.future Switzerland 2019

The Swiss edition of .future provides a timely assessment of the current state of sustainability in the country, as it debates whether to impose mandatory non-financial reporting requirements after a campaign for greater transparency.

In this first edition of .future in Switzerland, we examined the 50 members of the SMI Expanded index plus 10 major private and state-owned companies, following up on six Swiss studies carried out by Lundquist over 10 years through the CSR Online Awards.

The research is conducted in two steps: a “core” evaluation checks if companies meet a minimum requirement of environment, social and governance (ESG) information; those that reach the average score (42% in the case of Swiss companies) receive a full assessment organised in two pillars:

  • “Substance”: looking for information that stakeholders say is critical to evaluating how a company manages material impacts and projects its agenda for change
  • “Distinctiveness”: showing how the business is meeting its societal responsibilities and engages audiences in a wider conversation about a better future.

Read more on how the .future research works

Key numbers

60 companies evaluated
100 maximum score
2 pillars and
7 sections in evaluation protocol

Credibility is rooted in communications that exploits the best of digital to engage the user but is grounded in transparency and a rigorous, strategic approach.

Order a tailored analysis of your company’s performance:

Contact Paolo Cominetti for an offer: paolo.cominetti@lundquist.it

Key Findings

Sleeping in Switzerland?

The key point to emerge from our research is that Swiss companies are  consistently falling below the mark in providing the essential building blocks of sustainability communications. For almost all companies, it’s the substance that is the weak link with many lacking a robust and structured approach to non-financial transparency.

That’s deleterious, because we know how important it is for credibility. We flunked 55% of Swiss companies in our test of online ESG content: that’s four times higher than our benchmark of Europe’s top 50 companies but in line with our previous Swiss study two years ago.

Encouraging signs: Sustainability strategy

Of the Swiss companies that qualified for a full evaluation, almost all of them (81%) manage to complete the first three steps of the strategy “stairway” defining their sustainability commitment, identifying priority issues and laying out related targets.

The challenges emerge on the final two steps: while most companies publish performance and mention, for example, the SDGs, only about a quarter of companies link this information to their strategic objectives.

Sustainability in a story

Digital has opened up new ways to communicate and continues to bring us new tools, but sustainability storytelling needs to address material issues and be relevant in a wider context to avoid the trap of self-referentiality.

Stories, articles, videos, blogs: these are just some of the ways companies today are looking to go beyond traditional disclosure and share their sustainability message more widely.

How are Swiss companies coping with storytelling?

85% have stories and articles related to their strategy and internal activities

30% use stories and articles to talk about their external agenda

63% present their sustainability by giving voice to their stakeholders

HOW DO THE COMPANIES STACK UP?

The Explainers

A couple of Swiss companies fit this description – Credit Suisse and Zurich Insurance – and only by a small margin. It’s not common to find detailed and exhaustive information about sustainability on Swiss websites: only four companies scored 50% or more on the Substance pillar.

The Narrators

Just two companies – Nestlé and Roche – manage to make it into this top category and do so quite comfortably, striking a good balance between Substance and Distinctiveness. The number of Swiss “Narrators” is far below our European benchmark (18% of Europe’s top 50 companies).

The Traditionalists

About a quarter of the companies we assessed finished in this quadrant. Companies at the top end here and ready to break into a higher category include ABB, Firmenich and Sonova. Below this level, a staggering 33 companies (55%) fail to meet our minimum standard for sustainability information (“Core” evaluation) and didn’t qualify for a full assessment (they are “Sleepers”).

The Glitterati

More than 1 in 10 of the Swiss companies we evaluated fell into this category, led by Clariant, which stands out for its storytelling approach and good user experience, followed by Syngenta and Givaudan. Some of these companies are not far from the “Narrator” category but suffer from shallow content on the website.

.future Europe 2018-2019

The European edition of .future examined 50 top European companies (included in the STOXX Europe 50 index) to track trends in sustainability communications and storytelling from firms that are at the centre of attention for financial markets and other stakeholders.

