We communicate our sustainability agenda in a wide range of ways, aimed at differing audiences

Duncan Young joined the Sustainability team at RBS Group in 2011, after 15 years as a TV news journalist. As Deputy Head his responsibilities cover all aspects of the sustainability agenda at RBS, with specific oversight of the bank's sustainability reporting and external engagement work. 

Ethical Corporation: How are corporate communications around corporate responsibility and sustainability evolving in your business?

Duncan Young: The banking industry has been under enormous pressure to show it is operating more responsibly. Inevitably that has meant giving more profile in our communications to things like community investment, customer support, our investment in the low carbon sector and changes to how we oversee conduct.

When it comes to our reporting, the emerging focus of both GRI 4 and the IIRC draft, as well as changes to the requirements of UK company reporting have also encouraged us take another step forward in how we communicate our sustainability agenda.

Ethical Corporation: Is there, in business generally, too much of a disconnect between reporting and communications teams? If so, why? 

Duncan Young: It's fair to say that annual reports and sustainability reports tend to be read by only a very small audience, so it's easy to dismiss their importance as communications tools.

That said, as more and more extra-financial information is included in company disclosures, I think you're likely to see the communications teams take a greater interest. Equally, reporting teams are having to think of ways of communicating their content that can reach a wider audience, and they'll usually need to work with their communications colleagues to do that.

Ethical Corporation: Does your company do tailored sustainability and CR messaging to different groups, if so, can you give us some examples? 

Duncan Young: We communicate our sustainability agenda in a wide range of ways, aimed at differing audiences.

Our web content has animation, video, commenting functionality and so on, which means it can work for casual readers or those who want to seek out more detail; we print a small number of hard copies for shareholders and investors; we produce slide decks for the investor community and hold road shows and face-to-face meetings with investors; we use social media to bring day to day updates to our 'followers'; and we provide proactive stories and case studies for the specialist and mainstream media to underline our commitment to operating responsibly.

As far as I'm concerned this is the age of responsible business, so the days of niche messages for a select group of stakeholders are behind us.

Ethical Corporation: What's your view on integrated reporting? Trojan horse, trojan pony, or neither? 

Duncan Young: Horse. The whole debate around integrated reporting has shifted expectations and understanding about what corporate reporting should be about and should reveal.

In the UK we're already seeing changes to the regulations that are obliging listed companies to report on concepts and issues that have come from the IR debate. Even if the IIRC model is not where we end up, the principles behind IR are already taking effect and as long as investors remain interested in that more holistic view, I think that trend will continue.

Duncan Young will be speaking at the 7th Annual CR Reporting and Communications Summit, 27/28th November 2013. Duncan will be one of our expert judges on our CSR Reporting X Factor session plus he'll be part of the closing keynote session discussing the the future of CR disclosure and sustainability comms.

comms  CR Reporting  finance  Management spotlight  rbs  Reporting Summit  Royal Bank of Scotland 

The 7th Annual CR Reporting and Communications Summit 2013

November 2013, London, UK

Add materiality to your business CR disclosure strategy, get to grips with all the latest CR reporting guidelines and bring your CR communications to the next level for increased brand loyalty and stakeholder engagement. Real life examples from Unilever, Virgin Media, IKEA, Nestle and more!

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