Step 8: Use language that everyone can understand
Principles, policies and guidelines must be clearly expressed, particularly if the material is to be translated. The same is true of any external reports.
Principles, policies and guidelines that explain a company’s approach to corporate responsibility and its implementation should be written in clear and concise language. These materials need to be understood, not only by the senior executives of a company who are responsible for their overall development and implementation, but also by company managers and employees. It is they who will play a key role in putting the principles, policies and guidelines into practice on the ground within each of the company’s business units and throughout its operations. As much as possible, companies should avoid using jargon and prefer a straightforward business-like style and vocabulary.
Materials developed for the purpose of communicating externally a company’s approach to corporate responsibility need to be written in a way that makes them interesting and relevant to a broader audience, which includes shareholders, investors, governments, the general public and the media. This is particularly important in the case of public reports (economic, environmental and social) on the company’s corporate responsibility performance. These materials should present hard data and measures of corporate performance in such a way that can be easily understood by general readers. They should also seek to tell the company story through concrete examples and illustrations of company projects, and what these mean for the people in the communities in which the company operates.
If appropriate, as in the case of global companies, these materials, and especially those for external communications, should be translated into one major international language, usually English, to ensure that they reach a broader audience.
Increasingly, companies use their websites as a window on the company for an external audience. Many companies now devote a section of their website to explaining their approach to corporate responsibility. Such a section may include the company’s principles, policies and guidelines, to the extent that these are public documents, and also company reports on its corporate responsibility performance. Some companies have also found it useful to translate their website into either a major international language or the languages of countries where they have significant operations. Other companies have chosen to go further and use their website to establish a dialogue with the public at large. This can take the form of an interactive “you tell us box” or “contact box” where the public is invited to send comments and suggestions to the company’s attention on corporate responsibility issues.
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