"Green is Good" would never have been uttered by Hollywood's Wall Street Prince of Darkness, Gordon Gekko. But in today's era of billion-dollar scandals, shareholder lawsuits and receipts for $6,000 shower curtains, many consumers long for companies that stand for something more than making money.
Enter the corporate citizenship report. Ranging from the "change the world" earnestness of Whole Foods Markets to a hodgepodge of feel-good factoids from conglomerates such as General Electric, a growing number of companies are highlighting their social and environmental good deeds in securities filings and annual reports. The notices also act as an assurance to investors in "socially responsible" and "green" mutual funds.
Almost 60% of companies in the Standard & Poor's 100 index have created special sections of their Web sites to share information about their social and environmental policies. Similarly, almost 40% now issue annual corporate social responsibility reports, according to a recent study by the Social Investment Research Analysts Network.
One of the primary reasons for this increased activity is simple. "They're now getting all types of external requests for this information, and it's just easier to put all of it in one place," said Steve Lippman, SIRAN co-chair and vice president of social research at Trillium Asset Management, Boston.
It ain't easy being green, though. Such initiatives can draw additional attention -- and potential protests -- from activist groups, some of which have already accused companies of "greenwashing" their corporate records.