Boom in CSR reporting despite recession according to PwC

Pricewaterhouse Coopers recently released its fourth survey of trends in CSR reporting. PwC reviewed 602 companies listed in five Standard & Poor's indexes. CSR reports form 75 companies were also analysed for benchmarking best practices. They included 25 companies each from Canada and the US, 25 from Europe, Asia and Japan.

PwC found that the number of companies producing CSR reports are on an upswing in spite of the recession. The report noted that CSR reporting has "become critical to a company's credibility, transparency and endurance."  PwC found that 81% of European companies produced reports, which is a 15% increase from last year. In comparison, only 40% of the companies in Canada and US produced a report. Overall, 67% of sustainability reports used GRI as a guidelines. 76% of non-North American companies cite the Global Compact principles in their sustainability reports.

PwC stated, "The best reports will qualify -- sometimes quantify -- both the potential impact that an issue might have on a company along with the level of concern expressed by stakeholders."  For this to be credible, it needs to be audited by an external source. However only 31% of companies included assurance reports and only 27% of reports using GRI guidelines were externally assured.

PwC states that CSR has changed from a "nice thing to do" to a "core business value that defines the best businesses on the planet." They state examples of best practices in sustainability reporting and identified 40 companies that meet the criteria. These include: Campbell Soup, Henkel, Marks & Spencer's, Daimler, Arcelor Mittal, Vodaphone, Sainbury's, Chevron, Coca-Cola, Ford Motor, Intel and Nike.

The PwC report continues to examine what makes a good CSR report and apart from engaging the reader; it also talks about the use of graphics, format and presentation of key ideas and facts. It calls a CSR report "a dialogue between a company and its stakeholders." It breaks down the key components of a good CSR report which includes: format, design, key elements of content, performance and website treatment.

PwC's own take on CSR according to CR Director, Jeff Senne is,"at PwC we strongly believe that  decisions and actions taken by the private sector can have profound effects—for better or for worse—on the public welfare. So for us Corporate Responsibility is not about what you do with your money once you have earned it, but it is about how you earn money." He says that it is important to have a strategic outlook towards CSR. He mentions that to achieve tangible results it is necessary to have clear goals and to measure progress.

Which is exactly why CSR reporting is important.