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.
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.