An interesting trend is emerging among some of today’s largest companies looking to broaden the audience for their corporate social responsibility (CSR) communications. Shortened attention spans, information inundation and busy schedules are driving them to look beyond the traditional written CSR report by releasing CSR communication in video format. If thoughtfully produced, video CSR reporting can serve as an effective counterbalance to the traditional written report.
The purpose of the CSR report is to communicate a company’s sustainability performance and goals to a broad and varied audience, including customers, employees, the public and other stakeholders. Video CSR reports can be used to further engage these individuals by communicating some of the most important facts in a short, snappy presentation that gives viewers the ability to provide instant feedback. Cisco and Virgin Media are two companies leading this effort.
Cisco’s CSR communications include multiple videos structured into Q&A sessions betweenthe company’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Tae Yoo and its Chairman and CEO John Chambers. This is an effective approach because it presents the company’s vision and performance on sustainability in a conversational and easy-to-understand format. Each video is accompanied by a downloadable transcript for those that prefer paper over video.
Virgin Media’s creative approach to CSR reporting includes video combined with blogs and calls to action that help Virgin Media customers understand how they can help the company achieve its sustainability goals. Their videos present company information, open a dialogue with stakeholders and visually engage viewers with entertaining and oftentimes humorous content.
As entertaining or engaging as they may be, companies considering video CSR reports must also understand their limitations. Balance is a core principle of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) CSR reporting framework. This means companies must provide an accurate view of the company’s sustainability performance, whether good or bad. Video may not be the ideal mechanism to present information that demonstrates unfavorable performance, and it may not be optimally suited to communicating granular qualitative data. Thus, combining a video report with a traditional written report may be the best approach for now. We don’t rule out the possibility of video-only CSR reports in the future, but a consistent framework may need to be applied to reduce the risk of a company’s CSR story being distilled into selective sound bytes.