The science of improving your reputation—and stock price—through sustainability reporting

trends in sustainability communications

Since our initial analysis on trends in sustainability reporting, evidence continues to support the conclusion that a more refined corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda can improve a company’s brand reputation and even boost its stock price.

The latest research comes from the Reputation Institute, a global consulting firm. In a survey of over 55,000 consumers, three companies were perceived to be best practitioners of corporate citizenship: BMW, Disney and Microsoft.

These sustainability leaders stood out among a sea of companies undertaking commendable corporate initiatives to improve the world. So what made these companies so noteworthy in the eyes of consumers?

Using your sustainability reporting as a reputation enhancer

We used our predictive analytics platform to see if there were patterns in BMW, Disney and Microsoft’s sustainability communications that made their messages distinctive. To build a benchmark of comparison, we analyzed each of these companies 2014 sustainability reports against the sustainability reports from the rest of Fortune 500 companies.

Sustainability Communications

Microsoft, Disney and BMW exceeded the Fortune 500 average in their use of trustworthy language by 7.3%. More importantly, these companies used language that was perceived to be 18.9% easier to read.

This supports the assertion that in order for a company to boost its reputation as a sustainability leader, companies need to communicate their sustainability initiatives in a way that is accessible to a range of readers. Equally important, those communications must utilize concrete data such as progress against key performance indicators, and specific examples of how each sustainability initiative is improving the company. Those types of tangible evidence will build trust with consumers, industry professionals and investors alike.

It’s what you say—and do—that matters

It is worth noting that Google also landed at the top of the list despite not publishing a sustainability report – they communicate their efforts through a series of microsites including and Google Green, to name a few. This supports the idea that it is not just about what you say but also about how your company is perceived. A fully integrated, cross-channel approach to sustainability communications is necessary for maximum impact with all stakeholders.

To learn more about how we can help your team use analytics to improve your sustainability communications, contact us at