Experts Examined CSR Reporting in Second Sustainability Chat
(3BL Media / theCSRfeed) June 9, 2011 - The second in the monthly Sustainability Chat discussed “CSR Reporting Best Practices” on OpenEyeWorld (OEW), the online sustainability expert engagement platform, from May 31 to June 2. The dialogue generated 81 comments in 3 discussion streams from 23 sustainability experts in 9 countries representing the likes of Ceres, Radley Yeldar, and SustainAbility. Overall, more than 60 experts viewed the dialogue, and the SustyChat Group on OEW has grown to over 70 people.
To view the entire dialogue, visit: http://www.openeyeworld.net/sustychat/2
For an in-depth summary, visit: http://www.openeyeworld.com/sites/default/files/SustyChat2-Summary.pdf
“SustyChat is a brilliant innovation in the field of sustainability: a meeting place where practitioners can expand beyond their common networks to exchange ideas in-depth,” said Deborah Leipziger, author of The Corporate Responsibility Code Book and co-facilitator of the “Standards & Practices” discussion stream, with CSR-Reporting blogger Elaine Cohen.
Participants in this thread enumerated 8 standards they use for sustainability reporting, including the Global Reporting Initiative, AccountAbility AA1000 Series, UN Global Compact Communication on Progress, and Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability. They identified gaps between what companies report and how they perform, as well as differences in benefits, challenges, and pressures between multinational enterprises (MNEs) and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) when it comes to CSR reporting. The thread ended addressing the issue of “interoperability,” or the “bridging” of different standards to create synergies between them, according to AccountAbility Research Fellow Rajiv Maher.
The “Interactive Technology” discussion stream focused on the value of social media, leading to an examination of the spectrum between reporting and engagement in the communications cycle. Thread co-facilitator James Farrar of SAP distinguished between “push” (or company publication of information) and “pull” (or stakeholder demand for sustainability data), and co-facilitator Tom Raftery of GreenMonk extolled the virtue of analytics: “The optimal sustainability report needs to have open APIs to allow people to slice and dice the data in every way imaginable” to create “the truly transparent report.” The thread ended on an in-depth inquiry into the question of sustainability context (or lack thereof) in CSR reporting, with Mark McElroy of the Center for Sustainable Organizations explaining how to measure whether companies operate sustainably—or not.
“Assurance” co-facilitator Paul Scott of CorporateRegister seeded this thread with charts displaying very low uptake of third-party assurance of sustainability reports, and co-facilitator Mark Line of Two Tomorrows got the ball rolling by asking for reasons and remedies. Daniel Roberts of raas-XBRL attributed lagging uptake to lack of pull from shareowners, which he called the most “invested” of stakeholders—a take others challenged, pointing out that different stakeholders are “invested” in the reliability of companies’ sustainability reports in different ways. Still, companies calculate the value of assurance in bottom-line benefits, which few currently see, and so they turn to more than a dozen different methods to authenticate their reports, including expert stakeholder panels—and, as SustyChat curator Bill Baue suggested, crowdsourced input from stakeholders who can scrutinize, cross-check, and challenge the degree to which CSR reports accurately reflect company sustainability.
The next SustyChat will focus on Sustainability Ratings from July 6 through 7.