It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it

(I feel a bit like the Vicky Jackson character in Time Gentlemen Please – “Do you remember that song?” Anyway, I digress. As the Pub Landlord himself would say, “The point is this…”)

Not that long ago, I was asked to benchmark what each of the Big Four accounting firms were up to on the CR front – part of a pitch to one of them for an engagement project aimed at raising employee awareness and involvement in their corporate citizenship programmes.

Being a regular reader of David Taylor’s blog, I’m wary of putting the “sizzle” before the “sausage”, but it was very apparent that what differentiated them was not the substance of what they were doing, but the style and tone of their communications.

Looking at their CR initiatives, you’d be hard pressed to get a cigarette paper between them. Mind you, that’s largely because most of them are doing a pretty good job of ensuring that what they do is relevant and material to their business, rather than just a bunch of arm’s length philanthropic investments. For a professional services firm, that leads to some fairly predictable areas of focus:

  • Workplace – leveraging diversity and creating an environment in which people can reach their full potential;
  • Marketplace – working to promote corporate transparency and confidence in business and financial markets;
  • Community – supporting education, employability and social inclusion in the localities where they operate;
  • Environment – concentrating on business travel, office energy use and waste as the areas of greatest material impact on climate change.

And yet, PricewaterhouseCoopers really stood out from the crowd, primarily thanks to a couple of really intelligent pieces of communication…

Firstly, not unlike Tesco’s Steering Wheel, they’ve created a simple graphic that encapsulates the results of an audit of their CR footprint. This makes for a really clear line of sight between awareness of the business’ impact and their strategy and tactics for managing it.

Secondly, they’ve taken the interesting approach of using the external medium of their corporate website to communicate key internal messages. A “Where next” section at the foot of each page explicitly links PwC’s plans to the actions and behaviours they expect from their people to drive them forward.

The result? An incredibly strong sense of openness and transparency that the others simply could not match.

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