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Why Produce a CSR Report and How Should it be Presented?

Why produce a CSR report? What should the extra-financial report contain and how should it be presented? This article provides all the answers!
Green News
2024-03-27T00:00:00.000Z
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While implementing a CSR policy is essential for your company, CSR reporting is just as important. It is a key factor in improving transparency and gaining credibility in the eyes of your stakeholders! There are many different options for writing and presenting your report.

👉 In this article, we'll explain what CSR reporting is, why your company should produce a CSR report, and how you can get started with your CSR report.

What is CSR reporting?

CSR reporting: a definition

A CSR report or extra-financial report is a document published by a company periodically (usually annually) to provide evidence of their actions towards improve CSR and their results.

As a reminder, CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility - is the contribution companies create in regards to the challenges of sustainable development. A company that practices CSR aims to have a positive impact on society while remaining economically viable.

The main goal of a CSR report is to provide stakeholders with clear data that summarises the available information on the company's sustainable actions in a transparent way.
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Who is a CSR report for?

The CSR report is aimed at the company's stakeholders. These internal or external stakeholders can be divided into six main categories:

  • Shareholders
  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Public authorities
  • Citizens

For each of these groups, the CSR report aims to provide transparency with regard to the company’s operations and their commitment to the environment and society.

CSR reporting: a legal obligation

In 2010, the Grenelle II Law redefined the regulatory framework for CSR reporting. Publishing a CSR report is now a legal obligation for:

  • Companies listed on the stock exchange
  • Companies with a turnover of over €100 million
  • Companies with more than 500 employees
In this regard, a CSR report serves as proof of a company’s environmental and social commitment.

When it comes to CSR, the legal obligation should be a secondary concern – because for CSR reporting to be effective, you should not simply produce a document to comply with legal obligations without having established a real strategy in advance.

This is because your company will then risk producing a report full of hollow proposals and half-baked initiatives.

The climate emergency is real, so get ahead of the legislation and show your stakeholders that your company is sincere about wanting to do its part.

Conducting a carbon assessment for your company is a great way of demonstrating your commitment and adding substance to your CSR report. It provides an overall view of your emissions, enabling you to implement actions to reduce them. It is an excellent first step for companies that feel a little confused when faced with the countless possible strategies for action.

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What is the difference between a CSR report and an Extra-Financial Performance Declaration (DPEF)?

In 2017, the CSR reporting landscape changed once again with new amendments that went a step further than the Grenelle II report. In particular, they introduced the concept of a DPEF - an Extra-Financial Performance Declaration.

Where the Grenelle II Law did not lay down any rules on the nature of the information to be produced (qualitative, quantitative, etc.), the DPEF represents a genuine steering tool that sets forth priority issues and action plans. The information must be presented in the form of “policies, action plans, results and KPIs”.

Why produce a CSR report?

Inform stakeholders about your CSR strategy

As mentioned above, a CSR report is aimed at the company’s stakeholders, both internal and external, with a goal of working towards greater transparency to help curate more powerful sustainability.

For customers

With a CSR report, the company provides transparency for its customers and consumers about how the product has been designed. Customers are thus well-informed about the social and environmental impact of buying the product or using the service.

This has a dual effect: the company reduces its impact by focusing on this aspect, and the buyer feels good about their responsible purchase.

It’s the same thing for B2B! Client companies must also be accountable in terms of CSR. Therefore, it is in their interest to use service providers and suppliers who share their social engagement values, and it is increasingly common for businesses to integrate CSR criteria into their choice of partners.

However, beware of greenwashing and social washing! Customers today are not fooled by this, as green packaging is not the be all and end all – and customers will look for more such as B Corp status, ISO certifications, and more.

‍For employees

A coherent report that clearly presents the company’s approach and proves to employees that their organisation is committed to protecting the environment can completely change their relationship with their work. It boosts employee motivation and builds their loyalty to the company and it becomes much easier to engage them with your CSR approach.

