specific training on alstria’s compliance policy. Additionally, ‘refresher’ courses are offered annually to all employees, who are immediately updated on new policy amendments.

Which GRI indicators/Standards have been addressed?

The GRI indicators/Standards addressed in this case are:

1) G4-56: Describe the organization’s values, principles, standards and norms of behavior such as codes of conduct and codes of ethics – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 102-16 Values, principles, standards, and norms of behavior

2) G4-57: Report the internal and external mechanisms for seeking advice on ethical and lawful behavior, and matters related to organizational integrity, such as helplines or advice lines – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 102-17 Mechanisms for advice and concerns about ethics

3) G4-58: Report the internal and external mechanisms for reporting concerns about unethical or unlawful behavior, and matters related to organizational integrity, such as escalation through line management, whistleblowing mechanisms or hotlines – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 102-17 Mechanisms for advice and concerns about ethics

 

References:

1) This case study is based on published information by alstria, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning.  If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) http://www.fbrh.co.uk/en/global-reporting-initiative-gri-g4-guidelines-download-page

3) https://g4.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx

4) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

Note to alstria: With each case study we send out an email requesting a comment on this case study. If you have not received such an email please contact us.

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