In part 2 of my exclusive series on social media use for sustainability programs for Sustainable Business Forum, we look at the strategic outbound communications mode of the information life cycle presented in part 1. In this mode, organizations “declare to the world” their findings and intent regarding their sustainability program in an attempt to engage stakeholders (citizens, investors, partners, customers, and other external actors to the organization). I offer examples from City of Beaverton, County of Oakland (Michigan), IKEA, SAP, and Starbucks Coffee.
In my work with the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accounts (MACPA, www.michcpa.org) I have briefed hundreds of accountants and financial managers on the two purposes of sustainability reporting. The first is a strategic intent to communicate to the public at large – shareholders, customers, and other stakeholders – the good things that the organization is pursuing across a triple bottom-line (3BL) scorecard. The second is a responsive measure based on the need to report on business performance to this same audience. These differences suggest as well the nature of the information to be presented as well as the different social media approaches – called channels – that would best be used to reach the target audience to best accomplish communications objectives in sustainability programs.
What a company or organization decides to promote is just as if not more important than how a company or organization decides to communicate the message across social media. There are a number of basic to very complex reporting disclosures, each ranging from very formal to informal basis. Simple disclosures might involve sharing information – from statements of direction, to activities and accomplishments – across simple social media such as websites, podcasts, and YouTube channels. More complex disclosures, such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Integrated Reporting with financial statements, or Global Reporting Initiative (G3) filings can be demanding and elaborate, with multiple interactive layers of drill-down click-through metrics, requiring dedicated sites or pages.
Read the full article here. In the next article in our series we will look at how companies translate the strategic messaging from outward to the public audience now inward to the enterprise in order to motivate, engage and excite employees and executives to execute sustainability program activities. This is a process deeply rooted in organization change management techniques, where messaging channel and content is an important key ingredient to change personal behavior.