According to a study by MEDEF, 68% of employees see themselves still working in their company in 3 years’ time. This figure rises to 79% in companies that have a CSR department or function.

For investors

Some examples of CSR reports

Below is a non-exhaustive selection of public CSR reports produced by companies for their community:

  • Bergamotte, a socially-engaged Parisian florist
  • Disneyland Paris, a company which needs no introduction
  • CNP Assurances, France's leading loan insurance company
  • ELBA Group, a consulting, creation, production and eco-design company in the cosmetics sector
  • Itancia, a responsible service distributor, particularly in the field of communication and network infrastructure
  • SIAE, the Paris Air Show

At Greenly, we have a clear favourite: Bergamotte. With the report’s 23 distinct actions and a floral design that's hard to top. Congrats to them!

Improve your brand image

It’s good to implement positive actions, but it’s even better to publicise them in order to inspire others and enhance your brand image! Effective communication in this field is essential, and there are a number of strategies that can be used.

Bergamotte has definitely understood that a well produced CSR report can dramatically improve your brand image.

As previously stated, consumers and customers are attracted by companies with strong values - the figures prove this. How can you show consumers that your company also has convictions and is committed to social engagement? Simply by producing a well thought-out, public CSR report that sets forth concrete actions in a clear way. It’s really not that complicated after all.

A legal obligation

For certain companies, publishing a CSR report is simply mandatory under the law. The question of why no longer really comes up; instead, their concern is how to do it.

Let's dive into this in more detail.

How do you write a CSR report?

A legally-required CSR report must contain specific information. This information must cover the three central pillars of the ISO 26000 standard: the social category, the economic and societal category, and the environmental category.

‍The social section of the CSR report

The social section should contain information on the following:

  • Employment issues, i.e. the number of employees and a breakdown by gender, age and geographical area, the amount of hires and fires, pay, etc.
  • Social relations within the company, including the structure for social dialogue;
  • Health and safety issues, including the conditions under which employees work;
  • Training issues, i.e. the measures implemented in terms of training;
  • Diversity, equal opportunities and professional equality, particularly between men and women;
  • Actions taken to fight corruption and to promote human rights.

The environmental section

The environmental section should focus on issues such as:

  • The way a company is set up to take account of environmental issues;
  • Its anti-pollution and waste management measures, i.e. actions to prevent, reduce or reuse waste;
  • The sustainable use of resources, i.e. water consumption and supply and consumption of raw materials;
  • The measures taken to adapt to global warming, especially in regards to greenhouse gas emissions;
  • The protection of biodiversity.

The societal section

Lastly, the societal section should cover the following aspects:

  • The economic impact of the company's activity (employment in the region or city);
  • The company’s social partners and sponsorship initiatives;
  • Its sustainable suppliers;
  • The measures taken to benefit consumers (health, safety, dialogue);
  • Its anti-corruption actions.

Should a carbon assessment be included in the CSR report?

According to its legal definition, a CSR report must contain a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report (BEGES) for the company. The aim is to assess the degree to which the company is impacting climate change. However, the report is only mandatory for emissions in scope areas 1 and 2: i.e. the emissions for which the company is directly responsible (not those as a result of suppliers, for example).

What is the problem with this approach? The scope is far too narrow and is not at all representative of the company's emissions.

To obtain an overall view of the company’s actual emissions and to establish an informed and effective plan for reduction, it is necessary to address each of the 3 scope areas in the report, and particularly scope 3. Greenly’s Comprehensive Carbon Assessment makes optimal use of technology for ecological purposes and thus provides all SMEs with access to a detailed report on their emissions in each scope.

report

‍How should you present a CSR report?

As previously noted, the CSR report is produced to be read, particularly by your employees and, more generally, by all your stakeholders. The aim is not to write an unreadable academic work but a document that is interesting and that highlights both your practical actions and future projects.

Use innovative formats and be creative

Bring out the artist within you, not the lab scientist obsessed with data. The presentation is just as important as the content, if not more so. If the report is not well-designed, no one will read it. What's the point of implementing hundreds of actions with a major impact if no one knows about them?

