Report on Corporate Social Responsibility: KPMG’s Assessment

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KPMG reports on CSR

KPMG’s International Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting came out over a month ago, but at 118 pages, it has taken me a while to go through it. If you’d like to check it out, download the report from the KPMG site.

But if you’d like a quick summary, here are some highlights that stood out to me:

First, some good news: The report says, “Corporate responsibility reporting has gone mainstream – nearly 80 percent of the largest 250 companies worldwide… issued reports.” However, the KPMG International Survery of Corporate Responsibilitycontinuation of that sentence says, “…and an additional four percent integrated corporate responsibility information into their annual reports.”

I’d love to hear from an annual report writer or investor relations executive, because four percent sounds very low. Maybe there is a good reason for a stand-alone report, but it seems to me that sustainability and social responsibility should be integral to corporate operations in the Twenty-first Century.

(I get ahead of myself. The punchline of the KPMG report is that companies are not integrating sustainability and social responsibility plans sufficiently. Many companies may report their plans, but very few declare their strategies and results.)

Back to the good news and encouraging trends:  Sixty-two percent of the 250 largest global companies disclose information about climate risks, and many are doing something to reduce their carbon footprints, such as reducing energy consumption or switching to renewable energy sources.

However, almost seventy percent of the 100 largest companies in each of twenty-two countries do not report on climate risks. And what carbon footprint reporting that is done rarely extends beyond a company’s own operations throughout the value chain.

Japan and the United Kingdom have the highest percentage of top companies who report on social responsibility and environmental impact. For Japan, it is due to environmental reporting regulations. In the UK, it is more due to consumer, media, employee and shareholder groups calling for accountability and transparency. The US gets the “most improved” award since the last KPMG study three years ago, with 41additional top 100 companies issuing social responsibility reports.

KPMG’s study is worth a at least a skim, in order to get a sense of what is happening on a global level. We hear about the very worst corporate offenders and get press releases from the ones who have vowed to be responsible and sustainable. Depending upon the day, and which type of story hits the news, it is very easy to get a biased picture of corporate behavior. Because I do read all of the stories about sustainable programs and green ventures, my view was definitely colored rosie, and I was disappointed by the overall results (while still celebrating the highlights). My worry is that companies can easily greenwash their operations if they only report their intentions and are not accountable for results. And, if they can offload poluting or exploitative production into their supply chain, then we haven’t really gained much by a company declaring its own operations responsible.

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