MSc students from DCU Business School study ESB annual reports

This week, we’re featuring two guest blog posts by students on the MSc in Accounting at Dublin City University Business School (DCUBS), who studied ESB’s annual reports as part of their coursework.

Back in 2016, we launched our back catalogue of ESB’s annual reports online – every ESB annual report, dating back to its foundation in 1927, can be found here. These posts illustrate how useful instant online access to such material can be, for academic as well as casual researchers. And thanks to the hard work of these students, we’ve now learned something new about ESB!

Supporting communities, the environment and much more: ESB and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Helen Ruane, MSc Accounting student, DCUBS

ESB has long been an enthusiastic contributor to the greater good in Ireland, constantly taking into account the community, employees, other stakeholders and the environment. One incredibly successful initiative is its ‘Energy for Generations Fund’, which funds strategic projects aimed at addressing some of the key social issues facing the country today. In 2016, over €2 million was allocated to various projects throughout the island of Ireland, as illustrated below:

ESB Annual Report, 2016

So what is CSR?

Activities that focus on welfare, wellbeing and sustainability are referred to as ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ activities, or ‘CSR’. Though CSR has no universal definition, that which is provided by the European Commission in 2017, captures its essence:

A concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis.

CSR reporting emerged in the late 1980s with the intent that companies to provide information on their CSR initiatives. This post takes a brief look at CSR disclosures in ESB’s annual reports from 1996 to 2016.

How has ESB reported on CSR?

There are three ways in which presentation of a CSR disclosure can change; by size, changing location and the use/discontinuance of graphics and images. A brief overview from ESB annual reports over the past two decades is outlined below:

Size of Disclosure
In 2001, the disclosure word count increased by 103%. Looking at the overall trend, the word count attributed to CSR disclosures increased by a staggering 746% over the 21-year period.

Location of Disclosure
Currently, CSR disclosures appear in ESB’s annual reports in their own independent section, alongside the table of contents, highlights, chief executive’s report, chairman’s report and strategy sections. This is a vast divergence from previous years, for example, in 1999, when it was limited to its own section.

Use of Imagery
Approximately 20 images and graphs appear in the 2016 annual report relating to CSR disclosures. This contrasts significantly to 1996 where no such images or graphs appear.

ESB understands that a picture does speak 1,000 words and has increasingly included images and graphs as an integral part of their CSR disclosures.

Take for example the company’s ‘Energy for Generations Fund’ which illustrates effectively the number, type, and location of projects currently being undertaken by the fund.


The points above suggest there has been a substantial and positive change of presentation in CSR disclosures within ESB; both in changing size and location and the introduction and increasing use of graphs and images. The potential reasons for such change may include the introduction and evolution of guiding frameworks on CSR, legislation, current events, and the most recent global financial crisis.

With thanks to Dr Martin Quinn, Associate Professor and Head of Accounting at DCU, who got in touch to share these posts with us. If you are an academic who would like to get in touch to use ESB’s archival material in your coursework, please contact us at

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