Reinforcing Reputation – Why Non-Financial Reporting Matters

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Jennifer Crutchfield is the Measurement and Reporting Lead for Adobe. She is responsible for guiding our  Corporate Responsibility reporting, our annual Corporate Responsibility report and is the liaison between Corporate Responsibility and Investor Relations. Under her leadership, Adobe has been named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index in 2016. Jennifer holds a B.A and an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia, and lives in San Francisco, CA.

What are the biggest challenges facing Corporate Responsibility reporting? What is motivating the company to address sustainability reporting?

Jennifer Crutchfield: Sustainability reporting has increasingly become the modern day Wild West for Corporate Responsibility (CR).

In addition to ratings and rankings organizations, here at Adobe, we receive an increasing number of requests for unique and new data sets from the investor community, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and our sales organization (for RFPs).

We can all agree in the merits of these additional parties expressing interest in a company’s ESG practices. And while the benefits of transparency and increased disclosure are positive, fulfilling them has become an overwhelming challenge compounded with limited bandwidth of CR teams. This issue is real and has been growing in recent years as information is increasingly requested beyond what is publicly disclosed in a company’s CDP submission or Corporate Responsibility Report.

Similar to our fellow CR practitioners we have seen an exponential increase in the number of requests for ESG-related data. In 2012, this led us to publish our first annual CR report that focuses on a key set of environmental, social and governance KPIs, in a clear, chart-based format. We dropped the qualitative stories that had traditionally accompanied our CR reports to allow us to present the data that our various stakeholders are seeking. This approach has the added benefit of also helping free up resources on our own team and easily add additional KPIs at our stakeholders’ request, making us even more transparent.

How has integrated reporting affected the CR field, and how is Adobe addressing this topic?

Jennifer: The evolution of integrated reporting of sustainability disclosures within traditional financial filings is championed by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) in the United Kingdom and Europe, and the Sustainability Standards Board (SASB) in the United States. Our profession is following their work closely as both bodies further clarify key metrics of importance for our stakeholders at an industry-specific level. Per a report I recently read published by KPMG, “CR information is increasingly perceived by shareholders as relevant for their understanding of a company’s risks and opportunities.”

At Adobe, we actively follow and participate in conversations about integrated reporting, and earlier this year, we included climate change as a risk in our FY2015 Form 10-K, stating that “climate change may have a long-term impact on our business.” This marked the first time that Corporate Responsibility was integrated into our formal 10-K filing. Additionally, since 2014, information on our CR initiatives for our employees, within the communities where Adobe employees live and work, and our sustainability practices have been included in the “Business Highlights” section of our Proxy Statements. While this is not complete integrated reporting, we are proud of these steps, and are closely watching the field develop.

What are the trends on the horizon for increased transparency in the CR reporting space? How is Adobe addressing these areas that relate to the technology community?

Jennifer: In the news today, we are increasingly faced with statistics around gender and ethnic pay discrepancies. In June, we announced that taking into consideration job and geography, female employees at Adobe earn 99 cents for every dollar earned by our male employees in the U.S. We also announced that there is no wage gap between our U.S. white and non-white employees.  Although this ratio is not equal yet, the company feels it’s important to be transparent and open about where we are, and communicate the steps we are taking to eliminate any remaining pay discrepancies across Adobe.

Ethnic and gender diversity is another area for increased transparency, and the technology industry is leading the effort. In August 2015, Adobe joined many of our peers in Silicon Valley in releasing our ethnic and gender diversity numbers for our U.S. employees broken down by managerial level. In March 2016, we published our EEO1 data, which we, along with all public companies, report to the federal government annually. In this, we joined a select few companies to release this level of data on the ethnic and gender diversity of our U.S. employee base.

Our diversity numbers are not where we want them to be. Through partnering with youth coding organizations such as Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code, many of our CR programs are geared towards developing the next generation of coders, which will help create a workforce that is more representative of our customers and our global communities.

How have ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors had a positive impact on the Adobe brand?

Jennifer: As a cloud-based, software company, our people are our most prized asset. From the beginning, our co-founders, Dr. Chuck Geschke and Dr. John Warnock, started Adobe with the intention of running a company that they would want to work for themselves. The values they espoused when Adobe was founded in 1982, carry through to the Adobe of today. These values laid the groundwork for our diversity and inclusion efforts, community engagement, and our work around cultivating the next generation of creatives and coders through our work around youth coding and Project 1324.

In today’s competitive world of employee attraction and retention, Adobe is proud to be on the Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list for the past 16 years, to have received a perfect 100 on the Corporate Equality Index in providing workplace LGBT equality for the past three years, and to have ranked in Glassdoor’s top 20 employee’s choice for best places to work. We don’t take these awards lightly, and believe that this is why 88% of our employees were highly satisfied in our latest employee survey. In addition, we were ranked on Interbrand’s top 100 Best Global Brands list for the seventh straight year, and for 2015, we were named a top riser. Additionally, we are seeing an increased interest from the investor community. In September 2016, we were included on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index World for the first time.

While we are proud of where we are today, our journey is still beginning. We truly hope that through new sustainability, community and education initiatives, ESG will play an even more prominent role internally and externally in Adobe. 

This article originally appeared in Forbes.