British firms warming to CSR accounts disclosure

Eighty per cent of FTSE-100 companies are now fully or at least moderately disclosing socially responsible investment, following the introduction of guidelines by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) in 2002.

The awareness among large companies of the importance of managing corporate responsibility is growing, ABI director-general Mary Francis told a seminar organised by the Corporation of London and Isis Asset Management at London’s Guildhall last week.

Jason Hollands, Isis Asset Management head of communications and strategy, told PRWeek: ‘There is empirical evidence that where companies address these issues it has helped them. If a company is fined for polluting, say, the impact is magnified many times because it causes shareholders to think about how the whole business is managed.’

But a report by Christian Aid senior policy officer Andrew Pendleton, published last week, said some companies that trumpet CSR credentials – such as Shell and British American Tobacco – are simultaneously harming the communities where they work. The report said that legally binding international standards were needed.

‘We have nothing against sensible legislation that serves a real social purpose,’ Francis told the seminar. But she added that it could prevent companies from differentiating between themselves by competing to be more responsible.

‘We need to encourage companies to recognise there is a competitive advantage in the way they respond to risks and opportunities and address those on which they have the most impact,’ she said.

The Department of Trade and Industry will publish a report later this year on the controversial subject of compelling companies to report on corporate responsibility.

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