How Interactive is your Environmental Reporting?

An article on – ”Fortune 50 Lacks Transparency in Web-Based Environmental Reporting raises some really interesting questions”.

The article states that the majority of Fortune 50 corporations use the Internet to disclose some information on their environmental performance but most are missing opportunities to involve stakeholders, tap the interactive potential of the web, and provide transparency in their reporting, new research suggests.

Researchers at Brigham Young University and KDPaine and Partners set out to test a new model for transparency,  a hot topic in the field of corporate communications. After studying environmental information reported in the websites of F50 companies, researchers found that a minority allow for any two-way interaction with stakeholders, which could inform and enhance the type of information they report.

“Make it more interactive,” said Bradley Rawlins, the report’s co-author and chair of Brigham Young’s department of communications. “Open it up and let people comment because you might think you’re doing a good job but until your stakeholders say this is what they need, you don’t know.”

The transparency standard researchers used to measure corporate environmental reporting includes four tenets:

  1. Stakeholder participation in defining the type of information being reported;
  2. Usefulness of information;
  3. Balanced reporting that holds the company accountable for their performance; and a
  4. Sense of openness in providing information that is easily available, easy to understand and timely.

Measuring the Transparency of Environmental Sustainability Reporting Through Websites of Fortune 50 Corporations” found that few companies take advantage of the Interactive tools afforded by the Internet, such as blogs or discussion forums. Most reporting is static and one-way. For instance, the web allows for real-time reporting but all companies instead only report progress once a year.

Only 38 percent offered evidence of stakeholder involvement in the development of the reports. Most environmentally reporting was two to three mouse clicks away from the home page. 

Many companies didn’t score well in providing balanced information or accountability. For example, only 36 percent reporting some sort of unfavourable result but only 6 percent included an explanation. Most lacked context to help readers understand the results. The results of only 13 percent of companies included third party verification.

Actions to take:

1. Revisit your disclosure practices.

2. I would get a number of SME’s in the same room to brainstorm better ways to disclose information. People from departments such as Corporate Communication, Training and Marketing. Invite consultants skilled in social media, corporate reporting, NLP and accelerated learning to the table.

3. Read books such as the New Rules of Marketing and PR – How to use News releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing & Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott.

4. Benchmark what other companies are doing, not activity benchmarking but rather best practice benchmarking.

5. Alternatively commission research into Points 1 – 4. Reputation is a reflection of what others think about you. Finding ways to engage stakeholders and to communicate better is money well spent, as stakeholders will then understand your organization better and will be able to formulate better opinions.