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Why people don’t read your corporate responsibility reports

People don’t read corporate sustainability reports because they are not a good communications mechanism.

That much should be obvious by now.

We all know this to be true.

CSR/Sustainability reports are for internal purposes almost exclusively.

They should sit on the web as an accountability tool, open to everyone.

But mailing them to stakeholders is pointless.

Because we have newspapers, real reports and books to read.

We don’t have time to be engaged in 25-50 pages of PR.

So why do companies still mail them out?

Laziness. Lack of resources, lack of innovation.

Why else?

Today I threw another three reports in the recycling bin without even opening them.

If companies can’t be bothered to engage us as intelligent, time-poor readers, then why should we even open the envelopes?

The future is not mailing out CSR reports.

The future is tailoring clever, credible communications to different stakeholder groups.

This has been discussed for years, so why do only a few companies actually do it?

Did I miss a meeting?

2 Comments

  1. You may be correct that the general public will not read them.You are not correct that the people that really care do not read them. And for those that care and are involved in advocacy, we understand that the actual practice of having corporate staff write these, provides numerous positive outcomes:
    1) It creates the opportunity to develop a corporate champion and not just a PR response agent.
    2) It provides advocates a written statement that the company publicly recognizes CSG (ESG) or whatever you want to call it about responsibility to constituencies beyond the shareholders.
    3) It is useful in shareholder advocate dialog with the company. this is very true when shareholders are involved in reviewing the statement before it is published.
    4) It can be used to get the company to assign a director to the topic and eventually call their committee something more defined than “Public Affairs”.
    5) It provides the background detail to enable industrious individuals to develop simple fact sheets about companies that can be used in backgrounders for the media.
    6) As a supporting report, it may eventually become part of the financial reporting when investors become more demanding. For example, when looking at companies involved in mountaintop removal for the coal industry in the US, it could be used to challenge the accruals for Asset Retirement Obligations.

    I will stop with these comments. Thanks for bringing up the topic.

  2. Frank, I don’t think the post was saying don’t produce them, just don’t mail them out to all and sundry without a thought.
    By all means tell your stakeholders it exists … maybe even what the highlights are.. and where to find it on the web. All of your outcomes are still possible with an online version I suspect.

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