Corporate Eye

What Is Greening The Corporate Website?

makeup brush touchup

Once upon a time, Ugh raised the deer’s thighbone high above his head and brought it crashing down upon the head of a passing rabbit.  Yum yum, rabbit stew for dinner and a nice new woolly patch to keep the cold from his nether regions.

At that moment in time, had Ugh and all his species killed one rabbit simultaneously the rabbit population wouldn’t even have been dented.

Fast forward a hundred thousand years or so, and if all of Ugh’s adult descendants in the UK killed a rabbit, there’d barely be any left.

This, put simply, is sustainability.  The desire … nay, imperative … to take out of natural cycles only what can be replaced.  It is not a solution for all time but we’re currently using 3 times the number of rabbits which actually exist.  That, surely, can’t be sensible.

What has this to do with green websites though?

New Green Corporate Websites Research

Slowly .. slowly but surely, you get the feeling companies are waking up to what “being green” really entails.

It’s not just about showing how environmentally friendly your products and manufacturing processes are, or how socially responsible your employment and supply chain policies are.

It’s not a marketing exercise, nor is it another term for philanthropy or environmentalism.

It’s about sustainability .. showing that your business is sustainable, in all its facets, and discussing the company’s sustainability with all its myriad stakeholders.

Which is why I was intrigued and not a little gratified to notice a recent report by AltaTerra Research (“a market research and services firm focused on sustainable business and clean technology solutions in the corporate marketplace”) which has recently been trailed on Environmental Leader.

Green Corporate Website Benchmarks

This isn’t the usual “paint everything green” consultancy nonsense, nor is it (thankfully) purely technical.

What AltaTerra have done is take eight attributes and give all the Standard and Poor’s 100 websites a score for each between 0 (low) and 3 (high).  These are then condensed into attribute averages across the index.

Here are four interesting and provocative scores:

  • navigation 2.94 excellent at first glance, but wait … you mean 2% of S&P100 companies don’t have a link to their sustainability content on their front page?  That’s actually a little disappointing.
  • engagement 1.65 so, on average, S&P companies are average in their engagement with stakeholders.  This isn’t too bad, especially as the larger a company gets the more conservative it tends to become.  In short, the score shows there is some really progress being made by those companies prepared to show leadership.
  • assurance 1.37 not so great. Assurance is supposed to be about giving your stakeholders confidence in your figures.  So while AltaTerra cite SIRAN‘s finding that 93% of S&P100 companies produced sustainability information in 2008, less that half of these appear to have it assured to the top level.  That can only fan any suspicions of greenwashing.
  • timeliness 0.87 that is to say, how up to date the figures are.  Most companies only publish annual figures with a few (Timberland most notably) now committing to quarterly publication.  There is in fact very little reason many of these figures cannot be published even more frequently, except for the political will to make it so.

Will Your Corporate Website Turn Green?

If you could sum these results up in a sentence, it’s that while the largest companies have recognised sustainability as a key feature of their website many are still in The Land of Ugh when in comes to engaging with their stakeholders.

For example, while I was writing this post I’ve also been chatting with an Investor Relations expert.  He highlighted one S&P100 company to me who had recently released their annual report in PDF format. “Why don’t they release it in HTML .. is it cost?” I asked.  He laughed “No .. the board spend more on lunch in one day than it would take to convert the report to HTML.  They just don’t care.”

“Adapt or die” is an adage long held in business and political circles.  It’s obvious some companies are busy adapting to the new reality of green websites, but many more still look likely to die.

Picture Credit: Makeup  Brush by don hankins from flickr under Creative Commons Attribution License; adapted by Chris Milton.

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A former CTO, Chris has a broad and varied background. He’s been involved with blue chips, consultancies & SMEs across a wide variety of sectors and has worked in Europe, the Middle East and Australia. In 2007 he decided to combine his knowledge of business and IT with his passion for all things sustainable and has been busy writing ever since. However, his greatest ambition remains to brew the perfect cup of coffee.