6 must-know CSR trends for public companies in 2017

One of the biggest focuses for public companies in the New Year is improving their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in terms of tailored goals, visibility, reporting, and more. The Ethical Corporation recently released a report in which they gathered research from 948 CSR professionals from around the globe on their thoughts of the state of their profession as it moves into 2017. We analyzed their research, as well as our own findings from what was most crucial for our clients this year, and developed these 6 must-know CSR trends for public companies in 2017.

1. CSR is more mainstream, which means more competition

A few years back, it was enough for public companies to have a fairly comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility section on their website, with a simple PDF presentation and a few images of how they took into consideration the environment, communities, and their social impact. A vague understanding of social impact is no longer enough to stand out amongst the top public companies with the best CSR reputations. Taking action against climate change, contributing to social justice movements, and standing firm in founding principles are trends in themselves for big companies, and have become not just acceptable, but expected. With more companies understanding the value CSR can bring to both their public image and their stakeholders, it’s getting harder to make a message stand out in a sea of ‘do-gooding’. The Bmeaningful Blog writes, “Breaking through the clutter of messaging and advertising will be a challenge but we see tremendous opportunity for professionals who can authentically tell their companies’ cause story”.

2. CSR content will become even more personalized

Focus on CSR goals that make sense for your company and will garner the most trust from your primary stakeholders. As we talk about in our report entitled, What is CSR and Why Your Website Will Tell Your Story, “A trap that many companies fall into is thinking that CSR is only about giving back to the environment…CSR can also focus on efforts with local communities and interactions with your own consumers and what matters to them”. Building investor trust means tailoring content to their main concerns, while also ensuring you’re staying true to your company’s story and goals. If you’ve published multiple CSR success stories to a company newsletter, one focusing on community impact and one focusing on social change, you can serve different content to different investors based on what they most care about. As we discuss in our article about Digital Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2017, investors are looking for more personalized content. This includes what CSR stories you should be promoting.

csr trends for 2017 video

3. Showcase CSR efforts through video and animation     

Perhaps the biggest trend we see each year in the digital marketing world is that the online attention span of consumers is shrinking astronomically. We are so used to getting the information we want online right away, in bite-sized pieces. The same concept applies with investors. Your investors won’t have the time to read a 15 page PDF report on how your latest CSR measure impacted a community and benefited your company. Break down the CSR successes of the past year with videos, data visualizations, or animations on your website. Even more important: make your reporting shareable. Short videos illustrating your impact as a company are the perfect way to get some brand differentiation and easily circulate your message. TELUS’ 2015 Sustainability Report is a great example of how a company can mix text, bold images, and data visualization to highlight impact.

4. Align your CSR goals with those at the top

Ethical Corporation’s report states that “Only 25% of CSR executives [surveyed] stated their CFO is absolutely convinced of the value of the CSR report”. This is a problem. If your company’s CEO, CFO, and more aren’t aware of the CSR goals for the coming year, or don’t see value in spending more time, energy, and money on CSR initiatives or CSR reporting, your company will come across as disjointed and not united in your social message. Ensure that environmental impact, social justice, and community service goals aren’t simply dreamt and executed within one department. The whole company, from the top to the bottom, should understand the importance of what you’re doing and how it relates to your vision and end goals.

5. Make CSR presentations available on every platform

We spoke above about translating your CSR initiatives to video and animation, but it’s equally important to make sure what you’re putting out there can be accessed by anyone who wants to see what your company is up to. 2017 will see even more people disregard their desktops for a mobile phone, so make sure every downloadable CSR presentation, testimonial video, customer story, and website link are available by a smartphone or tablet browser.

csr trends for 2017 tablet

6. Don’t just report, relate back

Don’t focus all your CSR energy on reporting. Ethical Corporation’s report says, “60% of respondents agreed that too much time is being spent on the reporting process”. Investors want to see how CSR initiatives affected the numbers, but that doesn’t mean you can pull a ‘number dump’ and be done with it. Make sure you’re not just reporting the numbers or you’ll create a disconnect between your company and the lives you actually impacted. So this year, think about other ways to illustrate the impact you’ve made. Include more employee testimonials, customer success stories, environmental impact studies, or ‘Message from the CEO’ videos. Mixing up how you deliver CSR good news makes sure investors, as well as your target audiences, don’t get number fatigue.

 

Conclusion: Don’t choose a CSR focus based on what’s trending

Ironically, even though this article is all about CSR trends, make sure you’re not shifting your CSR strategy each year based on what’s trending. Although many big companies have jumped at the chance to show their support for social change in the past few years, that doesn’t mean you have to organize something similar for your company if a big social justice push doesn’t match your short or long term goals. As long as everyone is working towards your company vision, you should be okay.

