10 things a sustainability website should show | Part 2 of 2

September 29, 2011

800px Earth flag PD 10 things a sustainability website should show | Part 2 of 2This is Part Two of an examination of the 10 things a sustainability website should contain, based upon the Network for Business Sustainability’s list of 10 Things New Sustainability Managers Need to Know.

Click here for Part One.

6) How does the company measure its environmental impacts?

This is such a crucial question it’s often overlooked.  Every single sector, every single company, will have different environmental, social and sustainability impacts.  The current trend towards emissions and water use reporting, while welcome, is little more than a statement of the lowest common denominator.

At it’s heart sustainability is about examining how each individual company can improve its own performance and leave this kind of herd mentality behind.  So how does the company measure it’s impact, and what is unique about how it does so?

7) How does our sustainability attract and retain employees?

Another crucial question.  Sustainability is often allied to marketing and PR but is rarely linked to human resources.  However if sustainability is just as pertinent to a business’ operations as turning a profit, then it should be just as firmly embedded into the business’ recruitment and retention processes.

In all my years looking at corporate sustainability websites I’ve seen only a handful which have linked sustainability to recruitment and retention, and possibly only one which did so in a convincing manner.  This is still a growth area and one which any business serious about sustainability should seek to engage in.

8) How does the company mitigate climate change?

On the current science, this is all about emissions, but it’s a little more subtle than that.  “Mitigate” implies it is going to happen while most businesses appear to believe it’s all about stopping it from happening.

My personal perspective is that it IS happening and we have to adapt to survive.  So what adaptation is your company embarking upon?  Emissions reduction could be the least of your problems: perhaps you’re vulnerable to flooding or extreme weather conditions.  Have you even thought about these factors, ten or twenty years down the line?

9) What is business sustainability?

A hoary old chestnut, yet one around which there is still a lot of debate.  Yet it makes sense that if a business is claiming to be sustainable it should at least define, on its website, what it believes sustainability means.  You’d be surprised at how many don’t.

10) What further information is available on sustainability?

As I keep repeating, one of the major challenges of sustainability is for businesses to pull together in common cause rather than fight one another.  It’s not uncommon for a business website to point to resources published by NGOs, newspapers, research institutions and trade bodies.

What is uncommon is for a business’ website to point to one of their competitors and say “this is an initiative we aim to follow”.  Yet doing so is vital for a corporate website, not just because it fosters collaboration but also because it shows how seriously a business takes sustainability when compared to (say) profit.

Conclusion

It’s clear from this brief tour of what corporate sustainability websites should contain that there are many possible avenues which by and large remain unexplored by mainstream business communications.  This is partially because websites tend to fall within the remit of PR and marketing departments whose desire is to give as positive a spin on the company’s performance as possible.

Whilst this is an admirable ambition, it usually shuts off the need for a sustainable company to be transparent in the effects its operations has.  Overall, it is this need for transparency which represents the greatest challenge for any sustainable corporate website.

Sorry Apple – Aston Martin is the Coolest Brand

September 29, 2011

aston martin Sorry Apple   Aston Martin is the Coolest BrandEach year, CoolBrands ranks the coolest brands in the UK as determined by thousands of consumers’ votes and an Expert Council which includes marketers, fashion designers, artists, musicians, publishers, and more.

For the second year in a row, Aston Martin took the top spot with Apple holding on as the second coolest brand in the UK.

Both consumers and experts were instructed to evaluate brands based on six factors: style, innovation, originality, authenticity, desirability, and uniqueness.

The top 20 coolest brands in the UK of 2011 are:

  1. Aston Martin
  2. Apple
  3. Harley-Davidson
  4. Rolex
  5. Bang & Olufsen
  6. BlackBerry
  7. Google
  8. Ferrari
  9. Nike
  10. YouTube
  11. Alexander McQueen
  12. Dom Perignon
  13. PlayStation
  14. Ray-Ban
  15. Chanel
  16. Nintendo
  17. Vivienne Westwood
  18. Agent Provocateur
  19. Tate Modern
  20. Maserati

What surprises me most about this top 20 list of the coolest brands is how many are automotive, technology, and fashion brands. It’s interesting to see those are the industries that people gravitate toward when they define cool brands. Remember, brands depend on consumer perceptions, and clearly, cars, technology, and fashion are considered cool by a lot of people — at least it would certainly seem that way based on the results of the CoolBrands 2011 list.

The CoolBrands yearly ranking has been done since 2001, and I’d love to see a trend graph by industry to see if certain industries have lost their cool or gained it. Typically, people associate “cool” with things they like, talk about, have or want to have. Will inclusion on the list of the coolest brands in the UK drive sales to most of these brands? I wouldn’t expect any big sales jumps, but it does add another layer of interest in the brand for consumers who respond to the “cool” message. And why shouldn’t they? It’s a highly emotional message, and the most powerful brands are ones that consumers are highly emotionally invested in.

What do you think is the coolest brand? Leave a comment and share your thoughts on the CoolBrands list. Did they get it right?

