A study of 100 of Europe’s largest blue-chip companies has found a significant gap between high-level ESG statements and evidence to support such claims in action. Bladonmore, a London-based communications consultancy, reviewed the corporate websites of all the companies in the STOXX All Europe 100 index during August 2020. It found a significant gap between corporate ‘commitments’ around social responsibility and the content that backs it up.

The study examines how well the companies are communicating with their stakeholders around ESG. It highlights several businesses that are excelling in their online ESG communications: German industrial giant Siemens topped the rankings, with Swedish technology group Ericsson a close second, and Anglo-Dutch consumer goods conglomerate Unilever in third.

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The results show that most businesses may have locked on to the importance of ESG and want to be viewed as socially responsible – promoting bold, progressive statements and targets in their headline messaging. However, they then regularly fail to back that messaging up with the content needed to bring these stories to life. Ultimately, it suggests that some of the claims are not credible.

69% reference ESG or social responsibility goals in their purpose statements 60% clearly highlight their ESG or social responsibility targets and objectives 62% refer to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)

However, only…

  • 22% discuss ESG issues in interviews with the CEO
  • 19% promote employee voices on ESG (below senior management)
  • 21% share human stories to evidence the impact of their ESG agenda (film)

The ability to clearly communicate your ESG credentials is becoming more and more important,” comments Richard Carpenter, Managing Partner of Bladonmore. “Businesses are obviously tuned in to the issues – and many have strong stories to tell – but too often the message is just virtue signalling rather than actually grounded in real stories. We would encourage companies to provide more evidence of their high-level claims across their corporate websites.

The report looks at both the messenger and the medium that companies are using to communicate, such as how they promote employee voices, use film content or structure their social responsibility targets.

The review is much more than just a tick-box exercise,” adds Tom Brown, Associate Consultant at Bladonmore and co-author of the report. “It was important for us to analyse the quality of the content being produced, just as much as what is actually on the websites. Companies may have huge ESG sections with a load of information, but how effective is that content at communicating the message? How much is buried deep within PDFs rather than being brought to life?

Read the full report ‘ESG: Closing the gap’ online