Lots of companies are attracted to sustainability and decide to commit to it. Fewer see the value of certifying their sustainability commitment with a CSR report. But fewer still fail to signal the fruits of their labor (and reporting) to their consumers.
The contents of a CSR report almost never reach consumers’ eyes because they’re not visible on the company’s website and they aren’t relatable or engaging. Companies write CSR reports for their stakeholders, but few take the critical steps to engage consumers in their accomplishments (and shortcomings!). And so they leave tremendous value on the table.
SAP is releasing a new website this week to share its sustainability efforts with the aim of spurring conversations and feedback. “[The days of] putting a PDF on your website and waiting for people to find it and download it are over. We want to use technology to get stakeholders’ feedback and input,” says Peter Graf, SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer. Read more.
- If you do nothing else, put a link to your report on your homepage. Incredibly basic, but often overlooked. Campbell’s has a link to its widely praised CSR report on its homepage, which helps signal its commitment to sustainability. Companies with strong social responsibility programs like Burt’s Bees and CVS are leaking air by burying their initiatives on another page or corporate site.
- Don’t write a report. Reports are read in the boardroom and the classroom, not by consumers and employees. Create something that celebrates what your company has done and gets stakeholders excited about the future challenges you’re set to tackle.
- Signal your social mission on your homepage by sharing what you care about and the impact your company has made. There’s room for more than just product and sale signs on the homepage–these aren’t the only consumer carrots.
- Who you want to reach? Maybe you have two or three strategies that relate to different stakeholders. Timberland shoes come with a simplified sustainability report in the form of a ‘nutrition label’ that speaks to consumers primarily.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. Seventh Generation is a paragon of sustainable business, in large part because it experiments and learns from sub-par ideas. A couple of years ago the company ran a contest to reward people who read its sustainability report and submitted an inspiring idea, but it came across as a veiled attempt to pay people to read the CSR report.
Ditch the report. Execute, measure and share the message with as much creativity and experimentation as you want.