A recipe for improved ESG ratings

Client: Papa John’s

The majority of consumers expect companies to stand for something beyond simply making money. Investors increasingly ask pointed questions about companies’ environmental, health and governance (ESG). Companies like Papa John’s are being compared to competitors in rating systems, news media and social media posts, all easily accessible by the full range of stakeholders. It all adds up to impacts on decision making – where to work, who to buy from, who to invest in.

We helped the company take a big first step toward understanding its impacts, setting sustainability goals and making the information public via its first sustainability report.

Client Challenge

We provided guidance on two fronts: 1) collecting, analyzing and reporting ESG data, and 2) translating that data into communications that would resonate with consumers, employees and investors alike.

Shelton Solution

Our final deliverable was their first ever sustainability report – but we knew the foundation of data and story had to come first. As we led the Papa John’s team through research and creative workshopping, we realized “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza” isn’t just a tagline – it’s a deeply instilled corporate value that fit perfectly with their commitment to improve their ESG ratings. We crafted “Better, Delivered” as the overarching story, able to capture the essence of the company and the data.

We uncovered our next big aha in the materiality assessment data. We realized that the strongest proof point for the Papa John’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – a clear signal to stakeholders that Papa John’s is actively addressing their own past challenges as well as the larger cultural context. The data also revealed that the company’s commitment to “better ingredients” is grounded in sustainable supply chain initiatives.

These insights inspired our organizational scheme for the report – “People, Planet, Pizza,” a new take on the tried-and-true “People, Planet, Profit.” The flow of information spotlighted Papa John’s strengths without shying away from discussing areas of opportunity.

The final outcome was a clear, concise and good-looking sustainability report, published in time to meet the deadline for the quarterly Papa John’s investor meeting.

Critical Elements

  • Materiality assessment and data collection and analysis by our partner, S&C
  • Competitor review and Fringe Consumer Insight gathering by the Shelton research team
  • Messaging construct to guide ongoing sustainability communications
  • Inaugural ESG report, which includes key data points, metrics and personal stories from Papa John’s personnel

The Payoff

After publishing its first sustainability report, Papa John’s is already seeing a rise in its ESG scores. Follow-ups with top ESG rating agencies show improvement across Papa John’s overall scores as well as key categories, especially those related to social issues and diversity.