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May 21, 2013 Bahar Gidwani

Turning ‘we don’t report’ into ‘we do’

By Bahar Gidwani

We were recently invited by our friends at Trucost to moderate a webinar with the above title.  Our shared goal was to encourage more companies to start reporting their sustainability performance.

You can download the webinar from the Trucost site, here.  However, I thought I’d share a few of the things I learned from preparing for the talk and from the other panelists.

I started the webinar by sharing some figures from the CSRHub database.  I showed the audience that only 30% of companies in developing countries outside the US are using one of the three main reporting systems (the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Carbon Disclosure Project (now CDP), and the UN Global Compact or UNGC).  US companies lag far behind—with only about 10% of the companies we track reporting via these systems.

I didn’t spend a lot of time during the webinar bragging about this data.  However, I was pretty proud to see that our coverage has now grown to the point where we can start to make broad, worldwide statements about corporate social performance.  We currently cover more than 7,300 companies in 93 countries.  Other sources have claimed that “reporting is rising rapidly” and that “90% of large companies are reporting.”  If we take the term “large company” to include those over $100 billion in revenue, these statements are true.  However, when we look at companies between $100 million and $1 billion (which most people would still consider “large”), reporting remains quite weak.

The next speaker was Lorinda Rowledge, who is one of the founders of EKOS International.  Over the past 17 years, Lorinda has helped many large companies take their first steps towards reporting their performance.  Among other things, she offered this set of insights into the benefits of making an initial report.

Our third speaker was James Salo of Trucost.  Jamie uses Trucost’s proprietary models (some of which he helped build) to improve company understand of their environmental performance.  He showed the audience this great example of how a company could use the data it gathers through a reporting process to help visualize its competitive position.

After we shared our slides, we took questions and comments from the audience.  In particular, there remains confusion about new standards for reporting such as those being proposed by SASB and the IIRC.  We agreed that we are happy to see the quality of reporting improved by these efforts—as long as they don’t discourage or confuse companies who are just starting on their journey into reporting.

Bahar Gidwani is CEO and Co-founder of CSRHub.  He has built and run large technology-based businesses for many years. Bahar holds a CFA, worked on Wall Street with Kidder, Peabody, and with McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to a number of major companies and currently serves on the board of several software and Web companies. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. Bahar is a member of the SASB Advisory Board.  He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 7,300+ companies from 135 industries in 93 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 200 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

Published by Bahar Gidwani May 21, 2013