Monday, 15 September 2008

Online CSR Transparency

Research from Brigham Young University and KDPaine & Partners has attempted to measure the transparency of CSR web sites of Fortune 50 Corporations. The general conclusion was that stakeholders were not involved enough (or at least it wasn't clear that they were involved) and there was little possible interaction with the CSR web sites, which made them mainly PR exercises. But the research did say that using standards developed by third party groups made reporting more transparent.

It seems to me that the only reason for having CSR reports is to make it possible to compare a company with its peers. If you're choosing a supplier, company to invest in or to work for then you want to know how companies compare, particularly in the same industry. To do that, everyone needs to be measuring the same thing. So the standards developed by the likes of the CDP are all-important. Preferably performance should also be verified by a third party, but in the case of this survey only 14% of those that included numerical reporting said they had been checked out by someone else.

Of course to make it meaningful the data should be in context, i.e. against targets, competitors, over time, etc. and this is where the most disappointing results were, as the chart shows. Organisations really need to think about what the CSR reports are for.

The net result of the research, a full copy of which is here, is a ranking of the Fortune 50 CSR web sites based on a scorecard that covered the use of technology, useful information, accountability, involvement and openness. HP came out top, Dell second and IBM was in 12th place.

My only reservation about this research is that points were awarded for the sheer length of a CSR report, which is not necessarily a good thing. As I noted in the last Green IT Report, HP’s on-line Global Citizenship Report ran to 180 printable pages - lets hope no one printed it.

© The Green IT Review

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