Companies Build Public Trust Through Sustainability Reporting, New Research Shows

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Companies Build Public Trust Through Sustainability Reporting, New Research Shows

National polling from Hill+Knowlton Strategies reveals more than 4 in 5 Americans believe corporate efforts to be sustainable increase public trust, even when results fall short of goals

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Corporations have learned in recent years that their success depends heavily on public confidence. That confidence is driven not just by business performance, but also by an evolving set of factors that impact the public's view of a business as a trustworthy entity.


A recent survey1 conducted by Hill+Knowlton Strategies revealed that one of the more significant drivers of public confidence in a company is its commitment to sustainability, and its efforts to communicate about and deliver on that commitment. The global communications advisory firm defines the goal of corporate sustainability to be managing the environmental, economic and social effects of a corporation's operations so it is profitable over the long-term while acting in a responsible manner to society.

"The takeaway is that corporations that report citizenship activities can gain a higher level of public trust and greater license to operate. Conversely, companies that report very little face a growing risk that incomplete disclosure is seen as an effort to deliberatively hide poor corporate governance and subpar operations," said Robert Ludke, H+K Strategies senior vice president and head of the firm's Governance+Sustainability practice.

The survey results showed a clear link between corporate communications around sustainability efforts and corporate performance and reputation. Among the key findings:

  • 91 percent of respondents said they believe that it was important for corporations to behave sustainably in 2013 and beyond, and that such behavior was critical to companies' long-term success;
  • 81 percent believe companies should report on their sustainability efforts on an ongoing basis rather than through a static report;
  • 82 percent believe that a company can regain public trust through an honest and transparent reporting of its efforts to be more sustainable, even if that reporting highlights where it falls short of its goals; and
  • 84 percent believe greater visibility into corporate sustainability efforts will increase trust in a company.

"The expectation of sustainability springs from greater awareness and understanding of issues like climate change, water scarcity and income disparity — all places where the public feels empowered to play a direct role in affecting change," said Ludke.

The survey results were released today during a panel sponsored by Hill+Knowlton Strategies and British American Business titled: Sustainability, Transparency and Business Performance. Moderated by Ludke, this panel explored how greater and more strategic reporting on corporate sustainability performance makes good business sense. Paul Gennaro of AECOM, Michael Garland of the Office of New York City Comptroller, and Tom Murray of Environmental Defense Fund participated in this discussion. More information on the survey findings can be found at www.hkstrategies.com/sustainability.

1 This document highlights key findings from online omnibus surveys among 1,000 respondents in the U.S. The questions were fielded between March 18 and March 27. The margin of error for the surveys would be +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence interval. Some sub-group samples were weighted to match current census data of the U.S. general public.

About Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Inc. is a leading international communications consultancy, providing services to local, multinational and global clients. The firm is headquartered in New York, with 90 offices in 52 countries, as well as an extensive associate network. The agency is part of WPP, one of the world's largest communications services groups. For more information, please visit www.hkstrategies.com.



Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Inc.
Rebecca Ballard, 202-354-8271

KEYWORDS:   United States  North America  District of Columbia

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