How do companies rebuild trust to stay relevant? Effectively Communicating Sustainability as a Brand

uap24 August 2016, Pasig City.  Invited by the University of Asia & the Pacific (UA&P), and on behalf of FEED’s renewable energy partner based in Singapore, WEnergy Global Pte. Ltd., FEED’s Director of Partnerships (also Head of Philippine Office for WEnergy Global) Anne-Marie Mananquil Bakker was invited to  speak on the subject of “Effectively Communicating Sustainability as a Brand: Disclosure & Sustainability Reporting Best Practices”.

The talk was part of program of activities held on occasion of the 3rd cohort of the Applied Sustainability Management Program (ASMAP) of the Center for Social Responsibility (of UA&P) organised in Jakarta from July 27-29; and at the UA&P campus in Ortigas from August 24-25, in collaboration with the National Centre for Sustainability Reporting, Jakarta, Universities Pertahanan Indonesia (UNHAN), Universiti Trisakti, and the AsianNGO.

Bakker’s underlying question driving the entire presentation, was: How do companies rebuild trust to stay relevant?

UA&P1.pngAside from briefly comparing an overview of some key global sustainability reporting frameworks, such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and that of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Bakker focused on a look into global examples of best practices, why and how they worked; and how other companies/brands may not have effectively communicated sustainability as a brand.


Authenticity, Impacts & Materiality (The AIM Model) – Sustainability Reporting

Most of the talk presented a simple not necessarily academic but rather practice model of how to ensure “Effectively Communicating Sustainability as a Brand” based on the AIM MODEL, articulated by Elaine Cohen, Judge at the ASRA (Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards) 2015:

  • Authenticity: Whether the company has reported in an honest way, using stakeholder voices to supplement performance data. Authenticity for me includes balance, accuracy and completeness. Has targets and progress against stated targets.
  • Impacts: Whether the company impacts rather than just presenting a shopping list of activities. This means discussing the outcomes of what was achieved. The outcomes are the achievements (impacts), not the activities. This is by far the most difficult thing for companies to address and very few do it well.
  • Materiality: Whether the company has clearly defined the most important issues for the company and its stakeholders and described the way in which those issues have been identified and prioritized. Reporting materiality should also include a certain amount of contextual information which can assist us in understanding the issues and why they are material.

Following a review of the top 10 winners in sustainability reporting of 2015, the discussion concluded with a candid exchange on innovating reporting approaches, standards and styles- proving the necessity of authenticity, impact and materiality.

As per the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report:

“Topping the list of sustainability factors that influence purchasing for nearly two-of-three (62%) consumers globally: BRAND TRUST.


This indicates an opportunity for consumer-goods’ brands that have already built a high level of trust with consumers to evaluate where best to introduce sustainable products into the market to drive growth,” says Carol Gstalder, senior vice president, Reputation & Public Relations Solutions, Nielsen. “On the f lip side, large global consumer-goods’ brands that ignore sustainability increase reputational and business risk. This may give competitors of all sizes, the opportunity to build trust with the predominantly young, socially- conscious consumer looking for products that align with their values.”



In Conclusion

According to some prominent Corporate Sustainability Officers (CSO) around the world:

  • No framework can ensure our business acts in a particular way.  That’s entirely up to us.”
  • “None of these initiatives bring measureable value. They only provide a means of keeping score and reporting.”
  • “Value comes from improved performance through innovation, technology, science and engineering.”
  • “Companies can’t audit and report their way to excellence.”

So, “How do companies rebuild trust to stay relevant?”

is a major question every successful company should be asking today, as well as how to demonstrate transparency, community and authenticity in their communications, so as to build trust with their customers.

The biggest FMCGs influence our lives daily. “If the companies behind them are as committed as they say they are to being sustainable, then imagine the power they have to change the world.”


The Little Prince.pngDisclosure and reporting is mostly, technically, about (chosen) methodology/ies.

But…when a company does good work, it automatically follows they’ve got a good story to tell.

If not, no one will trust them.

(c) FEED, Inc.