As anyone working in Corporate Responsibility (CR) will know, the annual CR report rolls around with a regularity that often makes you wonder if there’s something wrong with the calendar. No sooner have you heaved a huge sigh of relief that another report has been successfully delivered than planning for the next one begins.
The reality, of course, is that they are historical documents that are technically “out of date” the moment they’re published. In today’s world of near-instant everything, where even this morning’s tweets read like yesterday’s news, some commentators question the wisdom of producing an annual CR report.
I might find myself agreeing with them if it weren’t for the fact that the CR report is just one element of a much bigger stakeholder engagement effort – and one that takes full advantage of the real-time messaging available through social media.
Just like the annual report, the CR report puts a stake in the ground and allows for the year on year measurement of performance. It also provides the evidence and therefore validity required to support messages and stories and for that reason alone, the report forms a core part of the strategy.
That said, anything that makes the process of reporting easier is to be welcomed. Perhaps the biggest challenge with any CR report is the gathering of data. At CSC we’re proud of the fact that we base ourselves where our clients need us, but that means that we have some 66,000 people in some 60 countries around the world. But CR reports aren’t just about statistics – they’re about the stories too and with such a global operation, finding those stories can also be challenging.
Last year’s report, however, was markedly easier to write than in previous years. The same complexities existed in terms of scale and geography, but there was one change. This blog.
I’d love to tell you that this was my intention all along when deciding to start the blog, but I can’t.
I started the blog simply as a way of getting CSC’s CR stories out into the world. I meet so many amazing CSCers who are doing such inspiring things and in the age of instant everything, storing those stories away for the annual CR report seemed like such a waste. So the blog was born and I’ve been really pleased to see how popular it’s become.
What I hadn’t foreseen, however, was how useful it would prove to be when it came to reporting time. My colleague responsible for writing the report over the past few years made a point of telling me that last year stood out as the most straightforward yet, all thanks to the mine of stories supplied by the blog.
A blog to open doors
The blog has also allowed me to build new relationships with colleagues and contributors throughout the year, making the annual task of asking for data all the easier. I’m now also able to offer something in return too – a platform to help promote great stories as and when they happen. This also opens the door to a conversation about CR and sustainability in its wider context – how might we work together on projects? Is there a smarter way of delivering customer solutions while minimizing social or environmental impacts? What would customers want to know about our CR performance?
I don’t agree with those who claim that the annual CR report is fast becoming redundant in this world of instant media. There is still very much a place for an annual CR report, but it is just one part of what should be a far broader and far richer engagement with stakeholders. We need to be telling stories through mediums that resonate, not with us, but with our audiences; starting conversations and really listening to our stakeholders. We can’t do any of that without the humble CR report, but at least thanks to this blog, the job of compiling the report is now that little bit easier.