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Are you getting your sustainability story across?

Posted on: 17 Nov 2022

Sustainability drives over 50% (51%) of an organisation’s reputation, according to the results of the Ireland RepTrak Sustainability Index 2022 study. Out of 100 organisations measured, Credit Unions emerged with the best sustainability reputation in Ireland, followed by some familiar names: Glanbia (second), Fáilte Ireland (third), Lidl Ireland (fourth) and An Post (fifth), with Aldi at number 8 and Bord Bia at 10.


The Ireland RepTrak Sustainability Index ranks 100 of the largest, most familiar, and most important organisations in Ireland by the public’s perceptions of their performance across social performance, ethical standards, workplace, and environmental impact. The independent study was carried out by The Reputations Agency and is based on the views of over 6,500 members of the public in the Republic of Ireland who participated in an online survey for over two months from January 3 to March 14, 2022.


This is the eleventh year of this study, which has developed in rigour and depth over those years. Revealing Irish results, trends and insights at a breakfast webinar for 200 guests, The Reputations Agency examined Ireland’s top performing organisations across 13 key sustainability drivers, analysing what is resonating with the public and driving this success.


This study measures the public’s perception, drawn from both their experiences and many communications touchpoints they have had with each of these 100 organisations. This is not a measurement of the sustainability strategies underway or their direct impacts but of how well, or not, these have been absorbed and understood by the public.


For the last 10 years, The Reputations Agency has calculated sustainability rankings using nine factors or indicators of sustainability. This year, the Sustainability/ ESG model has been augmented to introduce four new factors, bringing it to 13 sustainability factors across environmental impact, social performance, conduct and workplace.


Taking the average score across the 100 organisations studied, of the 13 factors that help to build a reputation in sustainability, 11 of those factors received a weak to mediocre score and just two received a strong score: ‘Positive influence on society’ and ‘Rewards employees fairly’. To win support, organisations need their sustainability strategies and initiatives to touch, impact and influence the public across multiple touchpoints – direct experiences, communications channels, and positive word of mouth.


As the end users in many environmentally sustainable product offerings, for example, consumers’ selection of these products above other choices is vital to the success of those offerings in the market, helping consumers to play their role in making a difference.


Struggling to achieve cut-through

“Society expects organisations to play their part in the community, economy, environment, dealing with the big issues that we face today, not just in Ireland but globally,” noted Niamh Boyle, Managing Director, The Reputations Agency.


“The results of the Ireland RepTrak Sustainability Index 2022 show us that the Irish public perceive over half of the 100 organisations studied to be doing either an inadequate (9%) or fairly mediocre (47%) job in sustainability, while the remaining 43% are perceived to have robust sustainability strategies in play. We know that many organisations are working hard and investing more each year in their sustainability agendas, but they continue to struggle to achieve cut-through and to really embed themselves in consumers’ minds as leaders in sustainability. “Organisations are widely scrutinised on their alignment with social causes, their environmental impact, their behaviour, their values, and the internal culture they create,” Niamh continued.


“The public are more attuned to the reputation of an organisation than ever before, and for the public, actions speak louder than words. We know that sustainability, which in our study comprises environmental impact, social performance, conduct, and workplace, drives 51% of an organisation’s reputation but for many, their sustainability reputation is holding their overall corporate reputation back. These more intangible drivers and factors are now more important to an organisation’s reputation than the products or services an organisation sells.”


Purpose the key to sustainability strategy

According to Niamh, the key learning from this year’s study was that a clear sense of purpose should be at the core of any organisation’s sustainability strategy. “Leaders have a key role to play in guiding their organisations towards that sense of purpose,” she revealed. “Understanding the big drivers of building a reputation in sustainability is crucial to build trust and win support from your stakeholders.” The Ireland RepTrak Sustainability Index 2022 highlights how ‘Being a Positive influence on Society’, ‘Improving the lives of others’ and ‘Being Fair, Ethical, Open and Transparent in the way you run your business’ are the most important sustainability factors in driving corporate reputation.


Niamh believes that “it is critical to have a strategic communications process that links purpose, sustainability and reputation together, while creating real value across all key stakeholders, to help build sustainable, profitable, and valuable businesses.” None of the 100 companies in the Ireland RepTrak Sustainability Index 2022 have a poor score, but nine have a weak score, 47 an average tier score, while 43 have a strong tier score and just one receives an excellent score in sustainability this year, the Credit Unions.


Investing in communications strategy

The Ireland RepTrak Sustainability Index 2022 data highlights that investments in sustainability communication strategies make solid business sense. The public is 2.3 times more likely to purchase from an organisation in the strong tier than from one in the weak tier and nearly three times more likely to purchase from an organisation with an excellent sustainability score. Likewise, the public is more than twice as likely to trust an organisation in the strong tier than one in the weak tier and nearly three times more likely to trust an organisation with an excellent sustainability score. The study also highlights the correlation between sustainability and willingness to work for an organisation.