With two weeks to go until the election, political parties have been very open in outlining the positives steps they have taken, and intend to take, to sustain and improve what is currently happening in New Zealand. However, the same cannot be said of many New Zealand businesses, according to the latest Grant Thornton International Business Report survey.
The survey showed that when it came to corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting, New Zealand was ranked fourth to bottom among the 34 countries surveyed, with only 16% of businesses reporting on their CSR activities. Only Estonia, Poland and Sweden had a lower ranking.
Mark Hucklesby, Partner and National Technical Director, Audit at Grant Thornton New Zealand said that despite these low figures, he believes many New Zealand companies do partake in CSR activities, such as we are seeing today with many businesses collecting funds to support the Campbell Live and KidsCan initiative, Lunchbox Day.
This view is also supported by the survey which shows that 77% of New Zealand businesses donate money to community causes or charities, 75% donate products to a charitable organization and 65% participate in community or charity activities,.
“These numbers place New Zealand businesses well above the global average and into the top third of the 34 countries surveyed in each of these categories,” he said.
“However, many companies are choosing not to include this information in their annual financial reports. Instead, they are using other channels such as social media, their company websites and internal communications.
“Perhaps one reason for this lack of integration is the lack of consensus and direction about what CSR activity should be reported on. And when the reporting is not consistent across all businesses, it can’t be effectively reviewed and assessed.”
“The top reasons given by New Zealand business leaders as to why they should disseminate CSR information is that it does help them improve the retention of staff (68%), further stimulate client and customer demand (64%) and demonstrate their commitment to transparency because it’s now considered by many to be the right thing to do (64%).
“Incorporating CSR information into annual financial reports, as South African listed companies have been required to do for the last three years, will only work to the further benefits these areas.”
Hucklesby noted the next step for CSR reporting in New Zealand would be to fully embrace integrated reporting; an aspect of corporate reporting that has already been recognised in the Financial Reporting Act 2013, which it came into effect on 1 April 2014.
“Integrated reporting will play an important role in communicating not only businesses’ environmental and social impact to investors and other stakeholders, but their sustainability as well,” he said.
Just under one third (31%) of the 2,500 businesses surveyed globally report on sustainability initiatives, either combined with financial reports or separately. However, a further quarter (26%) plan to begin reporting externally on sustainability matters in the next five years. And overall, 58% agree (the New Zealand result was 56%) that reporting on non-financial matters, such as sustainability, should be combined with financial reporting.
CSR is a process that aims to embrace responsibility for the company's actions. It’s undertaken to create a positive impression by reporting on the consequences of its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and the public at large.