How to communicate sustainability

Sustainability PR

Many companies are improving sustainability strategies and adopting positive improvements that make a difference. But how do they let customers, prospects, suppliers and partners know about it? Communicating sustainability credentials can be a minefield, but there are some key considerations to ensure you are effective.

Strategy


Before embarking on communications output create a strategy. This should dovetail with your sustainability strategy and best practice. Conduct audience insights, examine what issues exist and what matters most to your stakeholders. Then define who you are, what your objectives are, how you want to be perceived and how communications can bring your sustainability programme to life. 

The overall company vision should help build strong systems for change and the communications campaign should be tailored to help win hearts and minds. It is important to find a position that will resonate with people and create a strong identity that reflects it. 

Storytelling


Your messaging will matter. Delivering a great sustainability strategy often requires achieving behaviour change in people. This will require inspiring creative campaigns. 

Be bold in your approach, plan multi-channel campaigns that activate audiences. Maximise your website, video, social media, print and digital. Keep stories relatable and make them personal where possible. Human interest stories where individuals have achieved positive impact in their community are proven to be effective. Also include voices of those whose lives were positively impacted. 

Sustainability data can often be complex, make your digital communications visual and use video and infographics where possible. Some businesses fall into the trap of using stereotypes and too much jargon. It is OK to use green as a signifier with your brand colours, but you do not need to smoother your marketing materials in it. Your messages are serious, and a business priority, so your branding should reflect this. 

Lastly, do not forget employee engagement, you will need to take your people with you. 

Transparency


Scrutiny is high and honesty is vital. If you say you are walking the walk, you need to believe in it and do it in practice. If you do not people will see through it. 

There are now numerous brands that are symbols of positive change. Set up with a clear purpose and mission to make sustainable development become normal. Such companies’ branding and messaging is wholly about sustainability. 

However, there are a huge swath of companies who are not purely focused on sustainability that are trying to adjust, modernise and become more sustainable in a commercial world. How do they communicate they are making positive changes, while acknowledging there is still plenty to be done? 

Honesty is key. Do not try to fake it or play with words to make things seem better than they are. Be honest that you have adjusted, made improvements and have plans to go further, as technology evolves. Or you may be at the start of your sustainability journey. Be authentic, show you care and take your audience with you. Make sure you provide updates on the progress you are making. Demonstrate it is working and help continue to engender greater buy-in. 

Positivity


Most climate change data is truly alarming and while it is important to share to demonstrate urgent change is required, it is also important to be encouraging. A major part of any sustainability communications campaign should be focused on achieving behaviour change. 

Break down messages and encourage individuals and groups to make positive, manageable changes to make a difference. Awareness of the climate emergency is already strong. So, promote the solutions. Consistent positive communications that engages and encourages is key to change. 

If you are a EV company, for example, campaigns should include messaging that overcomes misconceptions around up-front cost and battery range to help improve uptake. This should then be underpinned by the environmental benefits. But over and above this do not forget to include the luxury features of the vehicle. Many people want to do their bit for the environment, but when it comes to vehicles a big portion will want to do it in style. In a competitive market you will need to sell a lifestyle. 

Relevant


Do not bamboozle your audience with abstract data. The most effective way to communicate positive improvements to CO2 emissions for example, is to provide context. Your audience are unlikely to appreciate or understand what a tonne of carbon is, given it is an invisible, odourless gas. But if you say it is the equivalent of driving around 3,800 miles in a diesel car they will. This will make your message clearer and stronger. 

The UK Tea Council once issued a press release encouraging people to only put the water you need in the kettle when you make a hot drink. To provide context it reported the UK needlessly wasted 3,525 tonnes of CO2 daily on average by overfilling kettles. It would require planting more than 410,000 trees to offset the carbon emissions. 

Innovative


Sustainability expectation levels are now high. So do not communicate basic measures like installing some energy efficient lightbulbs, or recycling wastepaper. It will not cut the mustard with your savvy audience. You need to create progressive sustainability programmes. Then you can demonstrate to investors it will underpin growth and show customers it will help them become greener.

Partnerships


Building sustainability partnerships can help accelerate your sustainability programme. It can build credibility, reputation and awareness. This will help boost your communications campaign and you will be able to generate joint content that will be seen by a wider audience. 

Get in Touch 


If you would like to discuss communications support for your sustainability programme contact us here.

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