Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Funky titles catch on as reporters try to engage

September 2009

Almost half of CSR reports no longer use the phrase ‘corporate responsibility’ in their title, new research has revealed.

A study by communications consultancy Radley Yeldar found that 45 per cent of the 113 UK reporting companies it surveyed used titles such as ‘our impacts’ or ‘our responsibilities’. Twenty per cent used the word ‘sustainability’ or ‘sustainable development’, while the rest used variations of ‘corporate social responsibility’ in their title.

Stine Jensen, corporate responsibility consultant at Radley Yeldar, said two types of company choose to avoid the use of CSR in report titles: those that are well advanced in reporting but want to adopt a more engaging approach, and those that are at an early stage and feel they shouldn’t yet present their report as a definitive CSR document.

‘Many of the more advanced companies feel a different name gives the report a more personal slant and shows they are trying something different, rather than just using a static framework,’ she told EP. ‘On the other hand, you have companies that are maybe afraid to use the word corporate responsibility in the title because they haven’t totally cracked the data yet and don’t want it to be judged as a fully blown CR report.’

Jensen said Radley Yeldar occasionally advises clients to try more ‘funky’ titles for either of these reasons. ‘We have certainly suggested it for those who want a more timely and personalised feel, as it helps focus more on what’s happening in the here and now, particularly when it’s online,’ she added. Jensen said that although it might be expected that more innovative titles would be used by consumer-facing sectors, there was no evidence of this in the study.

However, she conceded that more research was needed into the reasons companies decide not to use CSR in their titles, as the study did not address this.

Examples of companies that have recently eschewed the straight use of CSR in report titles include Southern Water (which used Stakeholders report); Prudential (More than words); Kingfisher (Steps to a sustainable future), BP (100 years of operating at the frontiers) Delhaize Group (Highlights of achievements and firm commitments for the future) and Sainsburys (140 years of making a difference).

One CSR director at a major company that has moved away from using ‘corporate responsibility’ in its report title said: ‘If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think we had any greater reason than that the title CR Report is pretty dull.’

The study looked at documents produced by companies in the FTSE 100 and FTSE mid-250, as well as the UK’s top 350 private companies. It found that only seven per cent of the 344 private companies produced a CSR report, compared with 78 per cent of the public limited companies.

Radley Yeldar | UK & NI Ireland | Reporting

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