Why your CSR report should be immersive
Date: 9 Jul 2012
The vast majority of companies are missing a huge trick on the online communication of their social responsibility. They make a major investment in collecting the data of what they are doing, and then completely fail to get the value from that effort with the stakeholders that are most important to them.
It's not surprising. It's understandable. The move to report on social and environmental performance is driven by the interest in companies being accountable first and foremost.
But if you speak to heads of CR or sustainability, they will generally tell you that they consider their reports to be aimed at all their stakeholders, including their customers and employees. These are, of course, groups that notoriously don't read reports.
So you would think that lots of companies - at least the consumer-facing ones - would be spending a fair bit of time working out how to make the most of this asset they have in building rapport and trust with customers and staff. But it remains, to say the least, a minority sport.
One of the companies that has been more interesting in this area is Nike. They produced their most recent report as a 'immersive' experience, as described by Shannon Shoul, their head of reporting.
What they have done on their <a href="http://nikeresponsibility.com" target="_blank">nikeresponsibility.com</a> site is to create an interactive interface that is designed to interest and intrigue the casual viewer. Whether it is the interactive scrolling 'journey' animation, or the more detailed 'our value chain' feature, it is aimed at providing an entry point for the non-expert.
The 'our value chain' feature is particularly interesting. It's a highly visual, interactive, but informative introduction to the key impacts in the different parts of the business, from planning, through design, manufacture and all the way to end disposal. A collection of highly visual elements fall into place with little information nuggets attached, each of which encourages you to go to the report to find out more information.
So let's be clear - the aim here isn't to provide some PR gloss on the company's worthy efforts - it is to provide a highly accessible interface to entice non-experts to dip into those parts of the company's CR report that cover the issues that interest them. It's smart and well implemented. And incredibly unusual because so few are making the effort.
You don't have to be consumer-facing with a huge marketing/online budget to engage in similar principles. BAM Nuttall (disclosure: I worked with BAM Nuttall on this site) is a civil engineering company that wanted to provide points of interest for its employees, suppliers and customers.
At its sustainability site <a href="http://www.bamnuttall-sustainability.co.uk" target="_blank">http://www.bamnuttall-sustainability.co.uk</a> it includes features such as an Energy Challenge, where you are invited to put yourself in the position of a typical civil engineering company and identify from a list of possible energy saving initiatives which you think would be the five that would make the biggest savings. Having made the choice, you are given feedback on how much money your choices would have saved, and whether you achieved the goal of getting the maximum possible.
It's a device based on the premise that many visitors won't know a huge amount about how a civil engineering company works, and what are the measures it can take that will make the most difference. Without reading so much as a paragraph, it provides information about the sector in an engaging way for those interested in the environment. Elsewhere on the site, there is an interactive case study, where the viewer can zoom in to different parts of the company's Kilsyth site and view video case studies about environmental initiatives taken there.
This is not a huge budget site - but it takes its starting brief of wanting to take the issues and information it reports on and make them genuinely interesting and engaging for its direct stakeholders.
There has been a lot of talk about how important social media has become for CR / sustainability reporting. But the point of social media is that it is a medium for engagement - opening a two-way channel which starts by getting someone interested in your choices and dilemmas. Sending out a few robotic tweets about how your report is now available isn't going to do the job.
Instead the report has to be the beginning of a process of engagement. It doesn't have to be online - but it is the obvious and most natural place to start. This tedious cycle of everybody killing themselves to get the report finished by the deadline, heaving a huge sigh of relief, and then wearily climbing back into the hamster wheel for next year's report needs to be broken. There is some creative, value-creating work to be done here.
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