AR & CSR: On A Collision Course?

Many companies have come to realize it is no longer optional to address sustainability and corporate social responsibility. The SEC now requires disclosure on the impact of climate change. Fully 80% of global Fortune 250 companies report Responsibility data, and 50% cited direct economic factors as a key motivator (source: 2008 KPMG Fortune 250 survey). There is a lot of buzz about integrated reporting, but without a consensus on reporting standards you may be asking, should I produce one document, or two?

One Document or Two?

That might be the wrong question. In a single document or across several — the key is you need a consistent story and presentation, whether you decide to communicate in print, online or both. Delivering a single coherent message to all stakeholders improves disclosure and transparency, demonstrates that you take sustainability seriously and gives stakeholders of all stripes reason to invest in your company, your products, your stock and your brand.

So, the bottom line is that it isn’t about one report or two — although we see a single unified report as the future standard. (Who doesn’t crave “The Swiss Army knife of communications”?) But for companies grappling with limited budgets, what can you do now to evolve your annual reporting — to better advance company priorities, make the most of your resources and satisfy diverse stakeholder interests?

Three Steps Toward Better Integration

  1. Unify your messages. Include Corporate Responsibility content in your Annual Report, and financial information in your Responsibility or EHS Report. It will introduce the idea and establish internal processes for vetting content, paving the way for further evolution.
  2. Improve the presentation. Align the design of your reports to reinforce a single voice — your brand. This goes a long way toward creating coherence.
  3. Use the web. Stakeholders clamor for more information, and it isn’t necessarily relevant for all. (Not everyone wants to read a 100+ page document anyway.) Use the web to contain as much detail as you need to satisfy all stakeholders without losing sight of the story.

There are many complex issues to address, and every company has different needs, but telling your company’s story in a clear and compelling way, across its reporting, enhances understanding of your organization’s strategies and priorities, and increases stakeholder engagement. There is a move afoot toward integrated reporting and you can get there, improving your communications and getting more return on your investment. Embrace it.

If you’d like to discuss how this affects your specific situation, we are happy to share our experiences.