Image: kowaleski

Revealing Corporate Culture via Diversity

September 28, 2011

diversity Revealing Corporate Culture via DiversityBoard diversity is a hot topic at the moment: FTSE 350 companies have been asked to announce the percentage of women they plan to have on their boards in 2013 and 2015 by … well, now.

Of course, diversity isn’t simply about male/female: there are many more ways in which people can differ from each other, such as in age, background, education, experience, nationality… there are as many ways of being different as there are people. So the male/female issue is only one thing to think about, but it is probably the easiest place to start.

Lucy P Marcus of Marcus Ventures argues that it is good corporate governance and good business sense to have a diversity of thought and experience on the Board, particularly international diversity. Moreover, she says that:

“diversity is a matter of organisational culture, and to a significant extent this is set by example from the top. A diverse board demonstrates that diversity is a value that the company holds throughout its business”

Diversity matters – crucially, as a way of avoiding the risks of ‘groupthink’ – and as a topic deserves to be brought out of the Careers section, where discussion is often reduced to a bland statement about recruitment policy, and discussed elsewhere on the website. The corporate attitude to diversity is indeed part of the company culture.

If you’re going to make an announcement about Board diversity targets, putting this statement on the corporate website is an easy option, with the (potential) benefit of demonstrating your commitment to diversity from the top down.

Such a statement would, of course, need to be updated with progress against the target each year. Additional diversity targets could be added in future, if needed, and some explanation of how the Board takes diversity into account in their nomination procedures would be interesting too.

Is yours up yet?

See, for example, Barclays who have a statement on Board diversity available from their CR section (note the stamp of authority conveyed by the Chairman’s signature), and RBS who link to theirs from the Board page (note the reference to their Global Women’s Network).

However, see also Balfour Beatty’s interesting response, which is not to target a precise number of women, but to redouble its efforts “to encourage more women to stay within its workforce and progress through the ranks to senior positions.” This is, of course, another important point, and one discussed by the 30% Club, and by the Institute of Directors, which points out that the low female participation on boards is a symptom of the underlying problem of low female presence in senior executive management. (See Big Picture March 11).

There’s a very interesting McKinsey article about how some major companies are dealing with this (Changing Companies Minds about Women – registration required), including Shell, PepsiCo and TimeWarner.

A follow-up question then: how are you managing this problem – do you know what your talent pipeline is, and how are you communicating your efforts on the corporate website? Shell, for example, reveal the percentages of women in supervisory/management/senior leadership roles over the last 10 years in their online annual report, and link to this from their Diversity page on the main corporate website.

This, like discussing your plans for diversity at the very top level of management, is a good way of communicating what the corporate culture really is.

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British Airways Brand Campaign Launches with a Showcase of Heritage

September 28, 2011

british airways British Airways Brand Campaign Launches with a Showcase of HeritageThis month, British Airways launched its largest brand advertising campaign for a single decade as part of a 5-year business investment plan intended to benefit consumers. To kick things off, the company designed an updated, 3-dimensional version of its coat of arms, which is being reapplied to all planes in its fleet and will be used extensively in advertising going forward.

The launch includes a significant social media piece with YouTube video content that is being cross-promoted on the British Airways Facebook page. You can see a video that highlights the British Airways coat of arms heritage and update process below.

The new brand campaign focuses on the To Fly. To Serve. tagline in an effort to bring the needs of customers back to the forefront of the brand’s promise. As part of the overall business investment to benefit consumers, British Airways plans to introduce new planes, special cabins for World Traveller and World Traveller Plus passengers, an updated First Class experience, improvements at the Gatwick Airport, and upgraded lounges in airports throughout the British Airways network. Furthermore, a British Airways press release explains that investments will be made in better catering and technology enhancements to make traveling more convenient and comfortable for customers both in the air and on the ground.

British Airways is running print ads and a 90-second television ad to promote the initiative, but for the first time in the company’s history, that commercial debuted on the social web on the company’s Facebook page. You can see the commercial below.

There is no doubt that British Airways wanted to roll out this brand campaign and significant business investment with a bang. Now, the company has to live up to the big expectations it’s creating for consumers. Can they do it? Leave a comment and share your thoughts on the British Airways brand initiative.

10 things a sustainability website should show | Part 1 of 2

September 27, 2011

two hands modified 10 things a sustainability website should show | Part 1 of 2

I’m not a betting man .. I get far too emotionally involved in things to be able to be objective enough.  For example: Oxford will *always* win the University Boat Race.  Always.  This is everything to do with me being brought up in Oxfordshire and nothing to do with anything else.

However, if I were a betting man I would put a small wager down that you’ve never heard of the Network for Sustainable Business (NSB).  They’re a small Canadian non-profit which produces and promotes academic research for sustainable business, with a whole slew of PhD types producing content on topics as varied as supply chains, climate change, consumerism and organisational culture.

NSB recently produced a neat four page document entitled “10 things new sustainability managers need to know“.  With a little bit of massage this can easily be morphed into “10 things a sustainability website should show”.  After all, and in the interests of transparency, if a sustainability manager knows these things then surely the company should communicate them?

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