With stakeholders demanding more transparency and accountability from brands and businesses, it has become imperative for organizations to develop and implement strategic sustainability communication plans.
Today, sustainability communication is no longer just a compliance exercise focusing on ticking boxes for regulators as companies rethink their communications approach. With sustainability becoming a mainstream business concern, more and more companies are communicating sustainability stories that feature initiatives that address several social issues. Organizations are engaging more people to make sustainability programs accessible and understandable for everyone using various communication channels.
Communicating sustainability to all stakeholders have inherent benefits for organizations. For one, sustainability communication strengthens brand equity and corporate reputation. Surveys of senior managers and investment professionals in global firms have found that brand equity and corporate reputation are perceived as the most critical areas where sustainability actions bring benefit and add value. Bringing to people’s attention the various sustainability initiatives of businesses and brand help stakeholders and care about them.
Given the emergence of highly attentive stakeholders and vigilant consumers, share value projects form part of people’s decisions on whether to invest in, partner with, or work for a company. A well-crafted sustainability communications programming can help manage the gap between sustainability and sustainability reality.
Unfortunately, for companies who stay quiet, stakeholders may assume silence reflects a lack of progress on the issues they care about. Today’s stakeholders and consumers, in general, are also savvy and unsatisfied with sweeping statements; Thus, they seek proof of the benefits and impact of your sustainability programs.
Therefore, there is a need for well-crafted communications plans to serve as a powerful tool to engage employees and help drive change internally and to spark stakeholders’ interest in the significant milestones you are meeting on your sustainability journey. In addition, a good narrative can help you increase competitive advantage as your position or stance on social and environmental issues will differentiate you from your peers and competitors. Moreover, communicating sustainability efforts will help address challenges, such as new reporting regulations, declining consumer trust in brands, and closer scrutiny from investors.
Here are some basic principles to effectively craft your sustainability story.
Keep it simple
Sustainability is a vast and complex business agenda. It is very nuanced and multi-layered, and it can be overwhelming when left with untrained consumers. Simplify complex information or concepts into bite-size and easy-to-understand information chunks and avoid jargon.
Be authentic and genuine.
Do not dress up the stories you are sharing. Fluff can easily be checked. Show proof of impact. Do not just say it. More importantly, never impress with too much data. Your stakeholders and consumers can and will know.
Focus on positives
Concentrate on what your stakeholders and consumers can gain from the information you share. Do not hesitate to share the challenges you need to overcome and the steps you took to manage these challenges.
Enhance your design
Never consider design as an afterthought. Make sure the design is in tune with your brand and business. Avoid the clichés of stock sustainability images. Explore ways to show your thinking, using your distinctive voice relevant to your brand and audience.
Sustainability is not a one-off activity you forget when you tick off the box. Just keep the engagement going and flowing. To drop the ball after your initial action is a missed and failed opportunity. Just keep talking, listening, and collaborating.
Ron F. Jabal, APR, is the chairman and CEO of PAGEONE Group (www.pageonegroup.ph) and the founder and president of the Reputation Management Association of the Philippines (www.rmap.org.ph).