As long as the content is honest and of high quality, designing an attractive CSR report is not greenwashing, nor does it reveal a desire to embellish the truth: it is simply a powerful way of presenting the document to make it accessible to everyone.

Whether produced using videos or via a website, making a CSR report fun to read and discover, using so-called “innovative” formats, can be highly effective.

The more creative you are, the better! Therefore, you and your company shouldn't hesitate to use your imagination and draw inspiration from original formats that are tailored to current forms of use. This can be achieved by creating short explanatory videos, a dedicated website or a specific section on the company's website.

For example, in its 2019-2020 integrated report, Veolia incorporated lots of photos, particularly of employees. Whether the report is entertaining or not will of course also depend on your company's culture. Nonetheless, the more original it is, the more it will pique the interest of others!

Use storytelling

Everyone prefers to read or listen to a story rather than a simple list of facts. So, this principle should be applied to your CSR report: talk about the initial situation, the catalyst for action, the adventures along the way and the heroes that help you to overcome obstacles in order to improve the company in specific areas.

Don’t hesitate to be honest or to talk about the barriers in your way: it is better to be humble and optimistic about the future, rather than hiding behind the illusion that you are already the best that you can be. Transparency is the key to producing a good report.

For example, in its extra-financial report for 2019, Decathlon included testimonials, such as those by a “gender equality” leader and hiking enthusiast. In a short text in the form of a transcript accompanied by a photo, she explains how she performs her duties and gives concrete examples.

💡 Remember: whether you are a new company or one that’s been around for decades, there are always stories and anecdotes to tell. This is one of the best ways to produce an entertaining CSR report!

book open to pages with pictures

‍Identify effective distribution channels

To promote your CSR report and reach a maximum number of people, being active on social networks is - obviously - very effective. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook as well as Instagram, TikTok, etc. You don’t need to be present on all of them, as some social networks will prove more suitable than others, for example, Safran and TikTok would probably not be a good match.

Sending a newsletter to your stakeholders may also be an effective method of dissemination. Don't forget to communicate about the report internally (emails to employees, company newspaper, publication on the internet, etc.), your employees are the people most directly concerned!

You now know everything about CSR reporting – which means accomplishing the rest is up to you now!

emissions coming out of red and white striped tube

The different greenhouse gases

There are three types of greenhouse gases:

  • Domestic GHGs (fuels, heating, electricity consumption, etc.) ;
  • GHG of the country's domestic production ;
  • GHGs from imported production.

These emissions come from various human practices and activities: combustion of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal), deforestation, intensive agriculture, mining (extraction of metals for the manufacture of batteries, jewellery, etc.), among others.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has identified over 40 greenhouse gases. The GHGs with the highest emissions are the following:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2);
  • Methane (CH4) ;
  • Ozone (O3) ;
  • Nitrous oxide (N20) ;
  • Fluorinated gases: Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), Perfluorocarbon (PFC), Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Carbon footprint vs. carbon footprint report

"Carbon footprint" and "carbon footprint report" are two closely related concepts, but they do not refer to the same thing. The carbon footprint is the trace of GHGs that we leave behind in our production and consumption. The carbon footprint report, on the other hand, is the analysis of the GHGs emitted by our various activities.

In other words, it allows us to take stock of the CO2 generated by each of our actions. It is a means of targeting the areas where a reduction in the carbon footprint is necessary.

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How to calculate a personal carbon footprint?

To calculate our personal carbon footprint, the French ecological transition agency ADEME offers a method based on physical and monetary factors. Other methods and online tools are also available to measure our GHG emissions.

The methodology for calculating your daily carbon footprint

Physical ratios

In the case of a physical emission factor, the amount of CO2 released per unit consumed can be specified. This applies to transport or agricultural production, among others. For example, consuming a full tank of petrol (50 litres) is equivalent to emitting 114 kg of CO2.

