The Measurement Standard

November 05, 2007

Public Relations Measurement Technique Sheds Light on Companies’ Environmental Reputations


Jim
Macnamara
's
'Measuring Up'

 

Media
Analysis Shows Companies
Need to Set

and Achieve Measurable

Climate
Change Goals

Environmental performance will be a key driver
of reputation.

A major
new study of public debate and discussion on energy completed by
my company,
Media Monitors – CARMA Asia Pacific, presents
some important warnings and advice for companies, organizations and
governments and concludes that environmental performance is likely
to increasingly be a key driver of reputation.
We used
content analysis to
examine statements and commentary by organizations, spokespersons
and consumers in leading mainstream media and blogs
in Australia and major Asian countries including China, Hong
Kong and
Singapore.

The
analysis covered discussions of
nuclear, coal, wind, solar and other alternative sources appearing
in more than 1,500 print news articles, radio
and TV program segments and 170 blogs appearing between May and
July 2007. It
focused on Asia Pacific because China
is fast becoming the world's leading polluter. Australia is
the world's largest exporter of coal and uranium, and 16 of 29 nuclear
power plants under construction or proposed worldwide are due to
come into operation in Asia in the next 10-15 years.

Overall
Results:

Companies must achieve measurable targets on the environment or their
reputations will suffer.

The report found
mild optimism that solutions will be found to balance environmental
and economic
interests, although serious fears and concerns also abound in
relation to safety, the environment and consumer protection.

Specifically
of interest to companies and organizations is a finding that they
face widespread criticism if they do not implement meaningful
measures to reduce carbon emissions. Environmental performance is likely
to increasingly be a key driver of reputation, the report says.

The report
concluded that companies adopting policies and planning measures
to address climate change need to set and achieve significant measurable
targets. "Broad unspecific policies and 'aspirational goals' are
not going to cut it and may backfire leading to public criticism. There
are signs of this already happening," the report warns.

Also:

  • Positive
    messages outweighed negative messages
    about energy production and
    use – albeit the
    margin was narrow. (The analysis examined discussion and comment from
    the perspective of a balanced position between protecting the environment
    and maintaining economic development and standards of living.)
  • Nuclear
    energy
    is the most discussed form of energy and is mired in controversy
    and near evenly divided opinion for and against, the analysis found.
    Most opposition and concerns in relation to nuclear power are about
    safety.
  • Solar
    and wind power
    are being actively promoted by environmentalists,
    but are described in most discussions as not being able to make a
    substantial
    contribution to energy needs.

Carbon
Trading:

Despite a number of initiatives, governments are generally
not seen to be
doing enough.

Carbon
trading is one initiative that is being welcomed by a majority of
spokespersons and commentators and is set to become a multi-billion
dollar industry over the next few years. However,
some
are warning that it is still uncertain whether carbon trading will
stimulate a net reduction in carbon emissions. Some energy producers
and consumer
groups have pointed to lessons in Europe where too many permits were
issued, resulting in a price collapse below levels necessary to stimulate
investment in carbon reducing initiatives.

Also,
concerns are being expressed that carbon trading is insufficiently
regulated and could lead to scams and fraudulent schemes. One leading
environment group has warned that some companies are selling trees
without accreditation and that their claims of carbon credits or
neutrality are not
substantiated. Consumer groups are also expressing concern that consumers
may be paying levies and surcharges with no guarantee that
their money will be used to address climate change.

The report
says:

"While the efforts of some companies to reduce
their carbon footprint may be commendable and genuine,
there is considerable concern over a lack of safeguards for consumers
on how extra charges will be used and whether they will reduce carbon
emissions... W
ith
carbon trading set to become the next big thing in the financial world,
strict regulation of the carbon
trading industry, including accreditation and monitoring of carbon
offset providers, is seen as necessary to avoid scams and corruption...
and to
ensure that offsets are real and effective."

Clean
coal technology (CCT) is also creating some optimism that a balance
can be achieved between reducing greenhouse gases and continuing to
exploit vast coal reserves. However,
environmental groups and some commentators are cynical, pointing out
that the technology is still unproven.

Blog Analysis

Blogs
were found to be more unfavorable than mainstream media coverage
(48% unfavorable compared with 30%
of mainstream media content unfavorable). However, 30% of blog discussion
was favorable. While much of this was supportive of renewable forms
of energy, some bloggers support clean coal technology and carbon trading – albeit
with the same concerns as mainstream media commentators and spokespersons.

Analysis
also showed that bloggers often include scientists and technical
experts and, therefore, blogs need to be recognized as
an increasingly important medium, reflecting the viewpoints
of influencers and thought-leaders.

Dr.
Jim Macnamara BA, MA, PhD is Group Research Director with Media Monitors – CARMA
Asia Pacific which conducts media monitoring, media analysis, e-surveys,
reputation research
and sponsorship analysis. He has a 30-year career in the media and
PR in Asia Pacific and is the author of 11 books on media and communication.
In August 2007 he was appointed Professor of Public Communication at
the University of Technology, Sydney.

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