Author, Nazahah Abd Rahim
CSR is about the relationship between a business and its stakeholders. Due to this relationship, any CSR initiatives should be disclosed, thus the importance of CSR reporting. The web or the internet offers countless possibilities in communicating CSR in the digital format. CSR reporting via the internet has emerged voluntarily from many large companies worldwide, especially in the United States. Some of the terms used to describe such reporting method are online CSR disclosure, CSR website reporting, social responsibility disclosure on the internet, CSR online reporting, online CSR communication, and online sustainability disclosure. Despite the various terms, all authors referred to the same notion of CSR reporting which involves communicating any CSR information online via the internet, particularly on websites.
With the vast advancement in technology particularly the internet, stakeholders expect the relevant information about a business to be made easily available and accessible. The advantages include:
- Any CSR information can be accessed in real time, from anywhere and at relatively lower costs.
- The layout and the style of information in websites vary enormously.
- The dissemination of information moves from traditional channels such as print-based publications to online versions, hence communication which tended to be one-way is becoming more dialogic and participatory, allowing feedback.
- The improved presentation of the disclosures via graphics, animation, multimedia, hyperlinks, search and tracking facilities assist the companies to enhance the stakeholders’ engagement.
- Disguises itself as a marketing tool as it has the ability to reach a wider range of readers with greater volumes of customizable information incorporating audio and visual elements.
However, using the internet as a vehicle for communicating CSR is sometimes not appropriate due to the following disadvantages.
- Some would not be able to catch up with this technology until the cost of connecting to the internet is decreased. However, it could follow that in countries with low internet usage, companies would use other means to disseminate CSR information because of the lower internet user rate in the respective countries, companies would not be inclined to invest as much in internet technologies and capabilities.
- It could generate unreliable information. As an example, financial reporting via the internet would be unreliable if companies report unaudited financial information on their websites or provide links from audited to unaudited information.
- Inadequate web security which can result in reliable CSR information being fraudulently transformed into unreliable information by hackers.
- Website visitors could become lost when using navigational aids on the webpages, such as the forward and back buttons and this may disrupt the necessary integrity of any CSR information. Expertise in designing and maintaining the information on websites is crucial as accessibility and readability should be valued into consideration.
Regulatory bodies in other parts of the world have started to actively push forward for better CSR reporting. As the importance and awareness of CSR are increasing, countries all over the world are developing their own frameworks to promote CSR and to further enhance the CSR reporting efforts.