Report: Communicating CSR to Stakeholders Crucial

by Gary Larkin for The Conference Board – Governance Center Blog, March 30th, 2011.

A major component of any corporate social responsibility (CSR) program isn’t so much how a company carries out those activities but rather how it communicates it to its many stakeholders. That is one of the main messages in a new Director Notes report called What Board Members Should Know About Communicating CSR.

That message is one that resonates with earlier studies from such sources as KPMG International, which periodically produces an international survey of CSR reporting with the latest having come out in 2008. That survey, which tracked reporting trends at 2,200 companies worldwide including members of the GlobalFortune 250, surmised among many things that “reporting is more than just a book, website, or data set. It is a continuous process that must involve and reflect the needs of its stakeholders.”

“Needless to say, the business returns to CSR are contingent on the stakeholders’ awareness of what a company actually does in this field,” C.B. Bhattacharya, one of the co-authors, said in a press release announcing theDirector Notes report.

“However, research shows that awareness of a company’s CSR activities among its external stakeholders (including its consumers) or even its internal stakeholders (its employees) is typically low. This represents a major stumbling block in the company’s quest to reap strategic benefits from a social responsibility program.”

The Director Notes report, which is co-authored by Shuili Du, assistant professor at Simmons College;  Bhattacharya, associate dean of international relations at the European School of Management and Technology; and Sankar Sen, professor at Baruch College, lists six recommendations for boards when considering CSR communications. (continue reading… )

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