What is wrong with CR reports?

This morning a CSR report arrived in my inbox with three significant claims in the covering email:

  •   25% increase in the energy efficiency of the company’s key products
  •   2.2 million hours of training in 162 countries offered by the company’s university, and
  •   60% of the 12,513 youths receiving digital training from the company are female.

I was struck by the damage that such claims make to responsible business behaviour. Firstly the claims seem to be almost completely unrelated to the company’s core activities – what it makes or does and for whom. Nor do they give an account of the ethical, environmental and social impacts of the company’s core business activities. I was also struck by the mealy-mouthed nature of the claims themselves. Key products are undefined, so who knows what a 25 per cent increase in energy efficiency really means? Hours of training offered is not the same as delivered. The fact that more than half a class is female in a training course is not ‘stop press’ news.

As GoodCorporation has argued for over a decade, CR reports will only be taken seriously when they measure what really makes a business responsible: how it sells, how it buys, how it treats its employees, the community and its shareholders. CR reports have sadly become totally separated from these core issues. Given the crisis of trust in business, it is time to ditch this type of meaningless assessment and move onto a more serious and independent measurement of the real ethical and social impact of business.


Posted by Leo Martin: June 2013