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CSR reports still without uniform standards

  • Little information on compliance and governance
  • No comparability without standardized reporting
  • DAX: Vonovia provides detailed information on environmental issues
  • MDAX: MTU with comprehensive information on all issues
  • SDAX: Talanx with top environmental and employee ratings

Wiesbaden 27. May 2019: The consultants of cometis AG systematically evaluated the 2018 sustainability reports (CSR reports) of 131 companies from the DAX family. Henryk Deter, member of the board of cometis: “Unfortunately, many reports often contain empty words. Measurable data on sustainability performance are too seldom reported.” Often a comparison with other companies is not possible, nor is a development recognizable in the course of time. “Many public companies are apparently only now beginning to collect the necessary data. The greatest benefit of the reporting requirement is that many companies are now dealing with concrete sustainability targets for the first time,” says Deter. The scope of CSR reports varies considerably. “Some companies are content with very scarce information. Others communicate in such detail that the essential information is lost,” says Deter and adds: “More meaningful sustainability reports do not require as much detailed information as possible, but uniform data on the essential aspects of a sustainable business policy. Otherwise, the new reporting requirement hardly provides the desired added value.”

Scarce information on compliance and governance
Subdivided into the four areas Environment, Employees, Society as well as Compliance and Governance, cometis collected more than 8,000 company-specific information. The study divides the four areas into around 10 standardized topics.

To date, companies have devoted the greatest attention to ecological topics. More than 3,000 of the company-specific information collected is allocated to this area. In addition, the companies provide most of the usable metrics for the environmental sector. Many environment-oriented activities of the companies can thus be measured. The focus is on emissions (32 percent), energy efficiency (24 percent) and resource efficiency (17 percent).

The companies provided around 2,600 individual pieces of information on employee questions. Over a quarter (27 percent) of the data relates to employee diversity. Employee development (24 per cent) and employee retention (23 per cent) are almost on a par.

The stock corporations communicated a total of 1,300 individual pieces of information on social and societal issues. A quarter (25 percent) of the information on social activities relates to commitment to the community. Second place went to product responsibility information (19 percent). Customer satisfaction is ranked third by a wide margin (10 percent).

Compliance and Governance:
With 1,200 individual data, on compliance and governance area is the fewest information available. The companies report on their compliance management systems (35 percent). Information on the prevention of corruption and bribery follows (23 percent) before information on compliance with human rights (21 percent).

No comparability without standardized reporting
“It is difficult to compare the reports at the moment. Without uniform standards, improvements on a broad front will hardly succeed. The capital market players should therefore above all agree on a uniform standard for sustainability reporting,” says Deter. CSR reporting is still miles away from this. Almost every fifth company (19 percent) had not even applied any of the recognised frameworks such as GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) or DNK (German Sustainability Code). Jost AG, for example, states in its business report 2017 that it regards the existing frameworks as unsuitable for the company.
Since companies provide the most measurable information on the environment, Deter expects the greatest progress towards greater environmental awareness in concrete day-to-day actions in this area in the future. Deter: “Companies will be careful not to fall behind the standards they have already achieved. On the other hand, Deter expects concrete improvements in the other three areas only in the distant future.
The information was provided by 87 percent of the companies in an independent sustainability report. One in three of these companies also communicates non-financial information in its annual report. On the other hand, 13 percent of the companies have only included sustainability reporting in their annual reports.

DAX30: Vonovia provides detailed information on environmental issues
cometis has examined the companies in the various DAX segments with regard to the scope of the information provided. cometis awarded only 1 point for qualitative statements and 2 points for quantified statements. However, the study did not take into account the significance of the information provided. The Adidas sustainability report received only 66 points. “But Adidas convinces with clear sustainability goals. In addition, the company communicates the identified breaches of compliance in an unusually transparent manner,” says Deter. Vonovia leads the DAX30 with a total of 450 points. Based on particularly detailed information on environmental issues, the real estate company scored 342 points here alone. Merck took second place with 334 points. The chemical company provides detailed information on all aspects of sustainability. The red lantern within the DAX carries Fresenius Medical Care with only 44 points.

DAX30: + companies with the most comprensive CSR information +
companies score
Vonovia 450 points
Merck 334 points
Volkswagen 298 points
DAX30: – companies with the scarcest CSR information –
companies score
Daimler 47 points
Allianz 45 points
Fresenius Medical Care 44 points

MDAX: MTU with comprehensive information on all issues
MTU achieved the highest score in the MDAX. Deter: “The turbine manufacturer provides very detailed information on sustainability issues and scored more than 100 points on both employee and environmental issues. MTU also provides exceptionally comprehensive information on social issues, scoring 74 points. Fraport ranks second with 266 points. The airport operator provides extensive information on environmental issues (155 points). On the other hand, the company does not communicate any quantifiable data on compliance (7 points). 1&1 Drillisch provides the fewest information on sustainability and scores only 20 points. “The network-independent telecommunications provider can benefit from the fact that the company is less exposed to environmental concerns than, for example, automobile manufacturers or other industrial companies,” says Deter. However, the company also provides little information on employees and compliance.

MDAX: + companies with the most comprensive CSR information +
companies score
MTU 318 points
Fraport 266 points
Deutsche Wohnen 226 points
MDAX: – companies with the scarcest CSR information –
companies score
Dialog 30 points
Rocket Internet 24 points
1&1 Drillisch 20 points

SDAX: Talanx with top environmental and employee score
At the top of the SDAX is Talanx with 260 points. The insurance company achieves maximum values in terms of employee concerns (128 points) and the environment (85 points). SAF-Holland ranks second with 211 points. The truck supplier provides comprehensive information on all issues and is even at the top of the SDAX with its information on social commitment (41 points). Hypoport, on the other hand, offers only a limited amount of information on sustainability. The financial services provider receives only 23 points. In particular, the company offers only sparse information on environmental and social issues.

SDAX: + companies with the most comprensive CSR information +

companies score
Talanx 260 points
SAF Holland 211 points
TLG Immobilien 152 points
SDAX: – companies with the scarcest CSR information –
companies score
Ströer 24 points
Pfeiffer 24 points
Hypoport 23 points

Legal requirements:
Since fiscal 2017, the German law implementing the European CSR Directive has obliged companies to provide information on their non-financial sustainability activities. Companies with more than 500 employees are required to report on sustainability. Information on environmental issues, social concerns and human rights is required.

In the spring of 2018, 131 of the 160 companies from the four German indices – DAX, MDAX, SDAX, TecDAX – disclosed systemic non-financial information for the first time in the form of sustainability reports (including CSR or non-financial reporting). A total of 29 companies from the DAX family were not required to report or did not present their results until later due to broken financial years.

The investigation:
Cometis evaluated the 2018 sustainability reports submitted by 131 companies in the DAX family. When classifying the DAX companies, qualitative statements each scored 1 point. If the companies also provided quantitative information, they received 2 points.

+ What the study does:
The study provides a broad overview of sustainability reporting in Germany. Companies with a high score offer extensive information and are often willing to quantify it.

– What the study does not do:
The relevance of the measures with regard to a sustainable business policy is not taken into account.