As green permeates our language as more than a hue blending yellow and blue, the marketplace demands transparency in sustainable corporate operations. Companies are responding to interested stakeholders by publishing corporate sustainability reports (CSRs), which disclose economic, environmental and social aspects of business.
The number of CSRs published has increased steadily over the past decade, with a 22 percent growth to more than 1,700 companies worldwide using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework in the latest reporting period. The number escalates when factoring in other reporting frameworks from AccountAbility and the International Organization of Standardization.
While CSRs fit well with public companies, nonprofits, municipalities and various other organizations are also publishing CSRs to realize benefits such as:
- Improving their image by promoting sustainable operations and social responsibility
- Increasing credibility with stakeholders through transparency
- Engaging stakeholders by responding to each group's interests
- Initiating a feedback loop with stakeholders
- Allowing a direct response to the marketplace
- Increasing employee morale and participation in sustainable and socially responsible programs
In addition to strengthened relationships with stakeholders, CSRs often lead companies to enhance their codes of conduct, policies, practices and management systems surrounding sustainability and social responsibility.
"A good CSR should be based on strategies that add value to that particular company," says Candice Derks-Wood, a LEED AP, GRI certified, corporate sustainability specialist at Burns & McDonnell. "Reporting organizations need to develop strategies that they have influence over, resonate with stakeholders and, ultimately, help pay for themselves."
When it comes to implementation, Burns & McDonnell not only helps clients successfully plan and communicate through CSRs but also execute sustainability strategies that pay for themselves. Greenhouse gas inventories and energy audits often reveal such opportunities.
Case Study: Southwest Airlines One ReportTM
Like many other public companies, Southwest Airlines published its first CSR, its 2007 Environmental Stewardship Report, in response to shareholders who wanted to know more. Southwest Airlines has published an annual CSR since and continues to improve its reporting process and scope each year. The airline has taken CSRs a step further with integrated reporting, starting with its 2009 Southwest Airlines One ReportTM, which covers financial, social and environmental performance.
"I see our award-winning One Report as a competitive advantage," says Marilee McInnis, senior manager of community at Southwest Airlines. "As a transparent representation of our triple bottom line, our One Report integrates what our stakeholders want to know about our performance, our people
and our planet."
For Southwest Airlines' 2009 and 2010 One Reports, Burns & McDonnell assisted in developing report content, conducting a greenhouse gas inventory, complying with GRI guidelines and assuring the report. After publishing the 2010 One Report in May 2011, Southwest Airlines engaged Burns & McDonnell to assist in developing key performance indicators to better evaluate performance and gauge progress as well as continue assistance with its 2011 One Report.
In the spirit of sustainability, Southwest Airlines paperlessly publishes its integrated One Report. The airline distributed its 2009 One Report as a downloadable PDF on its website and the 2010 One Report as an interactive microsite, available at www.southwestonereport.com.
Southwest Airlines has received positive feedback on its One Report from various stakeholder groups, and additional investors have become Southwest Airlines shareholders because of the One Report.
For more information, contact Candice Derks-Wood, 816-822-3946.
To learn more about corporate sustainability reporting in the airline industry and five steps to creating a successful sustainability report, visit www.burnsmcd.com/csr.