Public corporations are required (in the USA) to report specific financial measures and figures, quarterly and annually, in order to inform potential investors of the risks associated with their companies. However, some organizations (including private corporations) are beginning to report social and environmentally-related information in the form of Triple Bottom Line reports or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports. These reports are designed to inform customers, shareholders, employees and investment funds of a company’s activities with regard to social and environmental issues on local, national, and global levels.
There are currently no standards on this type of reporting so there is a wide variety of data and purposes addressed by these reports. Some focus on social issues (such as working conditions), some only on environmental performance (such as carbon footprints), and others on more integrated, sustainability reports that encompass many issues.
Companies have different purposes for these reports, including enhanced public relations, internal measurements and support for strategic goals, and thought-leadership within their industries. Many companies have determined that the brand-building and promotional benefits to declaring these activities and accomplishments outweigh the costs associated with tracking, generating, and disclosing them. Nearly half of the S&P 100 corporations now issue some form of CSR report, mostly in response to increased public interest and brand value by customers, partners, and NGOs. Most of these reports are internally generated with little oversight. However, companies like Office Depot are beginning to use outside auditors to validate the claims and data in their reports.