Companies rise to city’s challenge on CSR

Source: Business in the Community, 5 October 2001

A conference organised by Business in the Environment (BiE), the business-led campaign for corporate environmental responsibility, on 2 October gave clear guidance to companies on how to bridge the gap between investment in environmental and social responsibility, and the value attributed to this by shareholders. The conference followed research published in May which showed that although companies investor relations managers believed they were communicating effectively on these issues, investors did not agree.
The conference focused on:
· Changes in the City landscape that have brought environmental and social responsibility higher up investors agenda
· The new BiE Index of Corporate Environmental Engagement, which will enable companies to capture the most significant impacts within their sector. For the first time also, companies are asked to report on achievement against targets.
· Changes within companies and the accountancy profession, which enable the link to be made between corporate environmental and social responsibility and the bottom line.

Dr Belinda Howell, Director of BiE, says, The City doesnt want raw statistical data on environmental performance. It wants to know what this data says about quality of management, risk exposure, level of liability and how the company is performing against its competitors.

But information provided often depends on what is available internally, rather than what external audiences want to know. We are helping companies to identify relevant issues.

She continues, Today, past financial performance is acknowledged to be a less good indicator of future performance than it used to be. The wide range of stakeholders interested in financial, social and environmental issues now in many companies includes employees who are also shareholders and customers. Effective reporting is an issue for the many, not the few.

Dr Belinda Howell concludes, Our aim is to help ensure that corporate effort is rewarded right across the corporate responsibility agenda, by helping bridge the communication gap between business and the City.