Avoid These Costly CSR Mistakes

Network for Business Sustainability

by | May 6, 2013

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Network for Business SustainabilityCorporate sustainability reporting — when done right — increases share price and bolsters stakeholder confidence. When done incorrectly, however, CSR reporting does more harm than good, a Network for Business Sustainability blog post says.

According to NBS, these are the 10 mistakes to avoid when planning, conducting and promoting a CSR report:

  1. Weak Goals: Build CSR reporting around success for your company, not weak organizational goals.
  2. Mismanaged Data: Meaningful results demand good data collection, so assign this task to trained individuals — inside or outside the company — and check the numbers for accuracy.
  3. Disordered Priorities: Prioritize sustainability in a CSR report by weighting it equal to financial performance.
  4. Discounting Feedback: This is where third-party verification comes into play. Listen to auditors and stakeholder panels, which can comment on the report and help verify accuracy.
  5. Breaking the Rules: Follow a trusted framework, such as the Global Reporting Initiative.
  6. Tenuous Comparisons: In addition to internal benchmarks, use a CSR to track progress by comparing your company to industry peers’ sustainability initiatives.
  7. Unreachable Targets: Targets should be aggressive, but still achievable.
  8. Underreporting: Use a variety of media — not just a CSR report — to communicate sustainability performance.
  9. Thinking Short-Term: Look beyond quarterly results. Don’t turn down a sustainable opportunity just because of a higher price tag or longer payback period.
  10. Inadvertently Greenwashing: Make reporting meaningful by acknowledging improvement opportunities instead of only focusing on positives in a CSR.

Only 37 percent of the world’s largest companies report their greenhouse gas emissions fully and correctly, according to research from the Environmental Investment Organisation published last week.

The Environmental Tracking Carbon Rankings, which examines the GHG emissions and transparency of the 800 largest companies globally, shows only 21 percent had their data externally verified. Additionally, only one firm, German chemical company BASF, reported emissions across its entire value chain, earning it the no. 1 spot in the 2013 rankings.

Value chain emissions often represent the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and in some cases can account for up to 90 percent of the total carbon impact, according to the Carbon Trust. Properly managing value chain, or Scope 3, emissions is a critical survival tool companies must use to gain competitive advantage in a resource-constrained future, according to a Carbon Trust column published last week.

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