Monetary ratios

A monetary emissions factor allows the CO2 content generated by a product or service to be estimated from its price. It is expressed in kg CO2e / K €, $ or £ equivalents excluding tax and applies to activities and products that cannot be calculated using physical factors. This is the case for a computer or electronic product, for example.

Online tools

These calculation methods are still complicated, especially when it comes to monetary factors. Various organisations have developed online tools to help us assess our GHG emissions. Here are some of them:

  • Ecolab (ADEME) ;
  • GoodPlanet ;
  • MicMac (Climate Future) ;
  • A2DM.
laptop on outside table with flowers and notepad

Applications to calculate your carbon footprint

From Karbon to measure the carbon footprint of our food to 90 days to help us improve our impact on the environment, many applications to calculate our carbon footprint have emerged in recent years. However, the most innovative approach is the one proposed by Greenly: the automatic calculation of CO2 emissions based on bank spending.

The Greenly calculator is based on each of your expenses to categorise them and indicate their precise environmental impact. So you know the CO2 emissions of your telephone subscription, your car journeys or your lunch. The Greenly application goes further: it offers you an eco-responsible alternative for each of your purchases.

3 white iphones

A tagging system for expenses

In order to calculate your carbon footprint as accurately as possible, Greenly has set up a system for tagging your expenses. You can specify a purchase by assigning it a label which will then allow it to be categorised and its impact calculated. This tagging system allows you to develop optimal calculation coefficients for each categorised expense.

Carbon footprint reporting for businesses

Reporting of the corporate carbon footprint has been mandatory since 2016 regardless of sector activity. Greenly assists them in carrying out this assessment.

The carbon footprint reporting method

Jean-Marc Jancovici, a climate engineer, and ADEME have developed a reliable method for drawing up a carbon balance. It consists of accounting for all the GHG emissions of a product or service consumed, throughout its existence.

Greenly's methodology is based on two aspects:

  • Bank expenses: thanks to secure bank synchronisation, your expenses are analyzed to calculate the associated CO2 emissions.
  • Defining your profile: you answer a series of questions about your consumption habits (equipment, food, etc.) to determine the emissions.

This data can then give an accurate indication of your carbon footprint and help you reduce it.

The regulatory GHG balance

The regulatory GHG balance or "simplified carbon footprint" reports on direct greenhouse gas emissions and indirect energy-related emissions. It is compulsory for a certain number of public and private actors to carry out this assessment. ADEME also recommends that a balance sheet be drawn up for indirect emissions not related to energy, as these are in the majority in companies.

Who is affected?

A simplified carbon footprint report in France is mandatory for :

  • companies with 500 employees or more (250 employees or more for the DOM);
  • local authorities with more than 50,000 inhabitants;
  • State services;
  • public institutions with more than 250 employees.
gavel

It must be carried out every 4 years for the private sector and every 3 years for local authorities, government departments and public institutions.

Why calculate your carbon footprint?

Strengthen your brand image

Beyond the concern for climate change, a full carbon footprint can be beneficial to a company in many ways. It allows to :

  • save money and spend better;
  • raise awareness among your employees;
  • communicate with your community and employees on the issue of carbon footprint;
  • to raise awareness and attract the talent of tomorrow;
  • enrich your non-financial reporting.

Moreover, it is a way of anticipating future legislative changes. The CCC (Citizens' Climate Convention) is suggesting that companies be obliged to provide an annual carbon report. It even proposes the application of financial penalties if a company's carbon emissions change.

Which solution should I choose to carry out a corporate carbon assessment?

Carrying out a certified corporate carbon footprint takes time and expertise. It is therefore advisable to entrust it to a trusted professional. However, this process can be very costly depending on the type of service provider chosen.

  1. Specialist firms

To do this, companies can therefore call on a specialised firm to calculate their emissions. Specialised firms also offer to draw up their clients' CSR strategy. However, offering their services comes at a significant cost. A company's carbon footprint generally costs between 10 000 and 30 000 euros.

