CSR and Accountability in an Age of Digitization

By Carol A Adams

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin“Digitization is the biggest environmentalist ever” according to Timotheus Höttges, CEO Deutsche Telekom in his opening keynote at the CSR conference at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Höttges made a case for digitization as a means of decoupling resource consumption from economic growth and gave examples of how digitization had reduced energy and natural resource consumption. It allows us to revolutionise the way energy is produced and distributed, reducing energy consumption. Soil sensors linked with data analysis help farmers produce more and reduce water consumption. But he warned that e-waste is a growing problem with take back programmes only getting a tiny proportion of old mobile phones. Deutsche Telekom is taking digitization opportunities seriously investing 20% of its 2016 revenue in infrastructure to facilitate digital participation.

Digitisation will increase transparency

Georg Kell, former founding executive director of the UN Global Compact charted the growth of corporate attention on CSR and sustainability predicting that focus on Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) will increase and that finance will increasingly go to more responsible companies. He identified four megatrends addressing the limitation of traditional finance: the increasing valuation of natural resources available to companies; the evolution of value chain concepts; the increase in regulation to protect natural resources; and, the big one, the increased emphasis on transparency that comes with digitisation.

With all the talk of increased transparency as a result of digitization, the issue of credibility was raised and the need for non-financial assurance highlighted. Daniel Schmid, Chief Sustainability Officer of SAP discussed how they clarified which non financial information had been assured with KPMG putting a symbol on web pages where the information was assured.

Corporate action on the SDGs

A video message delivered by David Nabarro, Special Adviser to the UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, reinforced the transformation ahead pointing to the critical role of business in translating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into corporate action. Luis Neves, Climate Change and Sustainability Officer for Deutsche Telekom later discussed a range of technologies DT are developing in order to contribute to the SDGs.

Women and CSR

Panel discussion: Elaine Cohen and 7 men

Panel discussion: Elaine Cohen and 7 men

The first panel discussion of eight people was striking in that Elaine Cohen was the only woman, a point she noted did not reflect that women make 85-90% of purchasing decisions, now increasingly made through digital means. As a mother, she also drew attention to the dangers of the digital, online world for children and children’s rights [Continue reading]

When interests collide: dealing with stakeholder conflict and other complexities

By Carol A Adams Development in emerging economies such as India is occurring at a rapid pace as the Earth is heading towards climate disaster.  The social and environmental issues are complex, interrelated and sometimes conflicting, particularly … [Continue reading]

How social investment projects started making sense for big companies

Carol A Adams, Durham University; Brad Potter, University of Melbourne, and Jodi York, University of Melbourne Companies are cottoning on to the idea that social investment projects can be good for business even if they don’t show up in the … [Continue reading]

The SDGs, corporate strategy and corporate reporting

by Carol A Adams Following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by Governments in late 2015[1] a number of companies have been thinking about how to incorporate them into their integrated reports and strategies. Novo … [Continue reading]

Exploring the implications of integrated reporting for social investment (disclosures)

by Carol A. Adams, Brad Potter Prakash J. Singh and Jodi York The purpose of this study is to examine the evolution of corporate reporting on social investment activities in the context of a global move toward integrated reporting approaches. The … [Continue reading]

Panel discussion on assurance of sustainability and integrated reports at the GRI conference

The title given by the GRI for this discussion was 'Assurance trends - improving the quality of sustainability data'. But when I'm reading a corporate report, whilst I expect the data to be accurate, its the quality of the internal control, … [Continue reading]

Corporate Respect for Human Rights: meaning, scope and the shifting order of discourse

by Kenneth J McPhail and Carol A Adams This article critically analyses the human rights discourse of thirty Fortune 500 companies in the mining, pharmaceutical and chemical industries at two key points in the recent evolution of the UN’s business … [Continue reading]

The changing portrayal of the employment of women in British banks’ and retail companies’ corporate annual reports

by Carol A Adams and George Harte This paper examines disclosure with respect to gender and employment in the corporate annual reports of major British banking and retail companies during the period 1935-1993. Setting the disclosures in the … [Continue reading]

The future of corporate reporting, the Sustainable Development Goals and capital markets

In this video Paul Druckman talks about the future of corporate reporting and accounting for sustainable development. He discusses the need to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals into the thinking of capital markets. He argues for … [Continue reading]

Better corporate reporting: challenging credibility

In this interview Paul Druckman talks about the role of corporate reporting in providing information to investors, the role of Stewardship Codes and pension funds in creating a shift and the role of regulators in encouraging better corporate … [Continue reading]