Corporate social responsibility is becoming a key priority for a growing number of Australian companies.
But many organisations are failing to uphold those core values when communicating with stakeholders.
The 2018 Deloitte Annual Review of the State of CSR in Australia and New Zealand revealed organisations have significantly improved their CSR practices over the last decade.
Early introduction of sustainability strategies has also driven better financial outcomes, while highlighting the changing priorities of business.
But industry commentators have criticised some corporations of being ‘all talk and no action’, dismissing their corporate social responsibility reports as being little better than window dressing when a company’s good deeds are touted in paper-heavy PDFs and glossy plastic folders.
The key message for organisations to take away from this response is as simple as: practice what you preach. And it starts with communicating in a way that supports the CSR and sustainability efforts of your company.
We have researched four key ways to improve your sustainability communications and inspire a new and greener direction in your company’s stakeholder engagement.
Focus on the Facts
When reporting on corporate social responsibility initiatives, it is important to focus only on information relevant to the topic.
For example, improving customer satisfaction might be a high priority for the company, but the CSR report may not be the best platform to promote it.
As a result of misguided reporting, some Australian businesses have been criticised for being ‘just aware of, rather than integrating CSR into what they do’.
The consensus among industry commentators is CSR reporting should be detailed, genuine, transparent and accountable.
Rather than broad, sweeping statements with no commitment to change, CSR reporting should communicate how the company intends to accomplish its objectives.
And where CSR achievements have fallen short of projections, actions to rectify the situation and strategies to improve future performance should be clearly defined.
Go Digital – Save a Rainforest
And one of the best ways for companies to achieve that is with digital reports.
Research estimates 15 billion trees are cut down globally each year. That’s over 41-million trees every single day.
And paper production is one of the largest contributors of deforestation.
It is estimated 35 per cent or 5.25-billion of those trees are used in the paper industry. Each tree is capable of producing an average of 16.67 reams of copy paper. Just one ream – containing 500 sheets – uses up to 6 percent of a tree.
Corporations are among the biggest culprits for needlessly using paper to print documents, including dense reports and PDFs.
For companies wanting to promote their CSR and sustainability initiatives, it can be counterproductive or even detrimental to be seen wasting such precious resources.
Environmentally friendly digital reporting such as that offered by Green Reports™ provides companies with interactive online reports that significantly reduce the need for printed hard copies.
As well as being mobile friendly and capturing valuable data about audience behaviour, digital reports allow companies to demonstrate their commitment to CSR and ESG initiatives.
Green Reports™ also allows companies to provide digital application forms, offset unavoidable paper usage to reduce carbon emissions, and brand documents with the Green Reports logo to demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability.
The objective of CSR reporting is not only to impress responsible investors with good environmental social and governance factors, but evidence shows prioritising and promoting CSR benchmarks improves financial outcomes for companies.
To illustrate this further, in another research project, Why Green is the New Gold, showed that “by turning sustainability initiatives into drivers of measurable value, helped CEO’s outperform their peers”.
The Accenture Driving Value from Integrated Sustainability report studied 275 Fortune 1000 companies. It found the top 50 ranked sustainability performers had 16 per cent higher shareholder returns over three years, compared to the bottom 50. And over five years, that figure grew to 38 per cent.
A Fronesys report revealed investors are now using this information as ammunition in investment strategies, knowing the best sustainability performers are more likely to make the most money.
In light of this, the EQS white paper ‘The New Communication Frontier: Environmental, Social, and Governance’, warns of the consequences of failing to communicate sustainability goals and achievements. It reminds companies that anyone making investment decisions based on ESG and CSR data might assume a company is engaging in poor practices if they can’t find relevant supporting information.
Establishing a solid digital strategy and building an opt-in contact database allows companies to maintain regular, and valuable, contact with a broad stakeholder base.
Offset Carbon Emissions
Operating a modern business of any size results in a degree of environmental pollution and carbon emissions.
But companies have the opportunity to offset carbon emissions with various buy-back initiatives now available from suppliers, as well as recycling and reusing resources where possible.
The University of Western Australia reported in 2011 that printing double-sided on just 100 reams of paper could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than one tonne, and save two trees from being cut down.
Green Reports™ calculates carbon emissions from the production of each of its commissioned projects, and purchases carbon credits equivalent to that value to aid with reforestation efforts.