Investors and stakeholders are showing increasing interest in responsible business practices, particularly in the areas of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that 52% of public companies surveyed publish voluntary corporate sustainability or ESG reports outside of their SEC filings. While this type of reporting is currently voluntary, the SEC is expected to propose mandatory reporting rules this year.
The ESG report shines a light on the strategies and activities a business undertakes to be accountable and responsible. While the annual report may have captured some of these elements in the past, the ESG report focuses on making a positive impact on society.
Implementing an ESG reporting process entails extra work and coordination across business functions. For corporate communicators, the challenge is to hit the right balance of content and to transform data into compelling, human stories.
What is an ESG Report?
An ESG Report (and accompanying website) captures the environmental, social and governance impacts that arise from company business activities. Before embarking on ESG reporting, the strategy, framework, selected metrics and tracking plan must be in place.
What should be included?
Right now there’s flexibility in the scope and content of ESG reporting, but investors and rating agencies typically want to see decision-useful information. It’s tempting to cram the report full of success stories. Remember, longer does not mean better. Content will vary by industry, but may include:
Environmental: Climate change; waste reduction; sustainable supply chain; Green initiatives
Social: Community engagement and philanthropy; diversity, equity and inclusion; corporate values: health and well-being
Governance: Corporate governance; ethical business practices; information security and data privacy; board diversity
Telling the story with impact
Evaluate the ESG issues that are most material to your company and be transparent about performance and opportunities for improvement. Then show how and why your business operates with integrity.
Consumers today are more environmentally conscious than ever. Businesses are learning that sustainability and environmental awareness can drive purchase decisions. A recent study found that 58 percent of consumers consider a company’s impact on the environment in purchase decisions and are more likely to pick companies that practice sustainable habits.
Your employees care about this too. Earth Day is April 22 and is an excellent opportunity to showcase your company’s eco-friendly initiatives and promote green behaviors with employees.
Here are a few easy-to-introduce tactics that can reduce your business carbon foot print, save money and build engagement with employees:
Promote your company’s recycling and green programs.
Ask for volunteers for a “green team” to make recommendations about green initiatives.
Incentivize carpooling or car sharing programs for employees.
Promote electronic document usage to reduce paper waste.
Host a lunch and learn with a guest speaker from a community or government organization to discuss emerging technologies or eco-initiatives in your area.
Provide recycling collection areas and educate employees about what can be recycled.
Instead of stocking disposable water bottles, provide employees with reusable water bottles with your company logo.
Sponsor a community clean-up day just for employees.
After graduating from college, a friend of mine moved to Colorado. As an outdoorsman, he couldn’t wait to move out west. To fund his outdoor hobbies (skiing, fishing, hiking), he got a job working for a finance company. He had recently attained a promotion and was doing well but he felt like he wasn’t being fulfilled. He wanted to do something to give back to the environment. So he’s making a career change. He recently was accepted to law school where he will study Natural Resource and Environmental Law.
He’s not alone in seeking a career that’s focused on purpose, not paycheck. Pew Research reports that millennials are the “most sustainable generation to date.” Sustainability is not a short term trend. Sustainability and green initiatives are important issues for today’s workforce. Employees expect the company that they work for to do what it can to help the environment.
Earth Day is April 22. This is a great time to promote your company’s green initiatives. Here are five easy to introduce strategies that will improve efficiency, reduce your carbon foot print, save money and build engagement with employees:
Incentivize carpooling or car sharing programs for employees
Promote electronic document usage to reduce paper waste
Provide recycling collection areas with signs about what can be recycled
Reduce plastic waste. Instead of stocking disposable water bottles, provide employees with reusable water bottles with your company logo
Inform employees about your company’s recycling and green programs. Ask for volunteers for a “green team” to make recommendations about green initiatives.
Do you ever wonder why certain people in human history have been so influential? Why Martin Luther King, Jr.? Why the Wright brothers? MLK wasn’t the only African American that suffered racial persecution. The Wright brothers weren’t the only ones interested in flight (in fact, they were at a disadvantage when it comes to funding and education). So why are certain people, or companies, able to be so much more successful than others, who are fundamentally no different? It’s because they think, act and communicate differently than everyone else.
Take a look at this chart. This is the Golden Circle, as inspired by business author Simon Sinek, and it explains how we act as businesses and leaders. Let’s define the terms: What: Every single company in the world knows what they do. Simple. How: Some of those companies know how they do it. Internal processes, etc. Why: What is your cause, your purpose, your belief? Why do you do what you do? Most companies act from the outside-in, because the What and the How are the easiest parts of the circle to define. For example:
What: We make personal computers.
How: They’re user friendly, affordable, and reliable.
Why: To drive revenue, thus making the company successful.
Following the circle in this manner is a roadmap for… failure. It’s simply not inspiring, whether it’s to your employees or your customers. “We make great computers that you can afford, therefore you should buy one” is their sales pitch. I mean sure, it might work to an extent, but it’s not a sustainable business model. Profit or revenue can never be the Why of your business. Profit isn’t why you work, it’s a result of your work. The Why isn’t the end result, it’s your company’s heartbeat. It’s your true industry leaders, like Apple (in personal entertainment/technology), that see the circle from the inside-out:
Why: In everything we do, we challenge the status quo and think differently.
How: We’ll create beautiful products that are simple and effective, no matter the cost.
What: We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?