For a comprehensive look at ways to improve your CSR on your website, as well as some great examples of public companies with great CSR reporting, download our guide below!

 

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5 Great CSR Pages That You Need To Check Out

If, after reading about why it’s so important to highlight CSR on your website here, you’re not convinced that Corporate Social Responsibility is the right fit for your business, perhaps this will sway your opinion:

The Reputation Institute, a private consulting firm, invited over 40,000 consumers across 15 markets to participate in a study in an effort to rank the world’s most reputable companies. The study not only found broke ground in terms of discovering purchasing habits, it also found that willingness to buy is driven 60% by consumer perception of the company, with the actual products or services impacting only 40%.

Can you imagine?

The better the reputation, the greater chance of consumer purchasing. Which means that, instead of focusing primarily on your company’s product or services, it’s time to pay close attention to your reputation. Corporate Social Responsibility leads the way in developing and enhancing reputation, making it more important than ever to tell your story online.

We’ve developed some impressive CSR pages over our years working in Investor Relations, so we’ve done our fair share of research into great CSR pages that our clients have drawn inspiration from.

Which is why we’re sharing them with you now.

If your business is focused on enhancing the reputation of your company, and driving revenue while you’re at it, below are 5 great CSR pages that you need to check out now.

 

1. eBay

great csr pages ebay

Why we love it: It’s transparent.

With eBay’s CSR page, all information is transparent – which means that the end consumer is not left feeling confused or unsure of eBay’s CSR goals, impact and practices.

eBay clearly displays their CSR focus through their website; the website is easy to navigate, and it is mobile-friendly – two important features of any CSR page.

2. B2Gold

great csr pages b2

Why we love it: It’s interactive.

This is the only bias on the list because, well, we made it.

We love B2Gold’s CSR page because it’s interactive. B2Gold.com features an interactive map with their holdings around the world, which gives visitors to the site an opportunity to navigate through a Global map and learn about production, development and exploration sites. It’s truly a leader within the industry.

3. Whistler Blackcomb

great csr pages whistler

Why we love it: It’s mobile-friendly.

This is a must for any CSR site, and Whistler Blackcomb does it well.

Not only is the site easy to navigate and straight-forward in terms of the information featured, it’s also mobile-friendly, meaning that it is responsive on every platform we’ve tried here in the Blender office. This makes for a seamless experience for the end user.

4. Microsoft

great csr pages msn

Why we love it: We’re swooning over the design…

Microsoft’s creative and design teams are heroes in our books. This CSR site is clean, mobile-friendly, easy to navigate and transparent, all-in-one.

When landing on Microsoft’s CSR homepage, the focus of this company is clear – Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability. There is no lack of clarity, and the minimalist creative is simply stunning.

5. Mastercard

great csr pages mcard

Why we love it: It combines various mediums.

From video to photos, news stories to social media, Mastercard isn’t afraid to combine various mediums on their CSR site.

After just two scrolls on the homepage, visitors can consume a video on global financial inclusion, which is a focus of the company’s CSR goals and objectives.

We love seeing companies incorporate various mediums on their CSR site, and Mastercard is doing it right.

 

Don’t be boring.

If we can emphasize one key takeaway, it’s this.

CSR is meant to be fun. It’s meant to showcase the strengths of your business, while enhancing your reputation in the marketplace.

When designing and developing your CSR site or pages, remember to keep them interactive, mobile-friendly, and informative.

And, when testing, ask yourself this question: would I want to scroll through this site? Would I be interested in consuming this content? If the answer is “yes”, then give yourself a high-five. You could make our next “great” list.

 

How Blender Helped B2Gold Tell Their CSR Story Online

So, you’ve decided that telling your CSR story online is a must for your business. You’ve started to discuss next steps in recent leadership meetings, and you’re responding rapidly to questions posed from your Executive Team. Your budget is starting to come together to bring your story to your website, but you’re just not sure what the end result will look like.

It’s a question (and sometimes, a concern) that we hear often, so rest assured – you’re in good company. While you might have a great idea and vision of how you want to tell your story, what it will look and feel like is often a mystery.

That’s why we’re here. And that’s also why we’re sharing one of our favorite examples of a company that’s doing great things in telling their CSR story online: B2Gold.

About B2Gold

B2Gold is a Vancouver based gold producer with a strong portfolio of development and exploration assets. They are one of the fastest-growing intermediate gold producers in the world and, since its inception in 2007, have evolved into an international gold mining company.

