Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – Don’t Kill a Forest, Plant a Tree.
Corporate Responsibility in Action
An interesting example of social responsibility by a corporation is that of the Oxford English Dictionary, commonly known as the OED. The OED is the acknowledged world authority on the English Language. The second edition of the OED (2) was published in 1989 containing 59 million words on almost 22 thousand pages in 20 volumes. The publisher has been working on the third edition (OED3) since 1989, which is expected to contain double the amount of words as OED2. The publisher has said this dictionary will never be printed. To do so would be environmentally irresponsible. Just one edition would require the felling of a whole forest to provide the paper. The dictionary will be available only online or in electronic format, not hard copy. Despite the fact that a CD ROM on a bookshelf would be no match as a spectacle to a 40 volumes OED the decision is an example of proper corporate citizenship.
Company Annual Reports
Since the early days of the public company entities have been required to publish a written annual report, commonly referred to as a “Glossy”, for distribution to all shareholders. Most jurisdictions mandated that these annual reports be delivered into the hands of all the shareholders of the company. As the size of corporations and number of shareholders increased, the printing of annual reports became a large cost burden to companies. In most cases the annual reports were never read by the recipient. The “glossy” was just that, a highly glossy photo-rich, ink-hungry, paper-burning waste of resources. The first step was to change the laws mandating compulsory distribution to an “opt out” provision. This allowed shareholders who were cost and environmentally aware to say, “No thanks, don’t send me one.” The next phase was an “Opt IN” provision. This was where the shareholder was required to specifically ask for a report to be sent otherwise they would not receive a copy. The latest and by far the most environmentally friendly iteration of this requirement is the “Online Only” version.
Apple Inc. has opted out entirely of printing a glossy annual report. If you want to know how Apple has performed, and you don’t need to be a shareholder, then you may go online. No trees, no forests suffered. Any stakeholder or interested party may research the company. There is another positive side effect to the discontinuation of printed annual reports and that is the report, online, can be as long as the company chooses. Being limited to say 150 printed pages allowed the company to focus only the good news and not address the possibly unpalatable aspects of its operations. With unlimited electronic space the company can no longer use printing costs as an excuse for selective release, or omission, of its CSR policy and report.