CSR Reporting & Communication during Covid-19
The first quarter is an important time for supply chain corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Companies typically use this opportunity to engage their suppliers and write their annual reports on conflict minerals, greenhouse gas emissions, and other key performance indicators (KPIs). However, given the Covid-19 crisis and its impacts on business, global companies are struggling to acquire the data they need from their suppliers and have thus been forced to shift their CSR reporting goals for the 2019 calendar year.
Many companies have seen a reduction in supplier response rates around key data points. But why are companies struggling to acquire information that can be captured electronically? Let’s look at conflict minerals as an example.
To identify upstream sourcing details, companies need to examine purchase transaction receipts. Those who have been auditors for many years may not be surprised to learn that a small upstream company’s records are all paper-based. But what if your supplier and their suppliers are working from home? They won’t be able to access that information, which means it cannot be easily passed along to customers. The situation is compounded when you think about the myriad other suppliers in the same situation.
Showing the Impact
Across a variety of CSR topics, there have been impacts up and down the supply chain. This is why it is important to remember that the purpose of a CSR program is to drive change in organizational and supplier behaviour and demonstrate concrete efforts to do so. That story should be told even — or especially — in times of crisis.
Readers should understand that even if reporting has fallen short around expected KPIs due to lower supplier response rates, their due diligence efforts continue to drive change through the communication of expectations. This involves communicating the company’s plan for future business continuity and continued messaging around CSR impacts.
Thinking Outside the Box
Despite the Covid-19 crisis and the major supply disruptions it has caused, CSR professionals must stay the course. Implementing and reporting on CSR initiatives is as important as maintaining supply lines because the value of CSR continues to grow across every vertical and in every country. In addition to this, industries are experiencing more consumer and investor scrutiny than ever before.
The Covid-19 crisis is pushing organisations to think outside the box and come up with creative ways to maintain business continuity. Corporate social responsibility managers should take this opportunity to innovate and identify how CSR can be better leveraged as a strategic advantage.
Jared Connors is the Senior Subject Matter Expert, Corporate Social Responsibility, at Assent Compliance, where he helps companies across various industries to engage their suppliers and report on CSR topics of material importance to their business.