Corporate Social Responsibility in SMEs: How to prepare a report and how to communicate sustainability practices

Report Design Guidelines

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe are not bound to report their sustainability actions. Nevertheless, non-financial reporting can help any company to effectively communicate the actions they are undertaking in sustainable accounting and corporate social responsibility (CSR), as well as allowing investors, consumers, policy makers, auditors and other stakeholders to evaluate the non-financial performance of companies.

In the first part of Module 6 we describe, step by step, the actions that should be undertaken before starting a non-financial report. Then, we describe a template with the main sections that usually appear in a successful sustainability accounting report and provide tips on what, and how, to include in the report. These sections are, or may be:

  • Report Title

  • Senior management statementGRI standards extract

  • Executive summary

  • Company’s overview and objectives

  • Introduction

  • Sustainability strategic framework

  • Performance indicators

  • Independent accountants’ review report

Additionally, guidelines, standards and CSR systems at international levels that are intended to help companies with disclosing environmental and social information are mentioned in this module. These include the European Commission’s Guidelines on non-financial reporting, Global reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines, International Standards Organization’s ISO 26000 and the UN Global Compact.

Also, some samples extracted from real companiesCorporate Social Responsibility Report 2017 cover page’ sustainability reports are provided in order to help users from SMEs. For instance, some sections of the Danish SME Siteimprove’s CSR Report 2017 have been used within this module as good examples for an SME. However, we can also find inspiration from some multinational companies’ reports, such as the Inditex Annual Report 2017, (where the CSR reporting is integrated).

Business Communication

Communication may be defined simply as the engine of human society, and the greatest evolutionary “jump” that enabled the growth of human society and culture. The sub-module Business Communication explores the topic and includes:Graphic on Business Communications and how to integrate a company's sustainable practices

  • effective communication as an interpersonal skill

  • communication as a function of integrating the sustainability practices of a company into its communication practices

The key purpose of being a successful communicator is communicating effectively. Effective communication is a part of interpersonal skills, i.e. those skills which one needs in order to communicate effectively with another person or a group of people.

Core areas for effective interpersonal interactions are self-awareness, effective listening, effective questioning, oral communication, helping or facilitating, reflecting, assertiveness and non-verbal communication.

In order to organize communication processes and use them for sustainability reporting, we must understand their managerial function, and analyze communication as a process within a company that can be controlled. In businesses, we may distinguish the functions of internal and external communication, known under the common name of operational communication.

Communication is also commonly defined by communication strategies that businesses create in order to manage their internal and external communication.

Communication strategies are created not only in corporations, but in other organizations as well. They may be formulated as independent documents, or may be a part of the content of other documents, e.g. business strategies, business plans, organization strategies, marketing strategies, etc. They can also be prepared for organizations and institutions, on an annual basis most frequently, for long term projects or grand events, e.g. a benefit, a conference.

Creating a communication strategy requires detailed and focused work. Some useful tools for identifying the context and the elements of the strategy are SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and PEST analysis (political, economic, social and technological factors that could affect your organisation’s work.)

It is interesting to note that the importance of community outreach increases as a company's impact on the community increases. This is especially significant when it comes to sustainability reporting which may have a very big impact on the local community, and a great positive reversal effect on the company.

Diagram showing the effects of internal and external communication on Organisation's work goals and other people