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Our approach to reporting - key lessons learnt

19 March 2013

Our approach to reporting - key lessons learnt

I'm often lucky enough to be invited to various events and conferences to speak about the Virgin Media approach to sustainability reporting. Even after two years, our decision to ditch the hardcopy report in favour of a more engaging, behind-the-scenes, digital approach is still often commended as innovative and groundbreaking, which is great. Naturally, many of the people I meet at these events do not work in a digital business like Virgin Media, and they often ask me how our approach could work for them. It's an interesting question, and one I thought I'd reflect on in a blog. Not only this, but having just launched the business and the community phase of the 'Our digital future' programme, it felt like a good time to raise the issue. So here are my thoughts on some of the key elements of our approach, and how they might be applicable to your company, no matter what type of industry you operate in…

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Katie Buchanan

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Get everyone involved

Sustainability is a great leveller. We've had people from all parts of the business take part in the same projects, from frontline staff to the CEO. If sustainable business practice is something you want to drive through your entire organisation, it's important to get people to contribute from every level of the organisation – top down and bottom up. And the best way to encourage people to participate is to ask them about the issues that matter to them, and to provide interesting and fun ways for them to share their stories, projects and ideas.

Create conversation spaces

Everyone likes to be listened to and, if you're anything like Virgin Media employees, you like talking too! We've found that creating structured and highly visible ways for staff, customers and key influential stakeholders to share their opinions is the best approach to getting positive, proactive discussions started around how to address key issues in our business. Creating these conversation spaces also helps ensure we're on the right track while encouraging practical collaboration between departments, teams and individuals, giving everyone a chance to get involved.

You need strong ideas

Who better to tell your company's sustainability story than the staff. We decided that one of the best ways of expressing our story was through film, so over the last couple of years we've given our employees flip cams to film what's going on behind the scenes in their roles. A key part of the success of this approach has been to have a clear purpose and narrative structure behind each story. Not only has this allowed us all to benefit from the insights, expertise and enthusiasm from every corner of the business, but it has helped to encourage others to share their stories.

Film works for us, but something else may suit your company better – be brave and do what works for you. It doesn't need to be something expensive but it should certainly be fun! (Yes, sustainability and work can be fun!)

Have a plan for activating “key moments”

It's one thing to get loads of great content from your staff but it's not that valuable if you haven't thought about how you're going to get it out there! This can be tricky if your business is like ours with staff not just based in an office. It's important to find the right way of sharing stories and content that's accessible to everyone. Digital helps bring a story to life, and makes sure that it reaches the largest audience possible.

By following these key principles, we have shifted our sustainability story from one about disclosure to engagement. This has meant increased transparency and more proactive conversations around some really important issues – like how digital can make good things happen – for people, communities and the whole country.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on our approach and any ideas you may have on how digital technology can make good things happen in the world of business, so why not join the conversation at http://www.ourdigitalfuture.co.uk/speak_up/4

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