Responsible policy

by Dr Michael Groves

27 Jan 2010

  • Comments

The ever-growing trend for companies to produce annual reports on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability record, has created more questions than it answers.

There is no doubt that the reports are more sophisticated and standardised, helped along by a range of voluntary standards and guidance notes for CSR reporting and statutory requirements to report on environmental risks. At the same time, the reports have in many ways become an expensive exercise in document creation and consultancy-speak. In other words, a communication tool that tries to please everyone and consequently pleases no one. If you want any proof of this, even the investment analysts find them boring!

At best, your jobbing CSR report is just a piece of corporate wallpaper. At worst it is a duvet hiding all manner of governance failings. One can readily cite the example of Royal Bank of Scotland, which latterly had played ball on climate change, produced an annual sustainability report and ticked many of the CSR boxes. The turmoil in 2008/2009 showed that its reporting regime merely accentuated the disjuncture between measures of environmental and community engagement and actual company performance and governance. These reports singularly failed as tools of openness and transparency.

The aspirant CSR communicators need to recognise that being open and transparent is perhaps more important now than ever, with the private sector subject to a greater level of cynicism and scrutiny. On the plus side, there is a growing canon of evidence showing that companies that are prepared to open themselves up and listen to their customers will be more successful.

The business must then decide what the best methods are of communicating with the many groups interested in its CSR record – be they customers, regulators, investors, employees, local communities or suppliers.

While it may be harder to do, I would venture to suggest that a combination of different communication methods would be most effective, be they web based (including social media tools), printed summaries, presentations, one-to-one meetings, debates, adverts, maps, graphs, exhibitions, postcards or tea towels.

There is huge scope for businesses to be genuinely interesting in relation to CSR. If nothing else, it is about telling a story and responding to the resulting debate and questions. The digital world also allows the story to be told in real time, with video, blogging and graphics that show
what is happening right now within the business and even across its supply chain.

Adopting a greater level of CSR openness may be daunting to the “on message” communication control freaks out there, but I’m afraid they will just have to get used to it. In fact, they will either adapt or be trampled into the soil when future CEOs, CFOs and CIOs born into a social media-dominated world start to get their hands on businesses. It’s already happening, so come on you corporate suits, open yourselves up a little more.

Dr Michael Groves is an environmental professional and entrepreneur.

Further reading:

greatcircle.co.uk

Visitor comments

blog comments powered by Disqus
display:none

Add your comment

We won't publish your address


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms & Conditions

Your comment will be moderated before publication

Submit
  • Send
HM Revenue & Customs

Head Of Financial Control

HM Revenue & Customs, Telford, Full Time, Permanent/p>

 

Newsletters

Get the latest financial news sent directly to your inbox

  • Best Practice
  • Business
  • Daily Newsletter
  • Essentials

Careers

Search for jobs
Click to search our database of all the latest accountancy roles

Create a profile
Click to set up your profile and let the best recruiters find you

Jobs by email
Sign up to receive regular updates with the latest roles suitable for you

Briefings

budget-management

Why budgeting fails: One management system is not enough

If budgeting is to have any value at all, it needs a radical overhaul. In today's dynamic marketplace, budgeting can no longer serve as a company's only management system; it must integrate with and support dedicated strategy management systems, process improvement systems, and the like. In this paper, Professor Peter Horvath and Dr Ralf Sauter present what's wrong with the current approach to budgeting and how to fix it.

cchcover

iXBRL: Taking stock. Looking forward

In this white paper CCH provide checklists to help accountants and finance professionals both in practice and in business examine these issues and make plans. Also includes a case study of a large commercial organisation working through the first year of mandatory iXBRL filing.