There’s no doubt that ESG is a growing focus for IR teams. In fact, according to the 2018 Global Sustainable Investment Alliance’s review, global sustainable investing assets reached $30.7 trillion at the beginning of 2018 — marking a 34 percent increase over the last two years. Targeting ESG investors and aligning their goals with the company story can help IROs access long-term funds and expand their shareholder base. According to Abigail Herron, Head of Responsible Investment Engagement at Aviva Investors, “IR should own all investor engagement, including ESG.”
When it comes to being more proactive and sophisticated about ESG communications, the IR website plays an integral role in engaging the investment community. David Phillips, Head of Investor Relations at Hays says that “it’s important to present your ESG initiatives at the heart of your website, to show that they’re also at the heart of your company.” Leveraging your IR website can not only help you improve your company’s transparency, but also attract and engage investors, and set you apart from your peers.
Creating a robust ESG landing page
According to IR Magazine’s 2017 Global IR Practice: ESG Communications, governance is a highly discussed topic amongst investors. But while governance might outweigh environmental and social considerations, IROs need to increasingly connect the dots for the whole picture.
Alongside or integrated with a governance section on your IR site, it has become an absolute best practice to have a dedicated landing page for ESG. Marnie explains: “It’s really important to have a dedicated section to show investors your commitment to ESG, whether that’s a robust ESG section or a simple page with bold calls to action.”
Amy adds that “your ESG page is the investor’s first impression.” But she’s noticed that “companies usually fall into two camps: those that know they want an ESG section and those that either haven’t thought about it or can’t get to it until later down the road.” And for good reason — creating an ESG section can be a daunting project, especially for today’s lean IR teams of one or two.
The real challenge is finding a balance. Websites often have either too much content to show on ESG or not enough. While some companies might have plenty of content to fill a mini site, it might make more sense for others to create a succinct (but bold) page, with clear calls to action that link investors to external pages and reports, usually on the corporate site.
“Sometimes less is more,” says Amy. She points to the example of Wendy’s IR site. “They wanted to showcase their ESG efforts, but didn’t have a lot of prepared content,” she explains. Dividing their landing page into the “E”, “S” and “G”, they were able to impactfully show their initiatives at a high level. They incorporated best practices including a separate drop-down menu for ESG, succinct and engaging sections, bold graphics and images, as well as banners with clear messaging.
The result is a clean and compelling page that incites investors to read more on the Wendy’s corporate site. Amy sums up: “With today’s short attention span of web visitors, investors often won’t take the time to look through all of your pages. If you’re lean on ESG content, it’s smart to show them robust calls to action and give them the opportunity to learn more on your corporate site.”
Showcasing content in a microsite
If you’re lucky enough to have a lot of ESG content, creating a mini-site can be a highly effective way to present your narrative to investors. Marnie looks to the example of Ameren’s microsite dedicated to CSR and full sustainability report, which together showcase their ESG efforts front and center. On their microsite, investors can download the report itself, as well as navigate the landing page like an online report.
She explains: “They show their overarching priorities which are then clickable to individual pages, followed by ‘Ameren by the numbers’ showing their performance metrics with infographics, and then tell their story with the visual impact of video.” Ameren also profiles real people and communities who have benefited from Ameren’s ESG initiatives, to humanize the brand and share relatable stories with investors.
Telling the full story with an online report
A recent survey by RBC found that over 70% of institutional investors have incorporated ESG components into their investment strategies. With institutional investors placing increasing emphasis on consistent and insightful reporting on environmental and social issues, more and more companies are integrating ESG into the main narrative of their annual online reports.
Amy looks to the example of Etsy who built a full online sustainability review, in combination with their annual report. Their aim was to provide high quality ESG data in a document that investors were already consistently referencing for company information. Integrating their social impact reporting into their 10-K filing, their 2018 report not only fulfilled their legal disclosures, but also took a deep dive into Etsy’s ecological, social and economic impact strategy and metrics.
The combined report demonstrates Etsy’s commitment to growing sustainably, by aligning it with their mission, guiding principles, and business strategy. And with a focus on their branding, they created an eye-catching design with images and anecdotes that truly brought their story to life.
Communicating ESG on your IR site can take a variety of approaches. But no matter how you present your ESG choices and relate them to the health of your business, the key is building an online presence that makes a lasting impression. After all, it’s all about keeping stakeholders consistently updated in a meaningful and impactful way.
Marla Hurov is Content Marketing Manager at Q4 Inc and blogs regularly about trends in investor relations, technology and digital communications.