Shout out for sustainability
Okay, let’s put this out there… just because you add “sustainable” to your website, brochure or social media profile, it doesn’t hold much sway if you’re just talking the talk and not actually walking the walk.
Whilst it’s ‘fashionable’ currently to be talking up your green credentials there are two important points to be made:
- You need to live your sustainability values (and not just use it as a tick a box exercise).
- You should plan your comms strategy around your activities and ensure you’re informing stakeholders and customers (and don’t forget employees) about your sustainability progress.
Sustainable Development Goals can be used as the basis for your sustainability planning, so you can see where you fit in/what you can do. Whatever this turns out to be, it needs to be authentic. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll assume point 1 is a given.
With respect to point 2, there is no point in relying on a standalone sustainability report to convey your green credentials. A one-off report hidden on your website isn’t going to reach your desired audience or necessarily be easily understood by all. Different messages, on different platforms, would be a better use of time and energy.
The most effective way to deliver your “green comms” is based on three principles:
A successful business usually has a strategy, the sustainability strategy should at the very least be an extension of this strategy but preferable an integral part of it. Managing sustainability performance is really no different to planning for long-term financial success – it’s all part of the planning process. These strategies continue to be intertwined, leading to sustainability evolving to become a core part of the strategy driving the business. A 2017 KPMG study states that “Most of the world’s biggest companies now integrate financial and non-financial data in their annual financial reports (78 percent), suggesting they believe CR information is relevant for investors.”
This core strategy needs to be highlighted to investors as much as consumers – and the benefits highlighted to both – otherwise the market may remain unconvinced of sustainability’s importance.
More enlightened companies, those with effective communications, don’t separate sustainability and financial messages. Sustainability is core to their business strategy and therefore they consistently reflect this in their messaging. Which brings us to point two – Consistency.
You’re committed to reporting your sustainability goals/efforts. Fantastic. But have you thought about what you’re going to label this as? Your products/services undoubtedly have names, for ease of recognition, but what are you calling these sustainability endeavours?
Is it Social, Environmental, and Governance? Corporate Responsibility? Citizenship? Different names for the same thing will create confusion. Clarity is key in all comms – this is no different. Keep it simple.
Being consistent demonstrates to your target audience that sustainability is a deliberate, well-thought through, central component of your corporate identity (in short, a strategic element of your business).
Once you’ve decided on a consistent name for your activities, use it. Use it again. And again.
Marketeers know that you use different touch points to inspire people to purchase goods or services. Sustainability professionals need to take this idea and run with it. Connecting with stakeholders - and customers - across multiple platforms will encourage positive brand association. Why wouldn’t people want to buy from or invest in ethical, responsible businesses promoting sustainability?
Our Head of Sustainability Recruitment, Kathryn Pereira, says: "We've seen a significant increase in the number of roles in PR and Communications requiring sustainability knowledge and experience and can only see this skillset becoming increasingly important in the coming months/years".
The Global Reporting Initiative has a wealth of information on how to make the most of your sustainability reporting here.
One thing’s for sure, in these days where climate crisis is constantly in the news and businesses are being urged to do more, there will be more focus on what you’re doing and more scrutiny from your customers, stakeholders and employees. Sustainable business practices should demonstrate a benefit to your brand and your employer brand.
Here’s to shouting out for sustainability. More customers, more investment, better recruitment. Sustainability sells.
#sustainability #climatecrisis #environment #communications