Study Results: D&I now more prevalent in Annual Reports (for Investors) than in Corporate Responsibility Reports

D&I is on the move from a social context (previously) to a more business-focused stakeholder positioning. This key finding is based on the analysis of all Annual Reports, CSR Reports and Websites of Europe’s 50 largest corporations as listed in the STOXX ® 50 Europe index. The research carried out by EMEA’s D&I pioneer research & consulting firm, EuropeanDiversity (Cologne), shows for the first time more frequent Diversity content in Annual Reports (92%) than in CSR Reports (82%).

The bi-annual report, which has been produced for the third time, also identified corporate reactions to increased political pressure, namely on quota for women in management: Companies emphasize their commitment to Diversity across the board. “This not only reflects the business case for Diversity, which goes well beyond gender”, European Diversity’s President, Michael Stuber, comments the latest research results, “it also corresponds with contemporary individual values of employees, candidates and in society”. The report highlights a number of significant changes, compared to previous analysis of the STOXX ® 50 Europe (in 2010) and the EuroSTOXX ® 50 (in 2012). Most remarkable is the increase of D&I content in Corporate Annual Reports: 46 of 50 firms include the topic in their comprehensive business report and the majority of them (31) devote more than half a page on their Diversity Management. At the same time, the number of companies describing D&I in the CSR reports has decreased – even more significantly – from 46 to 38, and the majority of them (25) only use 1 page or less to talk about D&I.
Large BlueChip firms present Diversity in a more comprehensive way than ever before. This can be seen from the growing group of companies that concretely mention four or more dimensions in their D&I communication. This represents a reaction to the (external/EU) political focus on just gender, or rather women in management, which is also mirrored by the large number of reports that provide figures around this aspect. Another new trend is the growing number of programme descriptions included in Corporate Annual Reports (N=65) and Corporate Responsibility Reports (N=47). However, the companies analysed use their websites excessively to showcase their D&I initiatives. An impressive 150 practices are included in the online communication of 48 out of 50 websites. The most prevalent types of programmes Community activities, employee networks and external partnerships. In Annual Reports and CR Reports, Development programmes are in the group of the three most mentioned activities.
Diversity has become a key element of the overall identity and brand communication of International top firms. This is the result of the analysis of all corporate websites of the Stoxx ® 50 Europe, 48 of whom present Diversity as part of their online communication mostly in the sections careers, sustainability, responsibility or ‘about us’. On the vast majority of websites, visitors have to navigate 2 or three levels down to access the diversity section. This usually has one more level, three more levels or no further navigation level. Only 5 of 48 companies present additional media (pdf or videos) on their Diversity websites. The breadth and depth of online information is consistent with the predominant candidate or public outreach that companies pursue with their corporate websites – as opposed to the more specific investor communication through Annual Reports.
In 2014, Corporate Communication on D&I reflects the increased external expectations, mainly from EU and national politics or from candidates in the Generation Y (or C). Aligned with their business priorities, International corporations insist on D&I as a broad and comprehensive concept that goes well beyond gender & work/life integration. Consequently, they have also reduced the social aspects that were found in similar analysis in earlier years.
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