Content of communication
Here, you can get inspiration to identify topics that are relevant for your target groups, and also fulfil the international expectations of your communication.
Target the content at selected stakeholders
You should start by deciding who you primarily wish to target with your communication, so that you can tailor your content for this audience.
Your audience will typically be your suppliers, customers, investors and employees, who have the greatest stake in your responsible supply chain management. NGOs and consumers will also often be key target groups. It is important to give high priority to target groups that are affected directly by your responsible supply chain management.
The best way to gauge stakeholders' expectations of your communication is simply to ask them. This can be a major task, so begin by putting yourself in their shoes and thinking about how they will use the information and in which contexts. You can then consider how you can use your existing dialogue with stakeholders to find out more about their requirements of your CSR communication.
You can draw inspiration from the following general aspects of stakeholders' focus:
- Suppliers: Suppliers will mainly be interested in the requirements they are expected to fulfil, and the consequences it will have for your cooperation if they do not fulfil your requirements. They will also be interested in your own CSR activities and how you will be able to help them to fulfil the requirements.
- Customers: Some customers require documentation that you monitor your suppliers' CSR performance. They will typically require you to have a Code of Conduct and management systems to ensure compliance with the requirements. They may also request key figures for specific CSR areas.
- Investors: Investors usually focus on risk minimisation and require confirmation of your compliance with legislation and internationally recognised CSR principles. They will typically require management systems that can ensure that no critical issues might arise that could have an adverse impact on your revenue. They will also expect you to stay abreast of market requirements and trends.
- NGOs: NGOs generally require documentation of your compliance with internationally recognised CSR principles. Depending on these organisations' objectives, they will have special focus on specific CSR areas: Greenpeace will focus on the environment and Amnesty International on human rights, etc.
- Consumers: Consumers will typically prefer simple, transparent documentation that your products are manufactured under proper conditions in the form of an officially recognised label such as the EU’s "Flower" Ecolabel or the Fair Trade label.
- Employees: Your employees will typically be interested in the concrete improvements in suppliers' conditions resulting from your responsible supply chain management activities, as well as the benefits for your own company. Your responsible supply chain management and CSR activities in general can also help to make you a preferred employer that can attract and retain good employees.
Identify the key focus areas
You should identify the key focus areas and ensure that you can document your activities and results.
Many companies' CSR communication is very extensive because companies provide information on everything they do. This means that the important issues do not receive enough attention. The art is to strike the right balance between what you are expected to communicate on your efforts to identify, prevent and mitigate adverse impacts in your supply chain, and what is relevant and interesting for your target groups.
Your communication on responsible supply chain management is expected to include the following topics:
Which risks and examples of adverse impacts have we identified among our suppliers? How have we handled these challenges?
Which requirements do we make of our suppliers' CSR activities and how do we communicate these requirements?
How do we follow up on compliance with the requirements and how do we respond if they are not complied with?
How do we analyse the risks of adverse impacts on CSR principles in the countries and industries in which the suppliers operate?
You can also consider the following topics:
How are we cooperating with our suppliers to improve their CSR performance?
Which CSR improvements among suppliers has this led to?
What benefits have we achieved within our own company? For example, better products, reduced costs, etc.
Which other opportunities for cooperation have we used in our supply chain management activities? For example, authorities, other companies, trade organisations and NGOs.
Credible communication requires that you are able to document your activities and results. This means that your management systems should include processes to monitor and register how you can identify and handle adverse impacts in your supply chain. In this respect you should make use of relevant indicators. These might be measurable quantitative indicators, such as the number of actual supplier visits, as well as qualitative indicators that express attitudes and standpoints, such as the mutual confidence between you and your suppliers. Testimonials from both internal and external stakeholders will also strengthen the credibility of your communication.
Be open about dilemmas and challenges
It is a good idea to be open about the challenges you face in your supply chain and how you are seeking to tackle them.
Fears of negative media publicity concerning suppliers' adverse CSR performance can prevent some companies from communicating actively about their responsible supply chain management activities. However, companies that are known for their transparent communication concerning the dilemmas they face in their supply chains are in a stronger position and typically fare better if they suddenly come under fire for their suppliers' adverse CSR performance.
You do not need to publish all of the risks identified, or all potential adverse impacts, as well as information on how you have handled each and every specific issue. But if you discover particularly adverse conditions within a supplier's organisation, it can be worthwhile to openly describe how you have handled the situation. The press is less likely to be interested in the story once it has been published on your website – even if you have not yet resolved the issues. You can focus on what you have done to help the supplier to resolve the issues and prevent them from re-occurring. You can also describe how you have influenced the supplier to provide access to remedy for the persons affected. However, you must always remember to protect private, personal or commercial information.