How do you communicate your company's sense of purpose — what you stand for in simple terms — in a way that is authentic, transparent and honest?
Increasingly, the answer for many of the world's biggest companies is to highlight their sustainability work.
Why sustainability? Well, sustainability, after all, is rooted in doing business in a transparent and authentic way. And, in today’s always-on, smarter-than-before society, pledging to be a better company just won’t cut it. You have to demonstrate how your company’s purpose is creating a tangibly better experience.
In 2015, GE and Unilever emerged as joint leaders of the Index. Both companies have multiple products, engagement strategies and awareness campaigns devoted to backing up their sustainability credentials and commitments (even though they don't necessarily use the term ‘sustainability’).
Patagonia, Sainsbury's, H&M, CVS, Microsoft, Aetna, General Mills and Philips all feature in this year's Top 10. The likes of Intel, Pearson, RB, IKEA, AT&T, Procter & Gamble and Danone also are communicating sustainability in ways to be applauded.
As you might imagine, different industry sectors look to play to their own strengths and specific sustainability concerns. Insurance companies tend to focus on health and wellness issues (Aetna’s campaigns around sleep and mindfulness being notable in this space). Banks, meanwhile, are keen to stress financial literacy but tend to play it safe by focusing on community CSR campaigns, epitomised by Barclay’s LifeSkills.
For technology and media companies, stressing the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is an issue particularly close to home as is encouraging coding for kids. For their part, consumer goods companies such as Unilever, P&G, Kimberly-Clark and RB continue to embrace female and youth self-esteem as an issue to rally around.
All these themes are explored in more detail in The 6th Annual Social Media Sustainability Index.