Boston College publication examines corporate social reporting

Report provides “User’s Guide” to companies’ CSR accounts
Jan 26, 2010 12:00 PM ET

(3BLMedia/theCSRfeed) Chestnut Hill, Mass. (January 26, 2010) – The number of companies reporting on the social and environmental impacts of their business is growing dramatically, and along with it the variety of those reports and their content. To help readers weigh the value of the information in those reports and compare their quality, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s Institute for Responsible Investment has released, “How to Read a Corporate Social Responsibility Report: A User’s Guide”.

This report from the IRI is intended to help those approaching corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting for the first time, as well as those looking to deepen their understanding of what makes for a thorough CSR report. CSR reports are increasingly used by corporations to communicate with investors, employees, consumers and the general public on their social and environmental initiatives. CSR reports can be confusing to readers, in part because of their length and the volume and variety of information included, and in part because it is often difficult to distinguish the information they contain that is valuable from what is not.   This guide will help readers, whatever their interests or experience, to identify quickly and easily the most valuable parts of these reports. Its focus is on CSR reporting as practiced by North American companies, but it is applicable to CSR reporting more generally as well. While this publication is a great resource on how to read a CSR report, it may be just as valuable for those looking for advice on how to write a CSR report.   “This guide distills the experience of reading literally thousands of CSR reports over several decades into a single set of observations on how to distinguish what is meaningful from what is not when confronted with CSR reports that can, these days, run 100 pages or more,” notes Steve Lydenberg, a leading researcher in the responsible investment field and principal author of the report.   This publication looks at the many purposes for CSR reports and their intended audiences, which range from investors to customers to employees and advocacy groups. It examines the primary characteristics and features of a thorough CSR report. Does it provide details on goals and addresses both successes and failures while identifying future challenges? Are the interests of major stakeholder groups addressed? Does it include historic facts and figures that allow for gauging improvement and is their input from third parties?   Whatever name they go by, corporate social responsibility reports seek to serve one essential purpose: they portray the relationship between a corporation and society. They seek to improve communications between the corporate world and the broader society within which companies report. “How to Read a Corporate Social Responsibility Report: A User’s Guide” makes clear for the reader, or writer, whether or not a CSR report gets the job done. Visit the research section of the Boston College Center’s web site to download a copy.   The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship is a membership-based research organization associated with the Carroll School of Management. It is committed to helping business leverage its social, economic and human assets to ensure both its success and a more just and sustainable world. As a leading resource on corporate citizenship, the Center works with global corporations to help them define, plan and operationalize their corporate citizenship. Through the power of research, management and leadership programs, and the insights of its 350 corporate members, the Center creates knowledge, value and demand for corporate citizenship.   For more information contact:
Tim Wilson, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship
Email: Phone: 617-552-1173 Katie Grace, Tellus Institute
Phone: 617-266-5400   BCCCC4262