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  • Fran 4:40 pm on November 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , stakehodler engagement, , ,   

    The road to 24/7 transparency 

    On November 9th Forbes announced that transparency will become the most important marketing tool in 2015. It’s a trend the sustainability reporting world has been encouraging for some time, with mixed results.

    Real progress was evident at the recent Ethical Corporation Reporting Summit last week where transparency was the leitmotif for the whole event. So much so that when it came to voting for the best submission in the CSR reporting X factor session, RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) romped home with the prize, trouncing Bloomberg and and British supermarket chain Tesco. RBS’ decisive win is largely down to its disarming mea culpa about past mistakes and honesty around future investigations, enforcements and litigation. As the audience voted and the judge made his pronouncement, a murmur of “how did they get that past the lawyers?” swept the room. RBS proved that with determination and top-level commitment you can, and that honesty is a winning strategy.

    Lisa Stewart picks up the X factor reporting award for RBS

    Lisa Stewart picks up the X factor reporting award for RBS

    But the transparency agenda is moving fast and in contrast to once-a-year disclosure typical of traditional sustainability reporting, demands for greater openness are constant. Indeed Forbes says “Next year the best brands won’t be those with the best stories, or sort of made up fictional stories, but those that will give an accurate and real-time picture of what they are doing in the interest of the consumer, at any given time.” And the same goes for the interests of other stakeholders according Oliver Hurrey, MD at the 2degrees network. Social media is set to play a central role, offering many channels for people to demand the truth and giving companies multi-stranded opportunities for innovative, engaging and honest corporate communications. Welcome to stakeholder dialogue, 21st century style.

    • Fran 6:10 pm on November 19, 2014 Permalink

      Serendipity! See also report from SustainAbility due out December 5th called See Change: How the Future of Transparency can Drive Performance and Value

  • Fran 3:06 pm on June 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , stakehodler engagement, ,   

    It’s the materiality, stupid 

    The GRI launched the G4 reporting guidelines in style in Amsterdam in May. One Stone was there, and we can confirm that the keyword over the three day conference was ‘materiality’.


    Shorter and smarter
    Addressing the need for shorter, more relevant reports, the G4 Guidelines put materiality at the heart of disclosure. The G4 requires a robust materiality process to identify the Aspects (new GRI speak for ‘issues’) material to the company and its stakeholders. Those that are most material must be reported on. But crucially and radically, those Aspects deemed less material do not require disclosure under G4.

    Be honest: how did you do it?
    The quid pro quo for waving goodbye to huge reports is that all companies must be much more transparent about their materiality decision making process. In a major change since G3, any organisation wishing to report ‘in accordance’ with G4 must disclose the way they identify, validate and prioritise their material Aspects.

    What are Aspects?
    GRI provides a list of Aspects (issues) in established categories (Economic, Environmental and so on). There are 47 Aspects in total and many are familiar, but some, for instance those to do with suppliers, now pop up under several categories.

    Core v Comprehensive
    Having identified their material Aspects, organisations can be ‘in accordance’ with G4 by choosing either Core or Comprehensive reporting. Core reporting is a great entry point for SMEs, allowing them to report on only one indicator per material Aspect identified, whereas Comprehensive reporters must disclose information relevant to all the indicators relating to each of their material Aspects. Thankfully, the old A-C system that encouraged organisations to report rafts of superfluous data has gone.

    Boundaries and the value chain
    Recognising that an organisation’s biggest impacts are often in the value chain, they are required to identify where impacts occur for each material Aspect by describing whether their significance is internal to the organisational boundary or external (eg suppliers or other stakeholders), or both.

    Where’s the hitch?
    Clearly the quality of the report hinges on the robustness of the materiality process, and since this is primitive in many organisations, major questions remain about whether reports will really represent the organisation’s impacts and its sustainability context. It will be up to the organisations themselves, assurance providers and other stakeholders to scrutinise, critique and improve the materiality process. Fertile territory for rating agencies perhaps?

  • Fran 7:48 pm on June 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: capitalism, internet, , stakehodler engagement   

    Breakthrough Capitalism 

    Most sustainability people enjoy their subject’s long horizons and broad view,
    but for me the most interesting part of last week’s Breakthrough Capitalism conference hosted by Volans in London was the discussion around emerging tools for understanding and unpacking detail.

    Bronwyn Kunhardt from Polecat introduced one of these tools:
    MeaningMine, the world’s first virtual analyst platform for collecting and reporting intelligence on online content and social media. The MeaningMine platform ingests over 1.5 million online and social media postings every day.

    By way of demonstration, Bronwyn showed what happened when a proprietary algorithm was run over global postings to automatically identify the most frequently cited adjectives used in conjunction with ‘Capitalism’. No mean task: the global capitalism conversation is massive – over 160,000 postings have been published worldwide in the last 6 months.

    Globally, ‘crony capitalism’ proved to be the most popular term. But drill down a bit, and the detail gets more interesting. If you look for all the capitalism citations mentioning Canada, trends are more positive than for US citations. Venture capitalism moves from number 4 to number 2 spot, and ‘compassionate capitalism’ comes in 3rd.

