Ethical Corp's CSR reporting conference
11 December 2014 by David Martin
The Marriott Hotel near Regent’s Park, just by Swiss Cottage tube, was a great location to hold this year’s Ethical Corporations CSR Reporting and Communication conference. SustainIt have sent a representative for the last few years, and this year – the event's 8th – it was my turn.
Integrated Reporting was a theme this year (again). It was noted time and again, by various speakers, that this is not just the combining of the financial and non-financial report in one big annual mega-report, but a careful alignment of sustainability strategy with business strategy. Solvay seem to be somewhat leading the way in this regard – Michel Bande spoke about how they were able to secure high level buy-in for such integration very early on by getting the FD on side – difficult to achieve I would imagine for most companies. However, the sentiment was echoed by Jamie Quinn from Cofely, who suggested that, by making board members accountable for sustainability KPIs, and linking bonuses to sustainability performance, real change can be driven.
Another theme was a move, not away from producing an annual report, but towards an ongoing sustainability communications strategy as well as the big annual report. Verity Lawson of British American Tobacco, a client of ours, introduced their half-yearly report, and explained about the migration of raw data to their website – it’s there for those who are interested, and doesn’t have to be included in the annual report. Sustainability information should be available constantly, which greatly increases transparency and gravitas.
Transparency was the major factor which lead to RBS’s winning of the ‘reporting Xfactor’ awards. A live vote via a text/social media hotline, following presentations from RBS, Bloomberg and Tesco, resulted in a victory for RBS. The main reason seemed to be that they have told the bad stories in their report, not just the good stories. Lisa Stewart joked how difficult it was for her to get sign-off for printing some of the admissions contained within the report from their legal team – this I don’t doubt!
At the heart of everything that the presenters were putting across, and the attendees were trying to achieve, was access to granular, reliable data. CRedit360, one of our partners, were exhibiting at the event, and systems such as theirs provide the data that is the key to being able to communicate convincingly with stakeholders, internal and external alike.