Sustainability challenges the companies
By Anna Dunder
Sustainability content challenges companies as stakeholders want transparent information. Environmental and social aspects are requested, but when analysing the information companies provide, content is still not meeting the stakeholders' needs.
Sustainability information that companies offer, has taken a small step back in comparison to content which stakeholders' demand. Transparent information has become more and more important for both capital markets and job seekers, as our Careers and Capital Markets survey revealed in 2018. Companies are focusing more on environmental aspects, however, more work is needed.
Making sustainability work visible
For companies, reports are often the most common way to talk about sustainability work. To make sure that all the stakeholders understand the actions the company is taking, companies should lift their sustainability information from the reports to their websites. This helps with searchability and makes the information available for a wider audience.
According to Webranking by Comprend, environmental and social sustainability are both important aspects for stakeholders. Although, how companies approach the topic varies greatly. Sector differences show how sustainability communication is not an easy task for companies and several sectors are challenged by the growing demands.
Only 330 out of more than 900 analysed companies met at least 50% of the information that stakeholders considered important in Webranking by Comprend 2018-2019. This shows how more work is needed to be able to meet stakeholder demands.
Sector differences are clear
When analysing the sustainability results from a sector perspective, Utilities, Chemicals and Basic Resources had a much higher average in meeting stakeholder needs. Financial services were struggling the most with 21% performance in comparison to Utilities who achieved stakeholders demands by 81%.
Utilities and Chemical sectors were also more transparent on their environmental targets compared to other sectors. More than 70% of Utilities and Chemical companies stated their environmental targets online when in the other sectors this was not as common. In addition, sustainability reporting also showed a lot of variation between the sectors as only 41% of Financial Services companies offered sustainability reports on their websites when 88% of the Utility companies made the reports available.
Social sustainability challenges the companies
For some companies, social sustainability didn’t have a strong presence in their communication as environmental aspects did, even though the stakeholders are requesting this information. When looking at social sustainability, only 35% of all the ranked companies provided social sustainability information with data in numbers on their website. Also, the historical overview was neglected, as only 19% of companies presented social sustainability data with the possibility to compare to earlier years. This shows how safety and health promotion work is not a common topic to be shared online and how environmental aspects are more often prioritised on corporate websites.
Financial sector struggles with social sustainability
From the sector perspective, Basic Resources and Chemicals were the only sectors that reached 60% performance in presenting social sustainability in numbers. In the Financial sector, the numbers were devastating as only 4% communicated about their social sustainability work on their website. It seems that in the financial sector, the main focus has been to communicate their sustainability strategy online as 65% present theirs. However, highlighting how the strategy is implemented and how the company follows their sustainability KPIs can help users to get a better understanding of their work.
Diversity work in action
Diversity is one of the aspects that companies often highlight when communicating about social sustainability work, together with health and safety. Equal opportunities have been discussed globally, especially in recent years. However, diversity policies are still not available for all companies as only 66% show their diversity policy online. In addition, many companies are lacking the results of equal opportunities at work. Only Insurance and Utility sectors reached the 50% performance in presenting diversity such as gender, nationality or age division with actual data. When other sectors had even lower performance.
One example on how to communicate social sustainability is Repsol, who have highlighted diversity well on their website. Repsol has even added stories to show what sustainability targets mean to the company. Stories can be a good way to show that sustainability work doesn’t stop when the reports have been closed, but the work continues throughout the year.
Italian companies on the podium in sustainability information
Several companies within the top 20 reached the astonishing 90% fulfilment in meeting stakeholder demands in sustainability information. Furthermore, two Italian companies have reached an amazing 100% fulfilment in sustainability communication. These Italian companies show how stakeholders needs can be met and how different sustainability aspects can be highlighted in reports and online. Another good example of sustainability communication comes from Wärtsilä, who have a good way to visualise their achievements, which makes the sustainability data easier to understand. We have listed the top 20 best performers and sector-specific results in sustainability communication that can be used to find inspiration.
Sustainability results per sector
Average fulfilment of sustainability criteria
Average fulfilment score
|Automobiles & Parts||48%|
|Oil & Gas||48%|
|Food & Beverage||46%|
|Personal & Household Goods||44%|
|Construction & Materials||44%|
|Industrial Goods & Services||42%|
|Travel & Leisure||32%|
The top 20 companies in sustainability information
The top performing companies among all ranked companies in the sustainability section.
Stakeholder fulfilment Score
Photo by James Haworth on Unsplash