CSR, transparency, and the tech that makes it possible

Corporate Social Responsibility should no longer be perceived as a financial drain on organisations. On the contrary, research shows that clearly communicating your CSR practices to your stakeholders is profitable.

That profit is financial. It’s reputational. It’s also proven to be highly effective at retaining top talent in this competitive jobs market, especially among younger generations of the workforce.

Yet to gain the benefits of good CSR, organisations need to establish transparency with their stakeholders. Here is how tech helps organisations show what they are doing and what they’ve achieved.

What is CSR communication?

CSR communication is basically all about showing your stakeholders – consumers, employees, investors, and others – where you’re at on your journey to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) excellence.

These communications come in various forms and can be related to issues as varied as:

  • Carbon emissions and waste generation
  • Employee working conditions and wages
  • Material and resource provenance
  • Financial transparency
  • Water and energy usage

The importance of transparency, authenticity and metrics

Good CSR communications need to meet three important criteria. Without these, you risk all the good work your business is doing being overlooked:

  1. Transparent – consumers seem to understand when brands show they aren’t quite there yet in terms of CSR. Consumers actively don’t like it when brands try and hide their failures.
  2. Authentic – modern consumers are increasingly alert to brands that don’t put their words into action.
  3. Measurable – set clear, quantifiable, and reasonable targets for your CSR. Be ambitious. But don’t use metrics that are all about money.

A note on sustainability reporting standards

Annoyingly, there isn’t yet one single set of standards for sustainability reporting. However, you might find it helpful to look into:

  • The ISO 26000 guidelines
  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reporting standards
  • The 2014 European Commission Directive on Disclosure of Non-Financial and Diversity Information

How can tech provide CSR transparency?

There are several ways technology is helping brands achieve these three criteria:

1) Active communications

Passive communications are things like public relations, advertising, and product labelling. They have their place in good CSR communications, but they’re not as effective as active communications.

Active communications include things like your website and conversations on social media. These require action for your stakeholders to interact with, meaning they are more likely to engage with what they find.

You might also consider an internal focus for active communications. Consider using internal blogs, forums, or chat channels on platforms Google Workplace or Microsoft 365 to facilitate innovation and communication on CSR issues that are important to your team.

2) IoT and analytics

The Internet of Things (IoT) is all about connecting physical devices and sensors to the digital space. As you might expect, this is very useful for collecting quantifiable CSR data.

As well as helping you understand and improve your business’s actual environmental impact and your progress towards other ESG targets, this is great for your CSR communications.

To understand why, you only need to consider two different examples of basic CSR communications. One is a vague claim. One is a statement backed by data. Which do you think is the most effective at communicating the business’s steps towards good CSR?

  • “We are taking steps to minimise our energy usage across the organisation.”
  • “We have reduced our energy usage by X kilowatt hours per month, saving approximately X tons of carbon from being emitted.”

3) Blockchain

When it comes to ESG and supply chains in particular, blockchain technology is going to enable some powerful action.

Because a blockchain is a secure decentralised database, it can give all stakeholders confidence in the ethical origins of materials and practices in a company’s supply chain.

Using blockchain, any stakeholder with access to the data will have end-to-end transparency. They can trace raw materials from source to the product on their doorstep and even beyond to end of life-cycle and recycling.

Understand your stakeholders if you want to succeed

These tech tools can help you succeed in making your CSR practices, progress, and successes more transparent to key stakeholders like your consumers, shareholders, investors, and team.

Yet it’s important to understand that there is no single “ideal customer” when it comes to CSR. Individuals motivated by sustainability factors will have a wide range of knowledge and priorities.

That’s where understanding your stakeholders comes in. Like collecting data and achieving transparency, this is another area technology can help you in.

Want to explore how you can improve your business’s use of IT with respect to CSR?

Nearly 1000 businesses in Bristol and beyond trusted Dial A Geek to help them get their best from their tech.

Talk it through with Chief Geek Gildas Jones today when you set up a cost and commitment-free chat.