Thursday, 19 November 2009

Readers versus Reporters

This year will see the return of the Global Reporting Initiative’s Readers' Choice Awards and Readers' survey, but with a twist. This time, it’s not just the readers’ opinions we want. For the first time, companies that produce sustainability reports will also be able to take part in the survey. This will provide a unique insight, showing both sides of the story.

Data from the GRI’s reports list showed that 1,061 GRI reports were published in 2008, a record-breaking 50% growth compared to 2007. Last year’s results from the GRI’s reader’s survey also showed that 90% of readers’ views towards a company had been influenced by reading its sustainability report. Both these statistics are significant. The first shows that even in the current economic climate, companies are still dedicating time and money to their reporting. The second indicates that they have an impact on their readers. So, has the business case for sustainability reporting finally emerged? If the answer is yes, this is extremely positive, but also reiterates the importance for companies to get their reporting right. Last year’s reader’s survey provided a unique insight into what readers want to see in sustainability reporting. Yet, without also hearing from the companies that produce these reports, it is difficult for us to measure the effectiveness of their reporting. What we still don’t know is whether companies are actually meeting their own objectives and reaching their target audiences.

This is what Futerra is really interested in. Being able to see both sides of the story will help us understand how well companies reporting and their readers’ expectations are aligned. If the results show they are not aligned, then companies will need to change the way they report. It will be a unique experience in demonstrating how effective sustainability reporting really is.

If so, this will be a key moment in redefining sustainability reporting for the future.
The journey will begin on Thursday 19th November, when the survey opens to reporters at

We look forward to seeing the results.

Helen Spoor, Consultant, Futerra Sustainability Communications Ltd.


  1. hi, this is a great initiative and i look forward to seeing the results in Amsterdam in May next year. It might have been nice to provide input to this survey, as, being a CSR consultant advising companies on how to report, and writing their reports, i believe myself and many other consulting colleages have useful insights about how companies aproach reporting effectiveness, and what we might have asked them in such a survey. One basic measure of course, and one of the most discussed ones, is how many people read reports. In an attempt to find out how many Companies know how many of their own employees actually take an interst in their reports, I couldnt find one single study or good example of Companies who do this. Let alone external readership. I think this is one of the single greatest advantages of online reporting over hard copy reporting - the ability to track readership statistics, page by page. How many Companies are using this as an measure ? Though the true measure of effectiveness is whether reading the report has influenced the behaviour of targeted readers - something almost impossible to quantify. But this survey is a good start in understanding the way reporting meets business objectives and ultimately, proving that CSR reporting is a legitimate busines process. Good luck!


  2. Elaine,
    I mostly agree. We need to measure how we reach objectives.

    Yet some clients tell us "we don't WANT to know readership!" Sounds crazy, I know.

    The point is that they value the reporting process for how it forces the organisation to crystallize its 1) Vision 2) Management systems 3) Performance data and targets. The final product is then used as a "bible"; a basis for their other engagement efforts, a resource for questions from investors, a source of info for employees etc.

    They do not want to be accountable for "increasing readership by 50% over the next year". This is more appropriate if they try to sell advertising space.