Breaking Through The PDF: 4 Trends in CR Reporting

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By: Catalina Quintana, Account Supervisor

Today, reporting on corporate responsibility continues to rise, with 85 percent of companies in the S&P 500 Index publishing reports. To stand out from the sea of reports, leading companies are innovating new ways to communicate progress and increase transparency. As reporting season comes to a close in 2018, here are four ways leaders are standing out:

  1. Aligning reports to specific guidelines. A foundational element continues to be using specific guidelines to inform reporting. Although the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the most widely used framework, more companies are incorporating multiple frameworks to increase credibility and transparency. In 2017, companies including Johnson & Johnson, Citi and Marks & Spencer integrated the United Nations (UN) Global Compact Principles into their reports, communicating progress on the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption.

  2. Incorporating the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). This reporting season, more companies embraced the spirit of the SDGs to address the world’s most pressing challenges. In years past, companies intent on demonstrating their understanding of the SDGs’ importance mentioned them in remarks from senior leadership or through a checklist of all 17 goals. This year, companies like Target* are focusing on prioritizing a number of the SDGs where they feel that they can make the greatest impact and setting their own performance targets to contribute to the goals.

  3. Making content accessible. As stakeholders continue to demand increased transparency, a “one size fits all” approach to reporting will not break through. Companies are extending the reach of reports by making content accessible in different formats. Through its Sustainable Living report hub, Unilever packages its reporting content in ways that stakeholders can seamlessly access based on individual interests, such as interactive data charts, an A-Z listing and a one-page summary of progress.

  4. Creating an experience. With more companies producing corporate responsibility reports, organizations can stand out by going beyond the annual report to communicate progress to stakeholders. For example, Hormel Foods Corporation launched its Our Food JourneyTM platform in 2017 to communicate its corporate responsibility strategy and commitments. To create an engaging experience of its journey and share progress, Hormel developed an anthem video for its platform, published impact stories throughout the year and supported the storytelling with a corporate responsibility report.

Looking ahead to the next reporting season, it is clear that companies must look beyond the traditional PDF to break through. By incorporating these four best practices, companies stand to more meaningfully engage stakeholders with compelling content, increasing the reach and value of reporting.

*Cone client