Section 4:

Making content believable

More than any other medium, film helps to bring a story to life. Cisco has estimated that up to 82% of all internet traffic will be video content by 2022. It is also a reflection of how the human brain processes information – we are three times more likely to retain the messaging in visual content than written.

Seeing ESG in action makes the messaging real

With film, audiences can start to see the scale, detail and impact of a company’s social responsibility efforts, instantly adding credibility to the message.


Impact through imagery

Ericsson Response is a disaster relief programme staffed by volunteers of the technology firm. Ericsson uses film to highlight the scale, complexity and importance of its operations. Footage from this case study shows powerful imagery of the devastation caused by a Category 5 hurricane in Dominica. Film creates a heightened sense of realism around the case study. From showing the extent of the damage to the challenging operating environment, the footage leaves a lasting impression of the importance and impact of Ericsson’s work.

The caveat is that to do this well relies on using genuine footage – rather than stock video – and not all organisations are getting this right.


use their own film footage to showcase ESG in action

That means that nearly three-quarters of companies are still reliant on stock visuals – or no film at all – to back up their social responsibility credentials. Stock does have its uses, but fails to properly differentiate one story from another – or add real conviction to the message.

Panning clips over woodlands, cities in time-lapse or aerial shots of bustling trading centres are all exhausted imagery and do nothing extra to convince audiences that businesses are delivering on what they say. Viewers have become a lot more sophisticated – they want and expect to see authentic content.

When visualising ESG...


Focus on structure:  visuals create a compelling picture, but messaging still sits at the heart of film. Building around a clear narrative structure is key.

Value creativity: strong creative work wins attention. With more and more content to compete with, good artistic direction can be the difference between being ignored and getting your message heard.

Paint a complete picture: be thorough in the way you use film. It should help to detail the narrative; it visualises scale and humanises impact. When these elements work together they build a compelling story.


Overuse stock footage: audiences are drawn to authentic content. Stock can be a useful creative tool, but the power of visual stories is their realism.

Recycle tired images: social responsibility has become a predictable visual language. If audiences see the same thing every time, your content won’t create impact or catch the eye.

Let content go stale: film has a natural lifespan. Some content can look visibly dated – through colour, the landscape or graphical styles. Old content suggests that these issues are not top of the corporate agenda.

High-quality film keeps audiences engaged and tells stories convincingly. Given the popularity of video content, businesses will be competing between each other – and other channels – for attention. More organisations need to start blending good creative with authentic imagery.


Engaging and informative creative

ABB blends creative cinematography with more informative visuals of its operations to evidence its social responsibility agenda. As part of a wider case study, it uses film to show how its technology is helping support water sustainability in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – part of its commitment to develop new technologies that reduce environmental impact. It cuts together artistic shots that capture the essence of the city, its culture and the importance of the water supply to the community and combines this with simple graphics and footage that show the workings of its technology.

Human stories bring progress to life

Many companies also make the mistake of focusing solely on their own measurable data, instead of bringing a story to life via its impact.

Knowing ‘why’ a company is doing something is extremely important for a host of external stakeholders – it also helps prevent questioning on what can otherwise be deemed ‘unnecessary’ initiatives.

Think of a global food producer, as an example. One of its material ESG focus areas might be the importance of sustainable farming practices. With a high proportion of the world’s hungry population living in developing countries, the Group’s choice to invest in smallholder farms in sub-Saharan Africa will go a long way to ensuring food security for the poorest percent of the population. It is a good message – but why does it matter?

Instead of focusing on their own company, they should profile those who have been impacted by its decision. How has this changed their economic situation, what benefits has it brought to the local community?


Highlighting human impact

Eni uses human stories to demonstrate the impact of its Livelihood Restoration Plan in Ghana. A series of short films focuses on the native people who have benefitted from the programme, like Greenhouse farmer John Afful and seamstress Joyce Aday. From rediscovering family traditions, to funding education for their children, the results of the programme are seen in material terms – the positive impact on human life. These simple, personal perspectives are humbling and help audiences connect with the company’s social responsibility work.

Failure to create human connections through content is a real shortfall for many businesses in the index.


share human stories to evidence the impact of their ESG agenda (film)

It is a simple part of good storytelling and helps audiences to build a clearer picture of where companies are delivering on their ESG commitments.


Using people to evidence performance

HSBC uses real examples to show how it is helping people around the world develop new skills for the modern workplace. Its commitment targets a million people but is evidenced through a single story. A short, documentary-style film follows, Pushba, one of the drivers – and now partners – of The Pink Rickshaw Company, a social enterprise in Jaipur that is supported by the bank. Hearing first-hand how the initiative has supported her and her family helps build belief in HSBC’s social commitments.