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How Organizations Capitalize on Data Sharing to Further CSR Goals

Open data

June 27, 2019

Reading time: 8 min

Lora

by

Lora

Why have we witnessed a surge in commitment to CSR goals over the last decade and what does it mean for your organization? This blog post answers these questions and explains why organizations are capitalizing on data sharing to support CSR initiatives.

A decade ago, only a handful of Fortune 500 companies issued sustainability reports. In 2016, as many as 82% of the S&P 500 companies published reports on the social, economic and environmental impact of their activities. In an increasingly interconnected world, it is clear that businesses can no longer limit themselves to maximizing profits. More and more, corporate organizations are expected to show responsibility not only towards their shareholders but to all stakeholders: employees, customers, suppliers and the communities in which the business thrives.

But why exactly have we witnessed a surge in commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals over the last decade and what does it mean for your organization? This blog post answers these questions and explains why organizations are capitalizing on data sharing to support CSR initiatives.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Before jumping into the heart of the matter, let’s take a look at what CSR means for organizations. A common understanding of corporate social responsibility is an organization’s responsibility for the “impact of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, resulting in ethical behavior and transparency which contributes to sustainable development”.

What are the implications of this definition in practice? The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) provides CSR guidelines that can inform your organization’s CSR program. The ISO guidelines provide key themes and principles that guide organizations in setting and achieving sustainability goals. These principles range from accountability and transparency to respect for stakeholder interests and human rights, for the rule of law and for international norms of behavior.

Why does CSR suddenly seem to matter so much?

Most of us would agree that not that long ago corporate social responsibility was merely an afterthought for most businesses. More often than not, it was assigned to a team within the public relations or philanthropy department, if such a department even existed. In times of crisis, it was seen as a useful tool to drown the negative impact of a potential scandal. In normal times, it amounted to little more than a window dressing technique to convince stakeholders of a company’s commitment to a virtuous cause.

What changed between then and now? The answer lies in evolving consumer demand. The rise in CSR reporting coincides with a surge in customers’ concerns regarding social, economic and environmental issues. Studies show that in 2017 86% of US consumers expect companies to act on social and environmental issues. Similarly, an ever-rising number of online consumers around the world said they would be willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. As consumers demand more responsible behavior and higher levels of transparency, corporations seek to adapt and incorporate CSR initiatives into their day to day business activities.  

How can CSR benefit your organization?

An expert at the Reputation Institute, a leading data, analytics, and insights platform empowering global companies to build credibility worldwide, summarized the impact of CSR for any given company as follows: “For an organization, having a strong CSR agenda is important, because it ensures customers will do business with you, policymakers and regulators will give you license to operate, and potential employees will be more willing to work for you. CSR is increasingly a top driver of stakeholder support. It equates to good will and good business.”

CSR should not only be seen as a corporate duty but as an opportunity to grow your business, gain competitive advantage and improve your company’s reputation. By increasing sustainability goals, you will not only be able to attract and retain customers but also improve investors’ perception and your relationships with the public sector and the media.

Following this rationale, it is not surprising that many companies embrace CSR strategies as opportunities for growth. One powerful approach to CSR is to capitalize on company data. Publishing CSR data enables company stakeholders to benefit from the data’s value and also demonstrates the company’s commitment to transparency. One example comes from the peer-to-peer ridesharing, food delivery and transportation network company Uber. The Uber Movement Open Data portal provides anonymized data from over two billion rideshare trips for non-commercial re-use.

The following companies are two other good examples of how to capitalize on data sharing to improve CSR reporting and ensure that their sustainability goals create real value.

Vallourec

Still today, it is common practice for companies to share their CSR achievements in a yearly report. These reports often come in pdf format with long chunks of text and little or no visualizations. But CSR programs are often data-rich, involving quantifiable benefits to the organization’s communities. Data sharing platforms can help organizations engage more directly with their stakeholders by providing an interactive CSR reporting platform.

Most recently, Vallourec - the world leader in premium tubular solutions for the energy and industrial sectors - launched a data portal to communicate its CSR achievements more clearly. Vallourec was already sharing data internally in the context of a larger digitization campaign. The group’s management realized that it could apply its data sharing strategy to showcase its commitment to responsible use of the planet’s resources as well as to an equitable work environment.

Vallourec showcases a series of raw datasets and infographics which present key figures on workforce distribution, training, safety, environmental impact, and greenhouse gas emissions, reflecting the group's commitment to transparency but also its clear ambition to deliver responsible management.

Vallourec-EN

Rather than investing time and resources in producing yearly PDF reports, Vallourec now engages its ecosystem by making its CSR data dynamic, interactive, and available for anyone to peruse. Data is updated in real-time and is showcased in dashboards, graphs and maps.

SNCF

SNCF is another organization that has chosen to leverage data in order to emphasize its commitment to corporate social responsibility. The French national railway company has set clear CSR priorities, which are available on the SNCF website. These priorities span across policy, mobility, environment, employees and local economies issues. To monitor the company’s progress along these variables, SNCF decided to include a dataset reflecting key figures around its CSR goals on its open data portal.

On the portal, the viewer can find insightful data regarding the number of women in the total work-force as well as in high positions. Further data can be found on the total amount of the 10 highest salaries within the organization. In terms of environmental goals, SNCF has started sharing data regarding the total amount of hazardous waste produced, of paper and cardboard used, as well as the sale of end of life materials and the share of recycled rail.

Featuring its CSR objectives on the corporate website demonstrates SNCF’s commitment to transparency. Publishing datasets that reflect the organization’s actions along these objectives took the initiative a step further. It enabled SNCF to effectively share with its users the tangible results achieved by its CSR initiatives and to continue to raise awareness around the main social and environmental issues that matter the most to the group.

 

 

If you, too, are committed to corporate social responsibility goals and feel like harnessing your data will help you achieve them, get in touch or sign up for a demo of the Opendatasoft platform today!

 

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