I just read a useful report from PwC titled The Right Combination – Corporate Responsibility Reports: the role of assurance providers and stakeholder panels.
The report is based on a global survey of 50 PwC clients and relations to get a better insight into why companies seek 3rd party assurance on their corporate responsibility reports.
The bottom line is that corporations need to do more than package their CR initatives into an annual report. They need to ensure that what they claim to be doing in this area is actually taken seriously by their stakeholders. (They also need to mitigate risk of being seen to do the wrong things by advocacy groups and other stakeholders closer to home.)
One of the most important developments in stakeholder relations is doing more than undertaking quantitative or qualitiative research to find out what stakeholders think and then including the findings in a CR report. Some firms are beginning to engage their stakeholders in a much more interactive and proactive way.
One way of doing this is to create stakeholder panels – groups of representatives from stakeholder groups that provide ongoing feedback on CR issues and give the stakeholder groups a stronger voice in the development of CR policy and programs (advisory role) and a more prominent role in the developing and commenting on annual CR reports (assurance).
For those interested in a more academic perspective, I recommend tracking down Corporate Social Responsibility Communication: stakeholder information, response and involvement strategies by Mette Morsing and Majken Schultz published by Business Ethics: A European Review (volume 15, Number 4, October 2006).