Sustainability A Growing Website Feature

Next time you visit a big company’s website, see if they mention their sustainability projects. Chances are pretty good they will. A new study shows nearly 75 percent of  Standard & Poor’s top 500 U.S. companies mentioned one or more sustainability programs on their websites.

The new study was compiled by Nathan Heinze of Saint Petersburg College and Timothy Heinze of California State University. The brothers used used impression management theory and ten organizational categories  to assess the websites and environmental efforts of 500 leading US companies. What they’ve concluded is large companies mention their sustainability efforts with the hope of drawing in profitable customers, not necessarily to promote sustainability.

image via Microsoft

According to findings from the study, fewer than half of companies noted energy-saving efforts on their websites in 2008. Today, that number has risen to two-thirds of companies who do so. The research also  also found that having sustainability programs in place varies depending on the industry. While 80 percent of utility companies tout their waste reduction and climate change initiatives on their websites, in other industries like finance, less than 50 percent of the companies mention similar issues on their websites.

Though we don’t tend to report on when corporations announce their latest sustainability reports are available online, we’ve noted when looking at story ideas that an increasing number of them are making big deals about saying this data is available for public viewing.

“It is probable that the dramatic disparity among industries can be attributed to a difference in strategic emphasis. For example, utilities and materials are more directly involved in the manufacturing, transporting, and delivery of physical goods to their customers than are financials,” researchers say in the study.  “Another possibility for the disparity is the focus of the corporate websites. For example, an oil company is likely viewed with more suspicion by an environmentally conscious public than is a financial company.”

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.