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January 31, 2003
CSRwire Spreads the Word on Corporate Social Responsibility
    by William Baue

Companies, nonprofits, and other organizations use CSRwire to distribute corporate social responsibility-related press releases and corporate performance reports.

In the aftermath of last year's corporate governance scandals, consumers, shareowners, and other stakeholders are demanding not only responsible corporate actions, but also greater disclosure of corporate performance. The demand for disclosure is increasingly extending to a company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, which can be loosely described as encompassing a company's social and environmental policies and practices. There are few distribution channels, however, that companies can use to communicate their CSR efforts to specific stakeholders.

CSRWire, a corporate social responsibility newswire service, is one of those channels (Ed. note: CSRwire and are owned by the same parent company, Vermont-based SRI World Group).

"As more stakeholders understand the relationship between CSR and overall business success, a company's ability to effectively communicate its CSR efforts becomes more important than ever," said CSRwire Director Gary Tomchuk.

The service has positioned itself to reach the broad group of stakeholders that are interested in individual CSR issues.

"CSRwire inhabits the largely unoccupied middle ground between newswires that focus narrowly on a single issue, such as the environment, and those that cast a broad net," said Mr. Tomchuk. "As with the more focused newswires, we reach a targeted audience. At the same time, the multidisciplinary aspect of corporate social responsibility means that we cover a broad range of issues."

Mr. Tomchuk went on to explain that CSR involves a number of different departments within a company, not just the marketing or public relations departments. Examples include the community relations department and the environment, health, and safety department.

Because community relations department activities are concerned with a company's public face, those activities are likely already being communicated to the public. The activities of the environment, health, and safety department, however, deal with the internal workings of the company. The environment, health, and safety department may be performing extremely well in terms of CSR, and stakeholders are interested in learning about that. But the department has no mechanism to communicate its performance.

"Cause marketing promotes a company's external CSR efforts," said Mr. Tomchuk. "Transparency, on the other hand, is about disclosing a company's internal workings. Providing a platform to give all departments of a company a means to achieve transparency is what CSRwire is all about."

CSRwire distributes this information to over 3000 journalists, financial analysts, and other opinion makers via email and syndicates its newsfeed to 20 partner sites. In addition, CSRwire operates a website that serves four primary functions. It posts CSR press releases, searchable by keyword, sector, company, or issue. It hosts a variety of corporate CSR reports, from triple bottom line reports to environmental, health, and safety (EHS) reports. It announces upcoming CSR events and conferences. And, it offers a variety of links to other CSR resources.

Users of CSRwire services appreciate the opportunity to reach a specific group of stakeholders.

"We value the fact that CSRwire [distributes] our press releases to a broad spectrum of other CSR portal websites, which disseminates the information to that segment of stakeholders who we very much want to communicate with--those interested in corporate social responsibility," said Entergy (ticker: ETR) Manager of Environmental Communications Larry Daspit. Entergy is a utility holding company whose interests include domestic utilities and nuclear power generation.

The information distributed through CSRwire adheres to certain guidelines and is screened, but it is not verified.

"We occasionally will request an edit to stay on the target of relating news about being a good corporate citizen, but our role is to distribute the information and allow our audience to appraise it," said Mr. Tomchuk.

This is a salient point for social investors. Investors may use the information provided by CSRwire to evaluate the CSR practices of current or potential holdings. As they often do with any press release issued by a company, investors can follow up with further research on the subject in order assess the relevance and reliability of the information.


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