Timberland’s Journey to Quarterly CSR Reporting

by | Jun 25, 2008

“… companies … need to focus less on the [CSR] report and more on the reporting, conceiving of it as a continuous activity that is as critical to running the business as it is to selling the business.”
– Scott Liebs, Deputy Editor of CFO magazine

In the past three years, Timberland has seen a sea change in how our stakeholders want to learn about the work that we do in corporate social responsibility (CSR). In the past, it was “be before you say.” Today, it is “be, and communicate powerfully.” We have heard the call and are weaving environmental and social messaging into much of our communications. As a result, we have seen an increase in awareness about our CSR efforts.

As our stakeholder community continues to get more sophisticated in their understanding of corporate sustainability issues, they will demand greater information about the claims we make publicly. This is where transparency, accountability and reporting must play an integral role in supporting our communication efforts.

If we fail to match our marketing efforts with accessible, relevant and timely information about our work in CSR, we open ourselves up to claims of greenwashing. In addition, we have an opportunity to strengthen our position with greater transparency into our business practices.

This acknowledgement led to a fundamental shift in how we report on CSR at Timberland. As an organization we needed to move from static data in CSR reports to more dynamic information exchange; from corporate statement to stakeholder engagement; and from delayed annualized information to quarterly updates on CSR progress.

As a result, Timberland has decided to release quarterly reports of 15 key CSR performance indicators with trend data, context and analysis. Consider it a mini-CSR report every 90 days. You can find these results on JustMeans, a social media platform that rallies both companies and individuals around social responsibility. We hope that by leveraging the Web, we can scale our stakeholder dialogue and ultimately improve our work in CSR.

We believe that the real significance behind this initiative is the ability to shorten the feedback loops with our stakeholders. By moving to quarterly reporting, we can get input from internal or external stakeholders in a much timelier manner. This direct feedback will enable us to make relevant adjustments and allocations that will improve our performance. By treating CSR results with the same consistency as financial reporting, we are taking an evolved approach to managing CSR at a company. This approach is based on ambitious goals and is supported by sound quantitative understanding of progress against those goals.

This is new territory for Timberland. We realize the experimental nature of this initiative and we are bound to encounter setbacks. Metrics and understanding of key environmental or societal corporate impacts are always evolving. This changing landscape creates complexity when trying to analyze trends data. Despite these challenges, we believe our understanding of CSR will increase exponentially with this new initiative. That will make it all worthwhile, regardless of the outcome.

So go check out the site. Results from the first quarter of 2008 were uploaded in mid-June. Once you have reviewed our results, post your comments online. Help us start a dialogue. This site and this initiative can only improve if we hear from you.

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