Inside Blackbaud’s efforts to produce second annual social responsibility report

Nov 18, 2019
Report produced cross-functionally, including IR and CSR teams

Late last month, Blackbaud launched its second annual social responsibility report, which provides an in-depth look at the company’s global social responsibility, governance, ethical practices and dedication to sustainability.

Steve Hufford, Blackbaud’s director of investor relations, notes that producing this type of report is such an important undertaking for companies that it reaches across disciplines within the organization.

‘When the topic of ESG started to surface, it was a bit overwhelming,’ he says. ‘But it quickly became clear that much of what investors were looking for we were already doing in various functions across the company. We had just never talked about it publicly.’

The 28-page report outlines how Blackbaud prioritizes diversity and personal and professional development, as well as policies on cyber-security, data privacy and business continuity. It also, of course,  addresses the company’s impact on the environment.

Blackbaud produced its first report in 2018, prompted by interest from various stakeholders. ‘Customers, employees and investors often ask for this type of information, so pulling it together in one place and making it public made perfect sense,’ says Hufford. One of our biggest challenges was simply finding the time and resources to collect the information.’

Blackbaud, a mid-cap cloud software company, has an IR team of two and a CSR team of three. In even smaller companies both roles might be done by just one person so, Hufford suggests, organizations need to plan for the future in terms of staffing levels.

The CSR team leads the report’s content and format, consulting with other disciplines, including IR, every step of the way. IR involvement is crucial for identifying metrics relevant to and material for investors, and Hufford sees the role of IR expanding further in the future.

To that end – and with an eye to next year’s report – Hufford is partnering with CSR to set up an in-house working group that meets regularly to evaluate and expand the already robust program and ensure ESG is top of mind. For instance, the team is evaluating the format of the report to ensure it’s optimized for online viewing, so ESG aggregators are automatically, and accurately, picking up the report contents.

The group is also looking at ways to help other organizations measure ESG performance more consistently. It’s a changing landscape, Hufford says. ‘There are numerous frameworks and ratings agencies out there that can make it difficult for a small team to accurately tell its story, and it’s not clear where things are going to land,’ he explains.

‘There is a significant opportunity to work toward one source of truth for ESG reporting. Internally, we’re looking to align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while also embracing choice through our employee programs. We recently started using our own software solution from YourCause to help track our CSR and ESG impact, and we’re seeing many companies follow suit.’

YourCause, a Blackbaud company, introduced the Global Goals Gateway, which is the first CSR technology to integrate the UN’s SDGs into its employee engagement and corporate philanthropy platform.

As for Blackbaud’s 2019 report, Hufford is pleased there’s been a positive response from investors: Blackbaud’s largest shareholders were supportive and fast to connect the company with sustainably focused funds. And by producing an ESG report, Hufford believes Blackbaud can raise its visibility with SRI investors and ESG-conscious funds. Currently around 1 percent of Blackbaud’s investor base is ESG funds.

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