Detailed Corporate Social Responsibility Reports Rare, Publicity-Driven

Only a small proportion of annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports -- perhaps 15 to 20 percent -- provide "very thorough" accounts of real ethical problems faced by companies. Even that measure comes from within the CSR report industry, in interviews with writers Andrew Brengle of KLD Research & Analytics and Jeff Erikson of SustainAbility Inc. The two consultants point to Nike as a company that faced such bad ongoing publicity that it revamped its reports to provide concrete details and increased reporting on labor abuses. (Brengle has been a voluntary reviewer of Nike's reporting.) But more typical, they say, are companies like Hess Corp., an energy company, which described chemical spill problems in a recent report but omitted a federal bribery probe stemming from international operations. "It's more of a hard sell to get a company that isn't a household name, that is more able to hide in the weeds, to produce a sophisticated and in-depth report because they don't have that public pressure," said Brengle. Recent studies by the Ethical Trading Action Group and Oxfam/Hong Kong to improve global labor rights reporting can be viewed, respectively, here and here.