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



Anthony Swain

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

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.

The top of the ranking of 57 leading Swiss companies – published today in association with Bilanz magazine – 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.

CSR communications and the transparency gap

Switzerland is lagging the rest of Europe at a time when a directive on non-financial reporting and national laws are obliging peers in all EU states to boost transparency. Although sustainability reporting is standard practice for the biggest Swiss corporations, one in four listed companies (SMI Expanded Index) failed to qualify for the awards because they didn’t have a structured CSR reporting process.

Another 20 firms didn’t pass our “core” test that checks corporate websites for basic non-financial information (policies, data, targets, etc.), meaning that we “failed” 58% of the biggest Swiss companies for lacking basic transparency. That compares with 27% in our ranking of Europe’s top 100 companies and a mere 12.5% in our study of 32 leading German firms (publications forthcoming). Our research has shown that stakeholders consider this transparency a prerequisite for trust in CSR communications, which is why the CSR Online Awards applies this double cut-off system.

Focus on engagement and social media

Among the companies qualifying for the awards, the average score gained 3.8% to 40.9 out of 100 (compared with gains of 3.3% in our Europe 100 ranking and 5.4% in Germany). The best improver was unlisted Firmenich (+24 positions) and there were notable improvements in the top 10 by Zurich Insurance Group and ABB (both up 8 places), and by Coop (up 10 places).

On a positive note, there is a concerted effort by the best Swiss companies to use digital to build an open and regular relation with stakeholders. Compared to our European benchmark, Swiss companies fared best in the Ongoing and Social pillars, which measure this capacity.

Novartis was the clear leader in this regard: based on our analysis of social media metrics in collaboration with Twig, its Facebook page generates three quarters of its total engagement from posts with sustainability keywords. Syngenta and Nestlé stood out on Twitter and Barry Callebaut (@BCgroupnews) emerged as the best at engaging even small audiences on Twitter about sustainability.

About the research

The CSR Online Awards, developed and conducted by Lundquist since 2008, is Europe’s first and most authoritative research into how companies communicate and engage on sustainability and CSR (corporate social responsibility). Thanks to our specialisation in digital, we track the evolution of sustainability and capture trends in the relationship between business and society.

The Swiss edition included 57 companies – the largest listed corporations and leading unlisted brands – and ranked them in terms of transparency and engagement on environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics. The evaluations covered our 7 pillars of online CSR communications, ranging from ESG content through to social media and sustainability storytelling.

Our evaluation criteria are based on the input of over 1,850 sustainability experts and CSR professionals internationally over the past nine years, including over 230 people who responded to our latest survey on trends in materialityengagement and transparency.

Forthcoming: our flagship research into 100 top European companies and ranking for Germany (Top 30). Due for publication: September 2017. Read about our Italian researchCSR Online Awards Italy Top 100 white paper (in Italian).

For information or to order a Performance Report, contact james.osborne@lundquist.it.