    Capitalism mentions citing US - click to enlarge

    Capitalism mentions citing Canada - click to enlarge

    Although by no means a silver bullet for sustainability strategy, MeaningMine does offer a breakthrough for stakeholder engagement, useful for tracking and understanding subtle differences between conversations on sustainability themes around the world. Welcome!

    • Amy Brown 4:27 am on June 8, 2012 Permalink

      Smart idea, and one that will no doubt be of interest for a wide range of industries that want to tap into the massive global online conversation. Today’s Washington Post reported how “big data” mined from social media is redefining finance. The trader featured in the article monitors more than 340 million Twitter posts flying around the world each day to try to assess the collective mood of the populace. He uses a computer program that generates a global sentiment score from 1 to 50 based on how pessimistic or optimistic people seem to be from their online conversations. And he buys and trades millions of stocks for private investors based on that information. When everyone appears happy, he generally busy, the Post reports. When anxiety runs high, he sells short. Apparently, it’s proven to be a winning strategy, he’s seen a gain of more than 7 percent in the first quarter of this year. So we can expect individuals, companies and governments to begin tracking our sentiment to get their way with us…is this Big Brother or a way to harness global unity on important issues that affect us all? Time will tell–and everyone, it seems, is listening and watching to find out.

    • Bronwyn 11:44 am on June 8, 2012 Permalink

      Hi Amy, this is fascinating! We tried something similar with a Hedge Fund last year, to see if analysing social media frequency and sentiment around renewables could give a predictive lense onto stock price. Clearly, if we’d been able to get it spot on we’d be off trading happily in the Bahamas! This kind of big data analysis (from our perspective) gives really good technical signposts into the content, which, when you’re dealing with broad and big subjects like we do on the sustainability front is really helpful. Like a poll of polls. I think this is important in the sustainability field, I think getting some context about the topic is hugely helpful as it keeps the “echo-chamber” at bay. You raise the point about potentially “gaming” people or information. You’re right to be concerned about that, it was one of the first things that John Elkington raised when he joined our Advisory Board. That, among other big data “ethical” issues is what we’re keeping a sharp eye on.

    • Fran 1:42 pm on June 8, 2012 Permalink

      Thanks Bronwyn. Interesting, and not so surprising, that you have already identified and addressed governance issues for your business. It’ll be fascinating to see how norms or protocols develop around analysing online conversations: Will freedom prevail or can we expect formalisation? And can we imagine any sort of policing process?

    • Bronwyn 5:38 pm on June 8, 2012 Permalink

      Hey Fran, my feeling is we’ll get some formalization in the way of methodologies being aired publically and commented on. The “old school” big data analaysis (like Competitive Intelligence which was spawned from Military Intelligence) has such “policing”. For us, we’re looking at learning from such diligence but keeping it flexible because public domain “big data” is a very different animal. It could well be that “crowd sourcing” the policing of the information (is it accurate, does it feel right, does it feel like propaganda) might be the way forward. Apart from customer feedback (and they generally have a good sense of what’s “right” or not in terms of accuracy) we’re also experimenting with things like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome, just to see if that provides some sense of balance and “light” policing on the data we produce and methodologies we use.

  • Amy 7:57 am on April 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Digital media, , stakehodler engagement, ,   

    Everybody’s talking 

    To round up our survey over the past few weeks of innovative corporate social media practices we’ve come across these highlights from companies who are successfully engaging their stakeholders in new and exciting ways:

    Staoil, the Norwegian energy company, has just published their 2009 Annual Report which integrates their Sustainability Report and done a clever job of seizing new media possibilities by incorporating a video introduction from their CEO when you click the link for the Report. In addition, the Report includes theme articles, each with an interactive story with narration and clickable images and graphics to give further insight.

    Centrica, a UK- based energy company, invites people in for a chat on topics like behavior vs. technology: what’s the best way to tackle climate change? or has their top CR people field some tough questions about their CR report.

    In Italy, the energy company Eni uses blogs, videos , web chats, and debate topics to get people talking.

    Visitors are encouraged to get involved in initiatives to reduce printing. At Syngenta in Switzerland,
    we commend a nice use of video with employees from around the company to answer questions, for example: What is needed to help farmers to grow more from less?

    But for cleverness, creativity, and passion in getting people involved with a business idea, nothing we’ve found beats Better Place, the US-based electric car company, which blends a traditional business website with a strong focus on getting people involved in a movement in support of electric cars. There is engaging use of videos, such as this one: How do toy cars work?, inviting people to post their Flickr photos, and to join a “growing community of passionate supporters” and “Become part of the movement toward sustainable energy, responsible business and a healthier planet. They’ve struck a responsive chord, with some 15,700 members of Better Place.com, and people posting 2,914 photos and 121 videos to date. Members create a profile, can send each other gifts, and share articles and comments and also have a chance to be a “featured member” with a profile on the site.

    If more companies started following the lead of Better Place and other companies seizing new media’s possibilities, we’d all be talking.

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