The Challenge

When B2Gold came to Blender, their website wasn’t mobile or tablet friendly – and quite frankly, it was difficult to navigate. The breadth of information, including their CSR story, was deep within their website, and sometimes non-existent.

That’s why we’re here…

csr story online homepage

Knowing that B2Gold wanted to tell their story in such a way that displayed their global presence of their products in a highly visual, easy-to-consume way, we were ready to take on the challenge.

Working closely with the client, we collaborated to revise the sitemap and information architecture so we could, first and foremost, develop the framework. It was important to demonstrate B2Gold’s strengths of their assets, including their CSR work, and it was even more important to outline how the site would perform before determining what it would look like.

The Result – Their CSR Story Online

The result of this work was a truly interactive and detailed project map that rivaled the very best in the industry (spoiler bias: we think the map we created for B2Gold is the very best). This map accomplished their overall goal, which was to accurately display the global presence of their business and projects from Asia-Pacific to South America.

csr story online map

To experience the interactive map for yourself, click here.

The CSR portion of B2Gold’s website was also a priority; with active work in responsible mining, social responsibility, occupational health and safety, environment and biodiversity, it was important to tell the entire story in an easy-to-consume, responsive way.

B2Gold’s CSR site focused around image-based storytelling on mobile, desktop and tablet-responsive pages, making it easy for prospective investors to view and digest.

So, what should you look for when selecting your agency?

When you’ve decided that telling your CSR story online effectively is a must for your business, there are three things you need to look for when selecting your partner agency.

  1. Find an agency that works within Investor Relations

If you’re crossing your fingers and hoping that any agency will work, we hate to break the bad news to you – but they probably won’t. Working in IR is a whole new ball game, so you need to find an agency that has a positive track record within investor relations. Be sure to request case studies from clients who are in your industry.

  1. Ask the question: what happens when you’re finished my project?

One red flag of a potential agency partner is one that leaves when the project is complete.

What happens if you find bugs a few months later? What happens if a broken link is found just a few days after the contract is complete?

Look for an agency who will be with you every step of the way – not one that leaves you when your website has launched.

  1. Request to see examples of CSR sections they’ve developed and launched.

We’ve talked about the importance of CSR for your business, and while you might have a storytelling concept that you love, it’s important to receive feedback from the agency who will build your CSR online presence.

What works? What doesn’t? What will differentiate you from competition? What’s your favourite CSR section that your team has built?

Ask these questions from a potential agency so you can truly understand their grasp of the industry and the importance of telling your CSR story online.

Conclusion

We loved working with B2Gold here at Blender, and we couldn’t have been more proud of the final result. As you’re starting your CSR storytelling journey, and while you’re identifying potential agency partners, keep this blog bookmarked – we’re sure it will provide inspiration as you move forward.

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5 Best Practices for CSR On Your Website

We’ve talked about how important corporate social responsibility (CSR) is for your company, and even various elements that should be included when you’re telling your story online, but, when you’ve made the decision to move forward with CSR storytelling (high five, by the way), what are the best practices for CSR pages on your website?

Thankfully, we’ve done the work for you.

Most companies are practicing a form of corporate social responsibility with the overall goal of contributing to their community. The storytelling aspect, however, has changed over the last decade; companies have felt increased pressure to “dress up” CSR and that they need to be delivering every single aspect of every single initiative on their website.

We’re here to tell you that you don’t. We believe that CSR activities should be expressed online in a way that focuses on the fundamental goal of aligning your company’s community projects and initiatives with its business purpose and values, making your CSR endeavours easy to consume online – not difficult to understand.

So, how can your company do it?

We’ve pulled together five of the best CSR websites online now, while providing best practices that will help you stand apart from your competition.

5 Best Practices for CSR On Your Website

1. Ensure that it’s mobile-friendly. Example: Cisco

We love Cisco’s mobile, tablet and desktop-friendly CSR website. It’s easy to navigate, it’s responsive, and it’s worked well on every device we’ve tested.

It’s important to have a mobile-friendly website for investors. 83% of mobile users say that a seamless experience across all devices is very important to their browsing habits, and it’s even more important when a potential investor is arriving to your website.

teck best practices for csr

2. Include a dedicated blog. Example: Microsoft Green Blog

When you’re putting together your CSR section or dedicated website, consider the power of a blog.

Microsoft Green is committed minimizing their environmental impact, so they’re working with partners around the world to focus on a sustainable, low-carbon future for our planet. On their website, Microsoft writes frequently about related topics such as Earth Day, press releases, and company events.

