More S&P 100 Companies Reporting CSR Progress: Study

More S&P 100 Companies Reporting CSR Progress: Study

By and large, public companies have taken great strides in reporting their sustainability efforts, according to a new report.

Eighty-six percent of companies on the Standard and Poor's 100 Index have corporate sustainability websites, compared to 58 percent in 2005, according to the "2008 S&P 100 Sustainability Report Comparison" from the Sustainable Investment Research Analyst Network (SIRAN), a working group of the Social Investment Forum.

Roughly half produced a sustainability report last year, 26 percent higher than in 2005, when 39 companies issued reports.

"Our hope is that this trend continues, and that more companies realize the full potential of communicating transparently," said Katy Chapdelaine, the report's project manager and senior research analyst at KLD Research & Analytics Inc., which conducted the research behind the report. "Sustainability reporting is an important means through which corporations can communicate challenges, goals, and progress on issues that are critical to their industries and stakeholders."

As more companies see the value of reporting their progress on environmental, social and governance issues, they are also more often adhering to rigorous reporting principles, such as those developed through the Global Reporting Initiative.

Individual companies were judged on having: a separate sustainability website section, annual report, GRI references, GRI content, goals and benchmarks, and accordance to GRI guidelines. The companies with the top reporting scores were Dow Chemical, Ford Motor Co., General Electric, Intel and Weyerhaeuser Corp.

Overall, a third of the S&P 100 companies included a GRI Index in their reports, an increase of 70 percent from the 20 companies that did so two years earlier. But including a GRI Index doesn't guarantee a great report, said Paul Hilton, director of advanced equity research for Calvert Funds.

"It just means the company takes the reporting process seriously," Hilton said.

Going through the process can enable a company to identify sustainability concerns and opportunities, such as risk mitigation and profit potential, Hilton said.

When evaluating reports, Hilton looks for a few key elements, such as a commitment to quantifiable goals, materiality, evidence of stakeholder engagement and overall governance structure. It is also commendable for a company to disclose progress on these goals, even if the progress isn't good.