28 June 2018

Measuring the CSR progress of Dutch companies can be a puzzle (with too many pieces)

How far along is the Dutch business community when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? What developments have taken place? These are concrete questions that policy makers would like to know the answer to. There are many benchmarks and monitoring initiatives for sustainability that show pieces of this puzzle. But can we get the whole picture? Unfortunately, it seems not according to analysis carried out by Sustainalize for the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

Many initiatives have been identified

We mapped out the CSR monitoring landscape on behalf of the PBL. Our inventory included 34 relevant initiatives and benchmarks that Dutch companies regularly use to monitor CSR. With experts from industry, knowledge institutions and government – including FrieslandCampina, ASN Bank, SER, GRI, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, CSR Netherlands and VBDO – we tested and performed some deep-dives into the findings. In doing so, we mainly looked at the usability and coverage of the various initiatives and benchmarks. Our general impression was that all of the monitoring initiatives did contribute to awareness among the participating companies.

We have no overall picture of CSR

Despite the amount of monitoring that is occurring, it is difficult to generate a good picture of the status of CSR in the Netherlands on the basis of these initiatives. This is because it is mainly the listed companies and front runners in the area of sustainability that participate in these benchmarks. However, many of these monitoring initiatives do provide valuable information for policy makers. This is especially true for specific sub-themes and certain sectors. Our research also shows that there is a high demand for CSR information. At the same time, the sheer number of different initiatives can lead to ‘monitoring fatigue’ at some companies. Sustainalize therefore recommends a unified way of monitoring and a reduction in overlap. The government can play an important role in this.

Part of PBL’s policy study on transparency

We carried out our inventory of CSR monitoring for PBL’s ‘Mandatory Transparency’ policy study. This study examines how greater transparency for non-sustainability issues – including in the context of the EU non-financial information directive – can lead to increased CSR. The study concludes that the Dutch interpretation of the European reporting obligation of companies on sustainability issues should be tightened up.

Would you like to know more? Download our PDF report here (in Dutch).