Breathing Life into CSR Reporting

Not too long ago, I participated in the second Israeli Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility at Tel Aviv University,Israel. The goal of this conference was to encourage more companies in Israel to join the global trend of CSR reporting. Sean Gilbert, an executive of the GRI organization , kicked off the conference with an enlightening overview of CSR reporting worldwide. Among other things, I’d like to share with you his insights about how to build a step-by-step reporting program .

Not by coincidence, the conference came the day after the publication of a study on CSR reporting in Israel, put together by Israeli consultancy firm Arkada. The report lambasted Israel for lagging behind other Western countries in corporate social responsibility reporting.

Although in Israel there is a CSR index link to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and quite a few companies have adopted CSR strategies, the study said that Israel is behind Portugal, New Zealand and Chile in terms of how businesses report their corporate responsibility efforts.

The study was based on the fact that only two Israeli corporations – Intel Israel and Bank Leumi (Israel’s second largest commercial bank) – had published corporate social responsibility reports based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standard over the past two years.

As I see it, CSR report really enables companies to put all their CSR activities into a single “good envelop” – like a one-stop-shop for reporting corporate social responsibility. For companies that want to start putting together their own CSR reports, the GRI (Global Reporting Indicators) gives excellent guidance on where to start, what to report and how to do it right. Furthermore, CSR reporting is a good way for Israeli businesses to make it onto the same CSR playing field as successful corporations in Western countries.

To that end, Intel Israel’s Annual 2007 Corporate Responsibility Report as well as Bank Leumi’s report were presented at the conference, providing examples of the worldwide trends leaning toward corporate social responsibility.

I left the conference with a real sense that a growing number of Israeli businesses were contemplating issuing their own CSR reports. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s wishful thinking on my part or whether there really will be more reports available to discuss and compare at next year’s conference. I share the views of one of my colleagues that there truly is a change going on, but it is not going to happen overnight.