2009 PR News CSR Award: Sustainability/CSR Report

Hormel Foods and Burson-Marsteller for Corporate Responsibility Report 2007

CSR reports may be intended to deliver information related to a company’s corporate responsibility efforts to external stakeholders, but the process of putting together a dynamic document is very much an internal process—a lesson learned by the communications team at Hormel Foods when planning their first full CSR report in 2007.

“Two of the main challenges our team faced when writing [the report] were related to internal communications,” says Julie Craven, VP of corporate communications for Hormel Foods. “[They were] educating internal audiences about the increasing demand for companies to provide transparent information related to their operations, and reviewing available data and its accuracy to establish a benchmark for future reports.”

With the help of Burson-Marsteller, the team overcame these initial hurdles via focused communications strategies.

“For the 2007 report, our strategy was to report the information we could statistically validate and then develop internal procedures to increase the amount of information we provided in 2008,” Craven says. “We also expanded our internal recognition program called ‘Best of the Best’ to include a sustainability category, which has increased awareness among employees to think about sustainability every day.”

Digital platforms also proved to be effective in closing the gaps that inevitably arise within large organizations. “For internal stakeholders, we use our intranet to communicate CSR-related information,” Craven says. “We also provide internal resources to customize CSR-related information that [employees] can present to their customers using the latest communications tools.”

Thanks to these combined internal focuses, the team was able to create a robust report that communicated the company’s CSR achievements and goals in a way that was aligned with its overall brand values. “We are evolving our corporate social responsibility reporting to be fully online in 2008,” Craven says. “This move will allow stakeholders to access the company’s CSR initiatives in an easy-to-search, fully accessible medium while reducing the amount of paper used.”