In addition to the commonly acknowledged advantages of web-based reporting (eg. searchability, accessibility, non-linearity), there are some good reasons, why the internet may play a bigger role in the field of sustainability reporting: For example does a web-based CSR report express corporate sustainability in itself. An online report not just preserves valuable natural resources; it is also available all around the world at the same time and far more accessible to handicapped people. Users with viewing disabilities receive HTML information by using screenreaders. In contrast PDF versions are often still not fully accessible.
Moreover an online CSR report may help to reduce complexity: On the one hand a report should cater to the heterogeneous interests and expectations of as many stakeholders as possible, while also having to adhere to rigorous regulatory requirements (eg. GRI guidelines). On the other hand information overload should be avoided. While printed reports quickly reach their limits online reports are in a much better position to address both issues. Not limited by page numbers information can be both deep and easy to access via well-designed navigational structures, landing pages and conceptual strategies.
In the last few years these and other advantages have led to a rise of online-based CSR reports. nexxar has analysed the way in which big-cap corporates in Germany and the UK publish their CSR reports on the internet. Our results show, that the number of full HTML-reports is constantly increasing. In 2011 every second of the 30 largest listed companies in Germany (DAX 30), and almost a third of the FTSE-100-companies published a fully-fledged HTML-version (see graph below).
Online CSR reporting in Germany (DAX 30) and the UK (FTSE 100)
In our view the rise of online-based CSR reports is not by chance. It’s clearly a strategic positioning. Some companies even decided to not longer provide a printed copy of their CSR report and thus fully concentrate their CSR reporting for web purposes. What this “online only” focus does imply for content design is one of the hottest topics in our client communications. It’s a total different thing designing complex graphs for a print publication than for web-only version. If you want to find out more about this approach, just order our positioning paper “online only”.