Are you doing the right thing for the wrong reason?

The practice of sustainability reporting is now embedded in businesses DNA, as it enables best practice in engaging with stakeholders, preparing to manage risk and measure sustainable economic growth in the long-term. So, if the question is whether your organization should invest in producing a sustainability report or not, the answer, in today’s vastly increasing demand for transparency, is that number speak for themselves! According to Marjella Alma, manager of external relations for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), 95 percent of the world’s 250 largest companies today disclose sustainability performance information. Why? Simply placed: “What gets measured gets managed”, which of course in turn enables you to gradually improve your performance whilst addressing the triple bottom line!  Now if the question within your organization is why publish a CSR report? Again simply placed, a CSR report acts as a vehicle to engage and communicate with stakeholders as it can ensure that a company is acting in a responsible manner! Yet to be credible, among many reasons, external assurance is vital for the integrity of data…No wonder 50 percent of companies internationally use external assurance for their reports!

 Consequently, a CSR report is of significant importance to organizations performance, but what in fact drives towards success? The two most important values are based upon the influences and motivations behind CSR as well as how decisions are made! For instance a resent research report conducted by Julia Bonner (New York University student) and Professor Adam Friedman on the influences and motivations of CSR in 77 Fortune 1000 companies, found that whilst CSR is more than often integrated within business strategies, thus doing the right thing, it is actually being done for the wrong reasons. According to the report’s results, environmental issues manifested the list as the most important focus for CSR efforts (96 percent), followed by health issues (68 percent), education (59 percent) and human rights (55 percent). Yet the reasons why the above pillars are addressed are motivated on reputation groundings by 88 percent of the respondents! On top of that, approximately two-thirds of these respondents stated that not engaging in CSR would have harmful effects on the company’s reputation.

Such motivations in turn indicate that CSR is not always altruistically driven, but the moral of the “story” is that if business motivations are built with such weak foundations and unsustainable principles, a collapse is bound to occur in the near future. Therefore before a company begins to engage in the philosophy of “What gets measured gets managed” and in turn produce a CSR report, it must embrace that acting in a responsible manner, needs to be done for the right reasons and represent the organization’s vision, mission and values holistically. There are many ways and guidelines on producing a sustainability report. To date the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the world’s most widely used framework to effectively disclose environmental, social and governance data. Its guidelines aim to ensure Sustainability Reporting encloses valuable information about organizations material issues to stakeholders and it is currently used by more than 5,000 organizations worldwide.

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