The Directory of Social Change has called for a core set of principles for corporate social responsibility reporting that it says will take the "spin" out of the practice.
In its response to a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills consultation on corporate responsibility, which closes today, the DSC, a training charity, says that one standard core set of metrics would be a basis for comparable CSR reporting.
"A core set of principles should apply across all industries to allow open, transparent and comparable assessment of CSR in the UK and internationally," the response says. "This would allow customers, shareholders, the general public and charities to more easily compare the interests and activities of companies."
The consultation, which was launched by the business minister Jo Swinson in July, asked how the government could make it easier for companies to contribute to social initiatives. The BIS wants to encourage businesses to report their corporate responsibility activities in a consistent way that can be compared with others.
The DSC’s response proposes the introduction of a Statement of Recommended Practice for CSR reporting. It is based on the model of the Charity Commission’s Sorp for charities, which sets out a standard framework and principles for reporting based on international standards translated into a UK context.
"A Sorp would provide consistency in the interpretation of existing standards and would have the potential to eliminate much of the ‘spin’ that too often distorts CSR reporting," the response says.
It also says that the voluntary or ‘light-touch’ approach proposed by the BIS would not "deliver a fundamental improvement in CSR reporting and practice".
The response also repeats the DSC’s concerns about the government’s recent decision to drop the requirement for companies to list their charitable donations in their annual reports.
In a letter to Swinson as part of the DSC’s response, chief executive Debra Allcock Tyler says the decision to remove the requirement "should be reversed or replaced with something that provides greater transparency about the detail of a company’s charitable giving".