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Charting a New Course in Sustainability Reporting

Submitted by: Sophia Mendelsohn

Posted: May 02, 2017 – 06:00 AM EST

Tags: sustainability reporting, reporting, csr, research


There’s currently a debate brewing among sustainability and corporate responsibility professionals about the best way to report CSR and environmental information. Is a sustainability report the proper time for storytelling or do readers just want the facts? Truth is, we are often trying to reach multiple (and different audiences) with one report. This year, JetBlue decided to revisit how we report our environmental, social and purpose-driven initiatives. 

Questions always come up as we compile our annual environmental and responsibility report about investors vs. customers and communities. Are investors really looking at or interested in the “feel good” CSR report? Do they care about how we are inspiring humanity as much as they care about cost-cutting initiatives?

Yet, our customers and crewmembers do care and want to read about the books we’ve donated in their local community, our investments in renewable jet fuel, our carbon offsetting initiatives and other CSR programs that have a direct impact on our business. We had to find a way to appeal to both sets of stakeholders. With that in mind, this year we split our annual report into two parts - a dedicated microsite to report our biggest social responsibility milestones and a white paper research report outlining material environmental social governance (ESG) information produced according to the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standards for the airline industry. 

As a publicly traded company we have to remain profitable. It’s up to us to report this information that affects our long term business plans in a way that is visible and of interest to investors. At the same time, according to Cone Communications’ CSR study - 91% of customers want companies to support communities where they do business. Our new report addresses both needs. 

For customers and crewmembers, our ultimate goal is engagement.  The average attention span is now eight seconds! According to a recent study by Microsoft, people now generally lose concentration quickly, highlighting the effects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain. We now have to get customers’ attention in short, snappy, yet thought-provoking, ways. And we have to provide forums for them to join the conversations.  We took both into consideration with this year’s digital report.

Think about how you get your news today. Although we’d like to peruse the paper with our morning coffee, our lives are now so busy. If you are like me, the reality is you are scanning online sources on your subway ride to work. Our microsite is very visual and includes quick, shareable snippets showcasing our 2016 CSR milestones.

While customers and crewmembers care about how we are inspiring humanity, Wall Street specifically wants to see material and business information that is likely to impact financial performance. Their focus is the bottom line. SASB’s industry-specific standards helped us present the most useful information directly to our investors, further tying sustainability to our bottom line. SASB helps public corporations disclose business information to investors providing both parties the ability to compare and benchmark performance. 

As one of the first companies, and the first airline, to report according to SASB’s intensive standards, we are not relying on the status quo for sustainability reporting. Reporting on ESG issues addresses investor interests as it gets ahead of regulatory developments, and strengthens financial performance through linking sustainability to strategy.

In looking at how we previously communicated with investors, we hold quarterly earnings calls, as do other publically traded companies. And the truth is investors rarely ask us about our Environmental/ESG efforts.  Sustainability is planning now for the future. Real solutions require us to think beyond quarter-to-quarter financial impact and move towards long-term planning, placing this info in front of investors. Our white paper report helps us do just that.

Take a look at our report at responsibilityreport.jetblue.com/2016 and let us know what you think. To learn more about JetBlue’s long-term responsibility platform, visit JetBlue.com/green/reporting.  

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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