Asia Corporate Purpose Monitor
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Asia Corporate Purpose Monitor

October 11, 2021 | Report

How do corporate purpose-related social media communications engage and align with public interest in Asia?

The Asia Corporate Purpose Monitor is a first of its kind effort to measure the different facets of corporate purpose related social media communications from business across 46 corporate purpose related topics. To yield a comprehensive study, we looked at three data streams what companies are communicating about these topics on social media, how the public is engaging with companies on these communications, and general online searches (an indication of public interest). The study was conducted across 11 markets in Asia via a sample of 235 local companies and 50 MNCs active in the region. Over 61,000 unique data points, gathered between August 2020 and July 2021, were analyzed.

  • Most of the companies we sampled use their social media channels to communicate on purpose related topics, but they do it infrequently. On average, for the 285 companies sampled, purpose related social media comms (measured by counting the total volume of relevant posts and tweets) comprised only 17% of their total social media comms volume during the 12 month period we measured.

  • Local Asian companies are noticeably less purpose focused in their social media comms activity than their MNC peers, possibly signaling that many of the companies in the region are still taking cues from global companies on corporate purpose efforts. Over the 12 month period , local Asian companies allocated 15% of their social media comms volume to purpose related topics. For regionally operating MNCs, that share was substantially higher at 23%.

  • Purpose related comms volumes differ significantly across Asian markets. India and Vietnam lead in purpose related company comms in the emerging markets sampled, while Hong Kong and Singapore lead in the advanced markets. At 33%, companies in Hong Kong dedicate the highest share of their social media comms to purpose related topics for the markets studied. Companies in the Philippines rank the lowest at just 8%.

  • Some sectors communicate substantially more on purpose related topics than others. Companies in Consumer Staples and Real Estate are the most focused on purpose related topics in their social media communications, companies in the Communication Services, Financials, and Consumer Discretionary sectors are the least focused on purpose.

  • While more isn’t always better, the data clearly show that companies have much room to increase corporate purpose related comms, assuming they have something credible to say. We expect that the public's demand for such comms will only increase, and that insufficient comms will become conspicuous.

  • Citizens are paying attention when companies communicate on purpose related topics and more so than on topics not related to purpose. For the companies sampled, 17% of purpose related corporate social media comms captured 20% of their public engagement (measured by counting the total volume of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ related to corporate social media comms of our sample companies).

  • The public in Asia is highly engaged on purpose related company comms. Although the share of purpose related corporate social media comms of local Asian companies is much lower than that of their MNC peers, they capture a much higher share of public engagement.

  • Corporate purpose related social media comms generate significant public engagement in some Asian markets, but not in others. Relative to corporate comms, India and Sri Lanka both stand out in terms of high levels of public engagement on purpose related topics . P ublic engagement is comparatively low in New Zealand, the Philippines, and Singapore.

  • Likewise, for some sectors, the public is paying keen attention to purpose related comms. In those sectors, purpose related corporate comms capture a disproportionally high share of public engagement. For example, for companies in Consumer Staples, one third of corporate social media comms is dedicated to purpose related topics, but it captures two thirds of public engagement.

  • DE&I is most prominent in purpose related company communications and is also a topic of high interest to the public. There is a clear public interest in DE&I, as indicated by high public engagement and a large proportion of online searches. For companies that haven’t done much on purpose related comms yet, DE&I is a sensible starting point.

  • When looking at public interest (via online search), there is much dissonance between what the public searches about (and presumably cares about) and what companies are communicating. The top three purpose related topics in company comms are: DE&I, Environment, and Sustainability Reporting, which ranked 3rd, 7 th , and 11th respectively in public interest (based on online search volume). The top three purpose related topics in public search are: Mental Health, LGBTQ+, DE&I, which ranked 8th, 6th, 1st in company communications. Companies can take a cue from public interest and participate in topics that the public cares about in order to boost company reputation, if they can do so credibly in terms of tangible facts and deeds.

  • For many markets, there is also a disconnect between public engagement and public interest on purpose related topics. For example, online search volume data indicates that, in regional comparison, general public interest in corporate purpose related topics is high in New Zealand and Singapore; yet, as mentioned above, public engagement on purpose related corporate comms is particularly low in these two markets.

  • Some important topics are becoming “mainstream” corporate comms topics (i.e. a large share of companies is communicating about them via their social media channels), but many important topics are being largely ignored. Of the companies in our sample, 44% have used their social media channels to communicate, at least once over the past year, on GHG Emissions and 32% have communicated on Biodiversity, but only 7% have communicated on Water Use. Likewise, 57% of companies communicated on their Sustainability Reporting efforts, 45% on Governing Purpose, but only 13% have communicated on the UN SDGs.

  • Materiality matters in companies’ social media comms, but arguably not enough. When a topic is “material” to an industry, (i.e. it really matters for the business), our analysis shows that companies in that industry are more likely to communicate on it via social media, and the share of purpose related communication allocated to that topic is higher. Still, many companies do not communicate at all on purpose related topics that are highly material to their industries. For example, 38% of the companies that operate in industries where GHG Emissions are material do not currently communicate on this topic at all. For most topics, this “materiality to comms gap” appears to be significant.

  • Even though public search volumes point to climate change being of high public interest, consumers aren’t engaging much on climate change related corporate comms. This disconnect warrants investigation. Purpose topics with high shares of public engagement (relative to company comms) are LGBTQ+, Sustainability Reporting, and Governing Purpose. Public engagement on climate related corporate comms is low across the board, even though online search volume data for the region indicates that climate change is of very high public interest in the region. Of note, Training Education Skills has a disproportionally high share of public engagement for its small share of purpose related corporate comms.

Learn more about Asia Corporate Leadership Council here.

AUTHORS

AnkeSchrader

Research Director, Asia
The Conference Board

DavidHoffman

Senior Advisor, China Center for Economics & Business
The Conference Board

SteveStine

Program Director, Asia Corporate Leadership Council of Singapore
The Conference Board


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