Social helps companies communicate CSR

NEW YORK: Companies are increasingly using digital media to help them more clearly explain their sustainability and corporate social responsibility progress this year.

NEW YORK: Companies are increasingly using digital media to help them more clearly explain their sustainability and corporate social responsibility progress this year.

Bank of America's second annual CSR report, released last week, is more than 120 pages long, so the company is using social media, video, and infographics to share the report's contents with stakeholders.

“Our report is typically long, with a lot of information and data,” said Noelle Bell, SVP and communications manager at Bank of America. “We tried to recognize that people who care about CSR are very heavily engaged in social media.”

Besides pitching to traditional media, the company created a separate landing page for the report along with two infographics, one summarizing the report's findings and another illustrating its $20 billion environmental initiative. The bank has shared the report's contents and infographics on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. It also held its first Twitter chat last week to coincide with the report's release, during which global CSR and consumer policy executive Andrew Plepler answered questions about the company's CSR and environmental efforts.

Following the report's release, Bank of America is integrating CSR messaging into communications with employees, investors, and outside influencers as well. The company plans to highlight its findings again when it announces its quarterly lending and investment update this week. It also encourages employees to talk about CSR efforts through email and face-to-face meetings, Bell said.

UPS is also using social media to promote its 2011 sustainability report, including Facebook, Twitter, and a video with chief sustainability officer Scott Wicker on YouTube and its corporate website.

Those tools help the company communicate about the report with a wide range of audiences, said Lynnette McIntire, sustainability communications manager and editor of the sustainability report. Since the first edition in 2003, the sustainability report has grown from 16 pages to 165.

“There are so many different stakeholder groups, so we want to make sure they all get what they need,” McIntire said. “The report is a very credible tool to help people evaluate us. It creates an opportunity for dialogue around issues outside the industry and keeps our momentum going forward.”

Both UPS and Bank of America create their reports based on standards from the Global Reporting Initiative, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic, social, and environmental sustainability. UPS' report received an A+ grade from GRI this year for transparency.

Strict guidelines from organizations like GRI lend credibility to a company's CSR efforts, but they also complicate reporting, McIntire said.

“[The sustainability report] is not just a marketing piece anymore,” she said. “It's a document of record that has to hold up to the same kind of scrutiny as our financial reporting.”

On the agency side, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide released its fourth annual corporate citizenship report Tuesday. The 16-page document details the agency's performance in global presence, environment, and community in 2011. WE shared highlights from the report on social media channels including Facebook and Twitter, a blog post, as well as by distributing infographics.

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