Giving Birth to a CSR Report

Giving Birth to a CSR Report

Companies that rely on their CSR report as a primary communications tool are missing the opportunity to tell their stories year-round to audiences that care about corporate citizenship, according to veteran CSR executives.

IBM has evolved its communications efforts from press releases to blogging, relying on 100 corporate citizen managers around the world, each with their own voice in social media, according to Kristina Kloberdanz, corporate responsibility leader for the tech giant.

“Now I’ve enabled the employees to be the spokespeople,” Kloberdanz told CSR pros at CR Magazine’s Commit!Forum in New York Wednesday.

While fewer than 30 CSR reports were produced in the early 1990s, Kloberdanz said the 2014 count exceeded 7,000, meaning that key stakeholders now expect the document, or its online equivalent, to be readily available.

“No longer is that a differentiating factor,” she said, adding that much of the content crammed into CSR reports might be better suited as digital storytelling content to be shared throughout the year.

The oft-cited analogy that nurturing and publishing a CSR report was akin to giving birth to a child was also called into question at Commit!Forum.

“The CSR report is, many times, one and done and you wipe your hands of it. But a child lives with you forever, said Rey Bouknight, director of corporate communications for MGM Resorts International, which dedicates a department to CSR comms.

“We need to continually be communicating and telling the story about what our company is doing,” Bouknight said, adding that his organization’s 70-page CSR report is rarely read by employees and targets mainly partners and peers in the CSR and community.

Research related to CSR communications was also unveiled at Commit!Forum.

A third of the CSR professionals surveyed by the Corporate Responsibility Association said they used the CSR report as a communications platform.  Another third said the company’s communications department owned the responsibility of keeping internal and external audiences informed about CSR.

In a trend we’ve noted at 3BL Media, 29 percent of the CSR officers responding to the survey said their own department – not “corp comms” – own the task of communicating about their organization’s corporate citizenship achievements.

The research report also revealed that companies rely heavily on media monitoring and questionnaires to track changes in corporate reputation.  While 27 percent of companies reported having a formal process for tracking reputational risk, 47 percent acknowledged they put programs into place on a case-by-case basis.

The CRO research also found that 45 percent of corporate respondents said their companies have been targeted by NGO activists.

(Photo caption: Rey Bouknight, MGM Resorts International)