Thursday last week was a big day for corporate sustainability reporting, with both Carillion and M&S launching their 2014 Reports.

It’s so easy for people to be cynical about sustainability reporting – and far too many people in the sustainability world are just that! ‘Greenwash’, ‘self-serving’, ‘not material’, ‘not transparent’, ‘boring’ – these are just some of the comments I get about such reports.

I guess I read about 30 sustainability reports a year, and contribute directly to about half a dozen – including both the M&S and Carillion Reports. I admit to being a bit geeky about this, but it’s one of the things that enables me to stand up in public meetings and reaffirm the role of multinational companies in playing their part in securing a more sustainable economy.

It’s also true that I’d love all companies (but particularly Forum for the Future’s Partners) to be a little bit more upfront about the things that haven’t worked out, as well as the things that have, about failure, as much as about success. I know how hard this is, but a genuine ‘warts and all’ approach would probably double the number of people reading these reports – which is, sadly, very small.

So, if you have a moment, check out both the Carillion Report (Sustainability is Our Business) and the M&S Report (Plan A Report 2014).

The Carillion Report was launched at the heart of the Kings Cross mega-regeneration scheme, in which it played a big role. Truly inspiring stuff about community engagement, skills and apprenticeships – with a commitment from Carillion to create 5,000 directly-employed apprenticeships between now and 2020.

The M&S Report will be properly launched on June 30th, and will share with its key stakeholders reflections on that 2010 commitment to be ‘the world’s most sustainable major retailer’ by 2015. (It’s done an excellent blog on this here.)

One of the many links between these two companies, operating in very different sectors, is their strong support for the work of Business in the Community. Completely by chance, I was in Belfast on Thursday evening last week to celebrate the achievement of responsible businesses across Northern Ireland at a truly inspiring awards ceremony. Most of the finalists in Northern Ireland were SMEs – and most of them could never imagine producing sustainability reports like those of M&S and Carillion. But it’s all part of the same combined corporate effort – and whatever your misgivings about the role of business as a whole, I can only tell you that the world would be a much better place if all companies, big and small, shared a similar vision.