From leader to follower – the impact of Danish CSR legislation

One would epact that countries that have a dedicated CSR law would also be the ones that would lead the pack on reporting. However according to the latest KPMG International survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting is Denmark at best a slow follower behind countries like India, Spain, Hungary, China and South Korea just to name a few.

Traditionally the Danes have though of them selves as the “inventors” quality reporting on CSR with companies like NovoNordisk, Novozymes and Danisco at the very top. But it would seem that success have fostered complacency and now just about everybody have overtaken this ones a beacon of CSR reporting. According to KPMG we have moved from Quality to Quantity as we see more and more reporting being done but the quality of these reports does not seem to follow. One might think that having a dedicated CSR law would foster quality but it would seem that it is the other way around.

It should not be that difficult to follow the law as it is quite easy to come up with a policy, create a report and act on its findings. But it looks like that most companies have focused on the letter of the law rather than internalising CSR as part of the business. This leads to the dilemma if CSR should be voluntary or involuntary as s the case in Denmark at least for the 1100 biggest companies.

If the KPMG survey is true it could mean that a voluntary approach foster quality in reporting such as in the areas of IT, Assurance, Integration, use of standards and use of communication channels. While a law approach would mean that one gets more CSR reporting but at a lower quality.

One could argue that quality will come as time passes and it is only a matter of getting the right tools implemented. But if one looks at the CSR reporting discourse that Danish companies have taken it would seem that companies goes for the lowest common denominator.

In my mind Danish companies have taken a clear and present competitive advantage and turned it into a exercise in cost reduction. Shame on you….

When business moves forward

Within the world of CSR there is a tendency to focus on the negative stories who did what to whom or who and what effect did it have. But sometimes we need to look at all the other things that companies do in order to be good citizens. I have spent some time reading through the A.P.Møller-Maersk (APM) first published CSR report and it is big and impressive. For a company that has made a virtue out of being as closed as possible it is a giant leap forward.

There are some key areas which I would like to highlight for other to learn from.

It utilizes the tools that technology can offer when navigating the 140 page report. When I first took a look at the report I thought that it was a monster but when I dug into the material it was easy to navigate around. So the lesson for others is that you should provide extensive information about the performance of the company but keep in mind that mortal have to read it too.  

APM identify and create strategies for stakeholder engagement. I think is a sheer brilliance most companies just write that stakeholders are important and we communicate with them but APM goes a step further and tells us how they aim to achieve this. I like this a lot. (Yes, I know there are properly a lot missing but for a company the size of APM they give it hell of a shot.)    

They set them self ambitious target (from a Danish perspective) on getting female representation in top management. Knowing APM as a male testosterone driven organization it is clearly a way of showing that this company is moving also on the fundamentals.

I also like the absence of “Hurray”-words. There is nothing like a report filled with green this and green that it just does not do it for me. The APM report is a serious piece of work and they are ambitious but keep the business perspectives in focus.  A lesson to be learned from many others in the CSR industry.

I look forward to the reports to come on how APM have come true on the ambitions.