Excited, hands trembling through agitation rather than caffeine, I typed the web address into my trusty browser. Up came the site… but there was nothing there about Sustainability Reporting.
Puzzled I checked out the URL and let out a small, frustrated sigh on finding I’d been automatically redirected to the UK website. So I got myself over to the company’s home site in the USA and checked that out.
But still there was nothing about Sustainability Reporting. Not even under the Investor Relations section, which is where large corporations tend to display their green credentials.
What was going on?
“A bit of a Homer”
The headline which had brought me to this website was simple and straightforward: “Ford and Timberland Win Ceres-ACCA North American Awards for Best Sustainability Reporting”.
However it was the citation for Ford which had particularly grabbed my interest:
“[the report] also communicates well through both an online and print report; the printed copy encourages reader to learn more online and the website provides an easy-to-navigate format”.
Navigation of online reports, sustainability and otherwise, is something all companies are still getting to grips with. This latest effort by Ford sounded like a must-see. If only I could find it.
Finally I gave up and used the site’s in-built search facility. This revealed that Ford keeps their sustainability reports under in their corporate information section. A bit of a D’OH moment, but once there I was keen to press on.
Worth the Wait
If it had been made by a Brit, the description “an easy-to-navigate format” would be seen as a masterstroke of understatement. The Ford sustainability microsite is quite simply one of the very best I’ve ever seen.
Within one minute I’d worked how exactly to find whatever I wanted and had started to do some serious investigation, picking up some of the site’s subtleties along the way.
The key is a static menu bar at the top of the display frame. This automatically expands to show the subsections for each core reporting category, allowing you to navigate straight to just about any page on the site with a single click.
Some of the pages are over-wordy for online presentation, one of the continuing issues with placing a formal report verbatim onto a website. However there are a number of nice little touches which continue demonstrate the level of thought which has gone into the site’s design.
For instance, the microsite’s homepage has a small pull down list which fast tracks to specific performance datasets. In a single stroke, this makes the site much more accessible for those more interested in figures than words.
The Other Winner
The Timberland online on the other hand has used multimedia technologies to enhance the normally dry report content. Of special note are two podcasts, one of a conference call with company stakeholders and another of a discussion with the company’s CEO on sustainability reporting.
However the Timberland website is currently pregnant with promise. Hot on the heels of winning the Ceres-ACCA award they’ve announced a number of initiatives. These include:
- utilization of the web site as a main vehicle for communication, including implementing Web 2.0 techniques and tools
- reporting quarterly CSR metrics with a full report published every other year
- conducting quarterly stakeholder calls with leadership (presumably to be published on the website as is currently the case)
- using Web 2.0 technologies to facilitate conversation
This will make their website an interesting place to keep an eye on over the coming months. If implemented well they could raise the bar for online sustainable reporting higher that it’s ever been before.
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