Gift of the GIFs: Virgin Media unveils ‘highly shareable’ sustainability report

Telecoms giant Virgin Media released its latest sustainability report update on Wednesday (5 July), utilising social media and GIFs to engage people about the latest sustainability efforts, which included a 7.5% annual reduction in carbon emissions.

Virgin Media wants to make its sustainability performance shareable, using GIFs and a call to action to spread the animated messages across social media platforms. The company has cited cost savings and an “on brand” message as reasons to transition away from traditionally “hefty” PDFs.

“We take a truly digital approach to reporting and this year is no different,” Virgin Media’s head of sustainability Katie Buchanan told edie. “Our 2016 report is for the many, not just for the experts and we’ve designed it for sharing. We’ve created a series of highly shareable, social media inspired GIFs, to communicate our latest performance.

“This approach takes our performance to our audience (i.e. our people and customers) rather than waiting for them to find it or sending them to sleep with a hefty PDF. This approach has also seen our people, once again, bring to life our key messages – around 20 people took part in creating the content. So, two minutes and a smart phone is about all you need to get the lowdown on Virgin Media’s sustainability performance.”

Goals and GIFs

Last year’s version of the report saw Virgin Media launch the world’s first 360 sustainability video; an immersive video experience of the company’s sustainability vision. The video highlighted Virgin Media’s “biggest ever” annual carbon reduction. This year’s 7.5% reduction for location-based emissions dwarfs the 6.1% reduction recorded the year prior, and Virgin Media has recorded a cumulative 11.9% reduction against a 2014 baseline.

The GIFs from this year’s report build on the “buzz” generated by the 360 video, and are designed to reach even more employees and consumers in a “timeless” manner. Notably, the report highlights that Virgin Media reached a key target for carbon emissions from cars, which improved by 3.4%.

New cars purchased are expected to bring Virgin Media’s average fleet emissions below 100gCO2/km for the first time by the end of 2017. However, the company missed a target to reduce truck rolls (technician visits) by 100,000, managing to reduce visits by 85,113. Since 2014, a reduction in truck rolls has saved 3.3m miles in journeys.

Vans are the primary vehicle in Virgin Media’s service, installation and network teams. In 2016, van fleet miles per gallon improved by 5.8% through the introduction of more efficient vehicles.

Following ESOS audits, Virgin Media will focus on deep chiller and condenser cleaning at technical sites and optimising building management systems at corporate sites.

The 2016 version of the report marked the first time that the company produced a product sustainability scorecard. While the scorecard – which ranks the energy efficiency of products – was used to test the company’s latest WiFi box, results weren’t ready until this month, after scores and methodologies were checked by WRAP.

Virgin Media has no targets in place for water stewardship or recycling and waste management. However, the company’s water footprint has fallen from 147,304m3 in 2013 to 122,507m3 in 2016.

As for waste, all paper is now 100% FSC-certified and the percentage of office waste sent to landfill has fallen from 37% in 2013 to 17% in 2015, before rising up to 27% last year.

Virgin Media also installed its first solar array at its Hawksmoor Bristol site in 2016, which is expected to generate 34,344kWh of electricity each year.

Digital dreams

For Buchanan, the future of sustainability reporting will likely continue down a digitalised route. The aim from Virgin is to share the report via “assets that are timeless” – that aren’t tied to a particular launch day.

“Reporting today is largely digital,” Buchanan added. “The future is going to be finding new ways to use digital to deliver content in bitesize chunks that is even more relevant and fun.

“We’re already thinking about our approach next year. We want to see our progress update become engrained into a wider communication campaign next year. Our aim is to build momentum and keep the conversation going all year long and our report should play a part in it, but not be a standalone moment.”

Buchanan was part of a recent edie roundtable discussing the steps required to take sustainability reporting onto the next level. Alongside delegates from the Body Shop, SITA and Capgemini, Buchanan highlighted the importance of “taking your content to your audience” to drive engagement.

You can read insight from the roundtable, including 10 steps to build trust and increase engagement through sustainability reporting, by clicking on the link.

Matt Mace

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