Tag Archives: corporate communication

Integrated Reporting: Valuing the Financial, Social and Natural Capital

The end of year financial statements usually focus on financial capital, whereas organisational performance relies on resources – such as the expertise of people, intellectual property that was developed through research and development, and interactions with the environment and the societies in which they operate.  In this light, Integrated Reporting (<IR>) was developed to fill such reporting gaps. The IR Framework categorises different stocks of value, including; Financial Capital; Manufactured Capital; Intellectual Capital; Human Capital; Social (and Relationship) Capital; as well as Natural Capital.

 

 

The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) has promoted the concept of integrated thinking and reporting. In 2013, the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) released a framework for integrated reporting. By doing so, IIRC has paved the way for the next generation of annual reports that enable stakeholders to make a more informed assessment of the organisation’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects. IIRC has aligned capital allocations and corporate behaviours with the wider goals of financial stability and  sustainable development. Its framework established the following ‘Guiding Principles’ and ‘Content Elements’:

Guiding Principles

  1. Strategic focus and future orientation –gives an insight of the organisation’s strategy;
  2. Connectivity of information – provides a holistic picture of the combination, inter relatedness and dependencies between the factors that affect the organisation’s ability to create value over time;
  3. Stakeholder relationships – describes the nature and quality of the organisation’s relationships with its key stakeholders;
  4. Materiality – discloses relevant information about matters that substantively affect the organisation’s ability to create value over the short, medium and long term;
  5. Conciseness – provides sufficient context to understand the organisation’s strategy, governance and prospects without being burdened by less relevant information;
  6. Reliability and completeness – includes all material matters, both positive and negative, in a balanced way and without material error;
  7. Consistency and comparability – ensures consistency over time and enabling comparisons with other organisations to the extent material to the organisation’s own ability to create value.

Content Elements

  1. Organisational overview and external environment – What does the organisation do and what are the circumstances under which it operates?
  2. Governance – How does an organisation’s governance structure support its ability to create value in the short, medium and long term?
  3. Business model – What is the organisation’s business model?
  4. Risks and opportunities – What are the specific risk and opportunities that affect the organisation’s ability to create value over the short, medium and long term, and how is the organisation dealing with them?
  5. Strategy and resource allocation – Where does the organisation want to go and how does it intend to get there?
  6. Performance – To what extent has the organisation achieved its strategic objectives for the period and what are its outcomes in terms of effects on the capitals?
  7. Outlook – What challenges and uncertainties is the organisation likely to encounter in pursuing its strategy, and what are the potential implications for its business model and future performance?
  8. Basis of preparation and presentation – How does the organization determine what matters to include in the integrated report and how are such matters quantified or evaluated?

The ‘Guiding Principles’ underpin the preparation of an integrated report, whilst, the ‘Content Elements’ are the key categories of information that should be included in an integrated report according to the IR Framework. There are no bench marking for the above matters and the report is primarily aimed at the private sector; but IR could be adapted to the public sector and to not-for-profit organisations. The IIRC has set out a principle-based framework rather than specifying a detailed disclosure and measurement standard. This way each company sets out its own report rather than adopting a checklist approach. Hence, the report acts as a platform which explains what creates value to the business and how management protects this value. This gives the report more business impetus rather than mandating compliance-led approaches.

For the time being, the integrated reporting is not going to replace other forms of reporting but the vision is that large undertakings, including corporations, state-owned entities and government agencies, among others, may be expected to pull together relevant information already produced to explain the key drivers of their non-financial performance. Relevant information will only be included in the report where it is material to the stakeholder’s assessment of the business. The term ‘materiality’ suggests that there are legal connotations that may be related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting, Yet, some entities out of their own volition are already including ESG information in their integrated report.

In sum, the integrated reports aim to provide an insight into the company’s resources, relationships (that are also known as the capitals) and on how the company interacts with its external environment to create value.

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Special Offer > Get 20% off this Springer business textbook on Corporate Social Responsibility

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*This offer is valid from 1st April to 1st May 2017.

This business text-book can be purchased from Springer or Amazon.