A dedicated CSR blog allows you to focus on internal and external activities as a business, giving you the ability to showcase authenticity and differentiate yourselves from competitors.

best practice csr - microsoft

3. Keep your CSR reports visible. Example: IBM

It’s important to have CSR report downloads from both current and past years in a visible, easy-to-navigate place on your website. This makes the research experience simple for visitors, including investors, and decreases the possibility of high bounce rates.

IBM does it right. The company has two clear navigational drop-downs on their homepage, with one being “Our Reports”. It’s easily found, providing a strong browsing experience.

IBM

4. Pull out the “big wins”. Example: Disney

We love how Disney pulls the “big wins” and displays it on the Philanthropy section of their website.

Disney isn’t afraid to display the massive 23.1 million books donated figure on their homepage, or 333.3 million in giving throughout 2015. Instead of including every single aspect on their site, Disney pulls only the statistics that matter most and have the most impact.

For your business, highlight the big wins; pull 2-3 key statistics that you’re proud of, instead of paragraph upon paragraph from your latest community event. With read rates and time on site lower than ever, you must attract visitors quickly.

disney

5. Make your purpose clear. Example: Google Green

When a visitor lands on your CSR site, there should be no question what the focus and goals of your programs are. Included in this should be your history, business, and overall economic impact of your CSR endeavours.

Google Green knocks this out of the park with their website. When landing on Google.ca/Green, a visitor knows that Google is committed to supporting resource efficiency and renewable power.

Google Best Practices for CSR

Conclusion

From building mobile-friendly sites to celebrating big wins, it’s important to have a CSR section or website that is focused on delivering the key information to the end user – whether it’s the investor or the customer. Too often, we see companies make the mistake of having the CSR site serve the purpose of Executive or Leadership groups, without taking user experience into consideration. With these 5 best practices for CSR on your website, your business will be equipped with the tools you need to break apart from the competition in Corporate Social Responsibility.

 

Why It’s Important to Highlight CSR On Your Website

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?

It’s an age-old question, with an answer that has long been unknown (kind of like the chicken and the egg – and really, what did come first?), but one thing we know for certain – differing opinions make for great conversation, and it couldn’t be more true when it comes to CSR.

At Blender, we’re believers that your website should act as your best employee; your spokesperson, your sales person, and above all, a reflection of who you are as a business. For businesses actively engaged in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) your website is the single best channel to extend the communication of your efforts.

So, if you’re actively engaged in CSR, but you’re not communicating your involvement, is it really happening?

It’s important to highlight CSR on your website. Here’s why.

It breaks you apart from your competition.

Every business should be performing some sort of regular competitor analysis, especially companies working in Investor Relations, and CSR is a great way to break apart from your competition.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are great examples of using CSR to differentiate themselves from competition. While both perform CSR in a similar way (these companies aim for sustainability in water usage), they’re taking hold of CSR communication on investor websites, knowing the impact it has on not only consumers, but investors alike.

CSR on your website 1

It increases sentiment of your business online.

Much like competitor reporting, most companies are also focused on sentiment about their business online. Positive sentiment can lead to an upward trend in revenue, while negative sentiment can lead to a downward trend in revenue (as these Korean tech firms experienced, for example).

Ask any Communications Manager and they’ll agree that positive brand stories should be in their arsenal to mitigate potential neutral or negative quarters. These positive stories are also excellent to release throughout the calendar year as your business goes through natural ebbs and flows.

Using CSR to increase the sentiment of your business online can not only impact the success of your business offline, but it can also impact the online sentiment of your brand with investors and consumers.

CSR On your website 2

It attracts talent (making your HR Department your BFF).

Picture this. You and your competitor have a job opening for the exact same position. You’ve posted within the same week, and you’re going after the same group of candidates. It’s down to a few potential candidates, and you have your eye on one target that you feel would fit so well within your company culture.

Now, picture yourself on the other end of the table. This candidate is deciding between yourself and your competitor, and they’re ranking the pros and cons of both companies – until they realize that you have a strong CSR program, and actively give back within the community. Your company encourages employees to volunteer, and has a number of partner non-profit organizations that you donate to each and every year.

Which company do you think this candidate would choose? The company that understands the importance of contributing to the community, or the company that doesn’t?

It’s a choose-your-own-adventure type of story, with your business coming out on top.

CSR On your website 3

It contributes to cost-savings (encouraging consumers to think the same) and acts as a natural PR story

One of the easiest places for a company to start engaging in CSR is to use it as a way to save on costs and overall expenditures. Whether it’s using less energy or using less packaging, these savings add up quickly.

