Golden Rule #4: Go beyond Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Key Takeaways

1.  Corporate Sustainability Reports can be misleading and overlook the most important topics.

2.  You can use companies' CSR reports; however, you should use other sources to complement, and most importantly, use critical judgement.

3.  Analyses that only extract data from these reports without adding value will be automatically rejected.

The fourth golden rule to assess impact is to look beyond business practices, through a critical lens, to gauge the important impact issues.

What's the problem?

  • Corporate Sustainability or ESG Reports usually focus on the company’s environmental and social practices and do not always cover the most important impact topics that can result from their products and services.

  • These reports tend to cover positive remediation initiatives, not negative impacts, as they are written by the companies themselves. Oftentimes, companies may be biased, withholding or accentuating certain information in order to portray a specific image/message.

  • When reading these reports, make sure to be critical of the information and any greenwashing.

What you must do

  • Look beyond business’ practices into the most important impact issues.

  • Find sources outside of the company’s CSR report.

  • Exercise your critical mind.


Examples of CSR topics that are misleading
  • Mondelez may talk about how they reduced fat and sugar content in their products, but not about their impact on obesity.
  • Philip Morris may talk about how they improved their carbon efficiency, but not about the absolute volume of CO2 emissions, particularly through their supply chain (scope 3).

Examples of topics based on CSR information but which go beyond
  • Despite reducing sugar content in its products, Mondelez still contributes to the obesity epidemic in the US.
  • Philip Morris improved the carbon efficiency of its production, but they are still a major polluter.

WOW analyses are good examples of analyses that look beyond a company's report, here are a few:

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