Five Ways to Effectively Communicate Corporate Sustainability Commitments
Nov 16, 2020 Amanda Echavarri
We must reduce global emissions by 1.5 degrees celsius to successfully tackle climate change, and businesses are no longer relying on governments to drive the sustainability transformation. Instead, they have begun to set more aggressive sustainability goals over the past few years, solidifying corporate sustainability reports as the primary communication method for their progress on the set goals.
However, with wildfires, hurricanes and extreme weather events plaguing the globe, and corporate stakeholders beginning to hold companies accountable for their impact on the environment, these traditional communications strategies may no longer be sufficient. We’ve seen an onslaught of companies set aggressive goals this year, and as these goals become more sophisticated, so must the communications supporting these goals.
Here are five strategies corporate leaders should keep in mind when communicating the progress on their climate strategies, both internally and externally.
#1: Be Transparent
A global survey conducted by our client ENGIE Impact found that 75 percent of executives believe a successful execution of a sustainability strategy will give them a competitive advantage in the market. This increased awareness among the corporate community has led to a stark increase in sustainability reporting over the past few years – in fact, in 2019, 90 percent of S&P 500 Index companies published reports. This concentrated effort to increase reporting pinpoints the need for companies to be transparent about their current sustainability plans and how they plan to adjust in the future to create actionable change.
#2: Make it visual
Traditional corporate sustainability reports can be data heavy and hard to decipher. Corporate leaders should consider how they can supplement the necessary quantitative information with visuals that will help stakeholders easily digest information. Enter: The Design Team.
Designers can breathe life into corporate sustainability reports, making them an asset that can be shared widely. Companies should also consider developing supplementary infographics and social graphics that display their sustainability goals, strategy and progress towards their goals. This extra effort to bring sustainability to the forefront of their external communications will help separate them from their competitors.
#3: Commit to an Action Plan
While there is a drive to produce content related to sustainability metrics, for some smaller companies or those that exist in industries that are notoriously hard to decarbonize, the idea of publicizing this information can be daunting. However, with the public push for climate action initiatives taking place across the U.S., it is important for companies to be transparent about where their business currently stands. If a business is not in a position to publish a comprehensive sustainability report, it should consider releasing a statement from the CEO that shows a commitment to creating change within the community and provides a list of actionable steps the business is taking to increase its sustainability.
Once this initial commitment is made, leadership must provide regular updates that show where the business has made strides, as well as where it’s fallen short. This transparency will make key stakeholders feel at ease, while also increasing brand reputation in today’s climate-focused environment.
#4: Engage employees
Corporations won’t be able to make widespread progress towards their sustainability goals without buy-in from employees. Knowing this, businesses must extend the focus of their sustainability efforts beyond operations, and put practices in place that allow for a cultural shift within the company. Employee engagement programs serve as a key tactic to accomplish this transition. While this starts with increased staff training about how employees can help reduce their company’s footprint, it is dependent on regular communication to keep them engaged. Small investments can go a long way – for instance, Inkhouse gifted our employee with Yeti tumblers, which drastically reduced the amount of paper products we use in our day-to-day operations.
Corporate leaders should also implement signage that encourages employees to make sustainability-first decisions throughout the work day, while also developing resource and advocacy groups that will address sustainability issues.
The communications team can then promote these efforts on social media, and any notable success stories at specific facilities can be turned into case studies that live on the website. This constant promotion of employee-driven action will help supplement yearly or quarterly sustainability reports, ensuring that corporate stakeholders remain aware of a business’ efforts in the space. Further, it will help companies attract and retain millennial talent and widen their customer base.
81% of millennials expect companies to make public declarations of their CSR efforts.
66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand.
*Stat credit: Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report
#5: Drive towards a green future
No matter where a company currently stands on their sustainability journey, it’s clear: Lack of communication around climate action can be detrimental to a company’s brand recognition. Upleveling corporate sustainability communications strategies has a two-fold benefit – it will help companies accomplish their sustainability goals, while also solidifying them as a main player in the continuously growing corporate sustainability landscape.