New Report Offers First Guidelines for Companies on How to Communicate about Climate Policy Engagement

Source: BSR, 18 March 2010

On the heels of last year’s failed climate negotiations in Copenhagen, more companies worldwide are attempting to advance national and international policies around climate change. Now, a new report from BSR offers the first concrete guidelines on how business can communicate to customers, investors, and the public on these climate policy engagement efforts.
“As we enter the season for financial and sustainability reporting, one of the most important topics on the agenda for companies to cover is climate change,” said Ryan Schuchard, BSR’s Manager, Research & Innovation. “To date, however, companies have lacked direction on how to report on their important work pushing for government policies that will curb climate change.”
BSR’s new report, “Communicating on Climate Policy Engagement: A Guide to Sustainability Reporting,” covers:

Why companies should report on their climate policy approach

Results from an assessment of how 150 leading companies currently report on climate policy engagement—including best practices from firms such as Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, and Unilever

A guide to existing recommendations on how companies should report on climate policy engagement

BSR’s recommended approach for companies to report on climate policy engagement

“Leading companies recognize that climate change is one of the single greatest issues of our generation, and public policy is a main piece of their climate approach,” said Schuchard. “Without policy change, we may not be able to solve climate change.”
Today, stakeholders are demanding that companies communicate transparently on their climate efforts: Investors want to see that companies are creating value, customers want to judge which companies are leaders versus laggards, and watchdogs are looking for inconsistencies between companies’ stated climate goals and the policies they support.
Regulatory agencies and reporting initiatives are also asking for more transparency. Earlier this year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued guidance requiring companies to report on climate-related risks and opportunities, and the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) 2010 Investor Questionnaire has an increased emphasis on how companies report on climate policy efforts.

BSR believes that effective climate policy is an important instrument for creating business value, and that companies can build trust with stakeholders by leading more meaningful discourse,” said Schuchard.
BSR recommends that companies communicate about all policy efforts, including those that go beyond traditional lobbying. To ensure the effectiveness of these communications, BSR recommends that those who want to lead in reporting take the following approaches:
Be explicit. Make solving climate change a stated goal, and use clear statements of position and objectives to focus the message.

Be the first to the punch. Aim to be straightforward about the company’s climate policy involvement and head off potentially difficult questions by answering them in advance.

Use diverse reporting channels. At the very least, companies should communicate a comprehensive and consistent message through their own websites and sustainability reports, and through the CDP’s questionnaire. They should also consider reaching key audiences through customized channels as needed.

“Companies have the opportunity to lead on climate change through many efforts, and influencing policy is a strong mechanism for change,” said Schuchard. “By communicating transparently about their efforts using BSR’s recommendations, companies can fulfill commitments to stakeholders and position themselves for leadership in climate progress.”

Download the report (pdf)