Your corporate social responsibility efforts are creating positive change. How do you share this news with stakeholders?
The companies with the most public support are usually those that are ethical, good to their employees, and conscious of how they affect the environment. This corporate social responsibility (CSR) report checklist can help you communicate about the great work your company is doing so that consumers, employees, stakeholders, and the public can be advocates for your brand.
Corporate social responsibility isn’t just good ethics, it’s good business. After all, 92% of consumers have more positive views toward companies that make an effort to protect the environment and support social initiatives.
A CSR report is a formal document that assesses how a company’s operations affect the world around them. The report can cover economic, environmental, and/or social impacts, depending on what the company does.
A CSR report can improve a company’s image, warn company leaders of dangerous shortcomings in corporate social responsibility, and open the door to applying for third-party sustainability certifications.
Let’s take a look at nine key components of a strong CSR report and examples from CSR industry leaders.
A business overview is a brief summation of the company and its recent performance. It’s designed to help set the context for the rest of the impact report or to remind the reader of pertinent information the rest of the report will detail.
In Nike’s CSR report, the business overview provides key information about the company condensed into a single page of highlights. It includes a brief description of Nike’s business model, some of the current product development and roll-out initiatives, a list and description of the brands that Nike owns, and key financial data that would be of particular interest to stakeholders, such as annual revenue and return on investment (ROI).
A corporate social responsibility report is an opportunity to build or reinforce trust between a company, its employees, stakeholders, and the general public. For this reason, companies should be upfront in sustainability reports, even when the truth is somewhat unpleasant. If a CSR report contains misrepresentations, the public will lose trust in the company that creates it.
Seventh Generation was one of the first companies to become a B Corp and a manufacturer of personal hygiene and cleaning products. If you look at the latest Seventh Generation CSR report, you’ll likely notice one particular word that is echoed on several pages: transparency.
It’s not just for show—Seventh Generation is committed to being totally upfront about their products from the materials used to produce them, to the waste that’s recycled after manufacturing.
An excellent example of authenticity in a CSR report is Starbucks’ recent global responsibility report. In the report, Starbucks highlights its mission to source primarily sustainable coffee beans that are ethically farmed. The report also details the effects of that mission which has been transformative for more than 4,500 small-holder farmers and their families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Starbucks’ report shows the company is turning ideas into actions that have positive ramifications on the world. As a result, there’s more authenticity to Starbucks’ CSR report.
Letter from the CEO
We tend to view companies as abstract, disembodied constructs. A letter from the company CEO is an effective reminder that there are actual people behind the brand.
Moreover, the CEO’s letter provides a top-down perspective that often summarizes the company’s unique history and citizenship. Overall, it can be a great primer for a CSR report, and help set the tone for what follows.
In Target’s CSR report, Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell writes about the company’s humble beginnings and 56 years of growth. Cornell goes on to emphasize the company’s plan to continue boosting employee wages, reinforcing an optimistic tone that continues throughout the report.
Resources are finite, so sustainability has become a major focus for companies that produce or distribute actual, physical goods. With larger companies needing to be cognizant of any negative effects they could be having on local ecology, environmental social responsibility continues to be a common focus in CSR reports. This is especially true when the scale and reach of these companies could potentially have adverse effects on the local ecology and the environment overall. For this reason, laying out your company’s sustainability goals is an essential component of a CSR report.
Google—and parent company Alphabet—is about as big and ubiquitous as a business can get. Being firmly rooted in the tech industry, which has a reputation for oblivious use of finite resources, there have been many Google CSR reports in which the company’s environmental sustainability goals are the sole focus. In fact, the search giant’s environmental sustainability goals are so numerous and diverse that Google commonly breaks what many companies would have in a single CSR report into separate CSR reports. On the sustainability page, you’ll find separate in-depth CSR categories for Google’s impact reports, studies on specific Google products, and efforts to implement a circular economy.
Target performance summary
The target performance summary is the part of a CSR report in which a company describes progress toward its goals and what changes or adjustments can be made to get closer to achieving those goals.
The latest Xerox CSR report has been broken into separate smaller reports with every section addressing a different element including the company’s mission statement, governance initiatives, and progress toward its corporate social responsibility goals.
With the latter, you gain access to a summary of the progress the company has made toward its sustainability goals. The charts are even itemized to show the percentage progress toward goals.
Audits by respected third-party organizations can validate the claims made in a CSR report.
As the world’s most valuable company, Apple has gone to lengths to minimize, or even outright eliminate, the negative impact its business has on the environment. For this reason, environmental sustainability has been a major focus in Apple CSR reports as evidenced by the company’s mission to be a “closed-circuit company.” In a recent CSR report, Apple had a third-party firm do a case study to validate some of Apple’s recent energy conservation efforts.
The way that a company is built and its focus in the marketplace will determine whether it is more susceptible to environmental, social, or economic sustainability issues. For this reason, a CSR report needs to have clear issue prioritization, meaning that the report must identify and address the specific ways in which the company can improve its corporate social responsibility. Many companies will factor in materiality, meaning they measure what is important to their stakeholders through a process such as that offered by Global Reporting Initiative (commonly known as GRI). Ultimately, this will frame much of the CSR report.
For an example of strong issue prioritization in sustainability, look at the 2018 Coca-Cola CSR report. In particular, the report acknowledges that studies have correlated high sugar intake with the high rate of obesity and that there’s greater awareness in the public when it comes to the health risks of sugary beverages.
As such, the company makes alleviating these risks and concerns a priority, and uses the remainder of the report to include strategies that involve developing more nutritious beverages that are lower in sugar.
It’s important to provide sources in any data-based document, but they’re especially important in a CSR report. Sources provide credibility and context to the information you provide.
Ford makes its CSR report extremely easy to follow by including sources. For example, one of the first pages of a recent Ford CSR report includes a number of resources that provide context for the report. Additionally, the company adds footnotes with additional information through the impact report which tells the reader where the referenced data originates.
Whether the goal is to give back to the community, reward employees for their hard work, or minimize the environmental footprint, GlobalGiving can help you to achieve your corporate social responsibility goals as we have for these companies.
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