CTN - Innovation in Communication

Best practice for online CSR reporting

The following points represent the five steps to best practice in online CSR communication:

1) CSR content accessible and easy to use
2) CSR content available in multiple formats
3) CSR content is dynamic and interactive
4) CSR section is prominent and well promoted
5) CSR content has consistent and engaging design

Best Practice Examples

'Learning from the best and worst'

CSR content accessible and easy to use

According to the RNIB, 2 million people in the UK have a sight problem. The Internet has made a lot of information accessible for partially sighted and even totally blind users. If a company does not make its CSR material accessible then it sends out the message that the opinion of these people does not matter.

Search engines, archives and indexing all help navigation. BT has a magazine-style CSR front page with links to different themes. Other sites have menu bars/frames at the side or top of the page, which provide instant links to all other areas of the CSR content. This is more or less essential if you have a lot of material.

CSR content available in multiple formats

Most users can access both PDF and HTML formats, but they have different properties. A PDF makes the report available for easy printing. However, navigation in PDFs is limited and they often take a long time to download. HTML is quick to download, and it's easier to navigate, but it does not facilitate printing. Different stakeholders will have different preferences for the format.

CSR content is dynamic and interactive

The best websites are broken up into sections with links to other relevant material, to keep the user involved and to make it easy to find material quickly. This is a great strength of the WWW and it is a shame not to use it (i.e. to provide a large piece of text with no links).

Feedback forms are good for encouraging communication. But every site should have some email, address or telephone contacts with the name of a person. This demonstrates that there are people in the company specifically concerned with CSR.

A forum or message board is an excellent way of engaging those stakeholders who have access to the Internet. For example, the one on www.shell.com is used by employees to voice positive feedback or serious concerns, and by other users to debate the energy industry's effects on the environment and society.

Companies such as BT and mmO2 have also used online polls, interactive games, online debates and video webcasts to engage online users with their CSR content.

CSR section is prominent and well promoted

Raise the profile of CSR by placing a prominent link on the homepage (e.g. Reed Elsevier are clearly keen to show off their CSR section). Link from other sections of the site too (e.g. Investor Relations), in order to demonstrate that CSR is fundamental to the company's overall identity.

CSR content has consistent and engaging design

Sometimes it might make sense to present the CSR content in a slightly different way from the rest of a website, in order to draw attention to certain elements. Mostly, good CSR sections display a basic consistency with the branding of the rest of the corporate website. They should at least match the production values of the rest of the website. Some CSR sites fail to live up to the presentation of Investor Relations or product marketing sections.

An engaging design sends out the message that the company is interested in CSR, and that it is an exciting part of the business. It is possible to make content clearly available within an interesting design.

Best Practice Examples

BT's Hot Topics page

The BT site is ranked 1st out of the FTSE 100. The site is the best this year and that's no surprise considering they have covered every corner. There is a lot of information available in the right areas. Examples of this are the hot topic section, which covers topics such as abuse of the Internet. BT has a business game, which is great fun. BT have also launched a fantastic education programme website, that includes interactive animations, online games and video webcasts. BT's Society and Environment pages were a clear winner of this year's CSR Online Survey.

BP's Environment homepage

Rank 2nd this year and a very good website. Information is easy to find on the BP site , and it has a download manager, which makes it easier when downloading multiple pdfs. There is also a great environmental mapping tool, which shows air quality, water quality and many more around the world on a world map.

Rio Tinto

Ranked 4th this year, Rio Tinto has a great corporate video which is 3 to 4 minutes long. The site is well constructed.
The site is well constructed and includes interactive elements, such as an interactive world map. Information is clearly signposted and relevant information is displayed.


Ranked 6th= this year, has shot up the rankings this year -climbing 33 places in just one year. Their latest CSR report contains online polls, 'responding to your views' pages and presents key performance indicators in a clear and concise way. An engaging and accessible CSR website. Perhaps their site will be a contender for the top spot next year? Watch this space…