Why transparency is the clear way forwardDecember 2015
Last year, Land Rover shared how pioneering technology could be used to develop a ‘transparent’ bonnet, writes Laura Vickery, global CSR manager at the car maker.
A concept car, revealed at the New York International Auto Show, used cameras located in the grille to feed into a display on the bonnet, creating a ‘see-through’ view of the terrain underneath. The development represents safer, smarter driving and is particularly useful for drivers climbing steep inclines, or dealing with the tight confines of urban car parks.
Six months later, the business revealed its ‘360 virtual urban windscreen’ concept, which uses transparent roof pillars to give the driver a clear 360 degree view outside the car, covering blind spot angles and helping make pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles visible around the car.
Faced with these technological innovations, few would question the positive value that improving transparency can bring when applied smartly. So beyond these rather literal examples, how can improved transparency be applied to those of us working to progress the responsible business agenda?
Improved transparency does not necessarily mean more facts and figures; rather, providing more meaningful, timely and relevant information.
In 2013, I helped transform how Jaguar Land Rover measures its impact of CSR projects. Joining forces with the London Benchmarking Group (LBG), we used its measurement framework as a basis for measuring the real value and impact of corporate community investment to both business and society. The methodology also allows us to rate the depth of impact of community activities, from making a connection, a change or a transformation to an individual, and to benchmark ourselves against other companies. It underpins the working of our global CSR programme, through which we aim to help 12m people by 2020.
Businesses are increasingly aligning their CSR and sustainability projects to their core business and purpose. As well as helping accommodate issues of materiality, this can help businesses find niche or unique interventions, where they can excel using the expertise of their people and the products and services of their sector.
Improving transparency can create challenges. Culturally, some organisations find it deeply uncomfortable to share any information that isn’t wholly positive. But improving transparency is a key vehicle to increase trust with ever-more sceptical audiences.
In a world where demand for information is accelerating and customers use social and digital media to share their opinions, there is also likely to be a disconnect between people who demand immediate updates from organisations that are traditionally used to reporting retrospectively at certain times of year.
There are some exciting trends around the corner though, not least the advent of ‘Big Data’, which has the potential to radically disrupt the CSR landscape.
Transparency of ‘data for good’ is vital for any responsible business and it’s what customers and other stakeholders will increasingly expect.
The challenge we face is how we transform traditional corporate reporting and communications to meet the daily needs of empowered consumers in the digital age.
Laura Vickery is global CSR manager at Jaguar Land Rover, writing here in a personal capacity. She will be speaking at the CSR Summit in 2016.