Sustainability: How to meet the needs of multiple target groups
By Helena Wennergren
An ever-increasing focus on sustainability means that more target groups want to understand companies' approach to sustainability and if the work that they do actually make any difference. The sustainability report can be one source for them, but the corporate website is likely to be the first source that stakeholders turn to.
This makes it necessary to provide different types of information, to meet the needs of multiple target groups. So what should you focus on?
Analysts want the hard facts
The need for sustainability information is moving from strategies to data. In the past years, the importance of understanding a company's sustainability strategy has increased. However, the need for not only understanding the company's strategy but also seeing hard facts and data on how they are meeting their targets have increased. Sustainability data - and environmental data specifically - is more important than the strategy among investors, analysts and journalists. In our Capital Market Survey 2021, this target group rated the importance of sustainability strategy 3.64 (on a scale from 1-5), and environmental performance data had an average of 3.73.
By presenting data, users can gain a better understanding of not only what the company sets out to do but also how they actually deliver on it. This assumes that tangible targets are defined. Together with targets and a clear strategy for reaching the goals, data should give a good picture.
Sustainability communication and reporting have been a topic for such a long time now that companies should be able to present timelines for key figures. As usual, it is not enough to refer only to the sustainability report.
How to present sustainability information
In general, users want to find the quick facts first and to be able to dig deeper. Swisscom is a good example that presents clear entries to Strategy, Targets and KPI and Sustainability report - which all link to their online annual report. This is a good way to make use of the content in the sustainability report, although it can be perceived as relatively static as it will not be updated until the following report. They do present additional information regarding society and the environment as well as CR news in a way that is easy to use and to dig deeper into.
Another good example is Repsol, who first present their focus areas in their "Reports and KPIs" section, followed by interactive graphs that show data for the past five years.
The UN's Sustainable Development Goals
The United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (UN's SDG) are often referred to on corporate websites and in sustainability reports. Stakeholders find them relatively important as they are well-known. One mistake that many companies make when referring to the SDGs is that they only use the image without writing out the goal itself. On top of that, the images are often somewhat blurry too. Finnish YIT is an example of a company that uses these images in a good way. They also write the names of the goals while explaining their take on them and presenting their goals and actions to reach the goals.
Anti-corruption and code of conduct important to journalists
Corruption is a major challenge that has an impact on the SDG's first goal: No poverty. In our research, information about how companies work for anti-corruption tops the list of sustainability-related content to journalists. STating that the company actively work against corruption and giving examples of what they do to fight it is a good start. Norwegian energy company Equinor does both and links to further reading in their Anti-corruption compliance programme.
Jobseekers want diversity policies
Future employees is another target group that find the company's sustainability work necessary. They want to understand their employers' contribution to society at large. And closer to home, they want to know the company's diversity, and equal opportunities policies as this can affect their future employment. Spanish utilities company Iberdrola have extensive information about their work with diversity and equal opportunities. They present not only a policy approved by the board, but they also report their activities in different countries.