How CNH Industrial is rewriting the sustainability rules

CNH Sustainability report - don't save it for the City

Most large companies work very hard at sustainability, but are producing only dense reports on the subject looked at by a tiny number of analysts and regulators. Not so CNH Industrial, which has seized the opportunity to unearth a trove of stories for a much broader audience. Sophy Buckley explains how.

A fast growing and hugely influential class of investors is taking a hard look at the environment and sustainability record of companies before buying their shares or bonds. Impact investing is all the rage, as is a focus on ESG ­(environmental, social and corporate governance).

As a result, there has been a rise in the number of brick-like reports being produced by large companies on their sustainability policies: materiality analyses, supply chain standards, adherence to UN development goals, HR policies and so on.

CNH Sustainability Report - don't save it for the City

All of this is crucial for a small and expert audience. But aren’t corporate communications departments missing a trick? How many superb stories are hiding in those giant, dense reports? Shouldn’t a company’s general investor community, its employees, its suppliers and everyone else be interested in the great things it is doing?

CNH Industrial is the holding company recently spun out of Fiat for well-known brands such as IVECO, Case IH and CASE Construction Equipment, New Holland, STEYR, and Magirus firetrucks. Using our nose for a good story, we interviewed people. We carried out thorough research of internal publications and other documents, just as we would with any piece of investigative journalism. And of course we looked through the company’s formal Sustainability Report. In those thousands of pages of technical detail and internal narratives there was gold to unearth.

We then synthesised and turned it all into a 50-page beautiful, readable narrative about how CNH Industrial ensures that sustainability runs through everything it does, “from field to plate”. We follow the food from where its tractors plough and sow, to the plates on our dining tables where it is delivered by vans and lorries that drive on roads made by its equipment. We looked at how CNH Industrial promotes sustainability throughout its entire supply chain, and in the work and home life of all its staff. We examined its community partnerships worldwide, from engineering qualifications in Brazil to water projects in Tunisia.

Two of the double-page spreads from our report

Richard Gadeselli, Vice President Global Corporate Communications, said: “Our sustainability report is read by the financial community and regulators, principally. Yet it contains so many good stories that deserve a wider audience. We felt teaming up with FirstWord would be a good way to draw them out and present them in a readable way.” <

Our writers and editors found a wealth of material to use – a trove of stories that had to be whittled down to a well-chosen 50 pages of fascinating stuff. With 5,000 printed copies and a beautiful ebook, A Sustainable Year 2016 proves there is no point in hiding CNH Industrial’s light under a bushel.

The report has gone down well with investors, journalists, and with key suppliers and local managers, who are ordering reprints. Essentially, it’s a 50-page calling card that gives a compelling reason to tie up with CNH Industrial: this is a company whose concerns are your concerns, which understands that we will all benefit from sustainable practices across all our activities.

CNH report: How we did it

  • FirstWord journalists and editors reviewed all the material, spoke to staff and read all internal publications to find stand out stories
  • We worked with the company on an umbrella theme – “From field to plate” – and started collating a contents list
  • We interviewed more of the relevant management, from R&D to manufacturing and CSR to get colour, life, people and quotes
  • We briefed our designers on layout and illustration needs, including a number of infographics
  • We wrote 16 articles and produced four infographics
  • All articles were edited for consistency, tone of voice and sub-edited to create a flawless read
  • We managed the proofing and amending process with CNH Industrial
  • We managed liaison with printers and distributors, and publication of the electronic version, delivering 3,000 copies in time for the company’s annual meeting