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Filed under Business, Circular Economy, Corporate Governance, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, CSR, digital media, Marketing, Shared Value, Socially Responsible Investment, SRI, Stakeholder Engagement, sustainable development

Responsible Investing: Making a Positive Impact

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Impact investing is one of the fastest growing and promising areas of innovative development finance (Thornley, Wood, Grace & Sullivant, 2011; Freireich & Fulton, 2009). This form of socially-responsible investment (SRI) also has its roots in the venture capital community where investors unlock a substantial volume of private and public capital into companies, organisations and funds – with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.

The stakeholders or actors in the impact investing industry can be divided into four broad categories: asset owners who actually own capital; asset managers who deploy capital; demand-side actors who receive and utilise the capital; and service providers who help make this market work.

Impact investments can be made in both emerging and developed markets, and target a range of returns from below market to market rate; depending on the investors’ strategic goals. Bugg-Levine and Emerson (2011) argued that impact investing aligns the businesses’ investments and purchase decisions with their values. Defining exactly what is (and what is not) an impact investment has become increasingly important as it appears that the term has taken off among academia and practitioners.

The impact investments are usually characterised by market organisations that are driven by a core group of proponents including foundations, high-net worth individuals, family offices, investment banks and development finance institutions. Responsible entities are mobilising capital for ‘investments that are intended to create social impact beyond financial returns’ (Jackson, 2013; Freireich & Fulton 2009). Specific examples of impact investments may include; micro-finance, community development finance, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, conservation, micro-finance and affordable and accessible basic services, including; housing, healthcare, education and clean technology among others.

Micro-finance institutions in developing countries and affordable housing schemes in developed countries have been the favorite vehicles for these responsible investments, though impact investors are also beginning to diversify across a wider range of sectors (see Saltuk, Bouri, & Leung 2011; Harji & Jackson 2012). Nevertheless, micro-finance has represented an estimated 50% of European impact investing assets (EUROSIF, 2014). This form of investing has grown to an estimated €20 billion market in Europe alone (EUROSIF, 2014). The Netherlands and Switzerland were key markets for this investment strategy, as they represented an estimated two thirds of these assets. These markets were followed by Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Generally, the investors’ intent is to ensure that they achieve positive impacts in society. Therefore, they would in turn expect tangible evidence of positive outcomes (and impacts) of their capital. Arguably, the evaluation capacity of impact investing could increase opportunities for dialogue and exchange. Therefore, practitioners are encouraged to collaborate, exchange perspectives and tools to strengthen their practices in ways that could advance impact investing. The process behind on-going encounters and growing partnerships could surely be facilitated through conferences, workshops, online communities and pilot projects. Moreover, audit and assurance ought to be continuously improved as institutions and investors need to be equipped with the best knowledge about evaluation methods. Hence, it is imperative that University and college courses are designed, tested and refined to improve the quality of education as well as  professional training and development in evaluating responsible investments.

For evaluation to be conducted with ever more precision and utility, it must be informed by mobilising research and analytics. Some impact investing funds and intermediaries are already using detailed research and analysis on investment portfolios and target sectors. At the industry-wide level, the work of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and IRIS (a catalogue of generally accepted Environmental, Social and Governance – ESG performance metrics) is generating large datasets as well as a series of case studies on collaborative impact investments. Similarly, the Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS) also issues quarterly analytics reports on companies and their respective funds in industry metrics (Camilleri, 2015).

For the most part, those responsible businesses often convert positive impact-investment outcomes into tangible benefits for the poor and the marginalised people (Garriga & Melé, 2004). Such outcomes may include increased greater food security, improved housing, higher incomes, better access to affordable services (e.g. water, energy, health, education, finance), environmental protection, and the like (Jackson, 2013).

Interestingly, high sustainability companies significantly outperform their counterparts over the long-term, both in terms of stock market and accounting performance (Eccles, Ioannou & Serafeim, 2012). This out-performance is stronger in sectors where the customers are individual consumers, rather than companies (Eccles et al., 2012).

It may be complicated and time-consuming to quantify how enterprises create various forms of humanitarian and environmental value, yet some approaches and analytical tools can help to address today’s societal challenges, including the return on impact investments in social and sustainability projects.