The .future model assesses how well companies engage on sustainability themes by combining two elements:

Content with substance based not only on a structured process to manage material impacts but also a future oriented vision and agenda for change.

Engaging the user-stakeholder in a way that shows how the business is meeting its societal responsibilities and takes part in the wider conversation about a better future.

Read more on how the .future research works

Key numbers

50 companies evaluated
100 maximum score
2 pillars and
7 sections in evaluation protocol

Credibility is rooted in communications that exploits the best of digital to engage the user but is grounded in transparency and a rigorous, strategic approach.

Learn how you measure up to Europe’s top companies with a tailored analysis of your performance:

Contact Paolo Cominetti for an offer: paolo.cominetti@lundquist.it

Key Findings

The right balance between “What” and “How” in Europe

The European results are encouraging and show a good balance between what companies have to say (average score 51% of max in Substance) and how they tell it (49% average score in Distinctiveness).

In Substance, almost all companies have the core ESG information in place – from climate change to diversity – but deeper content on strategy, performance and stakeholder dialogue can be harder to come across. Storytelling is somewhat weaker, especially in terms of talking about the broader sustainability agenda.

Connecting sustainability-related information across the digital ecosystem is a definite challenge, often undermining claims to an “integrated” approach. Companies need to build on this initial level of interconnection, which is often limited to simple references, with more structured and in-depth content. There also needs to be more attention given to topics connected to the business such as innovation and information for customers.

Sustainability strategy: at the core of communication

Almost all of the European companies qualified for a full evaluation (81%) manage to complete the first three steps of the strategy “stairway” defining their sustainability commitment, identifying priority issues and laying out related targets.

If we include also the final steps which consider disclosure about progress in reaching sustainability targets and about the context in which companies operate, we see that a quarter of companies manage to have all the ingredients of a good sustainability strategy.

How storytelling changes the frames of sustainability

Digital has opened up new ways to communicate and continues to bring us new tools, but sustainability storytelling needs to address material issues and be relevant in a wider context to avoid the trap of self-referentiality.

While almost all companies in the European study deploy stories in the sustainability section of their website, two thirds have a separate magazine or blog to gather this kind of content. A considerable portion of the companies use a mix of solutions. These stories are commonly used to populate social media channels and speak to a broader audience than that offered by the corporate domain.

Storytelling forces sustainability to integrate into a broader narrative: while social and environmental topics are equally present in sustainability stories, increasing space is being given to stories that use sustainability to provide a perspective on innovation, business transformation and strategy.

How are European companies coping with storytelling?

100% have stories and articles related to their strategy and internal activities

67% use stories and articles to talk about their external agenda

83% present their sustainability by giving voice to their stakeholders

HOW DO THE COMPANIES STACK UP?

The Explainers

A quarter of the companies we assessed (12 in all) populate the Explainers
quadrant, even though there were no stand-out results in terms of Substance. Most of these companies cling quite tightly to the middle-ground, indicating there is little that stops them evolving into Narrators or sliding down into Traditionalists

The Narrators

Nine of the 49 companies considered qualify as Narrators, led by oil companies BP and Eni, consumer groups Nestlé and Unilever as well as healthcare firms Bayer and Roche. Almost all of them strike a balance between Substance and Distinctiveness

The Traditionalists

This is the busiest area in our research with three in 10 of the companies we assessed finishing in this quadrant. Encouragingly, many of them have respectable overall performances – not far from the 50% mark – but fail to stand out either in terms of content or engagement. Below this level, seven companies fail to meet our minimum standard for sustainability information (“Core” evaluation) and didn’t qualify for a full assessment (“Sleepers”).

The Glitterati

The seven “Glitterati” companies do not stand head and shoulders above the rest for their digital communications: most of them (Schneider Electric is the exception) are positioned little more than half-way along the Distinctiveness axis, suggesting that their positioning is caused rather by a lack of depth in their sustainability content.

.future Italy 2018-2019

The first Italian edition of .future (developed on the basis of seven editions of the CSR Online Awards) examined 100 companies to analyse their performance in sustainability communication.