  1. The Greenly online tool

Simple and user-friendly, the Greenly online management tool is 5 times less expensive than a specialist consultant. It synchronises with the company's bank account to provide an automatic and accurate report. Greenly thus offers tailor-made plans and solutions adapted to companies in order to efficiently build up their carbon footprint and reduce their GHG emissions.

example greenly dashboard

Carbon footprint by sector in France

The carbon footprint in France was estimated at 11.9 tonnes of CO2e per person in 2020. Despite the fact that the country saw an 8.5% drop in carbon emissions in 2022, the country will still need to do more in 2023 to catch up to the European Union's more rigorous climate standards.

Transport is the sector with the highest emissions: accounting for 30% of France's emissions. This is due in particular to heavy car usage, despite the fact there are usually only 1.5 passengers on average.

‍In second place, housing is a major source of GHG emissions. Heating, daily use, water treatment, building construction, waste management: all these elements must be taken into account in reducing our carbon footprint.

In third place, consumer goods, especially electronic equipment, add to the balance sheet. Their production requires significant extraction of minerals (notably for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries). And their use requires an increased consumption of electricity...

Finally, the agro-food production of proteins (beef, pork or chicken) also represents a significant share of GHG emissions. In fact, a French person eats more than twice the amount of meat in comparison to the rest of people all over the world – with an almost 85kg carcass equivalent in 2022.

Carbon footprint comparison

By type of transport

Transport is the largest part of our carbon footprint. To get an idea of the impact of our travel, here are the details of GHG emissions by type of transport:

By type of energy

In France, more than 96% of the electricity produced is decarbonised. However, other types of energy are more harmful to the environment. The CO2 emissions for each type of energy are as follows:

The carbon footprint of different countries

As of 2023, the ten countries with the highest CO2 emissions are

  • China (11.6 million tonnes) ;
  • United States (4.5 million tonnes) ;
  • India (2.4 million tonnes) ;
  • Russia (1.6 million tonnes) ;
  • Japan (1.1 million tonnes) ;
  • Iran (0.69 million tonnes) ;
  • Germany (0.64 million tonnes) ;
  • Iran (0.67 million tonnes) ;
  • South Korea (0.62 million tonnes) ;
  • Saudi Arabia (0.50 million tonnes) ;
  • Indonesia (0.567 million tonnes).

Note that when considering the footprint per capita, Qatar comes first...

city skyline

How to reduce your carbon footprint?

Fortunately, reducing one's carbon footprint is largely possible and easier than one might think, thanks in part to the online tools available to individuals and businesses.

In everyday life

Identify your biggest consumption factors

With online tools such as GoodPlanet or Ecolab (ADEME), you can estimate your biggest sources of GHG emissions that will impact your carbon footprint. However, Greenly's application remains the most suitable to reduce your carbon footprint on a daily basis in an efficient way. Indeed, thanks to the bank synchronisation, your GHG emissions are calculated in real time according to your expenses. Eco-responsible alternatives are then proposed for each of them. Consuming better to protect the planet becomes easier. Tempting, isn't it?

Adopt eco-gestures

Simple practices that you can incorporate into your daily life can also reduce your carbon footprint and your CO2 emissions:

  • Favouring cleaner modes of transport (public transport, bicycles and electric scooters, carpooling, etc.);
  • recycle as soon as possible (waste, textiles and objects);
  • Opt for second-hand goods (clothes, smartphones, computers, books, etc.);
  • buy products without packaging or over-packaging;
  • fight against energy loss (unplug phone chargers, use plugs with switches, etc.);
  • curb over-consumption in favour of necessity (do I really need it or do I just want it?).

By adopting a few of these practices, you will already be a very good actor of environmental preservation.

person riding bike in city

Favouring sustainable consumption

These practices are part of a sustainable and therefore more responsible mode of consumption. Sustainable consumption in 3 points is :

  • better purchasing (green products) ;
  • better consumption (without waste and in a sustainable way);
  • better disposal (as little as possible and recycling).

