Unaccountable lobby groups ‘threaten credibility of CSR’

Europe’s leading body for investor relations published a new survey research showing that the credibility of corporate social responsibility is being undermined by the demands made on companies by CSR lobby groups.

The survey found:

• 68% of in-house investor relations practitioners ‘agreed’ or ‘agreed strongly’ that questionnaire fatigue ‘is a real problem’

• more than four in ten in-house investor relations practitioners (44%) ‘agreed’ or ‘agreed strongly’ that CSR has been overblown as an issue (compared with 41% who disagreed)

• but more than eight in ten (82%) believed CSR reporting is a central part of any good IR programme, and three-quarters (75%) said CSR is no less important in a bear market.

The Investor Relations Society is Europe’s leading professional body for investor relations practitioners. Its membership base comprises individuals working for listed companies and their advisers, and includes the majority of FTSE 100 companies as well as a growing number of smaller listed companies both in the UK and across continental Europe.
Andrew Hawkins, Chief Executive of the Investor Relations Society said:

‘This research shows that the biggest threat to the credibility of Corporate Social Responsibility is the CSR lobby itself.

‘Most companies obviously respect the importance of providing good quality CSR information as part of their investor relations programme, and view CSR disclosure as important during bear markets as well as bull. But the CSR lobby is generating so many complaints about the type and volume of information requested that this goodwill is rapidly being eroded.

‘Matters are made worse by the sheer number and apparent lack of accountability of many of these groups. It is quite clear that many of the lobby groups in question don’t merit serious attention but companies simply don’t know which these are.

‘The issue of questionnaire fatigue is undoubtedly the biggest problem in this area. Lobby groups seeking to benchmark CSR performance need to find a way to manage corporate information in a more professional, logical way and to share it with other groups wherever possible.

‘These groups also need to show on whose behalf they are acting before they can properly be taken seriously. As companies are required more than ever to demonstrate good corporate governance as a matter of basic managerial competence, it is ironic that many of the lobby groups operating around CSR are certainly not transparent nor, it seems, accountable to anyone.’

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