Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending The Conference Board’s Summit on Sustainability in New York. The Summit on Sustainability is a two-day conference bringing together sustainability experts, practitioners, and institutional investors to share the latest perspectives on how corporations are transforming their global operations by integrating sustainability into a long term return-on-investment strategy.
It felt great to be in the room with people at the forefront of corporate responsibility and sustainability, and thought leaders in diverse areas ranging from climate change to water stewardship to product sustainability to corporate citizenship. Surrounded by the contagious energy and passion of fellow sustainability and business thought leaders, I felt passionate about our sustainability efforts at Symantec, and hopeful about the impacts we make within our own value chain, as well as those of our customers and the industry as a whole.
As part of the conference I spoke on a panel, "Communicating Sustainability to Stakeholders: The Changing Landscape of Reputation and Engagement." The panel brought together experts in the area of CR and communications including:
- Michelle Crozier Yates, Director of CR, Adobe
- Shannon Hebert, VP of Strategic Alliances, National Geographic
- John Friedman, Corporate Citizenship Communications Director, Sodexo
- Henk Campher, Senior Vice President, CR and Sustainability, Edelman
Specifically, I discussed the challenges we face at Symantec to communicate our sustainability message and progress to different stakeholder groups. How do we find that unique, transparent and honest voice that will resonate with investors? Employees? Our customers?
Our annual Corporate Responsibility Report has been an invaluable tool for our CR communications and strategy. Through our materiality process each year, we collaborate with stakeholders to define the issue areas that drive our efforts, strategy and communications. This is a crucial tool that ensures we communicate the issues most important to Symantec AND our varying groups of stakeholders.
However, this is just the start. We see our CR report as a launching pad – a starting point – each year to our ongoing, inclusive conversation with stakeholders. We look at all communications channels and how we can embed CR into these, how we can reach different stakeholders through this blog, surveys, our website, intranet, social media, and more.
The ROI of CR? Customer Demand
So what about the engagement landscape is changing the most? While historically investors and employees have been highly engaged in CR, more and more, we see interest from our customers. This has been common in other industries, but for the software industry this is quite new.
RFPs now come with questions including everything from our environmental management system (EMS), to details about packaging, human rights policies and practices, diversity, worker health and safety, and more. Additionally, customers are concerned about how we are pushing our values down through our supply chain. To respond efficiently to these requests, we’ve equipped our sales team with some tools, developed internally, that enable them to quickly reference our latest sustainability data and progress.
As our engaged stakeholder base continues to grow, it only validates more strongly the business case for sustainability and CR….and the need for diverse, honest, credible and transparent communication.
Cecily Joseph is Symantec's Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility.