Sun Microsystems Ramps CSR Reporting

Sun Microsystems entered a new arena of corporate reporting last week with its first mid-year progress update on its corporate social responsibility efforts.

Most companies that produce CSR reports typically publish them annually or every other year, although some, such as Timberland, have moved toward more frequent progress reports. Sun's mid-year update follows the company's annual report in late October with the hope of increasing transparency, strengthening its internal data gathering processes and spurring discussion with its stakeholders of what the company has accomplished and where it needs to improve.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, for instance, boosted the amount of renewable energy it consumes in its global operations with a new purchase agreement in Germany, while also renewing an existing contract in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Sun reduced the diversion rate of waste it sends to landfills to 54 percent in the first quarter of fiscal year 2009, compared to a 68 percent diversion rate during the previous quarter.

The mid-year update process revealed inefficiencies in its collection of data and provides the opportunity to ingrain better collection techniques into everyday practices, rather than the end-of-year slog to compile all relevant information, according to Marcy Scott Lynn, Sun's director of corporate social responsibility.

But it's a work in progress, illustrated by the company's inability to provide certain data in several areas of the mid-year update, such as its efforts to figure out the embedded energy used to manufacture Sun products or give datacenter customers tools for monitoring the power consumption of its products. "We're credited for taking the step but were called out for not reporting some relevant data," Lynn said.

While the company's move toward mid-year progress updates has garnered a mostly positive response, the criticism reminded Lynn why the company reports in the first place: "To be held accountable so we can keep improving," she said, "and changing the way we do business for the better."

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