It had to happen: even the humble share registration business is finally reduced to calling in aid the need to save the planet. ComputersharePepper – an investor relations company linked in some undisclosed way with Computershare, the acquisitive Australian share registration and trading technology company – has teamed up with environmental advisers Future Forests to plant a tree in the UK for every shareholder that registers to receive information electronically.
Apparently, this will save companies 10 a shareholder, though it is not known if this is net of the cost of the tree. Another unknown factor is whether more trees will be felled as shareholders print out the information e-mailed to them.
“It can be difficult to persuade shareholders to move online,” says Mark Sheppard of ComputersharePepper UK. “Through this programme we give them a compelling reason to make the move. The proposition is simple…to get shareholders to switch online, we work with Future Forests to plant a tree in a specified area of the UK for every person who signs up.”
UK legislation already allows companies to do away with paper-based communications, but companies have not embraced the idea because shareholders have to actively opt in to receive company information by e-mail.
For ComputersharePepper, trees-for-annual-reports is a business opportunity: it gets paid to communicate with shareholders by e-mail on behalf of companies which sign up. “Promoting the environmental context is also a great way to highlight the wider benefits of eCommunications (reducing waste and promoting sustainability), while supplying a compelling incentive to the individual shareholder to take the trouble to register,” continues Sheppard. The company has already signed up mmO2, British Telecom, Avis, Royal & Sun Alliance and BP, and attracted response rates of 35-60 per cent as shareholders take up the chance of having a tree planted in their name.
“In a recent case, Future Forests worked with mobile communications company O2 to encourage their staff to plant trees in an ‘O2 Forest’,” says Sheppard. “The communications programme developed led to an unprecedented 60 per cent take up from all O2 staff. The SRM Future Forests programme is specifically designed to deliver similar levels of success and responsiveness to companies seeking to encourage greater shareholder participation in eCommunications – and to do so in a powerful and cost-effective way.”