As some of you already know, I’m quite interested in the linkage between corporate sustainability, also known as corporate social responsibility or CSR, and business intelligence. There’s a very logical place for BI teams, processes, and technologies in CSR.

CSR wraps the traditional, profit-making business efforts in ways that reduce their impact on both the environment and society. This is often referred to as the triple-bottom line-balancing financial, social, and environmental ROI.

Each company’s sustainability goals will be unique. Manufacturers may look at reducing fuel consumption through optimizing shipping routes. Hoteliers may look both at recycling guest waste and hiring from the local community. Builders may look to use more renewable building materials.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) was formed to create a common framework for companies to report voluntary reporting of economic, environmental, and social activities. It doesn’t specify what to report, but rather how to report. The GRI has adopted strategies to promote standards and provide assurance to stakeholders. These include consultation panels, internal audits, and independent reviews.

Though CSR metrics are not always easy to measure, companies should make sure the metrics they gather are both suitable and available. The metrics should be objective, relevant, complete, and consistently measurable.

Today, many large, well-known companies are producing annual corporate sustainability reports. These are actually done in a very similar fashion to the “annual report.” Companies use these reports to inform shareholders and communicate with the public to:

  • Demonstrate their interest in the environment, their employees, and the communities they serve
  • Show their commitment to human rights and fair labor policies
  • Promote transparency with employees, shareholders, government regulators, and NGOs
  • Enhance or protect their brand or reputation
  • To grow shareholder value

Some of the companies reporting include Nike, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, AT&T and Intel. There are even more in the GRI featured report list. Take a look at some of these reports. I think you’ll find them fascinating and you’ll see the depth in which they’ve been able to establish metrics for CSR.

As a BI practitioner, consultant, or vendor, it’s time to start planning how you can support CSR. Are you being given a seat at the table? Can you help the CSR team think differently about gathering data for hard-to-measure metrics? Perhaps a CSR scorecard is in order to provide ongoing visibility.

More companies are realizing they can no longer selfishly think only of their profits. Stakeholders are beginning to demand they reduce their impact on the environment and contribute to social justice both with employees and the community.

What will be your role?