Being transparent about your sustainable efforts fosters brand trust.
In the last few weeks, we’ve covered some of the leading strategies successful companies are using to tell sustainability stories that drive bottom-line benefits. (Check out the first three installments on Internal Engagement, Smart Goals and Positivity.) Today we’ll wrap up this series with one of the most important: making sure your sustainability story is as transparent as possible.
Early in the sustainability movement, companies worried that public disclosure would bring unwanted scrutiny. In fact, the reverse has turned out to be true. The more effectively you tell your sustainability story, the more credible you’ll be and the more your bottom line is likely to benefit. Transparency is the new currency of trust.
Corporate strategy in this arena is seeing dramatic shifts. Smart companies are no longer content to be compliant with regulations and consumer expectations. They’re going above and beyond what’s required to position themselves as sustainable leaders, innovators, and trendsetters. There’s still competition, but now with a twist. More often the competition you see is between big players eager to educate other companies by highlighting their own initiatives. There are very few trade secrets when it comes to responsible businesses practices. If there is a higher level of performance beyond your peers, it is achieving sustainability thought leadership across categories and industries.
Transparency offers terrific storytelling opportunities, but it also imposes greater responsibility, given the level of scrutiny often encountered in the harsh light of the Internet. Late in 2010, for example, ConAgra made a big deal about removing high fructose corn syrup from Hunt’s Ketchup. When the move failed to increase sales, the company very quietly re-introduced HFCS to its product, provoking outrage on consumer websites. This example highlights the importance — and direction correlation between — keeping your commitments to retaining your credibility. What you say you’ll do and what you actually do is more public and easily accessible than ever before. To reap the benefits of transparency, you’ll need to keep your promises and walk the walk.
Making sustainability decisions with an eye toward true accountability — with compliance to GRI standards and other metrics — is becoming a more integrated part of the corporate consciousness. In many ways this is still evolving territory, but the examples of companies who are already making it happen suggest it’s well worth the effort—for any type of business.
For more sustainability strategies that are working for the world’s leading companies, download our parathink briefing: Beyond Green: The Expanding Role of Sustainability. Click here to get your free copy.
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