The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Case study: How Fifth Third promotes employee development

Fifth Third Bancorp is a diversified financial services company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the indirect parent company of Fifth Third Bank, which operates four main businesses: Commercial Banking, Branch Banking, Consumer Lending, and Wealth & Asset Management. Employee development programmes at Fifth Third are built upon a growth mindset, the belief that everyone’s basic abilities can be developed through dedication and work inspired by a thirst for learning.

This case study is based on the 2019 Environmental, Social & Governance Report by Fifth Third published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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In 2019, employees at Fifth Third completed nearly 640,000 hours of training  Tweet This!, an average of 32.5 hours per employee. In order to promote employee development Fifth Third took action to:

  • promote on-demand learning
  • develop leadership skills
  • provide early career support
  • implement the Women in Leadership programme
  • apply a performance management procedure
  • implement a talent review process

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2019 Environmental, Social & Governance Report Fifth Third identified a range of material issues, such as business ethics and responsible banking, customer privacy and information security, community financial and economic inclusion, sustainable financing, inclusion and diversity. Among these, promoting employee development stands out as a key material issue for Fifth Third.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards              

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Fifth Third engages with:

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement



·      Annual shareholder meeting

·      Quarterly earnings calls

·      Investor conferences and presentations

·      Meetings with investor relations team and executive management

·      SEC filings and dedicated investor relations website




·      Focus groups

·      Conversations through branch interactions and phone calls

·      Satisfaction surveys

·      Social media interactions

·      Customer helplines and corporate website



·      Engagement survey

·      Executive leadership communications

·      Learning programmes

·      Performance and development initiatives and corporate intranet






·      Community Advisory Forum (national and five statewide groups in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Florida and North Carolina)

·      Community needs survey and assessments

·      Financial education and outreach programmes

·      Philanthropic investments

·      Civic memberships

·      Volunteerism and non-profit board engagement and corporate website



·      Exams

·      Continuous monitoring and other meetings with senior management

·      Interactions through regulatory affairs and government affairs teams and regulator-sponsored events and initiatives

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Fifth Third engaged with its stakeholders through a survey that was distributed to representatives from stakeholder groups.

What actions were taken by Fifth Third to promote employee development?

In its 2019 Environmental, Social & Governance Report Fifth Third reports that it took the following actions for promoting employee development:

  • Promoting on-demand learning
  • On-demand learning is a newer point of emphasis for development at Fifth Third. Employees can take advantage of three different on-demand resources, including LinkedIn Learning, offering courses across business, technology and creative categories; Harvard ManageMentor, a learning and performance support resource for critical management skills; and Pluralsight, a technology skills-based platform focused on today’s most in-demand technologies and tools.
  • Developing leadership skills
  • Fifth Third’s leadership development aligns to its vision, strategic priorities and to the enrichment of four leadership capabilities: Create Connections, Be a Great Coach, Lead with Agility and Act Like an Owner. Fifth Third has developed a Learning Journey for each capability that includes an instructor-led learning simulation that is delivered virtually. The immersive learning simulations require Fifth Third’s leaders to demonstrate their leadership capabilities while grappling with the most difficult and defining challenges they will likely face as the company transforms. Learning Journeys, along with Learning Cafes, are flexible, social and grounded in how leaders prefer to learn: online, self-guided and interactive, with group interaction such as discussion boards and debrief sessions.
  • Providing early career support
  • For over 30 years, Fifth Third has advocated early career support. College leadership programmes provide foundational knowledge, skills and experience for recent college graduates. Full-time and internship opportunities are offered in 10 lines of business: Audit, Commercial, Credit, Consumer, Finance and Accounting, IT, Operations, Risk Management, Wealth & Asset Management and Strategic Projects and Analytics. Early career programmes provide visibility to Fifth Third’s operations through rotational experiences, structured education to develop leadership capabilities, exposure to seasoned performers and other early career learners, and resources to support strong performance and development. Over a two-year period, participants have access to formal learning programmes, such as consultative skills, building relationships using DiSC assessments, emotional intelligence and presentation skills. They also participate in the Connect@53 challenge, helping them establish their first 53 connections at the bank. Fifth Third also supports their growth and development through structured community service and volunteerism opportunities, as well as an introduction to its business resource groups.
  • Implementing the Women in Leadership programme
  • The Women in Leadership programme is an integrated development experience that is targeted to high-performing senior female leaders who have significant impact on Fifth Third’s success. The programme is focused on accelerating readiness to lead at the next level and, ultimately, the C-suite. Forty women leaders participated in the programme since its inception, including 11 in 2019. Participants are challenged to look inward, outward and forward to leverage their leadership capabilities through skill building, coaching and exposure to enhance the achievement of business outcomes. Through this experiential opportunity, these female leaders gain increased insights to lead authentically through understanding and promotion of their distinctive strengths and talents.
  • Applying a performance management procedure
  • Fifth Third’s performance management procedure aims to positively impact and optimise both employee and organisational performance. The Fifth Third Compass provides the strategic direction and forms the foundation for how Fifth Third sets expectations and manages performance. The procedure highlights the importance of holding regular performance and development conversations to make sure employees understand expectations, check-in on progress and exchange feedback. This mechanism culminates with a performance review. While managers drive many elements of the procedure, employees take an active role in engaging in conversations to achieve results. Guiding principles of these conversations include:
    • Balance both WHAT and HOW results are achieved.
    • Regularly check-in on progress.
    • Prioritise and align work to business needs.
    • Ask openly for and accept feedback.
    • Demonstrate a commitment to development.
  • Implementing a talent review process
  • Fifth Third’s annual talent review process evaluates employees’ talent strengths and gaps to enable achievement of short- and long-term business priorities. The review process is facilitated by the Human Capital team with the following intended outcomes:
    • Assess Fifth Third’s talent to identify employees with greater potential to take on roles of increased responsibility.
    • Focus on increasing representation of diverse talent.
    • Determine development gaps between current capabilities and what is needed in the next role to target development actions.
    • Identify most critical talent actions to track for accountability.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standards addressed in this case are:

1) Disclosure 404-1 Average hours of training per year per employee

2) Disclosure 404-2 Programs for upgrading employee skills and transition assistance programs

3) Disclosure 404-3 Percentage of employees receiving regular performance and career development reviews


Disclosure 404-1 Average hours of training per year per employee corresponds to:

Disclosure 404-2 Programs for upgrading employee skills and transition assistance programs corresponds to:

Disclosure 404-3 Percentage of employees receiving regular performance and career development reviews corresponds to:


80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.

FBRH GRI Standards Certified, IEMA & CIM recognised Sustainability Course | Venue: London LSE

By registering for the next 2-day FBRH GRI Standards Certified, IEMA & CIM recognised course you will be taking the first step in gaining the many benefits of sustainability reporting.

Most importantly, you will gain the knowledge to use the GRI Standards, project manage your own first-class sustainability report and:

  • Identify your most important impacts on the Environment, Economy and Society
  • Begin taking solid, focused, all-round sustainability action ASAP



1) This case study is based on published information by Fifth Third, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:


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