Corporate reporting on CSR should be more rigorous

Source: Financial Times, 19 August 2004

(Published in The Financial Times of August 18, 2004).

Sir, It is encouraging to see the London Stock Exchange becoming involved in corporate social responsibility matters, with its new online disclosure tool, the Corporate Responsibility Exchange ("Exchange acts to end burden of governance", August 16).
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants sympathises with any attempt to reduce duplication and needless burdens on companies, though it should be pointed out that there is a number of these "one-stop-shop" data banks emerging worldwide. So individual questionnaires might end up being replaced by longer, all-encompassing ones.

But we believe a more fundamental answer is instead to focus on corporate reporting. By improving the rigour of social and environmental reporting, companies could provide substantial and useful information to all investors, globally, in just one publication, eliminating the need for any survey.

For CSR to be taken seriously, listing requirements should include the need for companies to publish social and environmental information, for example in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – a reporting framework covering a substantial number of economic, environmental and social indicators. All material risk-related and corporate responsibility-related information would be obtained from this one report, and any additional information needed by individual investors could be obtained through senior management meetings, as is the norm in mainstream financial analysis and investment.

Roger Adams, Executive Director – Technical, ACCA, London WC2A 3EE

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