The survey of 150 organisations in France, Germany, the UK and the US by analyst AMR Research found most spending on corporate social responsibility (CSR) is around social (33 percent), environmental (27 percent) and responsible sourcing (26 percent).

Some of the key drivers for this CSR investment are regulatory compliance, strengthening the corporate brand and reputation, business opportunities, customer satisfaction – and even moral imperative.

But Nigel Montgomery, director of European research at AMR, said the data and information needed to prioritise CSR investment and measure its impact is currently spread across organisations in disparate systems and databases.

Montgomery explained: “If you asked CIOs what keeps them awake at night, it wouldn’t be this. Very few companies are getting information out of their enterprise resource planning [ERP] system to help with CSR. How can you measure your carbon footprint when you have no method of measuring the data?”

Jeff Legg, head of IS at chemical company Scott Bader, said IT departments also have a role to play in contributing to CSR targets such as reducing carbon footprints and increasing energy efficiency across the company.

He said: “One of my aims is paperless trading, getting information on the desktop without paper, standard reporting tools so that information is easily available on the desktop, switching PCs off overnight, and reducing the air-conditioning used for hardware.”

Abbey Ling, an assessor at GoodCorporation, a for-profit company that runs a CSR accreditation scheme, said CSR is rising up the corporate agenda as organisations realise there are business benefits.

She said: “People are realising competition-wise it’s good to be seen as an ethical business. It’s something you integrate into the company and is core to the way you work. It’s not a one-off initiative. Companies shouldn’t have huge corporate social responsibility departments trying to get people to do stuff.”

Travis White, senior vice president of marketing at ERP vendor Lawson, which sponsored the AMR Research report, agreed. “I do believe there are some companies doing it as a marketing programme… but companies are now seeing there are very good business reasons for investing in CSR initiatives,” he said.

White said Lawson is also planning to integrate reporting capability on CSR issues such as energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, customer privacy complaints and workforce diversity into some of its ERP and business intelligence tools by the end of the year.