CSR reporting reached an all-time high this year with 86 percent of companies in the S&P 500 publishing reports. It’s no surprise that with reporting becoming more mainstream, companies are increasingly looking for ways to break through the noise and standout. Here are the top ten trends we’re seeing this reporting season:
Expanding beyond the traditional PDF: To reach new audiences and communicate Purpose more authentically, companies are expanding beyond the typical lengthy PDF report and are creating more compelling content. Patagonia features its CSR efforts on its website and also publishes a coffee table style book that customers, employees and stakeholders can view on its website or purchase in stores.
Creating dynamic digital experiences: Going digital is another key trend we’ve seen over the past few years to help bring CSR efforts and programs to life. UPS created an interactive web experience to enable stakeholders to explore and learn about their CSR strategy through interactive tiles and videos.
Setting ambitious commitments that align to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Taking a cue from CSR pioneers like Unilever, more companies are moving beyond traditional performance targets and are implementing enterprise-wide commitments that ladder back to the SDGs and require bold action like halving their environmental impacts.
Fostering stakeholder dialogue: With an increased emphasis on transparency, companies are beginning to disclose more around not only what types of stakeholders they’re engaging with but also more details regarding the dialogue. In its latest CSR report, Target* uses a visual wheel to demonstrate stakeholder groups the company engaged with as well as the key issues raised.
Evolving the CSR strategy: As a company’s business changes, so should its CSR strategy. Longtime leader in Purpose, CVS Health* evolved its CSR strategy this year following its acquisition of Aetna. The company’s new platform is designed to be more inclusive of its commitment to addressing the complexities of today’s health care system and the role it plays in addressing public health challenges.
Reporting on climate risk: As climate change has become increasingly paramount across both the public and private sector, companies like JetBlue are doubling down on climate reporting using recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and conducting climate scenario analysis.
Conveying a bold stance on key issues: In the past few years we’ve seen companies move from not only vocalizing a bold stance on issues but taking concrete action. In its 2018 CSR report, DICK’S Sporting Goods* took the opportunity to convey its bold stance to help end gun violence by spotlighting the company’s decision to ban the sale of assault-style firearms and other key actions taken following the Parkland shooting.
Increasing reporting on human rights issues: Consumers and stakeholders are increasingly looking at actions companies are taking on human rights. As support for the United Nations Global Compact and its principles continues to grow, companies like Citi are integrating their Communication on Progress (COP) into CSR reporting via a UN Global Compact Index.
Increasing transparency around CSR governance: Consumers, stakeholders and employees want to know that companies not only care about CSR but also value it in terms of internal organizational structure. Nike is providing more insight to help stakeholders better understand how CSR is embedded into its business and governed through committees, cross-functional working groups, executive leadership and board accountability.
Continuing to adhere to GRI and SASB guidelines: It’s no surprise that the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards continues to be the premiere framework for CSR reporting. Adhering to The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)’s sector-specific guidance is also a critical step in determining a company’s material topics and shaping the contents of CSR reports.
As we prepare for the next reporting season, we look forward to seeing how more companies will use these trends to convey their CSR strategy with increased transparency and compelling content that resonates with stakeholders.