The research is conducted in two steps: a “core” evaluation checks if companies meet a minimum requirement of environment, social and governance (ESG) information; those that reach the average score (42.5% in the case of Italian companies) receive a full assessment organised in two pillars:

  • “Substance”: looking for information that stakeholders say is critical to evaluating how a company manages material impacts and projects its agenda for change
  • “Distinctiveness”: showing how the business is meeting its societal responsibilities and engages audiences in a wider conversation about a better future.

Read more on how the .future research works

Key numbers

100 companies evaluated
100 maximum score
2 pillars and
7 sections in evaluation protocol

As sustainability becomes more integrated with innovation and business transformation, communication needs to evolve too and become more dynamic, interconnected and strategic.”

Order a tailored analysis of your company’s performance:

Contact Paolo Cominetti for an offer: paolo.cominetti@lundquist.it

Key Findings

Italy dominated by ‘Traditionalists’ and ‘Sleepers’

Italian companies struggle to excel in either of our pillars meaning that 8 out of 10 companies fall in the “Traditionalists” category or fail to comply with a minimum level of ESG information and are stuck among the “Sleepers”.

However, Italy has its best practices with eight narrators with two “Gold class” companies: Eni and Snam. There are also many companies that improved their performance considerably from the last edition of the CSR Online Awards: a2a, Terna, Prysmian, Mondadori, STMicroelectronics, Generali, Piaggio and IGD.

Climate change and innovation: shared challenges?

Stakeholder expectations on climate change are growing rapidly and in .future we wanted to understand how Italian companies are responding.

We found that 64% of companies don’t present a strategic response to the topic. Of the virtuous examples, almost all came from energy and industrial companies and utilities. Among companies with the challenge of explaining more indirect impacts on emissions, banks and insurers are among the few to provide a concrete response.

Better news on the innovation front: this topic is receiving greater attention since it’s considered one of the main engines for reaching sustainability targets, even on climate change (e.g. among energy companies). In fact, 53% of the Italian companies in .future present information about their approach on innovation and how it influences their sustainability approach.

Sustainability in a story

Looking at the best examples, storytelling shows how sustainability is looking to break out of its traditional confines and become integrated into a wider corporate narrative: a quarter of companies have sustainability stories in a magazine, house organ or blog (e.g. Enel, Eni, Salini-Impregilo and Terna). This trend is reflected also in the choice of topics: aside from the standard social and environmental topics, more space is being dedicated to sustainability in relation to innovation and business transformation.

How are italian companies coping with storytelling?

66% of companies focus stories and articles on their internal priorities and activities

38% use stories to talk about the wider sustainability context

34% present sustainability content by giving voice to stakeholders

HOW DO THE COMPANIES STACK UP?

The Explainers

Eight companies reach this quadrant but none stand out significantly from the others and reach a high level of transparency and disclosure (over 70% of Substance score).

The Narrators

The eight Italian companies in this quadrant stand out in particular for their performance in the Substance pillar thanks to well organised and detailed sustainability content. On the other hand, their distinctiveness still fails to reach the same levels of excellence, mainly because the shortcomings in storytelling.

The Traditionalists

In the most “crowded” profile of our Italian research, one third of the companies included in .future Italy don’t perform well enough in their sustainability “what” and “how” to rise beyond the “Traditionalist” category. A further 46 companies were eliminated for weakness in ESG content (“Sleepers”).

The Glitterati

Only three companies pass the threshold and reach this profile, and only by a small margin. This should be a warning sign for many Italian companies because it could be indicative of a low digital culture (at least as far as sustainability is concerned).

Italy Top50 (2016-2017)

The best leave the rest behind: sustainability leaders unveiled in 7th CSR Online Awards Italy

The 7th Italian edition of the CSR Online Awards, published exclusively in Il Sole 24 Ore, has identified companies that are leading the way in adopting digital as a strategic asset for sustainability and revealed successful approaches in the use of social media and digital storytelling. The study sounds a warning about a broader lack of transparency among Italy’s biggest companies, both in terms of non-financial reporting and online transparency.

