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30 October 2008
Approaches to CSR reporting: Timberland goes for quarterly reports and a social media platform
Senior Consultant | Read all Martina's posts
Corporate social responsibility got a bit of a kicking in a Forbes article this month, with David Vogel arguing that CSR doesn't pay.
We'd also disagree. In difficult times, trust and transparency are, if anything, more important than ever (this post gathers together some links about communicating in a crisis). CSR reporting isn't going to go away; effective and transparent reporting can help companies build trust with their stakeholders.
Which brings us to the web.
CSR reporting online should be about so much more than just providing a PDF or taking content from the printed report and dumping it straight on a web page. The web allows for links, additional context and timely updates to data and provides a platform from which companies can reach out to and engage with stakeholders.
And there are some interesting examples out there. For instance, let's take a look at what Timberland – one of the companies singled out by David Vogel – is up to.
Back in June, Timberland announced a change to its CSR reporting. Full annual CSR reports were out. What was in? Quarterly performance reports, to be housed on JustMeans, a social media platform.
Perhaps inevitably, Timberland was calling it Reporting 2.0.
The Timberland page on the JustMeans platform – note the quarterly reports on the right
Connecting with stakeholders
In response to a question in the comments on Timberland's JustMeans page, Timberland's CSR Reporting Manager said that the purpose of the company's presence on the platform was to 'scale our conversation about CSR with stakeholders'.
When people join the Timberland network on JustMeans, they can comment on events, the Timberland blog, videos and podcasts – even on the quarterly reports themselves.
About the reporting
The quarterly reports comprise performance data for the company's four focus areas – energy, product, workplaces and service – as well as a 'dashboard', a high-level view of the 15 metrics used to measure CSR progress.
It's straightforward stuff – the data, along with a little bit of context and analysis so you have more of an idea of what you're looking at.
It's all via PDF so, although you can leave a comment, there's nothing particularly online-focused about the actual presentation of the data.
So where does this leave Timberland's corporate site?
Well, it still has a responsibility section, which gives more information on the four focus areas. You can also download a PDF of the most recent CSR report – the company will still be putting these together, but every two years.
You'll also find information about the new reporting approach and the link to JustMeans.
What's the verdict?
Possibly it's a bit confusing having core information split over two different sites – although there are links between the two. 'Go where the audience is' is important to bear in mind when thinking about social media, but whether Timberland's CSR audience is at JustMeans is another question.
Timberland sees this as a move 'from static data presentation to dynamic information exchange; from corporate statement to stakeholder engagement; and from delayed annual reports to quarterly updates'.
In the last respect, it's not so different from something we've been talking about before now, with regard to annual reports. The web makes it easier for companies to provide the very latest information, rather than having to stick to a rigid once-a-year publishing schedule. It's a shift in mindset from the annual report to reporting, if you like.*
Not many people may be joining in at the moment, but Timberland's initiative demonstrates transparency, provides the most up-to-date data and presents an opportunity for engagement – and all of these things can only be good in the longer term.
* For a bit more on this, see Outlook 2008, our look at online communication trends and what they mean for the corporate web site. Contact Paul Greenwood at email@example.com for a copy.
Any statements made in these blog posts are the views of the blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of The Group.