References

Bugg-Levine, A., & Emerson, J. (2011). Impact investing: Transforming how we make money while making a difference. innovations, 6(3), 9-18.
Camilleri, M. A. (2015). Environmental, social and governance disclosures in Europe. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 6(2), 224-242.

Eccles, R. G., Ioannou, I., & Serafeim, G. (2012). The impact of a corporate culture of sustainability on corporate behavior and performance (No. W17950). National Bureau of Economic Research.

EUROSIF (2014). Press Release: 6th Sustainable and Responsible Investment Study 2014. Europe-based national Sustainable Investment Forums. http://www.eurosif.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Press-Release-European-SRI-Study-2014-English-version.pdf (Accessed 14 May 2016).

Freireich, J., & Fulton, K. (2009). Investing for social and environmental impact: A design for catalyzing an emerging industry. Monitor Institute, January.

Garriga, E., & Melé, D. (2004). Corporate social responsibility theories: Mapping the territory. Journal of business ethics, 53(1-2), 51-71.

Harji, K., & Jackson, E. T. (2012). Accelerating impact: Achievements, challenges and what’s next in building the impact investing industry. New York, NY: The Rockefeller Foundation.

Jackson, E. T. (2013). Interrogating the theory of change: evaluating impact investing where it matters most. Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment, 3(2), 95-110.

Saltuk, Y., Bouri, A., & Leung, G. (2011). Insight into the impact investment market: An in-depth analysis of investor perspectives and over 2,200 transactions. New York, NY: J.P. Morgan.

Thornley, B., Wood, D., Grace, K., & Sullivant, S. (2011). Impact Investing a Framework for Policy Design and Analysis. InSight at Pacific Community Ventures & The Initiative for Responsible Investment at Harvard University.

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Corporate Communication, Stakeholder Engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility

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Companies are increasingly dedicating their time and resources to promote their public relations initiatives. Corporate Communication Managers and executives have a wide array of media channels at their disposal. These may  be used to communicate their corporate social responsibility CSR credentials. As a matter of fact, businesses are continuously being scrutinised by media, customers, monitoring groups, consumer forums and blogs (Du et al., 2010).

Very often, businesses disclose their CSR activities through official documents, such as annual corporate responsibility or sustainability reports, media releases, dedicated sections of their corporate websites; as well as in social media pages or groups. CSR communication is produced, translated, and integrated according to the companies’ contexts and their specific reality constructions (Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010).

Companies could use broadcast advertising, including TV and radio commercials. Businesses could also utilise print media (e.g. newspapers, magazines) to disseminate their message to their target audience. Newspaper articles reflect corporate ideas of social responsibilities and assumptions about public expectations, and react herewith to what they perceive as the public’s expectations (Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010). Alternatively, they may use outdoor advertisements such as billboards and signage on brick-and-mortar premises. These traditional media are based on a hierarchical one‐to‐many communication; with a clear distinction between producer and consumer of information. Notwithstanding, there are other communication channels that are not entirely controlled by the company. For this reason, businesses are encouraged to become more proficient in the use of digital media in addition to traditional media to increase their impact of their corporate communication.

Evidently, the internet has reshaped communication at different levels. It has enabled the emergence of a new participatory public sphere that is based on a many‐to‐many communication where everybody can dialogically and publicly interact and collaborate in the creation of content and the definition of the agenda (Colleoni, 2013; Jenkins, 2006). In a relatively short period of time, the internet has become an essential tool for organisational communication (Capriotti & Moreno, 2007a; Stuart & Jones, 2004).

Moreover, in today’s digital era, the engagement between the public and the organisation is one of the main characteristics of the internet (Colleoni, 2013). Many corporate websites already possess a high degree of interactivity; including their ability to disseminate information and to generate relationships between the different publics and the organisation (Capriotti & Moreno, 2007). In the first approach, the level of interactivity is low, and the use of the Internet is unidirectional; as its essential objective is to diffuse information and to try to improve the corporate image of the business. However, in the second approach, the degree of interactivity is high, and the Internet is used to facilitate bidirectional communication and to nurture relationships by allowing dialogue and interaction between the organisation and its stakeholders.

