Friday, August 20, 2010

39 CSR reporting keywords

The Business Civic Leadership Center of the US Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 10 year anniversary, and has put together a series of interesting videos in their TEN campaign  linking the number 10 with core CSR themes. The 10 most common words they selected got me thinking a little. The 10 most common words in CSR today according to the BCLC  are

1.  Sustainability
2.  Stakeholders
3.  Green
4.  Value Add
5.  Core competencies
6    Best Practices
7.   Leverage
8.   DNA
9.  Philanthropy
10. Accountability

Now, you might find some of these a little surprising, as I did, so I thought I would do a little check of my own. I analysed 12 CSR recently published CSR reports (listed on for a selection of 39 keywords, including the 10 that the BCLC selected. With interesting results.

These 39 keywords appeared a total of 12,648 times. Here are the additional 29 words I looked at:

**award ** biodiversity ** carbon ** climate ** community ** consumption ** customer ** dialogue ** diversity ** emissions ** energy ** engage(ment) ** environment ** employees ** ethics ** feedback ** governance ** impact ** leadership ** materiality ** offset ** partnership ** recycle ** risk ** target ** volunteer ** waste ** water ** women **

My analysis  of the top ten words are:
1.  Environment (1,288 times, 10% 0f total)
2.  Sustainability  (1,194 times, 9 % of total)
3.  Employees (989 times, 8% of total)
4.  Customers (875 times, 8% of total)
5.  Energy (806 times, 7% of total)
6.  Community (651 times, 5% of total)
7.  Impact (545 times, 4% of total)
8.  Waste (510 times, 4% of total)
9.  Emissions (486 times, 4% of total)
10. Water (450 times, 4% of total)

Clearly the environmental agenda is dominating CSR report content, though employees and customers, and, pleasingly, impact, are up there with the waste, water and emissions.

The BCLC ranking in my analysis works out like this:

Rank 2.  Sustainability (Hurray! we agree on one word!)
Rank 14.  Stakeholders
Rank 17.  Green
Rank 34.  Value Add
Rank 39.  Core competencies
Rank 36    Best Practices
Rank 38.   Leverage
Rank 37.   DNA
Rank 35.  Philanthropy
Rank 33. Accountability

Most of the top ten words the BCLC selected rank jut nowhere in twelve 2010 published reports, appearing less than 50 times each in a total of 1054 keywords per report on average. Wonder how the BCLC made their selection.

My analysis yielded some disappointments : "women"  appeared only 161 times (rank 23) and materiality appeared only 61 times (rank 31) and "leadership appeared only 152 times (rank 24). Stakeholders were mentioned  only 366 times, less than 3% of the overall total keyword usage.

Within the numbers, there are some interesting facts:

The top 25% (10) words account for 61% of all mentions of the 39 keywords. That's kind of Pareto-ish, right ?

Ten of the twelve reports analysed had environment as their most used word amongst the keywords

Two reports had no mention of "dialogue", 6 reports had no mention of "materiality" and one report had no mention of "customers" 

But apart from  a little fun in crunching the numbers, what does this tell us about the status of sustainability reporting? Can the focus of the organization be correlated to the frequency of keywords used?  Can we tell from an organization such as The Cooperative Group, whose top 5 keywords are sustainability, customer, employees, community and diversity, that they are more social-centric in their approach to CSR versus Ball Corporation whose top keywords are enviro-centric  sustainability, energy, employees, water and recycle ?  What about the approach to sustainability of BAE Systems who is the only one of the 12 companies who has "leadership" in the top 5 keywords? or Provident Financial, where the keyword "customer"  accounted for 32% of this Company's keyword usage, more than any other report of those analysed ? And what does it tell us that Kinross used the keyword community  for 16% of its total keyword usage, double that of any other report?

So maybe there's a case for keyword analysis of CSR reports, which reveals more about where the Company is placing its focus than the actual commentary? Of course, my analysis is a little rough and ready and relies on a consistency of language which is not always available - many companies refer to employees as colleagues, associates, team members or other such encouraging terms, so a search for employees might not reveal the true picture. But, on the whole, maybe CSR reporting keywords are a predictor of a Company's CSR mindset.

However, if you want to prove my analysis is totally screwy, all you need to do, when you are writing your next report is add this sentence at the start of each section:

Our award for best practices in biodiversity, relies on our DNA and  core competencies related to the management of carbon emissions, energy, waste and water, which we recycle, in order to provide value add for customers, whom we engage in dialogue about the climate and the environment, because they are stakeholders, and we target to get their feedback, which is in line with our governance and ethics principles, and our desire to be a green company with high impact and leverage in matters of high materiality, in order to mitigate risk and offset high consumption, so that our community can benefit from greater diversity, and sustainability, and our employees can volunteer in philanthropy activities in partnership with our leadership, which is composed mainly of WOMEN, because we value accountability.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm). Author of: CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails