Corporate Eye

Automated web reporting | Changing the nature of CSR

So GRI 3.1 has been released.  I’ve been so excited by this development it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get around to actually looking at what the changes are.  Yep, that excited.

Actually, it’s a bit more than that.  a) I was busy on other things, and b) there are other far more qualified people who will have far more interesting things to say about GRI 3.1.

However, while reading through the changes I was struck once again by how simple it should be for large corporates to gather these statistics, and how easy it should be to publish these statistics in real time on the web.

Why this doesn’t happen yet remains a mystery to me, but then again I’ve always looked at how technically feasible something is rather than the politics which is required to get it to happen.

Large corporations are basically studies in data and intelligence gathering.  Senior management love to know exactly what is going on throughout the organisation and, in particular, how it affects the overall bottom line.

The web revolution has been an absolute godsend for these activities because figures can now fly around the world in near real time speed and be compiled into monthly and quarterly reports.

It’s also been a godsend in another way: the development of web services.  These are those ickle processes which sit between different physical IT systems and pass info from one to the other.  They’re extremely lightweight and can be implemented with a minimum of impact on existing systems.

There are a whole slew of GRI criteria which fly around the world which could be trapped, aggregated and published by the judicious deployment of web services.  All it takes is a little planning and forethought.

For example:

HR4 : Total number of incidents of discrimination and corrective actions taken

HR10 : Percentage and total number of operations that have been subject to human rights reviews and/or impact assessments

LA2 : Total number and rate of new employee hires and employee turnover by age group, gender, and region

LA 7 : Rates of injury, occupational diseases, lost days, and absenteeism, and number of workrelated fatalities by region and by gender

SO 8 : Monetary value of significant fines and total number of non-monetary sanctions for noncompliance with laws and regulations

EC 1 : Direct economic value generated and distributed, including revenues, operating costs, employee compensation, donations and other community investments, retained earnings, and payments to capital providers and governments.

What might be more scary for companies is the way such an automated system of gathering and publication happens without their approval or active sanction.

However it also embodies what many see CSR as being all about: the opening up of business behaviour from a shareholder controlled and profit dominated activity, to one where a whole variety of stakeholders can be involved adding their voices to how (and why) the profit is generated.

For this to truly happen there has to be a proper flow of information from the company to the wider world, and that information cannot be considered in any way tainted or tampered with.

So transparency is only part of the solution.  Unconditional, immediate (almost real time) transparency is the next step along this path which we’ve only just begun to tread.

Photo Credit: Server Farm by Mr Faber under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License.

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A former CTO, Chris has a broad and varied background. He’s been involved with blue chips, consultancies & SMEs across a wide variety of sectors and has worked in Europe, the Middle East and Australia. In 2007 he decided to combine his knowledge of business and IT with his passion for all things sustainable and has been busy writing ever since. However, his greatest ambition remains to brew the perfect cup of coffee.