How to Make Your CSR Reports More Engaging

How to Make Your CSR Reports More Engaging

As more and more companies make serious efforts to improve their environmental performance, the topic of reporting is taking on a new level of importance. And whether a company is publishing its first sustainability report or its tenth, there are always more details to report, and new ways to do so.

Over the past decade, corporate reporting has been continually evolving. Where once the idea of publishing a CSR report was limited to deep-green companies and a handful of industry leaders, the annual (or, in some cases quarterly) CSR report is now relatively commonplace.

And while the days of hard-copy paper reports are essentially over as PDF-only publications are now the dominant form of publishing, an increasing number of companies are starting to publish more robust, interactive versions of their sustainability data online, a move that raises a whole new level of challenges.

A new report and accompanying online event from AltaTerra Research looks at the ways that leading companies are putting their data in the public sphere, and offers some insight on the best practices that any company can follow to make their sustainability data visible, credible and user-friendly.

I spoke with Jaclyn Pitera, the lead author of the report, to get a glimpse at what the report offers and what attendees at the webcast will learn.

AltaTerra Report coverThe report itself is a study of 60 leading companies across 13 sectors -- from Alcoa to Walmart, Xstrata to BMW -- exploring where they succeed in presenting their corporate data. Despite the diverse range of companies in the report, Pitera said some trends were readily apparent.

"In general, we're seeing that they are actively engaging stakeholders in a lot of areas," she said, adding that by and large, many companies are making good use of social media networks to get their information out to the public. However, "the one they're not doing well on is the emerging area of stakeholder engagement."

In other words, you can bring your data to the public, but you can't necessarily make them engage with it.

The best example of a company that is succeeding in making their online reporting a two-way street is Starbucks, and AltaTerra will have Jim Hanna, Director of Environmental Impact at Starbucks, present his company as a case study during the webcast on Wednesday.

But perhaps the most compelling case for companies to read this report, and attend the webcast, Pitera said, is simply: "A lot of stakeholders will start the dialogue online as well, so companies need to be proactive in that way."

If you don't put your data out there, and help your customers and shareholders find it and engage with it, then someone else will do it for you.

To learn more about Wednesday's event and to sign up, see the GreenBiz events calendar, as well as

And to get up to speed on the state of CSR reporting before Wednesday's event, check out the following resources on CSR reporting best practices and the top sustainability strategies, as well as many others on our Corporate Reporting page.