A review of the FTSE100 Energy Sector demonstrating the importance of interactive content in helping consumers understand the sustainability challenges facing every industry.
The vast majority of our power comes from huge, centralised plants which consume natural resources in order to produce electricity (and carbon emissions!).
As a consequence, the energy sector is permanently under the sustainability microscope. There are renewable energy options but they’re not going to be built overnight.
In the meantime, many companies hesitate about what to invest in which technologies; near future technologies appear to promise ever more efficient alternatives and many believe that he who waits will win.
There are three energy sector companies in the FTSE100: International Power, British Energy and Scottish and Southern Energy. It would be churlish to leave one out on a whim, so all three are part of this FTSE 100 Website Review.
The First Page of Your Sustainable Energy Bill
As always, the first consideration is whether there is a sustainability link from the company’s front page and what the landing section is called. All three companies have a sustainability link to a separate section.
International Power goes for “Environment and Society”, British Energy “Energy and Environment” and Scottish and Southern “Corporate Social Responsibility”. Each front page of each has the traditional introduction introducing the company’s sustainability vision and some appropriate pictures. Logos play an important part here.
International Power tells me straight away that it’s involved with Christian Aid, FTSE4Good and Business In The Community (BiTC). British Energy has the BTO Bird Challenge, a Carbon Footprint Calculator and, rather intriguingly, “The Power Game”.
Scottish and Southern has its share price. That’s not a good start.
What Sustainability Issues Does The Energy Sector Focus On?
International Power’s “Environment and Society” section contains well argued and informative content addressing sustainability issues. As well as looking at the environmental impact of energy, it also publishes various datasets and policies which cover most aspects of the company’s activities.
However, the section isn’t overwhelmingly comprehensive. It addresses some issues and is well presented but you can’t help feeling it’s a shame the company doesn’t produce a more detailed separate sustainability report to contain the meat, despite the Annual Report being available in HTML.
British Energy’s approach is completely different. Instead of simply reporting what it’s doing and with whom, it engages the visitor in the issues it faces and the solutions it’s placing its trust in.
This means there are discussions on the fuel mix the company uses, the technologies it may use in the future, The Kyoto Protocol and the company’s waste management. There’s also a truck load of policies, briefs, seminars and speeches. Oh, and the obligatory sustainability report, of course!
The overall feeling is that the company has truly gone out of its way to inform the visitor about the industry and the regulatory environment within which it operates. This is admirable and deserves to be applauded to the rafters.
Scottish and Southern has some very good content as well. In addition to providing the standard information about its values and performance, it also has a good section on how households can be more energy efficient.
However there is one disappointment in the Scottish and Southern website. That is…
The Cherry On Top
It’s a fundamental principle of all marketing that you have to have a unique selling point. As websites are exercises in marketing, the same rule applies.
For Scottish and Southern, this seems to be their share price. Scottish and Southern have put their share price in pride of place on every page of their sustainability content.
A share price doesn’t change as often as each pageview, even in today’s economic climate. What’s more, anyone looking at sustainability content is unlikely to be focussed upon the company’s share price.
Soon, the differently clothed people holding a share price placard become an an annoyance: a lump of coal on top of the cream cake.
British Energy, on the other hand, have got it just right. They have a great little thing which makes them stand out from the other two: The Power Game.
This is a small little flash application which can be downloaded and played at your leisure. Your aim is to use available forms of energy to meet energy demands in the UK up until 2030. Simple, easy …
… and inspired.
Any company can provide pages upon pages of content to educate its audience about the specific challenges it faces in a sustainable economy. It’s quite another thing to give that audience experience of confronting those challenges and having to decide the choices you face.
Interactivity is the Unique Selling Point
Overall, there’s very little to separate the websites of International Power, British Energy and Scottish Southern.
International Power’s primary blue and gold colours makes it the best in terms of general design. In comparison, Scottish Southern’s grey and green seems dull and uninspired and British Energy sits somewhere between the two.
In terms of content, it’s a very close call. Each communicates valuable details about the sustainability issues specific to the industry and the focus of two of the three upon education is heartening to see.
However, only one of the three makes the casual browser’s experience of energy sustainability truly interactive. This is the kind of engagement which web users look for and it’s so rare that it’s easy to get excited about.
If other companies started to provide to provide interactive content on their websites then the trend toward transparency would be strengthened, making a sustainable economy ever more certain.
Picture Credit: “Tinsley Cooling Towers, Sheffield – Icons of England” from flickr by underclassrising under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License.
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