Ford : Auditing risks

An engaging presentation of which issues demand most attention.

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The feature

Ford, US-based vehicle manufacturer, has assembled assessments of the material issues facing the business in browsable form.

Ford produces its sustainability report on a microsite attached to its global corporate website. Within the second of its nine sections, Our Blueprint for Sustainability, is a sub-section devoted to Materiality Analysis, an assessment of the topics that have an impact on the company’s economic, environmental and social performance. These can be browsed via a nine-cell Materiality Matrix in which they are grouped according to the scale of impact and concern associated with them; for example, ‘Low Impact, Medium Concern’, ‘High Impact, High Concern’.

Clicking on a cell populates the page beneath the matrix with a list of material issues by category (for example, Governance) and sub-category (for example, Ethical Business Practices). A further click on a sub-category expands a standardised four-part summary: Definition/Description; Comments; Trend (from previous analysis); More information – which is a related links feature.

The takeaway

‘Materiality’ is an aspect of corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting that not coincidentally has gained prominence as investors’ appreciation has grown of the impact of environmental and social factors on a company’s medium- to long-term ability to perform well. (The rise of ‘integrated’ reports – combining the annual and CSRreports – is another sign.) Visualisations of the relative risks and impacts its materiality issues hold for a company are therefore becoming more commonplace as reporting tools, but Ford’s Materiality Matrix is notable for both its scope (28 issues under High Impact, Medium Concern alone) and the accomplished use of interactivity to make information easily accessible and digestible.

Given the volume of issues, Ford’s decision to focus the matrix on the levels of concern/impact – rather than, as some do, the topics themselves – is partly pragmatic, but also has an engaging punchiness to it. The use of expand/contract headings to reveal the summaries is a helpful piece of on-page management, while the content itself provides a useful range of analysis – including trends – and takes advantage of related links to provide a further deeper level of information.
First published 29 July, 2014
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