By Anna Morris
Nine years ago, only 20% of companies published a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report. Fast forward to 2020, and nine out of 10 companies in the S&P 500 now publish a report. CSR reports have become an increasingly important way for organizations to formally explain how their operations are impacting the world.
Why is a CSR report important?
In order to elevate a CSR report from good to great, companies must first understand why it is valuable.
CSR reports have become more important in recent years, as consumers, employees, regulators and investors have come to expect more than just notable financial performance from corporations. In fact, 92% of consumers view companies in a more positive light when those businesses make a conscious effort to protect the environment and support social initiatives.
In fact, 87% of consumers said they would be willing to buy a product or service based on a company’s advocacy concerning a social matter. Effective CSR strategies can also help companies avoid revenue losses of roughly 7% while increasing market value by 4-6%. Engaging in socially valuable projects can even reduce employee turnover by approximately 50%.
CSR reporting best practices
The key, however, is to ensure your report reflects best practices and incorporates key components of an effective CSR strategy.
Take an authentic stance
Studies show that people value authenticity from brands they support, with 63% of people preferring companies that stand for something real. When companies look to their mission and values to guide and determine CSR efforts, it demonstrates authenticity. Aligning corporate actions with a company mission can also reinforce a shared sense of purpose among your community.
Reinforce your organization’s authenticity further by including a letter from the CEO within the CSR report. Consumers often view companies as faceless entities, so putting a face to your brand’s name is a great way to create connection and build trust among employees, stakeholders and the general public.
CSR reports are a great way to highlight successful initiatives or even tout awards won for CSR programs. Companies often set aside a section of the report specifically to celebrate ways in which their organization is excelling, which is great for company morale. However, it’s also important to be transparent and acknowledge when there’s room for improvement. CSR reports are responsible for more than 40% of a company’s reputation, so while it may seem safer to only report on what’s going well while skimming over what went wrong, this approach can backfire. Honest evaluation makes a company more relatable and is another reflection of authenticity.
Pro tip: Describe progress toward your goals, as well as the changes you’ll make to address challenges, in a target performance summary within your CSR report.
Always provide sources
In any data-based document like a CSR report, it’s vital to cite good sources. These lend credibility and context to the information in the report as well as strengthen stakeholder trust.
Sources in a CSR report can come from within the company, like past successes or internal blog articles. Companies can also point to external sources such as articles published about the brand.
Make an event out of the release of your report
Companies invest a lot of time and effort into CSR programs and reporting. When it’s time to release the report, don’t be afraid to celebrate. Host a launch event for employees and stakeholders, featuring speeches and encouragement from company executives, as well as reflections on company goals.
If an in-person event isn’t feasible, as is the case during the COVID-19 pandemic, consider the example of our client Aflac, who hosted a virtual event in honor of its 2020 CSR report release.
No matter your company, its size or your industry, CSR reporting is a great way to build morale, bolster your reputation, create a shared sense of purpose and highlight company values by sharing and reflecting on progress, goals and initiatives.
Interested in developing a CSR report but aren’t sure where to start? Our team has ample experience from creating an integrated CSR strategy to designing the report itself. Contact our team to discuss how we can help.