Corporate Social Responsibility – tech companies reviewed!

Corporate Social Responsibility

According to its Wikipedia definition, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

is a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, communities and other stakeholders, as well as the environment. This obligation is seen to extend beyond the statutory obligation to comply with legislation and sees organizations voluntarily taking further steps to improve the quality of life for employees and their families as well as for the local community and society at large.

Companies are now starting to report on their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in greater numbers. Drivers for this include the rise in ethical consumerism, socially responsible investing, employee recruitment and loyalty, changing laws and regulations, increased scrutiny and transparency and risk mitigation.

According to the Sustainable Investment Research Analyst’s (SIRAN) 2008 report (pdf warning):

  • 86 of the S&P 100 companies now have corporate sustainability websites, compared to 58 in mid-2005, an increase of 48 percent;
  • 49 of the leading U.S. companies produced a sustainability report in 2007, an increase of 26 percent from 39 in 2005

In an attempt to define standards and make these reports cross-comparable, the Global Reporting Initiative has come up with a sustainability reporting framework. According to Wikipedia:

The GRI Guidelines are the most common framework used in the world for reporting. More than 1000 organizations from 60 countries use the Guidelines to produce their sustainability reports.

A quick search of tech sites reveals:
IBM’s stellar Corporate Responsibility site – IBM’s site has a ton of good information and a downloadable CSR report (pdf) and includes the Global Reporting initiative (GRI) index. If there is a tech company with a better CSR site than this, please tell me, I haven’t found it yet!

From the Dell site you can see dell has been producing Sustainability reports back to 1998 (called Environment reports back then). The 2008 CSR report (pdf) is linked to from the company Values page and is a really good example of how to do these reports well.

SAP’s Sustainability site is pretty bare bones (and though found by Google, I couldn’t find a link to it on the corporate website! Having said that, their Sustainability report (pdf), linked to from their Sustainability site, is very good for a first effort. It includes a GRI index and while SAP admit that the report is prepared to GRI Application Level C, they give a commitment to producing a “report to GRI B+ standard externally assured and audited in second quarter 2009”.

Cisco’s CSR site includes a great 5 minute video on CSR from Cisco CEO John Chambers and some of his CSR related staff. Unfortunately the video is not embeddable and is all rights reserved or I would embed it here 🙁 Cisco’s CSR 2008 report is available in a Flash interactive version or the more traditional (and easier to consume) pdf version! Again this report has a GRI index included.

Sun’s excellent CSR site includes a podcast, lots of great links to relevant information and its superb 2008 CSR report (pdf) – again with the GRI index data.

Oracle also has a good CSR site. Oracle’s site links to its 2008 Corporate Citizenship report (pdf) but it doesn’t include a GRI index link.

HP’s Global Citizenship site looks good until you check out their CSR report – it dates to financial year 2007 (which ended October 31, 2007). In its defense, it does include a GRI index but guys, come on, 2007?

Neither Intel nor AMD have reports for 2008. But while Intel have a very comprehensive downloadable pdf report on their CSR initiatives for 2007, the AMD offering consists of a disappointing four tables of performance indicators across the last few years.

If you are looking for Microsoft’s CSR report, you will find it buried under Resource Center -> Awards and Reports -> now click on the Reports tab on their Corporate Citizenship site. The most recent report is dated 2007-08. It is a 5 page document of mostly images, there is no mention whatsoever of GRI, there is no executive involvement, and in comparison to previous years reports, it looks like Microsoft’s limited focus on CSR has waned completely.

Having said that, at least Microsoft has produced a report! Apple didn’t even do that. When As You Sow, recently tabled a shareholder resolution that would require Apple to publish a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, The company issued a proxy filing asking shareholders to vote against this resolution, saying that the publication would be an unnecessary expense that would “produce little added value.”

Having said that, at least Apple have a section on their site dedicated to their environmental efforts, Amazon don’t even appear to do that. Their filed reports page makes no effort to include any reports about environmental stewardship or corporate citizenship although given the story which came out before Christmas about Amazon’s shocking employment practices, that can hardly be any surprise.

Ironically Google’s CSR efforts are supremely difficult to find! They do have a corporate website dedicated to their Green Initiatives but like Apple, they too don’t have any CSR report (that I could find!).

Who’d I miss? Who is better? Who is worse?

Original photo by ATIS547


  1. says


    What about CSR in many SME companies? I know many companies in that sector that are doing a lot of CSR work and do not broadcast the issue with reports etc.

    Given that the SME sector is the largest business sector shouldn’t we encourage those companies to engage more actively with CSR/

  2. Ed Gemmell says

    Glad that you are writing about CSR more broadly, but a bit dissapointed in the depth. (Perhaps you are though planning this as first in a series)
    HP’s FY08 finished less than a full fiscal quarter ago. Our annual 10K report is only just out last week, and CSR report is in the cycle. So to ping us on that is a bit ‘nitpicky’
    Think the piece would also have benefited from discussing major trends in the actual content and transparency (perhaps more relevant that the coolness of the website) for example:
    HP was the first major tech vendor to publish its tier-1 supplier list
    HP was the first to publish an esptimate of its suppliers carbon footprint (how can you improve it if you can’t measure it)
    HP also gives customers the ability to publish their own customised report based on the issues in which they are most interested. (an easy carbon footprint saving)

    All points I think would be validly mentioned in a piece of this nature
    Happy to introduce you to our EMEA CSR Director for more insight into the major trends emerging in the field

  3. says

    Hey Brian, absolutely it would be great if the SME sector would engage more actively with CSR. I suspect the issue for SME is the lack of resources to focus specifically on CSR.

    Hey Ed, I understand you disappointment with the lack of depth but I could have gone deep on one or two companies or skimmed many. I chose to skim many so as to get a better idea of who is doing this really well (and really badly).

    I do intend to follow-up on this post so your extra info in the comment above is much appreciated.

  4. Mohan Chandra Pargaien says

    Hi Tom,
    It was a nice experience to see the comparative ratings/standings of CSR initiatives of different companies. However the real concept of CSR as defined by Friedman still to be imbibed by Corporate. It will be not out of place to mention that the attempts of green initiatives have been increased in the last one or two years and that too not because of real concern of Corporate ( may be a few exceptions) towards environment or sustainable development but only to reduce the expenditure/cost in view of ongoing recession. Hope these attempts will proportionally increase and will be continued even in the brighter days to come.
    However i also feel that still most of the activities of CSR are center around the profit phrase with labeling of green tag in one of the web pages of the Company. In fact the attempts in this arena should me now diverted to go for some real or hardcore green initiatives with more prominent and physical output in hand like taking up planting activities in barren lands or raising seedlings for distribution involving the communities in these activities. This is more required in developing countries like India where the depletion of forest resources is more then western / European countries .