Will you Brave the Backlash?

Jason Sumner. Jason is a white man with very short dark hair, a short beard and glasses. He is wearing a light jacket and shirt. Jason Sumner | 19 Oct 2023

Our new Bowen Craggs Index Snapshot report shows how the best companies in the world are engaging successfully on their digital communication channels, and how you can too.  

The acronym “ESG” (environmental, social and governance) is getting a rough ride right now. Just as most companies have started to embrace the idea that they need to take their environmental and social impacts seriously, critics of the movement say it’s all a virtue-signalling distraction from the only purpose of companies, which is to rake in profits. 

That’s one part of the Corporate Backlash.

More widely though, people of all political persuasions are just suspicious of big organisations – that they are not well run, that they do not operate in the public interest and that we cannot believe anything they say.

For corporations specifically, there is another problem too – one of over-promising and under-delivering on sustainability. Even companies with good intentions are having to roll back on promises. Look at Lego, which in September had to drop a plan, announced back in 2021, to make bricks from recycled bottles within two years.

The question for communicators amidst this turmoil is, do you retreat, or do you engage? We come down on the side of engagement, and so do the leaders in the Bowen Craggs Index Snapshot. 

A Snapshot of the Best in the World  

The Bowen Craggs Index monitors and ranks the corporate digital communications of the world’s largest companies as measured by the Forbes 100. Our consultants regularly review the digital output of companies on the Forbes 100 list, and our client companies, to produce the continuously updated Bowen Craggs Index.

The Snapshot is just that, a moment in time of a ranking that changes throughout the year, as companies move up and drop back. The Bowen Craggs Index Snapshot report is our opportunity to look at who is leading in this moment, and the trends and best practices that corporate communicators need to know.

This year Nestlé and BP remain in a class of their own at the top of the Index. Nestlé, in the number one spot, nudged further ahead this year with a score of 234 out of a maximum of 280. The company improved its sustainability section this year, revamped its “About us” section and launched a TikTok channel. BP, close behind in second place, improved its score to 230 after successfully reorganising its investor section and making improvements to online journeys for jobseekers and customers.

Neither of these companies stand still – they are constantly investing in innovation to keep their digital channels at the summit.

Below the top two positions, there was a lot of movement in the Index ranking across the year, with companies such as Bosch, Verizon, GSK, NXP, Shell moving up, and others dropping back; all of which we detail in the report. 

Trends and best practices 

We identify numerous trends and best practices in the report that communicators need to know to communicate successfully amidst the Backlash. Here are three: 

  1. The Backlash means companies need to urgently improve their sustainability communications.
    Top-notch sustainability communications on corporate digital channels is rare, and it’s clear to us that most companies will need to be far more sophisticated in the way they communicate environmental and social plans.

  1. It’s OK to leave "Barbie Land".
    Just as in the recent film, when Barbie is forced to choose between “Barbie Land” and the real world, communicators need to choose too. First, leave the pie-in-the-sky claims aside and tell the truth about the state of your sustainability plans and actions. Second, find a balance between environmental messages, and other important corporate messages that have nothing to do with sustainability, but which reinforce your reputation with stakeholders like jobseekers, employees, investors and customers. 

  1. Corporate channels change opinions.
    We run audience surveys on some of the largest company websites in the world. The Corporate Backlash hit very close to home for many of them this year, with disgruntled visitors arriving in droves to complain when these companies hit the headlines. Our report details how one company managed to turn a tumultuous experience into a win for the global corporate web presence. 

We invite you to download the full report to start using the trends, lessons and best practice to synchronise your organisation’s messages, audiences and digital channels.  

It’s time to move beyond the Backlash and communicate effectively in an increasingly challenging – but also rewarding – digital environment.