Customers buy the why. Customers want to buy products from a company that believes what they believe. And that’s why we won’t just buy computers from Apple. We’ll also buy their ipads, ipods, speakers, monitors, etc. The company communicates to the world in a way that inspires their customers. You might be saying to yourself, “I’m not an entrepreneur or business owner, so this doesn’t really apply to me.” Wrong. We can all use this circle to help us communicate and act more genuinely with our colleagues. By doing so, we will produce a more motivated, engaged team of employees. But it starts with uniting everyone under the Why. Why are your colleagues getting out of bed and coming into work in the morning? Hopefully, it’s not just for the paycheck. Martin Luther King, Jr. used the Golden Circle to great effect and he wasn’t selling a product. MLK attracted 250,000 people to show up at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. It’s an astounding number, especially when you consider he didn’t have tools to spread the word like email and social media. But there’s a reason why so many people wanted to come hear him talk that day. It wasn’t to hear a plan on how to fix America’s racial divide. It was to hear him say “I believe.”
What’s at the core of your company? Are your core values entrenched in your team? We help with that! Let me know what we can do for you by reaching me at email@example.com.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog here at Insight Strategic Communications, you will know that we love two things: Telling our clients’ stories and doing so in a cost efficient way.
That’s why I loved what Spotify did when they unveiled their “Year in Music” infographic series this month. But before I dive into this, I need to explain a little more about Spotify first.
That insight is exactly what Spotify used when it compiled its year in music. Who were the most played artists? More interestingly, who were the most played artists during the summer? And even more interesting, who were the most played artists in Scotland on Sept. 18, the day the country voted to remain part of the United Kingdom? These are fascinating small details that open our eyes to the coolness of data mining.For those unaware, Spotify is a commercial music-streaming service, like Pandora, except that it allows users to search for any song, artist or genre in their vast catalogue to play on demand (Pandora does not allow users to select specific songs, only “stations.”) So while Pandora users are more likely to discover new music through the stations they listen to, Spotify users are more likely to know what they want to listen to and play their favorite songs. This is important, because it gives Spotify more specific insight into each and every one of their users.
But where Spotify really nails it is the personal infographic that I can see about myself, or that you can see about yourself. Every Spotify user is able to see their own data, whether you pay for Spotify’s premium service or not. In reviewing my personal Year in Music, I learned things I never knew about myself (I use Spotify the most on Friday, for example). Bottom line — Spotify used data to tell a story about me. That is cool.
I was once told by a business leader, “If we can tell our client more about them than they know about themselves, I can pretty much guarantee they are going to trust us and want to do business.” Spotify has done exactly this, and all using information they already tracked. Their biggest costs were probably to web designers who made the info attractive and available — a small price to pay when it comes to making a personal connection with millions of customers.
We can all learn from this. Is there anything we can learn from our customers by looking back on our work for them? It’s the end of the year, so it’s a good time if you have a break in work to evaluate your data and make your plans for 2015. If you think it’s time for a fresh approach for the upcoming year and need some help, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the weather is warming up here down south in March, a friend and I recently decided to dust off the golf clubs and take to the course. We searched online for some places to play, hoping to find a relatively cheap round with decent reviews. We found a course that fit our criteria, except with one negative that everyone in their reviews seemed to mention — a lack of signage. “Weird,” I said to my golf partner. “I think for a price this good, a lack of signage isn’t a big deal.” Boy was I wrong. Upon our arrival at the parking lot, we walked around for five minutes just trying to find the door to enter the pro shop. Once we’d paid and were ready to go, well, we didn’t really know where to go. There were no signs pointing to a tee box or Hole #1. The experience was frustrating to say the least. There were some cart paths along the course that forked, and there was no indication as to which way golfers were supposed to go. It ended up putting a damper on our experience that day. Some simple signs around the course are something that would be such an easy and cost-effective solution for the course’s problems. They don’t need anything fancy, just simple communications to golfers to direct them through their round.
The experience made me think about how much we use signs, one of the simplest and most effective forms of communication. The signs direct our roads, our sidewalks, our shopping experiences and countless other aspects of our lives. People pay attention to them, they are cost-effective, and they can look good. We try to keep this in mind with our clients when we are helping them communicate a project that affects massive amounts of people in their offices. The posters we design and implement for them aren’t the foundation of the communication effort (it’s unwise to pack them with too much information). However, they can be instrumental in guiding employees to discover more about any kind of internal communication, whether it’s a special event, new or updated benefits information or any other announcement.
In early 2012, we had the opportunity to work with DeKalb County, GA. on their “DeKalb Recycles” marketing campaign. After doing some situation analysis, DeKalb County had discovered that their recycling services were being underutilized by the community. Recycling varied anywhere from 5% to 56% participation in certain areas. The recycling program needed a jump start on a limited budget.
Our goals for the campaign were simple but very important. They included informing residents of the recycling program, educating them on why they should recycle and achieving a noticeable increase in participation in DeKalb’s recycling program. It was also vital that we put in place a sustainable foundation that could be built on over time.
In order to make the “DeKalb Recycles” campaign successful we explored some cost effective ways of promotion. We selected key audiences such as government employees, community organizations, schools, and local media to help us spread the word. Other tactics included social media and a DeKalb Recycles website that provided information about the program and how to sign up. Through these avenues we introduced the tagline Sort, Set, Save. Sort, Set, Save showed residents what could be recycled, how to sort these items, where to deliver their recyclables and how they were helping save their community. To eliminate the monetary barrier to joining the recycling program, we were able to eliminate the bin/bag fee. The idea was to ask non-recyclers “Why not give it a try?”
Within three months of the launch of “DeKalb Recycles,” DeKalb County had received over 4,000 new requests for recycling service. This number well exceeded our projected participation expectations. DeKalb Recycles was a success that continues today.