Our CSROA research includes 4 international rankings: Europe100, Germany Top30, and Switzerland Top50.

CSROA 2016-2017

7th European edition
254 companies in all of Europe
100 companies ranked in Italy
37 average score in Europe (stable since the previous edition)
1800+ stakeholders interviewed

Low transparency on sustainability issues amongst Italian companies

The last two years have not seen particular steps forward from Italian companies when it comes to communicating on sustainability. In fact, Italian companies continue to lag behind their European peers on the disclosure front.

The EU directive on non-financial information is symptomatic of a wider trend: transparency on sustainability is becoming the norm and Italian companies must up their game.

James Osborne, Head of Sustainability, Lundquist

Top performers in Italy

 The top of the ranking was dominated by a group of companies that stand head and shoulders above their peers, with gas utility Snam emerging as the winner of the awards for the first time, followed by Eni and TIM. Only six companies managed to score above 50 points, including Salini Impregilo as best improver. Overall, the average score remained almost unchanged at 37 out of 100.

Three macro trends stood out in the world of sustainability communications in Italy today:

Approach to digital communications maturing

The “cut and paste” approach, in which large chunks of sustainability reports are directly copied online, has seen the light of day.  Even though the average score remains more-or-less stable, companies are paying more attention to narrative elements, as well as the integration of sustainability into different digital and social media channels. On the other hand, content risks remaining superficial.

Storytelling as strategic lever

More and more companies are convinced they do storytelling, especially when they communicate on sustainability topics. But what does it actually mean to use storytelling as a lever to your corporate communications? Our research reveals three elements to look out for: materiality, integration and visual communications.

Joining the conversation: the challenge of engagement on social media

What can big data and metrics reveal about the way in which Italian companies communicate on sustainability topics on social media? For the new edition of the CSR Online Awards, Lundquist has entered into a partnership with Twig to answer this question, analyzing thousands of tweets and posts on Facebook to find out if

and how much companies talk about sustainability and how they manage to generate “engagement” and create a dialogue.

ORDER YOUR CSR ONLINE AWARDS REPORT

The CSR Online Awards Report and Assessments offer a practical and rigorous way of measuring your performance against the best in digital sustainability at an international level. We enable you to find tactical solutions to enhance your digital presence, discover the approaches of winning companies, learn what trends to follow and identify strategic paths for the future.

We hold workshops where you can engage with our experts on all things related to sustainability communications. The workshops are also designed to find ways to foster greater involvement within the company.

Contact us for a tailored offer at:

james.osborne@lundquist.it or csr@lundquist.it

CSR Online Awards 2016-2017

See the full results

Switzerland Top50 (2016-2017)

Getting left behind? CSR communications in Switzerland undermined by low transparency

The 7th edition of the Swiss CSROA research, covered exclusively in Bilanz, reports on the current state of sustainability communications in Switzerland.

Our CSROA research is comprises of 4 international rankings: Europe 100, Germany Top 30 and Italy Top 100.

CSROA 2016-2017

7th European edition
254 companies in all of Europe
57 companies ranked in Switzerland
40.9  average score in Europe (+3.8 points from previous edition)
1800+ stakeholders interviewed

CSR communications and the transparency gap

The performance of Swiss companies in the 7th edition of the CSR Online Awards is undermined by a lack of transparency, an issue that has not improved since our previous edition of the research two years ago.

Top performers in Switzerland

The top of the ranking of 57 leading Swiss companies remains little changed from the past. Nestlé maintains its dominance in the top spot (63.5 points), comfortably beating Roche (55.25) and Credit Suisse (52.5) into 2nd and 3rd place respectively. But the wider picture is marred by the fact that a majority of the companies we studied don’t meet basic levels of non-financial transparency on environmental, social and governance topics, either online or in formal reports.

