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The ABCs of CSR Reporting

A healthy environmentJust a few years ago, Corporate Social Responsibility reports were ‘nice to have’. Slowly but surely, they’re becoming ‘need to have’. But putting one together for the first time can be a daunting task. How do you do it? What should be in it? Here are some pointers to put you on the right path.  

There are surprisingly few formal guidelines regarding how CSR reports should be constructed and what should go in them. Templates with structure and content suggestions do exist, but slavishly copying these templates point-by-point is unnecessary and may even be counterproductive to producing a good CSR report for your business.  They are, however, valuable for orientation purposes. Once you’ve looked at a few, you’re ready to start.

  • Remember that a CSR report is a commitment to continued reporting. Make sure that such a commitment exists within your organisation before you invest time, money and effort in creating a first CSR report.
  • Identify the leading CSR issues associated with your business: these can vary widely across industry and sectors (i.e., raw materials, environmental impact, health and safety, local labour practices). These are the topics that your stakeholders will primarily want to know about.
  • Determine how your company performs in these areas compared to best practices in your sector. If this information is not available, establish processes for gathering it. Performance indicators are the backbone of a CSR report and you will need a solid amount of such data before you can produce one that will be of use or value to you.
  • Consider whether your company truly has a strategy in place for improving your indicators. If this is not the case, such a strategy and road maps towards improvement need to be defined. A bad (or non-existent) sustainability strategy = a bad or unimpressive CSR report.
  • Define concrete, realistic targets for indicator improvement over the next 12 months. It’s much better to set modest – and achievable – goals than to make promises you can’t keep. Express your goals and targets as often as possible in quantitative terms that you can measure against in the future.
  • Keep in mind that although performance indicators are the backbone of a CSR report, overlaying them is always a ‘story’ – your company’s story! Once you’ve followed the points listed above, you’ll have a clear idea of the story your company has to tell, and a solid baseline for reporting and for setting new targets in the future.

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