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CSR Reporting's Greatest Hits in the Twin Cities

Interested in learning more? Check out our GRI Certification in Sustainability Reporting happening this July in Minneapolis

By Nick Franco

Minnesota is known as a socially and environmentally progressive state, with one of the most aggressive renewable energy portfolio standards in the country: 25% by 2025. In 2008, the state constitution was amended creating a dedicated source of funding to protect the state’s water resources, environment and cultural heritage. Green jobs have grown by 30% between 2009 and 2011 according to a recent report. Over half of these jobs were newly created, indicating that green jobs are helping to drive economic expansion.

The Twin Cities is also the headquarters for 19 Fortune 500 companies, including many well known brands such as General Mills, Target, Best Buy, 3M and Medtronic.   Many of these companies have embraced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to some degree as part of good business practice, and demonstrate their commitment through enhanced reporting.  As a result, they have been able to achieve some of the basic goals of CSR reporting - to enhance transparency and demonstrate accountability to a broader group of stakeholders than shareholders.

Good CSR reporting is comprehensive, timely, and easily accessible.  As such, Minnesota-based companies have been elevated to the same playing field as other companies globally that we admire for their ethical operating behaviors. Of the nineteen Minnesota Fortune 500 Companies, eleven currently have a 2011 CSR report available online.  Ten companies have used the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) sustainability reporting framework between 2009 and 2011, with some companies such as Mosaic fully embracing the framework as a reporting tool.  Eight companies have been selected to Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s 2012 100 Best Corporate Citizens List. How do the companies of the Twin Cities approach CSR? Which sectors are strongest?

Minnesota Companies Ranked in the 2012 Fortune 500

Company Fortune 500 Ranking Revenues
($ millions)
2011 CSR Report GRI Report CR Magazine 2012 Top 100
United Health Group








 X  X


Best Buy



 X  X











 X  X


U.S. Bancorp



 X  X



 X  X


General Mills



 X  X


Land O’Lakes



Xcel Energy



Ameriprise Financial



C.H. Robinson Worldwide






 X  X


Hormel Foods



 X  X


Thrivent Financial






St. Jude Medical



Nash Finch



Food Sector: General Mills, Hormel, Land O’Lakes
The Food Sector has two of the highest ranked Minnesota companies in the 2012 Best 100 Corporate Citizens list, with Hormel and 19 and General Mills at 44.  Hormel, best known as the maker of SPAM, has a robust CSR reporting program with an easy to navigate online 2011 CSR report that includes a linked GRI Content Index.  Hormel began CSR reporting in 2006 and all past reports are available online.  General Mills has a similarly robust reporting program, with a PDF version of their 2012 CSR report already available online, including a GRI content index. All of General Mill’s CSR reports back to 2004 are also available online.   Land O’Lakes 2010 CSR report is well organized and comprehensive, though somewhat out of date. Previous Land O’Lakes reports do not appear to be available.

Health Care Sector: Medtronic, St. Jude Medical, United Health Group
The health care sector is comprised of two medical device manufacturers (Medtronic and St. Jude Medical) and one service provider (United Health Group).  All three have comprehensive 2011 CSR reports available online, and Medtronic and United Health Group were both included on 2012 Best 100 Corporate Citizens list.  Medtronic is the only company that includes a mandatory GRI Content Index for GRI-based reports as part of its document.  All three companies address the triple bottom line, while playing to their strengths promoting wellness and addressing disease.

Retail Sector: Best Buy, SuperValu, Target
Best Buy is the nation’s largest retailer of consumer electronics, SuperValu operates 2,400 grocery retail outlets across the country, and Target is the second largest discount retailer in the U.S. with over 1,700 stores.  Both Best Buy and Target appear on the on 2012 Best 100 Corporate Citizens list, and both have created reports conforming to the GRI Framework (Best Buy in 2011, 2010, 2009; Target in 2010, 2009).  Best Buy has a comprehensive report online that includes linked GRI content index and details on special initiatives such as their national electronic waste recycling program, which collected over 83 million pounds in 2011.  Best Buy also has an easily accessible archive, with reports going back to 2007.  Target has a comprehensive online CSR report called Here for Good that lists corporate environmental and social goals, and progress towards those goals.  In 2011 and 2010 CSR overviews were published, while 2009 was the last year that a full CSR report was done that included a GRI content index.  These, and reports going back to 2007 are available in the Target report archive.  SuperValu also produces a comprehensive CSR report with a focus on energy and water conservation, lowering their carbon footprint, a commitment to achieving zero waste, and a focus on consumer health and wellness.

Financial Sector: Ameriprise Financial, Thrivent Financial, U.S. Bancorp
U.S. Bancorp stands out in the financial sector for its 2011 report that focuses on community development, environmental sustainability and philanthropic activities.  U.S. Bancorp’s CSR reports going back to 2007 are available in an online archive; and though they have reported to the GRI standard in the past it has been separate from the annual CSR reports.  Ameriprise and Thrivent financial do not produce CSR reports.  Thrivent received green initiative and green strategy awards in 2009 and 2010, but it is difficult to find information describing those activities.  Thrivent’s 2011 Report to Members reports on philanthropy, but not other CSR areas.  Ameriprise covers their long history of philanthropic and volunteer activities online, but does not cover other CSR topics.

Other Sectors: 3M, Ecolab, Mosaic, Xcel Energy
Of the remaining companies, 3M and Mosaic are both listed on the 2012 Best 100 Corporate Citizens list, and both report to the GRI standard.  Mosaic in particular seems to have fully embraced the GRI Reporting Framework, and is using it to help implement strategic goals and performance indicators.  Mosaic’s 2011 Sustainability Report also includes a interactive GRI content index.  3M has a particularly robust sustainability website that includes a timeline, data dashboard, and product highlights.  Though Ecolab and Xcel energy don’t yet have 2011 CSR reports available they provide in-depth CSR information and use the GRI Framework.

With industry leaders such as those listed here, it is only a matter of time before we start to see a greater move to CSR reporting, which will more than likely follow the GRI model.  In order for organizations of all sizes to integrate the process behind reporting in an efficient matter, a command of the GRI Framework and the Principles for Defining Report Content and Ensuring Report Quality is a must!

Speed up the process by joining the GRI Certified Sustainability Reporting Course led by ISOS Group and in cooperation with us (3P), Sustainable Industries, the Minneapolis Net Impact Chapter and the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management July 19-20!

[Image credit: ©2003 Larry Kanfer Photography, Wikipedia]

3p Contributor

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