Saturday, October 9, 2010

CSRRAs: CSR Report Acronyms

I was preparing next week's editorial for and made a reference to ESG. I thought I had better offer an explanatory link for the sustainability-acronym-challenged and did a net search. This was not much help. Acronym Finder has 93 definitions for ESG (not counting 205 definitions in the "Acronym Attic").

You can pick your way through Escola Superior de Guerra in Brazil, which I hope not to send my son to, Expanding Sphere Generator, a weapon used by the Lyrans in Star Trek, an Electrostatically Supported Gyroscope used in submarine navigation, an Expeditionary Strike Group, which allows US naval fleets to provide highly movable and self-sustaining forces for missions in various parts of the globe, and you can also find Emerald, Sapphire and Gold, a Bronx band, originally consisting of the Scroggins sisters (no joke!) . And numerous more. Isn't it amazing that three little letters can lend themselves to so many different things in so many aspects of life.

So now I have a problem. Which definition should I link to? I don't recall many sustainability articles referring to Electrostatically Supported Gyroscopes. Not recently, anyway. But more importantly, the ESG definition that came close to the one I was looking for was "Environmental , Social and Government issues". Now, that's a bit misleading, as the definition I really wanted was Environmental, Social and  Governance, not government. 

So now I have another problem. Nothing to link to. So I decide to change my reference to ESG and use CSR instead and see what acronym finder has to say about that. OMG! Even MORE definitions ranging from the usual Customer Service Representative  thru to Certified Shorthand Reporter and more. Corporate Social Responsibility does feature, however, so I run with CSR. No link. We all know what CSR is. Right ?  

This did get me thinking about use of acronyms in CSR reports. I took a look a recently published CSR report: ConAgra Foods 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report . Now I have to say that this report is fairly light on acronyms compared to several that I have seen, and each is explained in the text so the acronym-challenged readers will have no troubles here. Here are some of the  ConAgra acro's with the amount of times they appear in their report in brackets.

ERN  (4) :  Employee Resource Networks
ConAgra have these for Asians, Blacks, Latinos, Women, Young Professionals and LGBT. Oops, there goes another acronym. See, I am doing it too.

BFY (3) :   Better for You
.... as in food that is Better... well, you got it. This appears to relate to government standards for advertizing of foods to children. ConAgra joined the CFBAI and the CBBB in a voluntary initiative of self-regulation in advertizing healthy food choices to kids. CFBAI? CBBB? Children's Food and Beverage Advertizing Intiative and Council for Better Business Bureaus.

RQI  (3)  :  Research, Quality and Innovation.
Enough said.

HFCS  (1) : High-fructose corn syrop
This is what you will not find in ConAgra's Hunts Ketchup as it has been replaced with sugar, after 18 months of testing. The reason for this change appears to be a "shorter, simpler ingredients list".

GFSI (7) : Global Food Safety Initiative
This is a food retailer led organization which develops standards for food safety, which food companies voluntarily adopt. The GFSI audits companies against these standards.  Of course, each standard has it's own acronym but let's not go there....

CLE (3) : ConAgra Learning Exchange
This is ConAgra's program for employee development which delivered over 90,000 training hours in 2010 FY, more than double that of 2009 FY, perhaps as a result of the launch of the ConAgra virtual Foods University.

PLA (3) : Recycled Polylactic Acid
This is what shrink film for packaging is now made of. ConAgra say they were the first US company to convert shrink from non-renewable plastic raw materials to use post-industrial recycled PLA which is made from corn. PLA contains more than 50% recycled material.

The most frequently appearing acronym is GRI, Global Reporting Initiative, which appears 45 times. But that's only because at the bottom of each page, the relevant GRI performance indicator is referenced. Haha. Nice touch.

ESG, by the way, did not figure. No Electrostatically Supported Gyroscopes at ConAgra, apparently.

Anyway, I now have invented a new acronym.
CSRRA :  Corporate Social Responsibility Report Acronyms.

How many CSRRA's in your CSR report ?   

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


Bill Baue said...


As usual, a very interesting (and entertaining!) post.

The question of how to capture sustainability in language is indeed a dilemma -- the term sustainability itself is problematic, not only in terms of its multisyllabalism but also in terms of its etymological history and current meaning in practice.

And the "acronynization" of sustainability may create as much confusion for outsiders as it creates convenience for insiders.

We recently led a piece on The Murninghan Post with a brief discussion of the term ESG.

Josh Gay, our strategic technical advisor, blogged on this a couple of days later, using the definition of ESG as a launching pad for discussing how to communicate these ideas to broader audiences.

His post also includes a handy link to ESG on Wikipedia:


elaine said...

Thanks Bill for a kind and informative response. The Murninghan Post is terrific and always packed with relevant and topical content - a pleasure to read.

Ashley Hamilton said...

Great post!

I tried to tackle the topic of alphabet soup in my blog post "The ABC's of ESG" found at

My post was also cross-posted on

Ashley Hamilton

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