As 2012 winds down, 2013 looks to be an even more promising year for sustainability reporting. More companies are integrating corporate social responsibility within their overall corporate strategy, rather than treating it as some pesky public relations maneuver relegated to the basement office. Plenty of forces are at work: more countries are close to mandating integrated reporting (combining financial and CSR information into one report); the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is mulling even more suggested disclosures; and at a core level companies realize that their stakeholders demand more transparency about their effects on the environment and society. Information, not platitudes and pictures, reign in the best of the best CSR reports.

To that end, we list the top 10 sustainability reports of 2012 (in alphabetical order):

Cisco: Chock full of detailed information on everything from sustainable packaging to supplier diversity to how the company confronts with bribery and corruption the nations in which it operates, Cisco is definitely a top three CSR report. Anyone who knows they have Cisco tucked somewhere in his or her stock portfolio, but lacks an understanding about what the company and its industry do, should read the latest sustainability report. Cisco’s latest report is a great learning tool.

Coca-Cola: The sugary syrup giant certainly has its critics, but we are talking about CSR and sustainability reporting--not “sustainability.” As far as layout, content and ease of finding information go, Coke’s CSR report is an excellent template. Its European cousin, Coca-Cola Enterprises, is another leader for its disclosure on carbon emissions and work on sustainable packaging. So really, this article is a list of the top 11 reports.

Intel: Most CSR reporters tuck its information on governance and ethics in the back of the report. A multinational company where its operations touch--and are affected by--public policy, human rights and governance, Intel’s interactive report front-loads these disclosures in the front of its most recent interactive report.

Marks and Spencer: The venerable British department store chain is a leader in integrated reporting. Balancing profits and stewardship of the planet, the company’s most recent update of its “Plan A” reads like a syllabus of what a sustainable company is all about. Plus M&S plunked the 66-year-old and fabulous Joanna Lumley on its report cover page--that alone pushes the company close to the top of this list.

Microsoft: The company has been busy with its YouthSpark initiative this year; add the fact that the company has led on human rights and responsible sourcing, and it is almost easy to forget that Microsoft is a software company.

NikeLast spring the apparel and athletic shoe company released an interactive sustainability report that challenged visitors to design their own sustainable athletic gear. The report brings CSR to the mainstream and is a great educational tool for sustainability professionals.

Philips: Another integrated reporting leader, Philips’ latest report dissects the company’s financial and sustainability metrics thoroughly. Sure, the company is a multi-billion dollar seller of more sustainable and responsible products, and its EcoVision5 program is a compelling roadmap towards a leaner and greener company. The sustainability statements on its web site is a seamless way for stakeholders to track the company’s progress on a bevy of issues.

SAP: The enterprise software leader keeps its CSR report on the cloud instead of presenting it in a PDF format. SAP reveals not only a lot about its sustainability performance within its own operations, but also about how its customers using its products have accomplished impressive accomplishments in environmental stewardship and supply chain sustainability.

Unilever: The company that updates its sustainability performance best in real time is Unilever. Two years into its ambitious Sustainable Living Plan, the Dutch-British consumer goods behemoth provides a wealth of data its brands are accomplishing on challenges including nutrition, sanitation and water use across the world.

UPS: Upfront about its energy-intensive logistics business, UPS’ most recent annual sustainability report is an exhaustive disclosure about its challenges and environmental performance.

Published earlier today on Triple Pundit. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

Image credit: Marks and Spencer

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About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.