With three-quarters of S&P 500 companies creating corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, most major businesses recognize it is a “must-do” communications strategy. However, the return on this sometimes significant investment is falling short. New research shows only 17 percent of Americans said they have read a CSR report in the last 12 months, according to the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study.
Although CSR reports were originally designed to meet the demands for transparency among investors and key influencers, resulting in dense 100-page PDFs, the marketplace has dramatically shifted. Consumers, too, want to know how organizations are stacking up against promises. In fact, 82 percent of Americans expect companies to report on the progress of their social and environmental efforts. To meet the need of growingly diverse audiences, it’s time for CSR executives to think beyond the PDF. Companies have the opportunity to bring new life to this valuable data, innovate existing report formats and leverage content for greatest engagement. Americans feel briefly written summaries (42 percent), interactive websites (36 percent) and videos (29 percent) are more effective than a comprehensive written report (18 percent). These preferred formats signal the broader challenge for companies to make their CSR data more accessible, dynamic and compelling to secure a larger return on investment. To help companies think about how to get more mileage out both current and future CSR reports, here are five tips, insights and examples of companies that are bringing CSR reporting content to new levels.