By Maximilian Clarke
Nearly every Global Fortune 250 (G250) company now reports its corporate responsibility activity, with the UK topping the global ranking according to the KPMG International Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2011.
In what KPMG believes to be the most comprehensive survey of corporate responsibility (CR) reporting ever published, data was analysed from 3,400 companies worldwide, including the G250 and the largest 100 companies across 34 countries and 15 industry sectors.
The survey found that CR reporting is now undertaken by 95 percent of the G250, and 64 percent of the largest 100 companies (N100) in each country, representing increases of 14 and 11 percent respectively since KPMG’s previous survey in 2008. Almost half (47 percent) of the G250 companies report gaining financial value from their CR initiatives.
“It’s heartening to find that without exception, the UK’s largest companies are monitoring and reporting on their CR behavior,” Vincent Neate, who leads KPMG’s UK Climate Change & Sustainability practice. “This year’s clean sheet is up nine percent from the 91 percent that reported in 2008.
“It’s the latest indicator of CR’s move up the corporate agenda which is entirely sensible given its relationship to sound commercial concerns such as cost reduction, risk management, regulatory compliance and brand enhancement.
“This report bears out the view that one of the effects of the volatility and tough trading conditions of recent years has been to make companies keener to measure, evaluate and articulate their activities around sustainability and social responsibility. As well as enhancing the value of their brands it can also show that they are investing time and money wisely.
“Further weight is thrown behind the assertion that CR initiatives have moved from being a moral to a critical business imperative through the finding that almost half of the G250 companies report gaining financial value from their CR,” he added.
In the absence of a regulatory global sustainability reporting standard, the drive for consistency and accessibility to quality data was highlighted in the findings. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines are used by 80 percent of the G250 and 69 percent of N100 companies and is gaining widespread adoption as the de facto reporting standard.
Wim Bartels, Global Head of KPMG’s Sustainability Assurance, said the global momentum in corporate responsibility demands both higher quality CR information and greater use of assurance to maintain standards and stakeholder confidence:
“Unlike financial reporting, the disclosure of sustainability metrics to the market is largely unregulated. Restatements are four times higher compared to financial reporting and demonstrate that CR reporting has some way to go.”
Those companies that engaged formal assurance professionals were twice as likely to restate their reports as those without, demonstrating that assurance providers are demanding higher quality data, also signifying the need for increased focus on internal processes.
“The time has now come to enhance CR reporting information systems to bring them up to the level that is equal to financial reporting, including a comparable quality of governance controls and management,” urged Mr. Bartels.
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