Corporate Eye

Transparency and the Sustainability Agenda | FTSE 100 Website Reviews

I Dream Of SteamGeneral Industrials is one of those catch all phrases within the London Stock Exchange.  It’s not quite an “and everything else” hold all, but neither is it particularly specific about what the companies do.  They just do industry.. generally.

There are only two General Industrial companies within the FTSE 100: Smiths Group, and Rexam.

Smiths focuses upon threat & contraband detection, medical devices, energy, communications and engineered components, while Rexam is the world’s second largest consumer packaging group and a leading global beverage can maker.

There’s no particular reason for them to be in competition with each other, other than the fact they both fit into this “other” category.

General Layout, Look And Feel

There is an immediate difference between the layout of the two companies’ websites.  Rexam is big and bold with a certain artistic flair to it and a swish to divide up the page into different portions.

Smiths Group, on the other hand, is a lot more straightforward in its presentation, preferring a standard typeface displayed in square boxes and columns.

This isn’t an artistic critique, it’s a simple observation that the way the Rexam website is presented engages and draws the surfer in, while the Smiths Group one communicates a much drier atmosphere.

This being said, both use accepted website presentation within their respective Corporate Responsibility sections.  Rexam abandons its swish for a single column of text (though not immediately), while Smiths Group simply continues using the same layout.

A Good Breadth of CSR Content

Both Smiths Group and Rexam have some good points about their websites which other companies would do well to pay attention to.  Corporate Responsibility is on the homepage of both, and both cover the basic ground of community, workforce and environment.

Both also have a respectable number of documents available for download, including precursor CSR reports dating back to 2002 and various other policies and reports.

While these show a good breadth of understanding of CSR, it is in the level of detail that a gap opens up between the two.

For example, Rexam publishes the contact details of their Director of Corporate Responsibility and has a handy little FAQ and Glossary, which gets quite in depth in places.

On the other hand, Smiths Group repeats its Code of Business Ethics in both the Corporate Responsibility and Corporate Governance sections.  This is a good sign that it understands CSR is more than just an adjunct, but it’s a shame that they’ve missed a trick.

A Good Story Missed In Its Telling

Smiths Group certainly has some valuable and useful sustainability stories to tell.  Their online Corporate Responsibility Report for 2009 is well laid out and contains some useful facts and figures for analysts to get their teeth into.

Rexam, on the other hand, only produce PDF reports, not interactive versions, and have missed a few years making it difficult to build up a consistent picture.

This is the big trick so many businesses still miss, including both Smiths Group and Rexam.

Online websites should no longer be about the virtual shop window of static HTML.  They should be media rich giving stakeholders a precise, interactive and up to date (though not necessarily immediate) insight into the business’ concerns.  This includes but is not limited to sustainability content.

However, the mechanism to make this happen does fall within the sustainability agenda: transparency.  This could well be the biggest challenge for 21st century business, making those who are genuinely open and honest the winners, warts and all.

Picture Credit: I dream of steam by mugley from flickr under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License.

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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.