What stakeholders need…

The best letters are candid, strategic and a reflection of the men and women who manage the company. An effective letter talks about the past year, primarily to establish an understanding of the company’s strategic focus. Every letter cannot follow the same format, but there are some common elements:

DOs
DON'Ts

Benchmarks

59%, 714, 17%
of print reports start the CEO’s message on page 1 or 2
average number of words in the message
published a second message

[+] More best practice reports

Ford Motor Company, General Electric Company, TELUS Corporation

Message to stakeholders

The letter from the CEO remains the core expression of any company’s CSR commitment. Ideally, it should sincerely convey the sense that the company is aware of key issues and is taking action. It should also convince stakeholders that their concerns have been heard, understood and are being addressed.

anglo american plc

Anglo American’s CEO Cynthia Carroll and Chairman Sir Mark Moody-Stuart provide separate discussions of the company’s commitment to CSR with in-depth coverage of progress and challenges. Ms. Carroll focuses on sustainability issues and the risks and opportunities presented to the company. The Chairman’s message highlights key global challenges such as energy security and the lack of regulatory agreement on carbon sequestration.

canada post corporation

CEO Moya Greene and CSR SVP Robert Waite discuss CSR at Canada Post in their own unique voices. Ms. Greene’s conviction is palpable in almost every line of the letter, particularly when she says CSR is “crucial” and “doesn’t lose its relevance in an economic downturn… it becomes even more important.” Both Ms. Greene and Mr. Waite touch on accomplishments and disappointments over the year with unusual directness.

bp plc

Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward answers hard-hitting questions frequently raised by company stakeholders. Tough questions about BP’s capital allocation decisions, safety and operating integrity after the 2005 fire and 2006 pipeline leaks are addressed candidly, setting up comprehensive discussions of the issues that follow in the remaining pages of the report.