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Alex Annaev

Evidencing a sustainable future: review of FTSE 100/250 websites

The website is the one place to tell your sustainability story. With 91% of FTSE 100/250* companies having ‘sustainability’ or ‘corporate responsibility’ in their main navigation, you have an opportunity to reach out to diverse audiences, such as investors, job seekers, customers or experts.

However, this opportunity is often missed. Research suggests that only 1% of the website traffic is specifically for sustainability information. The challenge is to attract all kinds of visitors to the sustainability section though cross-linking and social media and engage them with interactive, inspiring and forward-looking content.

In this blog, I am sharing our insights into sustainability content based on our annual digital review of FTSE corporate websites, this year titled ‘Lighting The Way’ which looks into how companies are investing in websites fit for the future.

Driving traction with bold commitments

This year’s research reveals that sustainability continues to be one of the fastest evolving areas. The biggest change is a 20% increase in the FTSE 100 and 40% in the FTSE 250 outlining sustainability commitments. This is in stark contrast with what we saw just five years ago, when most companies would just outline focus areas without measurable and actionable objectives.

I believe there are two main reasons for that.

First, facing a polarised political climate and responding to large-scale campaigns (e.g., on plastics) companies are starting to ‘take sides’ and become advocates for social and environmental issues. Some companies prefer to commit to a limited number of ‘hero’ areas where they can make a real difference and build long-term engagement with stakeholders, while management of other material issues is just business as usual.

Second, companies have come a long way in terms of integration of sustainability into core business. Our research shows that 70% of FTSE 100/250 outline specific sustainability objectives. This demonstrates increased confidence and capacity to ‘wireframe’ and take ownership of sustainability.

Inspiring commitments are usually announced at large events and translated through mass media, while the website serves as a ‘source of truth’ on what the company is trying to achieve.

The website is also a perfect tool to present progress against commitments – 67% of the FTSE 100 provide recent performance data, whereas only 40% of the FTSE 250 do so. The best practice is to communicate performance in a visually exciting and engaging way through dashboards, summaries or videos, while detailed information is still in standalone reports or data sheets.

Building trust by providing evidence

Job seekers and customers make up to 70% of website visitors. These stakeholders are normally more interested in the bigger picture about sustainability, evidence of bringing public commitments to life and what ‘doing the right thing’ means to them. Therefore, 63% of the FTSE 100/250 have sustainability case studies in their websites and 48% publish news. The challenge is to make ‘live’ content engaging and leverage social media in delivering it.

One of the success factors for a good case study is using the voices of employees, customers, experts and other stakeholders in presenting anecdotal evidence of the company’s positive impacts. Audiences now consider that official company voices lack credibility, so just having managers talking about your performance is not good enough.

Improving the depository of information

Despite the increased focus on sustainability commitments and case studies, the website’s main function is to have everything visitors my need on the management approach – policies, position papers and leadership statements. Over the last couple of years, we have seen stronger disclosures on materiality (40% of FTSE 100/250 outline material issues) and stakeholder engagement (42%).

With the increased focus on making the sustainability report more succinct by moving information online, we believe that websites will contain more information on the approach. The trick is to keep this information accessible to interested visitors while not distracting occasional visitors such as career seekers. While sustainability content is important, it all counts for nothing if users are unable to locate and digest this information.

We believe that effective sustainability communications require a greater focus on digital channels, and more exciting developments are to come.

If you would like to hear more about how we can help with your enhance your corporate website, please get in touch.

*This year we analysed the entire FTSE 100 and a sample group of 25 of the FTSE 250 companies, which we can compare with the results of previous years.