Posts Tagged ‘CSR reporting’

Update on ISO 26000 (Guidance on Social Responsibility)

posted by Tara Knight

This is an update to a post I previously wrote about the publication of ISO 26000

Since the official publishing of the long-awaited ISO 26000 (Guidance on social responsibility) code in November 2010, many companies have been excitedly leveraging the standard to their business process.  

The ISO 26000 code is intended to provide an international consensus on definitions and principles of Social Responsibility and guidance for integrate it throughout the operations of an organization. Unlike many other ISO standards, the working group that developed ISO 26000 decided that it would not be appropriate to be a certifiable standard – but that hasn’t stopped consultants from offering to certify it. 

To the ISO 26000 working groups’ surprise, it turns out that ISO’s national standards bodies are not bound by that decision. So, national ISO bodies are offering to certifying national variations of the international standard. Under the ISO system, the national bodies are within their organization rules to offer this certification. It is certainly creating a lot of confusion for an international code that expressly states is not intended or appropriately “certifiable” not to mention, creating a host of national versions of what is supposed to be one international consensus.

It is an example of how companies are clearly seeing value in CSR – why would organizations so ardently seek independent verification for their CSR policy if it didn’t offer them some reputational or organization value? However, to ‘get back to the basics” the aim of CSR – and the ISO 26000 standard – is to create and follow the policy and principals of social responsibility – not just acquire the symbols of it.

@TaraKnightHK
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The medium sends a message…

posted by Tara Knight

Maybe the format of CSR reports isn’t keeping you up at night (OK, it’s not keeping me up at night either) but each year, I find it fascinating to review the CSR Trends 2010 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Sustainable Business Solutions practice and Craib Design & Communications.

If you haven’t had a chance to review the report – PwC and Craib do a great job of sifting through hundreds of reports mainly from Europe, Japan, Australia, The United States and Canada, reviewing trends and providing a useful snapshot of the differing expectations business cultures have about CSR reporting – and the best practices you may want to emulate. The report doesn’t address truthfulness, instead it delves into how effective companies are in communicating their CSR strategies and performance.

No surprise, there is still a significant difference in how much North American companies report on CSR in comparison to their European counterparts. Virtually 100% of European companies surveyed had CSR information on their corporate website – and 81% published a CSR report. North American companies are further behind than I would expect, with 80% of American and 72% of Canadian companies posting CSR information on their website, but only 37% of Canadian companies and 40% of American companies following up with a published CSR report.

One of the things I was surprised to see in the report is how few companies are taking greater advantage of the benefit of websites and the social web for communicating their CSR commitment. Although 28% of American companies surveyed are using blogs to engage with stakeholders, that is more than double the rate of Europe and Canada. Of all the companies surveyed, while 48% are using CSR microsites, just 35% are leveraging video (particularly for stakeholder testimonials) and only 23% are using interactive diagrams or maps.

The lower use of interactive maps and diagrams particularly surprises me, given that graphics are such an incredibly powerful way to communicate complex information – and websites are a perfect vector for interactive visual mapping and diagrams. Given how many graphics are developed for printed CSR reports, companies clearly understand the value in making complex information clear with the use of design. So, I am a little astonished that more companies are not considering how they could translate these to better leverage the attributes of the web.  (If you are really keen, the report covers some very impressive “best practices” in online communications and interactivity starting on page 42 – such as my personal favourite, Stora Enso’s sustainability microsite (which I wrote about previously here, and is a client of H&K Finland.) 

Bottom line? Move ahead of the pack by first – talking about your CSR activities, and second, building your CSR reporting into every aspect of your communications. Use the attributes of the communication tools you already have to make your CSR reporting come alive.

@TaraKnightHK

Trends in CSR Reporting

posted by Tara Knight

I had the opportunity recently to do a bit of digging into best practices and trends for corporate responsibility reporting – and it was a fascinating journey. CSR (or ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance) concerns and reporting are clearly moving to the forefront of corporate agendas.

There are a few more obvious trends – corporate responsibility reporting formats are clearly headed away from large volume hard print copies and towards digital solutions such as websites and online formats as reports get more detailed. Finding easy-to-manage ways to organize large volumes of information is especially true for organizations using integrated reporting frameworks to incorporate financial and non-financial indicators into a single report. (A couple of excellent resources in this area are: Corporate Register’s CR Reporting Awards  and CSR Trends 3)

In the wake of a number of corporate actions which have publically (and dramatically) not met their CSR reputations, there is a lively debate about evaluating the breadth and credibility of corporate CSR reporting. With a more skeptical audience, there is a significant appetite for more transparency, independent verification of CSR reporting, and engaging stakeholder participation to validate key aspects of corporate CSR reports.

The Chartered Accountants of Canada recently released a report, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Issues in Institutional Investor Decision Making, which provides another window into why these trends have become more prevalent. As investors are increasingly concerned with the environmental management aspects of CSR as a risk mitigation strategy, especially long-term investments, CSR (or ESG) reporting is also becoming critical data in making investment decisions. In fact, their report identifies that reporting on environmental, social and governance elements of the business are now being seen by some investors as a proxy for evaluating the quality of management of a company. Jennifer Hicks wrote about this growing interest in Triple Pundit.

Of course, this trend is frustrated by the lack of truly comparable metrics to evaluate CSR or ESG reporting between companies. Although the Global Reporting Initiative seems to be emerging as a favored standard, Corporate Register’s 2010 CR Reporting Awards report indicates the second most popular option is a completely customized reporting framework.   

For companies looking to initiate or improve their CSR (and ESG) reporting, making the choice between a global standard or custom framework will be difficult. A global reporting standard might enable their investors and stakeholders to perform better comparable analysis on their CSR performance relative to the market, where a custom reporting system could be a better fit to the company’s needs. In the meantime, companies should be conscious that reporting their CSR activity is critical not just for their corporate reputation – but potentially their financial success as well.