CO-OPERATIVE Financial Services has claimed a world first by adopting a totally transparent approach to lobbying and has called on others to follow its lead to counter widespread allegations that corporate social responsibility is little more than "greenwash".
Critics of CSR accuse many large corporate organisations of "greenwash," whereby they claim one thing in glossy environmental and social accountability reports, while lobbying government for a different position in private.
CFS has published its stance on a wide range of issues as part of its first combined CIS/Co-operative Bank Sustainability Report ? a "warts and all" assessment of the organisation's ethical and sustainable performance in 2003.
Under the heading "influence and action" in every relevant section of the 90-page report, CFS clearly states the position it has adopted on various issues.
CFS Chief Executive Mervyn Pedelty said: "A great deal of the good CSR work undertaken by many companies is undermined by allegations of hypocrisy. By openly disclosing where they stand on each material issue, and submitting this to external audit, companies could robustly counter these allegations."
The initiative has the backing of leading environmental commentator Jonathon Porritt, who said: "This move addresses a major concern of NGOs. There's still far too much corporate lobbying that is inconsistent with companies' stated policies and aspirations, and it would be good to see other companies following the CFS example."
The Report shows that of the 86 performance targets set by both the Co-operative Bank and CIS for 2003, 43 have been fully achieved; acceptable progress has been made on 27 and 16 have yet to be completed.
Highlights from the CFS Sustainability Report include:
? Satisfaction among CFS customers is greater than the industry norm for all types of products. Mark Goyder, Director of Tomorrow's Company, draws attention in the report to the fact that a significantly higher proportion of CIS savings and pension customers are highly satisfied.
? Having developed partnerships with a number of Community Development Finance Initiatives (CDFIs), the bank's provision of loans/overdrafts to small businesses in deprived areas far outstrips the industry norm (10.4 per cent of advances compared to 3.3 per cent). In addition 24 per cent of corporate business banking advances (loans, overdrafts, etc) are invested in activities with a partially significant social/environment impact (£ 422m).
The issue of diversity highlighted both positive and negative developments. The number of staff employed by the bank that declare a disability rose from 1.2 per cent to 3.4 per cent and those from an ethnic minority increased from 3.5 per cent to 4.3 per cent during 2003.
However, despite these improvements numbers still trail regional and national population profiles.
Another negative shown in the report is the 27 per cent increase in the amount of paper used by the bank due to the increase in mailings to the enlarged customer base following the creation of CFS.
CFS is now one of the top ten business purchasers of "green" electricity in the whole of Europe. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions at the bank have reduced by 91 per cent since 1997 and by 52 per cent since 2002 at CIS.
Said Mr Pedelty: "We have taken the strongest elements of the bank's and CIS's previous work in the areas of ethics, diversity, community investment and ecological sustainability, and have merged them into a bold new coherent framework.
"We are convinced that reporting how we are performing against our vision, and the degree to which we are delivering value to a range of partners in a socially responsible and an ecologically sustainable manner, is good for the future success of our business."