Two macro trends stood out in the world of sustainability communications in Switzerland today:

The performance of Swiss companies in the 7th edition of the CSR Online Awards is undermined by a lack of transparency, an issue that has not improved since our previous edition of the research two years ago.

James Osborne, Head of Sustainability, Lundquist

Boosting transparency is on sustainability remains a headache for the Swiss

The biggest worry for Swiss companies is a failure to close the gap with the rest of Europe in terms of transparency on environmental, social and governance topics. While sustainability reporting is standard practice for the biggest Swiss corporations, we rejected 13 companies for not having a structured reporting process in place – a quarter of the listed companies we considered in Switzerland

Swiss companies improve in engagement

There seems to be a concerted effort by the best Swiss companies to use digital to build an open and regular relation with stakeholders. Compared to our benchmark of top European companies, Swiss companies fared best in the Ongoing and Social pillars where what matters is using digital to generate dialogue and to show responsiveness to questions, comments and the wider debate.

ORDER YOUR CSR ONLINE AWARDS REPORT

The CSR Online Awards Report and Assessments offer a practical and rigorous way of measuring your performance against the best in digital sustainability at an international level. We enable you to find tactical solutions to enhance your digital presence, discover the approaches of winning companies, learn what trends to follow and identify strategic paths for the future.

We hold workshops where you can engage with our experts on all things related to sustainability communications. The workshops are also designed to find ways to foster greater involvement within the company.

Contact us for a tailored offer at:

james.osborne@lundquist.it or csr@lundquist.it

CSR Online Awards 2016-2017

See the full results

Germany Top30 (2016-2017)

Transparency on sustainability is business-as-usual for the top German companies

The 7th edition of the German CSROA research reports on the current state of German sustainability communications.

Our CSROA research includes 4 international rankings: Europe 100, Italy Top 100 and Switzerland Top 50.

CSROA 2016-2017

7th  Europe edition
254  companies in all of Europe
30 companies ranked in Germany
46.2  average score in Europe (+5.4 points from the previous edition)
1800+ stakeholders interviewed

All change at the top

It’s all change at the top of the German ranking with BASF clinching the No. 1 place for the first time – and also taking 1st place in our flagship Europe 100 ranking – but there has been a wave of change and improvement across the board with the average score climbing an impressive 5.4 points to 46.2 out of 100.

Bayer and Henkel take second and third place, with SAP our best improver, gaining an impressive 21 places into 7th position.

Two macro trends stood out in the world of sustainability communications in Germany today:

The way German companies are evolving their sustainability communications speaks to the importance of having a joined up vision of the importance of material issues to the business strategy and to stakeholders. This means sustainability communications is not an after-thought or something confined to a specific section of the corporate website but an opportunity to engage a wide range of corporate audiences about future challenges and current achievements.

James Osborne, Head of Sustainability, Lundquist

Integration in business is key to integration in communications

German companies have embraced sustainability as a defining element in their business strategy and therefore in their corporate identity and engagement strategies. We are finding not only comprehensive and well-crafted sustainability sections but a cross-cutting attention to the social and environmental agenda and bold attempts to engage stakeholders. We see this at work in both consumer-facing companies and in industrial/B2B businesses.

Engaging audiences through storytelling

Germany focuses on engaging stakeholders through storytelling and social media, with regularly updated blogs central to their sustainability communications.

ORDER YOUR CSR ONLINE AWARDS REPORT

The CSR Online Awards Report and Assessments offer a practical and rigorous way of measuring your performance against the best in digital sustainability at an international level. We enable you to find tactical solutions to enhance your digital presence, discover the approaches of winning companies, learn what trends to follow and identify strategic paths for the future.

We hold workshops where you can engage with our experts on all things related to sustainability communications. The workshops are also designed to find ways to foster greater involvement within the company.

