First, the good news: Today’s corporate citizenship reports are more engaging, relevant, and are communicating the positive environmental, social, governance, and business value that companies are creating. A corporate citizenship report was once a nice to have; now approximately 93 percent of the Global 250 issue them.
Reports are meant to be tools for tracking and reinforcing desired performance, yet, even with the proliferation of more and better reporting, we have seen the opposite. Collectively carbon dioxide emissions have increased, the divide between rich and poor has grown larger, and record fines have been administered to companies for unethical business actions.
With this backdrop, The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is exploring what lays in store for corporate citizenship reporting with the “Reporting 2025: An International Dialogue” project. The project has been launched in conjunction with the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, SAP, and Enel to “...promote an international discussion about sustainability trends in the next decade.”
The project has recently released the first analysis paper focused on trends that CSR practitioners and NGO stakeholders have identified. The next phase of the project will be focused on corporate stakeholders. The first group sees trends around the following themes:
- Value creation and destruction
- Going digital
- Ethics and reputation
Value Creation and Destruction
Through conversations with leaders in the field (and in some cases available via video) a fascinating discussion around how businesses create and destroy value is transpiring. Paul Boykas, vice president of public policy and government affairs at PepsiCo, describes it as, “...learning to translate value into a new language to bring everything together. And it’s a language with which we are not totally unfamiliar….”
Reporting in the future, according to the analysis paper, will see financial value explored with a more long-term focus, social value more effectively measured, and natural capital correlated to impacts on the business—especially within a company’s supply chain.
Tomorrow’s reports will be accessible, engaging, and measurable. We heard Jennifer Griffith, senior design consultant at BrownFlynn, and Jenny Robertson, director of sustainability at AT&T, speak to this trend during our July webinar. Reports of the future will be meta-tagged, in real-time, and on many platforms. Two numbers jumped out at me from the webinar. According to eMarketer, “...by 2018 nearly half of the world’s population will have regular access to the Web.” Meanwhile, Cisco calculates that internet video traffic will be 80 percent of all IP traffic by 2019, up from 67 percent in 2014.
The analysis paper identifies a challenge for sustainability reporters as we move towards digital reporting, how to be “...coherent and trustworthy all the time.”
Ethics and Reputation
The Reporting 2025 Project is also finding that ethics, reputation, and risk management will be of increasing relevance for reporters. The Center’s 2014 State of Corporate Citizenship study supports this finding. “In 2009, 70 percent of executives reported that reputation, as well as company traditions and values, was a key drivers of corporate citizenship. In 2012 and 2014, enhancing reputation continues to be a major driver of these efforts.”
Initial conversations for the project have noted that stakeholders are having difficulty deciding who to trust and a need for companies to build that trust. Experts believe new “trust indicators” will need to be created.
Being Part of the International Discussions
These discussions and others are happening within our Member community and I would encourage your questions and insights. CEMEX, Mosaic, PepsiCo, and SAP are taking the lead and participating in The Corporate Leadership Group on Reporting 2025. We will be discussing these trends in our Fall courses including: Corporate Citizenship Frameworks and Standards, GRI / G4 Reporting, and Materiality.
The corporate citizenship reporting space continues to evolve through voluntary and regulatory pressures. The Center encourages companies across the globe to take an active role in shaping these trends for the benefit of businesses, communities, and the planet. As a sponsor of the project, we want to be a sounding board and look forward to your active participation.
Join us and learn why the GRI/G4 is the leading framework globally for reporting on corporate citizenship issues and how it can help you coordinate the sustainability reporting process.