CSR Reports: Transparency, anyone?

CSR Reports: Transparency, anyone?

As I sit here writing this, I find myself a bit under the weather. For those of you who don’t know me, I don’t do well with being sick. At all. I don’t go to the doctor, I rarely need medicine; I just get plain indignant. Why am I telling you this? Because today, I had to tell myself the truth and admit I am sick. So, I went to the doctor, I got medicine and am hopefully on the mend.

Like me, many companies are finding out they need to tell themselves the truth — and tell their entire stakeholder audience. They need to be willing to share what’s ailing them and they need to admit they are looking for remedies. (Okay, enough with the cold and sickness analogies.) Ultimately, companies of all sizes are facing increased pressure to report what they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint, how they are treating employees, and what they are doing to ‘green’ their supply chain, among other disclosures.

These companies are also discovering that they had better be truthful when disclosing this information. Transparency is not a buzz word, it’s a reality. And more and more companies are faced with the unknown territory that is ‘full disclosure.’ (And here’s a little secret—they are not all doing this willingly. After all, who wants to air dirty laundry or run the risk of watchdog groups testing their every move – right?)

So sustainability directors and those responsible for environmental reporting are faced with a large mountain to climb. They’ve got to convince management that a report is the right thing to do and that it is needed. They must also gain approval to report on their footprint – no matter its size – in order to gain environmental acceptance. And, they have to do so in an authentically transparent manner. Seems daunting, but it’s certainly not impossible. In fact, more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies are issuing a sustainability report. That’s an encouraging number, but I wonder how many of them are being done with that ‘real’ transparency approach?

Here’s the bottom line:  don’t be the one not telling the truth.  (And omitting unpleasantries is the same as being untruthful.) When we talk to our clients about how to report their sustainability efforts we use phrases like, ‘keep it simple,’ or ‘honesty is key.’ If you are straightforward, simple, truthful and transparent, the story will build itself and you’ll end up with a CSR report that meets the needs of your stakeholders.

Obviously, there are many additional CSR elements to discuss and far more detail than I can include in one post. (Metrics is a big one – and I’ll talk about that in my next post in this series.) Meanwhile, if you’d like to discuss this post, or anything relating to CSR reports, just give me a shout. But for now, I’ll go back to telling myself the truth … I think it’s time for another dose of cold medicine.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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