Companies are using integrated online reports to engage stakeholders
By Patricia Martinez, Expedition PR
Sustainability reporting has evolved from a “nice-to have” to “must-have” for Fortune 500 companies, in addition to the obligatory financial reports. While tracking and disclosing sustainability data can be cumbersome, disclosing sustainability information has evolved as welcomed channel to build trust with stakeholders.
According to the report 2012 Corporate/ESG/Sustainability/Responsibility Reporting – Does It Matter?” , published by the New York based Governance & Accountability Institute, “an increasing number of corporate managers and boards are recognizing the many benefits that measuring, managing, and disclosing their strategies and performance on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors can have for their companies.”
Stakeholders and consumers are more demanding companies to demonstrate their commitment to socio-economic and environmental causes. The Nielsen study “Global, Socially Conscious Consumer 2012” , a survey that included more than 28,000 online respondent from 56 countries around the world, found the following information:
- Two thirds (66%) of consumers around the world say they prefer to buy products and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society.
- They prefer to work for these companies (62%)
- They would invest in these companies (59%).
- 46% say they are willing to pay extra for products and services from these companies.
Building trust through transparency
How can existing and potential consumers, employees and investors know about a company’s sustainability commitment ?
The chart below (figure 1) shows that consumer still trust recommendations from people they know more than any other type of communication resource. At the same time the Internet has an increasing information source: 76% of the respondents trust consumer opinions posted online; 65% trust branded websites.
As financial performance is part of the sustainability reporting, an increasing number of companies turn to integrated reporting, publishing sustainability and financial reports at the same time The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) defines it as “a process that results in communication by an organization, most visibly a periodic integrated report, about value creation over time.
An integrated report is a concise communication about how an organization’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects, in the context of its external environment, lead to the creation of value over the short, medium and long term” .
By bringing integrated reporting online create a platform for dialogue. That’s why social networks such as Pinterest are incorporating online reporting resources for their users (see figure 2 below).
CSR Europe, a business reference point for social responsibility issues, “ states that new technologies and corporate websites introduce opportunities for two-ways dialogue with stakeholder groups. “Clearly, the Internet cannot replace traditional forms of stakeholder engagement, but web-based tools such as interactive surveys, webchats, wikis, blogs and social networks can be extremely useful in enabling companies to enhance the interaction with existing stakeholders and reach new audiences in new ways”, CSR concludes in their paper “Trends and Best Practice in Online CSR/Sustainability Reporting”.
While offering content and an improved online user experience are great ways to attract audiences to integrated online reports , it is important to establish a continuous dialogue with them that goes beyond a simple site visit. The company’s reputation and financial stability might depend on it.