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social reporting gathers pace

June 1999

Most of the UK’s leading listed companies are now issuing social reports in some form, according to new research.

A survey of 98 of the FTSE 100 companies has shown the ‘overwhelming majority’ reports in some way on social and community issues, either via a dedicated social report, a section in the annual report, a website, or a combination of all three.

The incidence of social reporting has increased in all sectors. The greatest increase has been in the general industrial sector, which includes companies such as British Aerospace and ICI. In this sector, only a third of companies were reporting on social issues last year, but two thirds now do so.

Progress was also made in the consumer goods and financial and IT sectors, where 82 per cent and 77 per cent of companies respectively now report on social issues. The equivalent figures for the previous year were 75 per cent and 57 per cent.

All of the 11 utilities companies surveyed now report on community issues, as do all four in the survey’s resources sector (Billiton, Rio Tinto, BP and Shell).

Anne Simpson, managing director of Pensions and Investment Research Consultants (PIRC), which carried out the research, said the results reflected ‘the growing interest and concern with issues of corporate responsibility’.

But she warned: ‘there is plenty of work to do in improving both the quantity and quality of social reporting by companies.’

Nineteen of the companies surveyed published no details of their social performance.

Forty-one companies reported on social issues in their annual report only, while six companies did so only in a stand-alone document. Two companies make such information available exclusively on the internet.

Only seven companies in the sample identified a board member with responsibility for community issues.

Most board committees overseeing corporate responsibility were designated either as a ‘charitable donations committee’, or as a ‘social responsibility committee’.

Simpson said, ‘We are firmly of the view that reporting for sustainability should include financial, social and environmental elements, but we also recognise that at this stage the three areas are at very different stages of development,’ she said.

‘Ultimately we would like to see companies intending, as Shell do, to produce a suite of reports which are cross referenced and integrated’.

The PIRC survey, Issues & Trends in Corporate Social Reporting, analysed social reporting practices as they stood during February and March this year.

More information: PIRC +44 (020) 7250 3311




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