CSR reports cite incorrect and irrelevant data

12th December 2011

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Reporting



Unsubstantiated claims, gaps in data and inaccurate figures are common in many corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, according to researchers at the University of Leeds and Euromed Management School.

The study, due to be released early next year by the Sustainability Research Institute, analysed more than 4,000 CSR reports, rankings and surveys published worldwide over the past 10 years. Of the 443 EU-based companies featuring in the FTSE All World Index between 2005 and 2009, the research found that fewer than one in six reported greenhouse-gas emissions from all their activities, while others did not clarify which activities their data referred to.

“Some examples show that the quality of environmental data in sustainability reports remains appalling at times, even today,” commented Dr Ralf Barkemeyer, a lecturer in CSR at the University of Leeds and one of the authors of the forthcoming report. “In financial reporting, leaving out an undisclosed part of the company in the calculation of profits would be a scandal. In sustainability reporting, however, it is common practice.”

UK telecoms giant BT, a frequent winner of CSR reporting accolades, was found, in its 2007 sustainability report, to have attributed 9.8% of its international waste arisings to a handful of office workers in Belgium. BT also reported that its southeast Asian and Australian workforce did not consume any water at all. In a statement, BT described environmental reporting as a new and evolving science, and one that is especially complex when it comes to trying to standardise measurement and reporting across dozens of countries. The firm also said it is always looking to do things better.

The research also found that Italian energy company Enel reported in 2009 that its emissions amounted to 122,089 million tonnes, equivalent to four times global emissions, and Swiss firm ABB overstated its sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by a factor of 1,000 from 2003 to 2005.

The research results come as KPMG announced that 64% of the largest 100 companies in 34 major countries are now reporting corporate responsibility activity, with every company in the FTSE 100 publishing a CSR report for the first time in 2010/11, making the UK the “leader” for non-financial disclosure.

But Barkemeyer said rankings such as the KPMG one tend to largely focus on whether or not companies report, not what they report.

“Very few criteria applied in CSR ratings relate to the actual impact of corporate activity on the environment and society. Companies get points for knowing where they want to go. But nobody seems to check whether this is where they are heading. Aspiration replaces performance,” commented Barkemeyer.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

EU and UK citizens fear net-zero delivery deficit

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

Taxing the extraction of fossil fuels in the world’s most advanced economies could raise $720bn (£575bn) by 2030 to support vulnerable countries facing climate damages, analysis has found.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close