THE media’s fundamental role of educating, informing and empowering communities with information is paramount and significant. Industries, on the other hand, are the life-line of any country’s economy and they provide wheels on which the country operates. Industries make their activities known by coming up with sustainability reporting, spearheaded by teams of public relations experts. In most cases, companies are found to be reporting mostly on the financial situation, leaving out fundamental issues of the environment. In this regard, industries and the media need to engage and network, for unlocking transparency and accountability.
guest column: Peter Makwanya
In many instances, stakeholders in the community of practice and the public always make noise about the industries’ failure to disclose sufficiently issues to do with environmental sustainability. A number of industries always fail to pass the test in on this one, especially on practices that have a lot to do with disposing of industrial waste and safeguarding the environment. As such, the media come in by complementing efforts by companies to safeguard the environment and report these to the public.
To the outside world, industries appear as if they are carrying out their operations sustainably but a number of hidden malpractices, under-reporting and falsifying information continue to unfold in the background. This is not good for the business best practices, while this is not also good for the environment and the changing climate. As such, industries have managed to sufficiently confuse and deceive the stakeholders through information massaging. It is the duty of the media to know how to communicate issues that promote environmental sustainability, conservation and climate action practices, in order to bring awareness not only to the people, but also to the companies.
Many companies are quick to publish their financial reports in the Press, for public consumption but rarely do they make known their environmental stewardship or lack of it to the same public. Also, not enough is known about the companies’ handling of human rights and governance issues. The public is made to know more of the beautiful and brighter side of the companies’ operations. Employees have continued to suffer abuses and environmental pitfalls quietly without taking their companies to task. The media is aware of these malpractices and the public is waiting for them to report such issues. Issues of operational environmental safety have never been properly handled and reported by the companies.
It is also the duty of the companies to give back to the community: not by giving out freebies, but through investing in truth and honesty as well as the training of their public relations departments on current tools of sustainable reporting. It is also critical and significant for the media to do the same, for networking, benchmarking and best practice purposes.
As these companies always make public their financial reports, it is not proper to continue backgrounding their environmental and human rights concerns, neither should the media be ring-fenced from reporting on what the companies are not doing right. Although many companies encounter opportunities and challenges on the ease of doing business, the communities and the public need to know what is happening in their vicinities.
In this regard, it will be difficult to note how much value the companies would be adding; or would they be simply and silently destroying or just poisoning the environment? It is also significant for the employees to know how their operations contribute to global warming through environmental destruction and chemical discharge.
Workers need to know what is good or bad more about practices that are good or bad for the environment, while the media should continue playing the role of awareness and conscientisation of communities and workers about the companies’ expected ethical conducts.
Industries should not be closed communities for the media, not for witch-hunting or smear-campaigns, but for just keeping stakeholders sufficiently updated. In this view, sustainable reporting is not only about exposing the rot in industries, but also to improve their image and brands, so that the world appreciates and views them in favourable perspectives.
It can also be difficult for companies to achieve business best practices when the media is kept in the dark or treated with suspicions, neither is it also proper for the media to just invade or make mountains out of anthills; it is always good to moderate. The fundamental factor is, companies and organisations are transformed through sustainable best practices as well as engaging the media sustainably, to communicate and market them.
Also, issues to do with value creation and value addition are critical and fundamental in transforming the companies’ competences and also assist them in deconstructing uncertainties from the public. As such, companies will not only score value on the financial side, but also on environmental and governance issues. This is not to say companies participate in sustainability reporting in order to pamper and appease the media, but just to do things right, while the media reports properly too.
As companies shut down for the Christmas holidays, it is significant to let the employees enjoy the work related break and festivities rather than to nurse wounds of suffering and burnout, but also to be safeguarded from a poisoned and dangerous environment. Above all, let us also read the companies, sustainable reports that articulate how best they have safeguarded the environment from toxic wastes and promoted environmental sustainability.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: email@example.com