Sustainable consumption in everyday life is possible by favouring certain products and practices:

  • Household appliances, digital products, etc. More and more retailers are fighting against planned obsolescence and therefore offering sustainable products. More and more brands are fighting against programmed obsolescence and are therefore offering sustainable products. This is the case for brands such as Panasonic, Sony, Miele and Faure. Thanks to the site produitsdurables.fr, you can compare the longevity of the different brands on the market for all types of products.
  • Food and hygiene: opt for organic, natural and local products. More and more supermarkets are offering organic brands or products from local producers. Alternatively, you can visit specialised stores such as Biocoop, La Vie Claire or Naturalia.

Applications to combat food waste have also emerged. For example, Phénix or To Good To Go allow people to buy food products that are close to their use-by date and therefore need to be removed from the shelves at low prices.

Finally, the second-hand market is a good way to consume in a sustainable way. Sites such as Le Bon Coin, Vinted for clothes or Backmarket for reconditioned electronic products make it possible to buy at low prices in a responsible way.

Going green with your savings

This mode of consumption also concerns the financial world. Sustainable finance is based on an ethical vision of investment and savings. Its aim is to achieve economic performance with positive social and environmental impacts.

A mobile application has been developed for this purpose: Rift. It allows users to see how their savings are invested and to measure their carbon impact. Banks also offer sustainable financing through different models: green finance, social business or SRI (socially responsible investments). Your banker will be able to guide you in the best way to save and invest on request.

seedlings growing out of coins

How to invest and have a positive impact?

1. I invest in positive impact ETFs

Do you want to invest without too much effort? ETFs are the solution. These baskets of shares allow you to diversify your investments simultaneously. Thanks to EFT selectors such as Ark Invest or Track Insight, you can target those that focus on companies' environmental strategies. You can also focus on future environmentally friendly innovations.

2. I invest in positive impact companies via robo-advisors

Robo-advisors are an even simpler way to make positive impact investments. These robo-advisors manage your stock portfolio in an automated way. You then choose how much of your portfolio you want to invest in responsible investments. Here are some of them:

  • My Little Investment ;
  • Nalo ;
  • Cashbee.
3. Choose the projects I want to invest in

If you want to have full control over your investments, you can of course choose which projects to invest in yourself. You can do this by using traditional investment platforms that measure the environmental impact of the projects. Alternatively, you can opt for platforms such as Miimosa that offer to invest in environmental projects related to agriculture and food.

For companies

Carrying out a carbon assessment

Carrying out a carbon audit is the best way for companies to significantly reduce their GHG consumption and emissions. Targeting the most important emission centres and adopting alternative means to reduce their activity, while providing access to the data, is the most appropriate solution for them. This is especially true as they involve a number of people and devices (digital, electrical, etc.). Reducing the carbon footprint is therefore of particular concern to them. To do this, they must turn to a service provider authorised to carry out a carbon assessment according to the ADEME method, such as Greenly.

Carbon offsetting as a last resort

The idea of carbon offsetting is to set up "carbon sinks" to absorb the emissions emitted in order to work towards carbon neutrality. This can be achieved through investment in renewable energy or by planting trees, for example.

Greenly is particularly committed to this offsetting approach, both locally and internationally, through the various mobilisation projects it has set up:

  • Gandhi project: installation of wind turbines in India to reduce the carbon intensity of the country's electricity production.
  • Floresta de Portel project: protection of the forest in the state of Parà (Brazil) threatened by deforestation. This forest is home to a rich ecosystem that is unique in the world.
  • Ugastoves project: distribution of cooking ovens in Uganda to replace the traditional method of cooking, based on the combustion of oil.

Offsetting does not mean that reducing our carbon footprint is not necessary. It is a complementary response to the environmental issues we face today. So, now that you know all about the carbon footprint, will you become a player in environmental protection? It's up to you to act.

What About Greenly?

If reading this article about the importance of producing a CSR report has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. We offer a free demo for you to better understand our platform and all that it has to offer – including assistance with boosting supplier engagement, personalised assistance, and new ways to involve your employees.

Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.

supplier engagement demo
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