Survey of S&P 100 Identifies Best Practices for Sustainability Communications

Survey of S&P 100 Identifies Best Practices for Sustainability Communications

Industries that have been under high levels of government regulation and public scrutiny have the most effective sustainability communications, according to a review of S&P 100 companies.

Interactive marketing agency imc2 looked at the 86 Companies on the S&P 100 that have some level of sustainability communication, concluding that companies overall would benefit from increased stakeholder engagement and transparency. Imc2 argues that providing more information is one of the best routes to effective communications.

Such efforts much first encompass all aspects of sustainability, covering the environment as well as employees, products and communities. Imc2 also says sustainability messages need to be weaved into a company's overall identity, not being relegated, for example, to a hard-to-locate portion of a company's website that seems disconnected from its other messages.

On the stakeholder engagement front, imc2 advocates providing a constant flow of information to both draw in new stakeholders and keep existing stakeholders informed. Online tools like blogs, newsletters and news releases can provide regular updates, while an annual sustainability report with updates throughout the year can show the big picture of a company's sustainability efforts. Interactive features on websites also provide more chances for stakeholders to provide input, whether its adding comments about certain practices or asking questions others might also want to know the answer to.

“Although a non-financial report is a critical first step in terms of understanding a company's overall impact, there is considerably more to communicating about sustainability,” said Beth Bengtson, imc2's vice president of corporate social responsibility. “As long as sustainability is a topic separate from a company's core messaging, it will not have the full impact it could.”

The study lumps companies into three groups: Leading, emerging and lagging players. The automotive, forestry, chemical and pharmaceutical industries are seen as setting the standard, most likely because government and the public have been looking closer at their operations, making it beneficial, or forcing them, to be more open about what they're doing.

Industries in the emerging group, which have made progress but still have room for improvement, include the mining, energy, transportation, shipping, technology, communications, consumer product and retail industries. Bringing up the rear are financial services, media and entertainment, which have received some of the lowest levels of sustainability scrutiny of all the industries.
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