18 Feb 2022

Are you effectively communicating your sustainability strategy?

By Olivia Hill

Truth and transparency are essential to getting communication around your sustainability strategy right.

We are in the midst of a climate emergency. Businesses are duty bound to respond. It is essential that communications strategies are authentic and deliver narratives that make a difference to people and the planet.

Carefully crafted communications can help businesses benefit from the brand opportunities available as they transition to sustainable and socially-minded organisations. Get it wrong and you face greenwashing accusations.

As a purpose comms expert, I think it is vital that companies shout about their impact achievements – it’s a way for us all to learn and for businesses to be reminded of their need to step up and make a difference – but I believe truth and transparency are essential to getting it right.

How do you avoid the greenwash?

It’s time for comms teams to set down those old school tools of spin – transparency is now the order of the day!

Six top tips to do comms the right way…

  1. A top down approach with a leadership team committed to sustainability will deliver thought leadership with clout.
  2. Embedding and ‘living’ your goals within your company, so that your employees are advocates in themselves is essential.
  3. Articulating your company’s purpose around human values and ensuring it is embedded in the company’s DNA should be what drives your comms agenda.
  4. Understand how to develop a narrative in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  5. Ensure you are aware of emerging financial disclosure requirements and industry related legislation changes, so that your sustainability claims are grounded.
  6. Holding up your hands to mistakes can humanise a brand. As long as you use those mistakes to learn and improve, people will respond to this honesty far better than attempts to hide and deflect.

In September 2021 the government made it illegal for brands to make false sustainability claims. This is a landmark piece of legislation. The CMA already has a list of cases it is going after. Consumer goods companies had better be ready!

Celebrate the milestones

It’s important to celebrate your successes, internally with your team to ensure their hard work is recognised, and externally to shout their achievements to the world.

“Seeking certifications like B Corp will legitimise your sustainability claims.”

Seeking certifications like B Corp will legitimise your sustainability claims. At Seismic we support numerous organisations through this rigorous certification. There are various stages in the B Corp process that should be celebrated – from your intention to certify, to your BIA submission, to finally receiving the certification. These should all be maximised through communications.

Impact reporting is now becoming commonplace. An annual report of the impact a company makes is a strong indicator of good sustainability credentials and provides a framework for a company to ensure they are meeting and improving on their commitments year on year. Your impact report is ideal content to build a communications strategy around.

Create community

If you have properly engaged your workforce in your sustainability agenda then use these advocates. Their words will have more impact than the largest advertising budgets. The key is knowing how to leverage this advocacy by cultivating community.

Community is an ever-growing part of today’s culture and businesses need to get involved. More and more people are looking to come together to address the social and environmental challenges we face. Community has gone far beyond a traditional comms function in a business, it’s now central to employee engagement and wellbeing. Embrace it in your organisation, your employees and stakeholders will thank you.

At Seismic we are dedicated to making a difference by inspiring action. But we believe in doing it carefully, thoughtfully, with consideration to the challenges we face.

As a team of experts in sustainability and social change, our communications advice comes from a place of deep knowledge and awareness. We are B Corp and Net Zero experts.

Our actions inspire how we communicate. We’d like to help you do the same.