Imagine an imaginary scene in Father of the Bride. In comes the irrepressible wedding organiser Martin Short, arms whirling like a windmill and camping up every nuance and syllable as though it’s his last.
“Oh Daahhhhrlingg, we’ve organised chicks and ducks, roses and rotundas,” he declares. “Yes, but can you organise a wedding?” you ask. “Wedding??” he says with a comically camp shrugging of the shoulders. “Sure, I’ll try anything once in my life!” Pout and innuendo to camera.
What has this to do with FTSE 100 sustainability website reviews?
Within the FTSE 100 are some of the world’s largest publishing companies. Communication should be their raison d’être; instead some of their sustainability content is decidedly below par: almost as though they were trying out this “web thingy” for the first time.
Publisher Needs Better Online Media Presentation
Yet despite all of this experience there is not one mention of sustainability or CSR on either Pearson’s homepage or in its Investors Section.
Instead there’s a rather oblique reference to “Community” in the website’s top banner menu. This hides a jumble of sustainability issues including the latest CSR report; various policies and downloads; and an archive of environment reports dating back to 2002.
In places there’s terrific content but the apparent lack of thought given to its presentation lets the website down.
For example, the page detailing Pearson’s progress against its targets is little more than an HTML list of target and result statements with a bit of narrative thrown in for good measure.
There’s ample scope here to drum up significant online kudos: a graphical representation of which targets have or have not been achieved, or an index at the top of the page allowing you to click through to a specific target report.
The page even references the previous report in its introduction, but there is no hyperlink back to this report, or any other documents or sections referenced which a visitor may wish to study in further detail.
Coupled with what can only be described as a plain stylesheet, the website is underwhelming and uninspiring. A classic case of wonderful content badly collated and presented.
Publisher A Leader In Online Media Presentation
In comparison, the website of Reed Elsevier has a much clearer sense of direction and a crisper feel to it.
Reed are no less a publisher than Pearson. Through titles such as The Lancet, Computer Weekly, Farmers Weekly, Broadcasting & Cable and Variety Magazine they dominate the trade journal market. In addition, the company publishes over a quarter of all scientific and medical research worldwide.
The top banner contains a “Corporate Responsibility” link which leads to a dedicated, well presented and content rich website section.
This section has many facets to it, three of which stand out as exceptional examples of how to talk about sustainability using web technologies:
Focus Areas: a substantial subsection on each of the areas Reed Elsevier sustainability concentrates upon, including People, Governance, Health & Safety and Supply Chain.
Corporate Responsibility Report: available in interactive PDF and HTML, as well as allow you to create your own PDF report by selecting only the sections you’re interested in.
Hot Topics: sustainability issues from around the world, according to how the company’s publications report them or how the company itself is involved.
Add to this a handy index of the subsection you’re visiting in the left hand margin and copious cross referencing, and the Reed Elsevier sustainability website stands head and shoulders above many of it’s competitors.
So, Size Isn’t Everything
Reed Elsevier and Pearson are comparable companies. Both have over 100 years’ experience in publishing. Both are listed on both the FTSE and the NYSE and both have an annual income over £750 million.
But only one has successfully used web technologies to get its sustainability message across. The other doesn’t appear to be in step with prevailing business sentiment and has presented its message poorly.
This comparison shows it’s not size or international standing which creates world leading sustainability websites, but the company’s basic attitude towards the issues and technology in the first place.
Picture Credit: Strattons, G.W.M. Nutt, and Minnie Warren (Wedding Party) by cliff1066 from flickr under Creative Commons Attribution License
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