UAE-based CSR consultancy The Umbrella Institute Managing Director, Anne Marie Thodsen, points out that companies should use the CSR report for corporate storytelling both internally and externally.
Catalysts for change and growth
The CSR report is an amazing internal tool to overview of visions, goals and actions. The report is an integrated communication strategy and a catalyst for change and growth.
The awareness of sustainable development for business is growing. Sustainability is no longer something only NGOs demand, but also investors and governments. At The Umbrella Institute, the team observes that many SMEs are contemplating starting their CSR initiatives, but are hesitant to make the CSR report.
Corporate Social Responsibility has become a catalyst for change, and the CSR perspective is all about what makes sense – throughout the triple bottom line. It is a material analysis in which responsibility for society – socially and environmentally – is incorporated into the strategy and the core business.
Many companies see their businesses from a new angle and come up with new products and services that close gaps in the market, once they start the CSR analysis.
‘Still, some small and medium-sized companies are hesitant about CSR reporting. The grounds are good and many. Sustainability and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals are complicated sizes – not only in report form but also in reality and in everyday life. And when a company sets 2030 goals based on a greater purpose, social responsibility and environmental considerations, it actually treads paths that no one has ever encountered before.’
The wish for CSR and sustainability reports are on the rise in the UAE and the Middle East, but many SMEs are delaying the CSR report, or even more; they are not utilizing the findings in the report to position their business to customers and partners.
Anne Marie Thodsen points out that companies should use the CSR report for corporate storytelling both internally and externally. This way the internal and the external stakeholders have a common understanding.
Large multinationals lead the way
Large multinational companies show the way to report on responsibility. In the UAE such entities as Al Futtaim, TECOM Group and Emirates NBD are leading the way for the Middle East audience.
What might be the cause for companies to evade the CSR and sustainability report? According to Anne Marie Thodsen, ‘one of the first answers is that the CSR report runs a risk of not being read or being misread. A CSR report takes time and effort from the whole team. Having it end up in a drawer is an understandable fear. However, if companies address the right audience in the report, and find the motivation to ask themselves relevant questions where the answers are interesting to the employees and management, then the report is a great tool for impact.’
‘Looking at CSR reporting from a value-adding perspective, it has a bright future. A comprehensive CSR report should not be thought of as a book which is published once a year to the few, but rather as a container for a data set that can be used to start conversations with the many stakeholders.’
‘Companies must use the CSR findings and activities for corporate storytelling and to align the values for its internal stakeholder’, says Anne Marie Thodsen and continues ‘companies should show how they impact society, what are their goals for the future and what are next steps to making a better society.’ Corporate storytelling done strategically and with a long-term vision creates a positive impact on the reputation, employee retention, the ability to engage important stakeholders and to lure in new investments.