The research report – 98% fluff free – by UK consultants Salter Baxter and Context, highlights the fact that although nearly one-fifth of the top 250 UK companies reported on environmental and social performance for the first time in 2004, more than three-quarters of them made no account of their supply chains and less than one-quarter had any kind of independent verification.

The report said that 44 of the top 250 UK companies “produce no CSR information of substance, in any report”. The sectors with the worst levels of reporting include software and computer services, insurance, leisure and hotels, and speciality finance. None of the five software and computer services companies in the UK top 250 reported on non-financial issues.

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On a more positive note, the report, which also monitored the top 50 US and top 50 European companies, concluded that reporting standards are improving.

“The corporate lexicon of homilies, generalities and soft assurances that characterises much CSR reporting – fluff – is on the way out,” said the report. “This trend is being driven by sceptical audiences and tightening regulation such as Sarbanes-Oxley and the UK’s Operating and Financial Review.”

Campaigns like the UN-sponsored Global Reporting Initiative, have raised corporate awareness.

And, whether or not the CSR bandwagon is simply branding in another guise, it is indisputable that more and more companies are climbing aboard. In 2004, 83 of the top 100 UK companies, 27 of the top 50 US companies and 44 of the top 50 European companies reported on non-financial issues.