Saturday, March 3, 2012

Transparency is an asset

Transparency is an asset. That's what we believe here at Beyond Business and at the CSR-Reporting Blog. That's why, back in 2009, we developed the Transparency Index of leading publicly traded companies, analyzing the quality of sustainability transparency on their corporate websites. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, we analyzed the top 100 companies in our home market, Israel. However, the Transparency Index is a globally applicable index, which is equally valid for all companies in all sectors, providing complete comparability on what matters equally as much as what companies are doing to advance their own sustainability and that of the planet: how effectively their corporate websites make this information available and accessible to their local and global stakeholders. Therefore, in 2011, we formed a partnership with the Center for CSR Development in Ukraine, and, after updating the methodology to include some modifications reflecting our experience of performing the analyses over several years, we have started to analyze the leading companies in several additional countries around the globe. We are on our way to developing the first truly Global Transparency Index.

In 2011, we published The Transparency Index for the largest publicly traded companies in South Africa and in the UK. This year, 2012, after slightly modifying the methodology to reflect an improved balance of the Transparency Index four dimensions (reporting, content, navigation, accessibility), we have published a Transparency Index for the largest publicly traded companies in two countries: Denmark and the U.S.

In Denmark, Novo Nordisk takes the trophy with a leading 92% transparency, reflecting top level reporting on sustainability issues and great performance in the other three transparency dimensions on the Novo Nordisk website.  A Twitter stream, with a clearly explained policy, video content and even sustainability games in business ethics, climate change and economics and health. Novo Nordisk is way ahead of the average transparency of the top 25 companies in Denmark which ranks at 57.3%.

Here is how the top ten in Denmark looks:

In the U.S. our findings are that companies are a little more transparent. Average transparency for the top 25 in the U.S. is 69% . Intel takes the trophy here with 91.5% transparency, reflecting sustainability reporting, a highly informative sustainability website, video content, a great  CSR at Intel blog , a report builder and an online feedback form.

Here is the top ten in the U.S.:

The full methodology is transparently (!) described in each report.

While it is true that transparency is only half the picture - it's an important half of the picture. Transparency does not substitute for good performance, but it is necessary as a tool to inform about performance. Transparency is a public statement of commitment to sustainability, encapsulating both a declaration and a promise, a demonstration of serious intent and most importantly, an invitation to stakeholders to read, review and react. As the world embraces digital formats and interactions,  web-based sustainability transparency has an important place in the shaping of sustainability practices.

Watch this space for more countries  to follow in the Global Transparency Index  (and for news of the launch of our new GTI website) and for further analyses as the more countries are added to the mix.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability 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  (Beyond Business, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)


Bushra Azhar said...

This is a great post and although I am still reading through the very transparent methodology, I just love the concept and the effort you guys have put into this. Now, If only we had something like this in Saudi Arabia!!

elaine said...

hi Bushra, thank you for reading and for your great comments. We will see if our partners at the Center for CSR Development in Ukraine will be able to develop a Transparency Index for the 25 largest companies in Saudi Arabia as part of our global TI roll-out :) Watch this space!

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