Although companies are adopting sustainability in record numbers, there can sometimes be a disconnect between these efforts and the perception of the general public. When corporate sustainability was first introduced it was a low priority issue that focused mostly on reporting, however it is now influencing core strategies and transforming businesses around the world. Companies recognize that a proactive stance on sustainability is becoming a competitive necessity in attracting investors, employment talent and supply chain partners, as well as customers. Because of this, those responsible for creating and maintaining brand relevance need to pay close attention to their company’s sustainability practices. However, engaging is sustainability is only part of a successful strategy, corporate communicators must reconcile operational practices and brand communications.
A 2011 study titled the “Sustainability Leadership Report,” from Brandlogic and CRD Analytics explores the gulf between brand image and operational realities.
According to an article by James Cerruti, a senior partner at Brandlogic, their research involved a worldwide study covering 100 global corporations that contrasted their real and perceived performance in 2011 across all environmental, social and governance factors. They examined the perceptions of three key groups:
- The investment community
- Purchasing and supply managers
- Graduating students about to enter the workforce
Their data yielded two indices:
- The Sustainability Reality Score (SRS)
- The Sustainability Perception Score (SPS)
Companies were organized into four quadrants (Sustainability IQ Matrix), which highlighted significant differences between the two sets of scores. Those four quadrants are:
The “Leaders” show operational superiority and detailed reporting, but they also demonstrate competence in the integration of sustainability into their vision, mission, values and brand communications.
Companies in the “Challengers” quadrant are failing to communicate their sustainability efforts to key audiences. The inference is that they may be able to secure unrealized return on investment in sustainability through better communications.
Companies considered “Promoters” could have considerable value at risk. They may enjoy current advantages – lower capital costs or better supply chain access perhaps – that may erode once their real performance is understood.
For more about the study and how different companies and sectors fared, you can download it at sustainabilityleadershipreport.com
© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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