Contact us for a tailored offer at:

james.osborne@lundquist.it or csr@lundquist.it

CSR Online Awards Europe 2016-2017

See the full results

Europe Top100 (2016-2017)

Sustainability’s new era: beyond digital as a “channel” but the defining environment for engaging with the wider world

In this 7th edition of the research, we have seen the impact of two transformations: on the one hand, the adoption of materiality, integrated thinking and now the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have ensured that the response to social and environmental challenges has become a competitive factor for many businesses and key element for connecting with contemporary society; on the other hand, digital is forcing direct, real-time connections with stakeholders.

Our flagship European ranking examined members of the STOXX Europe 50 and STOXX Euro 50 indexes as well as leading European performers in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

CSROA 2016-2017

7th European edition
254 companies in all of Europe
94 companies in the Europe 100 ranking
46.8 average score in Europe (+3.3% from previous edition)
1800+ stakeholders interviewed

Sustainability & Digital: the central dilemma

There is a central dilemma when it comes to corporate sustainability and digital: the main engine of content generation – the once-a-year reporting process – is unsuited to digital. Reporting serves to collect and publish environmental, social and governance data for a given year, almost always in the form of a book-like document. Digital content, by contrast, needs to be planned with user engagement in mind: it has to be relevant (always) but also combine a mix of visual and textual formats, and capture attention through both rational exposition and emotional engagement. Above all, it has to be inserted into a wider, mobile friendly digital ecosystem.

Thankfully, there has been a shift. A greater maturity in the fields of both sustainability and digital communications has led to a better balance between what is presented and how and where it is presented. For the best companies, the focus is on why (what do you want to achieve through communications). Partly because of the shift to responsive website design (when the same content adapts to different sized screens), sustainability information is being pared down and simplified into easier-to-digest chunks and much more thought is going Attention (finally) turns to the digital stakeholder to different user-stakeholders beyond a small coterie of report-reading specialists.

In this new era for sustainability, digital has ceased to be viewed as a mere “channel” for communications but the defining environment for engaging with the wider world. As a result, we are seeing the conflation of traditionally separate categories like reporting, engagement and communications into a network of relationships built around shared concerns. The CSR Online Awards today aspires to trace those relationships.

James Osborne, Head of Sustainability, Lundquist

Best Performers: Europe 100

BASF, Orange & Eni are the best performers in this year’s ranking, with SAP our best improver, gaining an impressive 63 places to take joint 20th on 52 points.

Three macro trends stood out in the world of sustainability communications in Europe today:

Attention (finally) turns to the digital stakeholder

Many companies are moving beyond a disclosure driven approach to communications by boosting the use of video, visuals and storytelling, and integrating sustainability into the broader corporate narrative and social media conversation. One in four companies, however, still fails to provide the basic information necessary to underpin trust for the digital stakeholder. Surprisingly, leadership in sustainability performance (as measured by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index) doesn’t translate into leadership in communications.

Unlocking storytelling to underpin stakeholder trust

We’ve uncovered three elements of successful sustainability storytelling:
1) it should illustrate the substance of a company’s commitment to critical issues (materiality),
2) be coherent across the digital ecosystem
(integration),
3) and use a careful selection of the most appropriate digital tools, brought to life through image and video
(visuals).

Joining the conversation: the challenge of engagement on social media

Sustainability has come of age as a topic of engagement for Europe’s biggest companies and is firmly part of the social media agenda, no longer just a passing reference or occasional campaign. Social and environmental topics have been incorporated into the social media agenda of many major companies: they appear in over a third of Facebook posts and a quarter of tweets. The really good news? These Facebook posts generate on average more engagement than other corporate content, and much more on Twitter.

ORDER YOUR CSR ONLINE AWARDS REPORT

The CSR Online Awards Report and Assessments offer a practical and rigorous way of measuring your performance against the best in digital sustainability at an international level. We enable you to find tactical solutions to enhance your digital presence, discover the approaches of winning companies, learn what trends to follow and identify strategic paths for the future.

We hold workshops where you can engage with our experts on all things related to sustainability communications. The workshops are also designed to find ways to foster greater involvement within the company.

Contact us for a tailored offer at:

james.osborne@lundquist.it or csr@lundquist.it

CSROA Europe 2016-2017

See full results