29 Aug 2023

Effective Communications: Developing a Narrative that Matters

By Liz Naven
Citrus spread

The past few years have pushed sustainability into the spotlight. In an era of risk and instability, society has been forced to acknowledge the obvious: we need profound, systemic change to tackle the climate crisis and we must work together to make this happen.

Companies of all sizes now face growing pressure from consumers, employees and policymakers to act on sustainability, building business models that work with nature, rather than at its expense, while also meeting our basic human needs. Between this and the unstoppable growth in green investment, there is both a moral and business case to build a solid Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy.

With stakeholders of all kinds paying close attention, it’s vital for businesses not only to take meaningful action against ESG measures, but also to communicate transparently and consistently on their impact, commitments, setbacks and progress. In other words, your credibility depends on your communications.

Telling your sustainability story

At heart, humans are storytellers. So, when it comes to communicating your ESG strategy and the journey you’re on as a business, it’s important to create stories that people want to read.

  • Start with your why: get clear on your overarching purpose, the thing that drives everything your business does. Consider how your mission, vision and purpose connect to your sustainability efforts and then weave this into the core of your strategy and narrative. This will help to connect your audience with the bigger picture and demonstrates you’re approaching sustainability in a holistic and integrated way, rather than simply ‘adding it on’.
  • Share courageously and consistently: Sustainability is a journey, not a destination. No one is expecting you to have all the answers or to achieve everything from day one. Instead, acknowledge your strengths, demonstrate where you’re making progress and be honest about any setbacks or failures. Showing real and ongoing commitment to sustainable practices over time is how you’ll win people’s trust and attention.
  • Back up your claims with data: Measuring relevant metrics to understand your impact will allow you to take full control of your brand’s sustainability story. This is particularly important if you want to avoid accusations of greenwashing,which typically uses language (‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’, ‘organic’) rather than numbers. An annual impact reportwill help keep you accountable and acts as evidence of your growth. It’s also an essential part of being a B Corp – and equally, will help you on the journey to certification if it’s something you’re considering.
  • Keep it simple and be yourself: If you want people to resonate with your sustainability journey, it needs to be relatable. Break complex information down, avoid being overly technical when it’s not needed, and vary your content: infographics can bring data to life, while videos can tell the human story behind your initiatives. Whatever content you create, run it through the lens of your brand voice and style, so it sounds like you.

Be memorable. Be bold. Take inspiration from brands like Patagonia, whose clothing is inseparable from its environmental advocacy – one of the greatest examples of a business that lives and breathes sustainability, and communicates with absolute authenticity.

Or JDE Peet’s, whose Common Grounds programme embodies their ambition to positively impact people, planet, and the future of coffee and tea. With a live tracker to share their progress across twelve key sustainability targets, and regular stories which communicate how they are enacting the programme, JDE Peet’s is another excellent example of authentic, purpose-driven communications.

Above all, remember that your sustainability strategy offers the opportunity for your business to create positive change, lead the way and inspire others to take the journey with you. Your actions could help lay the foundations for a more resilient and sustainable future for everyone – and that gives you an incredibly powerful story to tell.

Communicate your impact

At Seismic, we’ve helped hundreds of companies with their ESG strategy, using B Corp as a framework to embed sustainable practices. We’re also experts in bringing those strategies to life, engaging employees, companies and investors with impactful communications. If you’re ready to share your progress, we can advise you how to communicate authentically, creatively and with honesty – so the actions in your story speak for themselves. Get in touch.