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Corporate Sustainability Drives Public Confidence, Survey Finds

A primary driver of public confidence in a company is its efforts to communicate and deliver on corporate sustainability goals, according to a survey conducted by Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

The online survey of 1,000 respondents in the US show a clear link between corporate communications around sustainability efforts and corporate performance and reputation, Hill+Knowlton says.

Some 91 percent of respondents said it was important for corporations to behave sustainably in 2013 and beyond, and that such behavior was critical to companies’ long-term success.

Transparency and communication were also highly valued by respondents of the survey. About 81 percent believe companies should report on their sustainability efforts on an ongoing basis rather than through a static report. Some 84 percent of respondents said a company can regain public trust through honest and transparent reporting of its efforts to be more sustainable, even if that reporting shows the company has fallen short of its goal.

Of those surveyed, 84 percent believe greater visibility into corporate sustainability efforts will increase trust in a company.

Corporations that report citizenship activities can gain a higher level of public trust, and in turn, have a greater license to operate, says Robert Ludke, H+K Strategies senior vice president and head of the firm’s governance and sustainability practice.

An increasing number of US companies are publishing sustainability reports. However, a separate report by the Global Reporting Initiative published this month found US companies are less likely to obtain third-party assurance, an independent validation of a sustainability report’s contents, than their global peers.

About 53 percent of all companies in the S&P 500 Index and Fortune 500 published sustainability reports in 2011 — up from 19 percent the year before. However, only 10 percent (26 out of 269 reporters) of GRI framework sustainability reports obtained external assurance in 2011, according to the report. The international percentage is much higher at 38 percent.

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