A great example is General Mills. They’re on a path to reduce cost and energy savings, as they’ve installed energy monitoring meters on several pieces of equipment at its HQ. In doing so, the company saved $600,000.

General Mills went far and wide with PR for this strategy, focusing first on their website. It was included in all CSR material, and was quickly picked-up by publications around North America.

So, not only did this move increase sentiment of their business, it also contributed to cost-savings. It was a natural story for their PR team as well, circling back to an arsenal of content, if and when you need to mitigate neutral or negative sentiment online.

Conclusion

If you’re actively engaging in CSR and not highlighting your endeavours on your website, take note – the pros far outweigh the cons (really, are there cons?)

From differentiating your business from competition to engaging potential talent, the importance of highlighting CSR on your website is real. And, truly, it’s so easy.

To get started, just click here. We’d love to show you how we’ve helped businesses in your industry.

 

 

5 Common CSR Questions Answered

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has quickly become the buzz term that everyone in investor relations is talking about. Loosely speaking, CSR is the idea that a company of any size should contribute to a better society and cleaner environment, with the understanding that doing so will enhance business operations and competitiveness. With this often comes common CSR questions, so take – for example – Google Green. Google Green is a corporate effort to use resources efficiently while supporting renewable power. Not only does this program lower costs for Google as a business, it drastically impacts the bottom line; Google has seen an overall drop in power requirements for their data centers by an average of 50 percent.

Knowing that we’re not all powerhouses like Google (though the sky’s the limit!), any IR business can benefit from CSR.

That’s why we’ve put together common CSR questions we’re asked all the time. We love CSR so much, we’re here to help answer your burning questions about this area of opportunity for your business.

5 Common CSR Questions Answered

1. Why should I have a CSR section on my website?

This is a question that we hear often, and one that we always love answering.

Implementing CSR on your site will directly and indirectly improve your overall competitiveness in the market. Common advantages of a company that has CSR presence on their site, versus a company who does not, include:

  • Creating shareholder value, which strengthens stakeholder relationships
  • Enhancing brand reputation, both in the community and within the business
  • Improving employee recruitment and retention
  • Highlighting and showcasing responsible leadership

And so much more.

While your business might already be active within your community, it might not translate online. Showcasing a strong CSR section on your website has a plethora of benefits.

5 Common CSR Questions Answered 1

2. Where should I place my CSR section on my website?

When consumers seek out information about your CSR involvement and can’t find it, they assume it doesn’t exist. Make your CSR section on your website clear and easily available. If you’re not communicating responsibility practices, you run the risk of having consumers think you’re not participating at all.

We recommend giving your CSR practices a dedicated section on your IR website. Rogers is a great example; on their consumer-facing site, CSR is easily located as a drop-down beside “Contact Us”. It’s easy to find and even easier to navigate.

3. What should be included in my CSR section?

What is included on your CSR microsite or CSR section of your website is often dependent on your company or industry, but generally we recommend the following to be included:

  • Your history, business and overall economic impact of your CSR endeavours
  • Community Investment section, including a list of highlights from the past year (this could be overall funds donated, employee time spent volunteering in the community and more)
  • News and Media Relations section. This allows you to share dedicated press releases for your CSR activity, including contact information to get in touch with your Communications team
  • CSR report downloads from both current and past years
  • In addition to your News and Media Relations section, an active CSR blog will showcase authenticity from your business and differentiate yourselves from competitors.

What is included in your CSR site is dependent on your overall strategy and goals, though we suggest that you include these four points at minimum.

5 Common CSR Questions Answered 2

4. Who should be involved in creating your CSR strategy?

CSR strategy and implementation comes from your Leadership and Executive team, with involvement from Human Relations and Communications. For a CSR program to truly work, Leadership must pave the way and lead by example.

Human Relations is an important stakeholder in this process because they are often one of the key benefactors of a successful CSR program. A CSR program can be an aid to recruitment and retention, especially when you’re hiring in a competitive graduate market.

5. How can I stand out from my competitors with CSR?

The answer here is authenticity. Your investors and customers have excellent BS meters, so make sure that your CSR communication is authentic in nature.

Be honest about your efforts and activity, but also be honest in areas that need improvement. If you have areas of your CSR strategy that needs improvement, acknowledge this and provide updates along the way.

As you develop your CSR website (or perhaps take inventory of your current site), ensure you are telling your story effectively and honestly. Make customers want to share your content, and tell your own story. If you do not have CSR presence or if you’re not telling your story effectively, your customers might think you’re avoiding or hiding something entirely.

 

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