Paul Holmes 22 Oct 2002 // 11:00PM GMT
Using a unique combination of web-based tools, sophisticated writing and design and strong, old-fashioned reporting skills, Hass Associates, Inc., has helped General Motors consolidate its once-disparate corporate social responsibility actions into one easily accessible, innovative and interactive web portal called GMability.com. The result of combining these functions is that in less than a year, we have helped foster significant change in GM’s approach to this issue. With GMablity.com, the company has brought together, for the first time, a large number of far-flung programs and activities. The initiative also has made GM more transparent and responsive to its customers, opinion leaders and investors on important social issues.
As the site evolves, it has increasingly become a road map for users to better understand, interact with and create a sustainable world.
General Motors doesn’t always receive credit for it, but the fact remains that for years, the company has been a global leader in corporate disclosure and ethics because it recognized the importance of public accountability.
The challenge for Hass Associates, Inc., was to expand that leadership into areas that had traditionally been more controversial for the company: the environment, safety and public policy.
Understanding that the creation of a strong corporate reputation increasingly depends on the perceptions created by a corporation’s actions, words and openness, the Hass team worked to create compelling and relevant content. Issues covered by the site are critical to a strong corporate reputation, including: Financial performance, products and services, vision and leadership, social responsibility and the workplace environment.
Our first step was convincing a disparate, global group of executives who “owned” these issues internally that creating a web portal to be more transparent made good business sense. We argued that:
- Research reveals that 76 percent of U.S. consumers would switch brands based on a company’s image; 55 percent said they always take into account a company’s ethics and values when buying products or services
- Global image is influenced by a complex set of factors, one of the most significant being social responsibility
- The Internet is unique among media in its ability to cross traditional geographic and cultural boundaries and bring transparency to corporate values
Finally, we convinced them that the corporate-wide effort to get the many global divisions of GM to think and act more like “one company” required a tool, such as the Internet, that could transcend traditional geographic and cultural boundaries. During the first few months of 2001, Hass created the content and backbone of GMability.com. The site was officially launched in May 2001, and is regularly updated to address timely issues and provide opportunities for dialogue and relationship building.
The portal covers topics such as Environment, Safety, Philanthropy, Trade, Sustainability, Diversity and the company’s positions on key public policy issues. It provides comprehensive information about GM’s global facilities and community partnerships and the impact of its products and plants.
Description and Outcomes
GMability.com provides customers, policy makers and advocates with information, answers and direction – and helps GM achieve its goal of being a global leader in corporate transparency, accountability and social responsibility. It is more than a web site. GMability.com makes it easy for visitors to engage in important public policy issues, both with GM and their community.
In fact, GM Global Aid, a revolutionary disaster relief program accessible through the GMability portal, has allowed GM employees and the American public to donate more than $4 million to organizations worldwide at the click of a button.
Other hands-on features include a tool for consumers to compare the fuel economy of GM vehicles with competitive vehicles (also downloadable for PDAs to make car shopping easier) and the Driver Distraction Demonstration (D3), a fun and interactive way to show how distraction impairs driving.
Another popular and important feature of GMability.com is a comprehensive section on tire safety. The site, GMtiresafety.com, can be reached independently of GMability.com and provides information about GM’s Tire and Wheel Laboratory in Milford, Mich., tire safety tips and GM’s tire warranty information.
GMability is consistently one of the most visited areas of gm.com. It attracts more than 48,000 visitors per month (for the six months ending in December 2001). On occasion, it has generated more viewers than some of the product sites: In September 2001, a single GMability story about GM’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks was the 11th most visited page on all of gm.com.