Transparency in communications is a key indicator of a socially responsible company – more important than philanthropy or NGO partnerships – according to a corporate responsibility and sustainability communications report by Edelman.
The report, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Communications: Who’s Listening? Who’s Leading? What Matters Most? was developed in collaboration with the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, Net Impact and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Forty-five percent of survey respondents agreed that communicating both positive and negative performance ranked among the three most important activities for a socially responsible company to engage in.
“More companies are realizing that authenticity is the key to effective corporate responsibility communications,” said Peggy Connolly, communications director at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. “This research reveals the importance of companies being real, relevant, and responsive to key stakeholders-internally with employees and externally with NGOs and others.”
The report also finds that stakeholders expect companies to lead – not just manage risk – on key issues.
Investors are increasingly looking at corporate responsibility as a proxy for good management and view solid practices as a mark of a healthy approach to risk and opportunities. Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents said they were more inclined to purchase products from companies they considered socially responsible.
Study participants also agreed that directing corporate responsibility-focused communications at employees is empowering for them and a company’s programs. “Employees are a company’s most valuable resource when it comes to putting corporate responsibility initiatives to work,” said Liz Maw, Executive Director, Net Impact. “This research highlights just how important it is to communicate a company’s responsible business practices to employees.”
Corporate communicators could do much more to leverage responsible business practices as a recruiting tool, especially since today’s job seekers tend to research a company’s performance in this area. In fact, 62% of survey respondents report that their recruitment materials failed to emphasize this information.
The report is based on a survey of 3,100 global opinion leaders, interviews with NGOs and multilaterals, regulators, media and executives from global Fortune 500 companies, and a survey of Net Impact’s international membership.