Interactive communication is becoming one of the most important information channels for corporations as it is changing social dynamics (Fieseler & Fleck, 2013; O`Reilly, 2005; 2006). Web-based co‐operation and data exchanges have empowered the communication between businesses and their stakeholders (Buhalis & Law, 2008; O´Riley, 2006, Fieseler et al., 2010). It enables them to engage with online users and to take advantage of positive publicity arising from word-of-mouth marketing and digital platforms. Corporations can maintain legitimacy better as they engage with stakeholders via social media; and take on the gate keeping function of traditional media (Fieseler et al. 2010). At the same time, there are protest actors; who have become more powerful online as they disrupt the corporations’ legitimacy by using social media (Castelló, Morsing & Schultz, 2013; Bennett 2003).

Societies are currently undergoing a fundamental transformation toward globally networked societies (Castelló, Morsing, & Schultz, 2013). Unsurprisingly, the public relations and corporate communications of business have benefited of social networking software (Etter, Morsing, and Castello, 2011; Pressley (2006). Of course, these technological advances also have consequences for CSR communication; as companies can reach out to stakeholders in a more interactive way. In a similar vein, the use of social networks have offered the businesses new forms of interactivity and enable them to address the CSR information toward a variety of stakeholders (Isenmann, 2006). A powerful stakeholder group, the consumers serve as an informal yet highly credible CSR communication channel. In particular, the power of consumer word-of-mouth has been greatly magnified given the popularity and vast reach of interactive communication.

Companies such as Stonyfield Farm and Ben & Jerry’s have been benefiting from consumer ambassadors who raved, in the virtual world, about their social responsibility endeavours. For example, one consumer wrote enthusiastically about Ben & Jerry’s butter pecan ice cream and its support for an educational foundation, ‘besides the great flavour that the Ben & Jerry’s Butter Pecan Ice Cream offers you, a portion of the proceeds go to the Tom Joyner Foundation . . . [that] provides financial support to students attending historically black colleges and universities’ (Associated Content 2008). Companies can be proactive in using social media to engage consumers to be their CSR advocates.

Timberland, a company that is known for its environmental stewardship, launched the Earthkeeper campaign in 2008 to recruit one million people to become part of an online network designed to inspire real environmental behaviour change. As part of the Earthkeeper programme, Timberland launched an innovative global network of online social networking tools, including a strong Facebook presence, a YouTube Earthkeeper Brand Channel and a richly populated Earthkeeper blog, as well as an Earthkeeper product collection which serves as the pinnacle expression of the company’s environmental commitment (CSRWire 2008). Through this campaign, Timberland not only effectively communicating its sustainability initiative, but also engaging consumers to spread the word about this initiative and, importantly, the company’s involvement in this initiative.

Fieseler et al. (2010) suggested that communication through social media is dynamic in relation to traditional media. The global diffusion of social software like blogs, RSS feed, wikis, electronic forum, social networks have facilitated companies to attract prospects and consumer groups. Social media have the technological potential to speed up communication processes (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010) and to increase direct interaction, dialogue and participation across organisations and various audiences (Colleoni 2013; Schultz et al. 2011). Such interactive communications are referred to as “viral” because ideas and opinions spread like epidemic diseases through the network via word‐of‐mouth and are perceived as highly trustworthy sources (Colleoni et al., 2011; Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010).

Accordingly, social media has transformed the communicative dynamics within and between corporations and their environment.  Social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics. These networks may help business communicators and marketers identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content16 (Some of the most popular hashtags comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions and green non-governmental organisations. They may also help during fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

The ubiquity of Facebook and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. These social media empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.

Moreover, LinkedIn is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. Evidently, these innovative avenues provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet. YouTube, Vimeo and Vine seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate CSR communication through video content. These digital media also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

This contribution suggests that corporate communications managers and executives are in a position to amplify the effectiveness of their company’s CSR communication efforts. They are expected to create relevant content and to engage with stakeholders through different marketing communications channels.

 

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