The corporate responsibility (CR) report is becoming a standard issue for virtually every industry. Most are standalone documents, but leading companies increasingly integrate the CR with the annual report — an efficient final communication but more difficult to manage in terms of scope and process.

One challenge of the CR report is that it has a wider audience than most other corporate communications. Anyone impacted positively or negatively, upstream or downstream, by a company’s actions is, in CR terms, a stakeholder and a potential audience. That includes employees, shareholders, communities where the company operates, NGOs and regulatory bodies. The one-size CR report does not fit all.

Walk a mile (or kilometer) in your stakeholders’ shoes

A single CR report can typically run up to 100 pages — information overload for a retail customer or supplier but the right level of detail for an NGO or investor. Employees may be looking to the report for motivation and ways to live the CR mission. Salespeople may be looking at it as part of a compelling story for potential clients. How do you serve so many purposes with one document? One aspect is the right choice of media delivery.

Starbucks publishes an exhaustive CR report online as well as a summary trifold brochure that can be read in as much time as it takes to get a latte. This great example uses engaging infographics to deliver topline takeaways.

Software supplier SAP debuted the first interactive CR report in 2010.

Short videos by company leaders, easy navigation that enables relevant drilldowns, and the chance for readers to be heard through the interactive materiality matrix reinforce trust and transparency, guiding principles of CR reporting.

The media menu for CR reports

Every media option has advantages as well as factors to consider. Choose one or more to deliver your message most effectively.

Interactive PDF

Advantages: Versatile, relatively inexpensive (no printing, mailing or programming costs), increasing interactive feature set, searchable, printable on-demand by end user, fast deployment

Be aware: File size can be very large causing display lags, interactive features can compromise printability and can function inconsistently, search functionality not as robust as microsite

Printed report

Advantages: Best readability (studies have shown print is the easiest way to read long passages of text), perception of quality (tactile act of reading a well-crafted print piece has positive emotional impact on the reader)

Be aware: Printing and distribution expenses are increasing, potential negative perceptions about environmental impact (can be mitigated with new eco-friendly ink and paper options)

Microsite or Web page

Advantages: Most robust possible feature set (including video, blogs, social media), strong search capability, easy to navigate, easy to update

Be aware: Longer development timeframe and expense compared to PDF or print which can impact schedule and budget


Advantages: Best tool to achieve emotional impact through sound and image; interviews are most direct, easily accessible and personal message

Be aware: Not quickly scannable, must be online to view, longer videos require decision up front to commit time

Next? Mix and match to reach your audience(s)

What do you want to accomplish with each of your audiences? Deliver required data? Inspire trust? Inspire pride? Communicate accomplishments? Motivate more engagement around sustainability? Mix and match delivery options to engage your audience.

Combinations of delivery:

  • Interactive PDF + printed summary brochure
  • Microsite with top-level summary and category drilldowns by audience
  • Interactive PDF + introductory online video from download site

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