Trivial, misleading" corporate social responsibility reporting slammed

Source: CIMA, 27 June 2006

Corporate social responsibility reporting has been slammed as "almost universally trivial" by a St Andrews professor of accounting and advisor to the Scottish Executive.

The report by professor Jan Bebbington and St Andrews University colleague professor Rob Gray added that the reports’ attempts to account for green credentials were "crass".
Claims that businesses were properly assessing their social and environmental impact "were at best useless and at worst highly misleading", it said.

"We believe we must treat the current crop of ‘sustainability reports’ with the profoundest mistrust as one of the most dangerous trends working against any possibility of a sustainable future," the study concluded.

Professor Bebbington is a member of the Scottish Executive’s cabinet subcommittee on sustainable development.

While the report declines to name individual companies, environmental reporting by BP, Shell and the Royal Bank of Scotland have all recently been slated by environmentalists.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) claimed that professor Bebbington did not understand the costs of regulation and repeated its opposition to compulsory Operating and Financial Reviews (OFR) legislation, dropped by the Treasury last year.

"The auditing requirements would have promoted an overly legalistic approach," CBI deputy director John Cridland told the Sunday Herald.

"Social and environmental reporting is to be encouraged, but the proposed statutory requirements risked putting this in ‘tick box’ form with a pressure to report to norms, rather than the real issues for a particular business."