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Corporate Responsibility Reporting Hits Record High

by Robin Pilgrim,, London

25 November 2011

The UK now tops the global rankings for corporate responsibility (CR) reporting, with Japan coming a close second, according to a new report from KPMG.

The KPMG International Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2011 shows that 100% of the UK's top 100 companies report on CR. Japan comes within 1% of the UK, with 99% of its largest companies reporting.

In the survey - which KPMG believes to be the most comprehensive survey of CR reporting ever published - data was analysed from 3,400 companies worldwide, including the Global Fortune 250 (G250) and the largest 100 companies across 34 countries and 15 industry sectors.

It shows that nearly every G250 company reports its CR activity, with 95% currently doing so. In addition, 64% of the largest 100 companies in each country partake, representing increases of 14% and 11% respectively since KPMG’s previous survey in 2008. 47% of the G250 companies said they gain financial value from their CR initiatives.

Country-wise, South Africa rose sharply up the rankings to third, with KPMG attributing its leap from 45% reporting in 2008 to 97% in 2011 to the King Corporate Governance Commission code. The Americas, at 69% overall (led by Brazil at 88% and followed by the US at 83%) and the Middle East and Africa region (61%) are quickly gaining ground, while China, new to the survey this year, demonstrates rapid uptake with 60% of its largest companies reporting on CR. At the other end of the scale, New Zealand and Chile were lowest ranked with 27%, while 20% of India's largest companies report and just 18% of Israel's do.

Turning to sector specific reporting, the survey shows that reporting by pharmaceuticals, consumer markets, and construction industries has more than doubled since 2008. 51% of mining and 46% of utility companies conduct assurance with numbers dwindling across other sectors. 46% of G250 and 38% of top 100 companies use assurance as a strategy for verifying CR reporting. At 80% and 75% respectively, India and South Korea lead the way in assurance, with the UK well above the global average at 58%.

In the absence of a regulatory global sustainability reporting standard, the drive for consistency and accessibility to quality data was also highlighted in the findings. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines are used by 80% of the G250 and 69% of top 100 companies and is gaining widespread adoption as the de facto reporting standard.

Vincent Neate, who leads KPMG’s UK Climate Change & Sustainability practice, said: “It’s heartening to find that without exception, the UK’s largest companies are monitoring and reporting on their CR behaviour. This year’s clean sheet is up 9% from the 91% that reported in 2008. It’s the latest indicator of CR’s move up the corporate agenda which is entirely sensible given its relationship to sound commercial concerns such as cost reduction, risk management, regulatory compliance and brand enhancement."

“This report bears out the view that one of the effects of the volatility and tough trading conditions of recent years has been to make companies keener to measure, evaluate and articulate their activities around sustainability and social responsibility. As well as enhancing the value of their brands it can also show that they are investing time and money wisely. Further weight is thrown behind the assertion that CR initiatives have moved from being a moral to a critical business imperative through the finding that almost half of the G250 companies report gaining financial value from their CR,” Neate concluded.

Wim Bartels, Global Head of KPMG’s Sustainability Assurance, added the global momentum in corporate responsibility demands both higher quality CR information and greater use of assurance to maintain standards and stakeholder confidence. He said: “Unlike financial reporting, the disclosure of sustainability metrics to the market is largely unregulated. Restatements are four times higher compared to financial reporting and demonstrate that CR reporting has some way to go.”

"Those companies that engaged formal assurance professionals were twice as likely to restate their reports as those without, demonstrating that assurance providers are demanding higher quality data, also signifying the need for increased focus on internal processes. The time has now come to enhance CR reporting information systems to bring them up to the level that is equal to financial reporting, including a comparable quality of governance controls and management”, Bartels urged.

TAGS: South Africa | business | Chile | India | China | Israel | United Kingdom | corporate governance | Brazil | New Zealand | financial reporting | standards | Japan | corporate responsibility | Africa

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