Getting the best out of digital to help make fun, relevant and informative content
Katie Buchanan, Head of Sustainability and Reporting, at Virgin Media shares some thoughts with us in the lead up to our 7th Annual CR Reporting and Communications Summit.
Ethical Corporation: How are corporate communications around corporate responsibility and sustainability evolving in your business?
Katie Buchanan: Back in 2009, we set out to rethink our corporate communications around sustainability. Previously, we had published annual hard copy CR reports, but they had limited readership and were out of date as soon as they were published.
So in 2010, we set out to bring our sustainability story to life and reach a much broader audience. The way we approached this was to put what we’re good at as a company – digital entertainment – at the heart of how we tell our story.
We wanted to get the best out of what digital has to offer to in helping us make fun, relevant and informative content. And we made the commitment not to print any more big reports. Everything anyone needs to know about sustainability at Virgin Media is online at our digital home virginmedia.com/sustainability.
The main idea that underpins our approach to content is SHOW not tell. Digital helps us do that in really interesting ways – we can literally show what’s going on behind the scenes – and even more importantly – the people that are helping to make our business more sustainable.
In 2012, we started to focus our corporate comms on engaging key stakeholders in a new conversations about our biggest sustainability issues as a business. For us, this is about the impact of digital technology on people and society.
So we launched Our digital future to understand what people think about the digital world, how it’s changing our lives and what it means for the future. Because the more we understand, the more we can do to deliver on our vision of digital that makes good things happen.
We took the conversation online through a digital hub and social media and offline through live events in 15 towns and cities up and down the UK, where people shared their views in our Big Red Box - a pop-up robotic operated video booth, fronted by a digital Richard Branson.
We also spoke to digital pioneers and politicians and published all of these interviews as video content online.
Ethical Corporation: Is there, in business generally, too much of a disconnect between reporting and communications teams? If so, why?
Katie Buchanan: Historically, reporting has always been about the disclosure of material issues and how the business in responding to those issues. That can be pretty dry and doesn't create the kind of storytelling opportunities that communications teams can get excited about, so it's easy to see why reporting teams and comms teams weren't working too closely together.
However, this is changing as sustainability reporting becomes more of an opportunity to engage people inside and outside your business about the kind of company you are. At Virgin Media, this involves both corporate communications and our brand marketing teams.
Ethical Corporation: Does your company do tailored sustainability and CR messaging to different groups, if so, can you give us some examples?
Katie Buchanan: We have three main audience groups - our employees and colleagues at LGI, our customers and the sustainability community. But it's not so much about the messaging, it's about how we engage with them on sustainability.
For our staff, it's all about enlisting their help to show behind the scenes about what we're doing to become a more responsible business, through videos and blogs, which are all available on our external sustainability website.
For our customers, it's about helping them tackle the issues that matter most. For Virgin Media customers, this is about the impact of digital technology on family life and we've learned a lot about the best ways we can support them through Our digital future.
For the sustainability community, it's really about enabling them to explore our strategy, material issues and how we're managing them in smart ways - that's why this year, we launched an interactive infographic journey through sustainability at Virgin Media.
Ethical Corporation: What's your view on integrated reporting? Trojan horse, trojan pony, or neither?
Katie Buchanan: Our plan, as part of the Liberty Global family, is to continue to produce an annual financial report and CR Report. We will continue to review and assess our approach to reporting over the coming years.
Obviously, as part of our 2013 filings, Liberty Global plc will be reporting GHG emission in our Director’s Report as part of the new UK Mandatory Carbon Reporting.
Personally, I do not think that true integrated reporting is at a mature enough stage. I see a lot of “combined reports” claiming to be integrated reports but the reality is that we are just not there yet.
We are following the developments at the IIRC and we are a few years away from this happening. There first needs to be a framework to help companies prepare and produce a truly integrated report.
That being said, linking financial and non-financial performance is key element for any company to be truly sustainable.
For more info visit www.virginmedia.com/sustainability
Katie Buchanan will be speaking at the 7th Annual CR Reporting and Communications Summit, 27/28th November 2013. She will lead a roundtable discussion on how to use digital media to enhance your approach to sustainability reporting.comms corporate responsibility reporting CR Reporting Management spotlight Virgin Media
November 2013, London, UK
Add materiality to your business CR disclosure strategy, get to grips with all the latest CR reporting guidelines and bring your CR communications to the next level for increased brand loyalty and stakeholder engagement. Real life examples from Unilever, Virgin Media, IKEA, Nestle and more!