Sustainability vs. Financial Reporting.

Quite a few DAX companies are offering a sustainability portal, which is updated regularly by editing the content. The consequence is that afterwards the previous content is not longer available on the website.

At the beginning of October I wrote a blog entry on how DAX 30 companies are reporting about their CSR activities in the web. One thing I mentioned were the differences in how the activities are presented online. Quite a few DAX companies are offering a sustainability portal, which is updated regularly by editing the content. The consequence is that afterwards the previous content is not longer available on the website.

Besides regulations and legal requirements it would be unimaginable that companies overwrite their online annual reports on a regular base. It is useful that the numbers are saved and archived every year to show transparency, openess and to establish a kind of a comprehensive corporate history over several years. If an investor or shareholder is interested in the company he gets broad information about the background of the company. He can also learn more about the strategy of a company at a specific cutoff date and its reaction to external influences, like financial crises.

Different thinking about printed reporting and online reporting

So why are sustainability reports often not archived but rather edited. Different departments have different needs, that’s for sure, but what are the reasons for not establishing a long-term online sustainability reporting history, as it is done with the printed ones? It seems that there is still a different thinking about printed reporting and online reporting, but this doesn’t have to. Print and online are no competitive media in case of reporting – they are satisfying different needs and expectations, they are complementary. The internet has its strenghts with interactivity, comfortable search capabilities and cross linking. The printed version with tangibility, offline usage and perhaps for taking notes. In my opinion it would be best to report consistently over both media, in order to reach as much of your target audience as possible.

In case of eco-efficiency, I would like to draw your attention once again to the Beiersdorf approach, which I think is most sophisticated: Make online first and make a print version out of the online report. This satisfies both, the offline and the online needs, although they are also not providing an online sustainability history.

What do you think? Why are most companies not building up an online sustainability reporting history?

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