Sustainability is no longer a niche issue. It is highly topical, socially relevant and affects companies in every industry. However, it is a complex subject and some basic principles should be observed when communicating it.
SUSTAINABILITY: ENVIRONMENTAL, ECONOMIC, SOCIAL
Achieving climate targets and promoting environmental protection is not only the responsibility of politics and society. Companies also have an important role to play. For them, this means using resources efficiently and operating in a way that balances resource use and investment with human needs and aspirations, both now and in the future. When a company integrates these values into its business strategy, it is called corporate sustainability. It’s about conserving resources and also about corporate social responsibility. Sustainable business is not just about growth, but also about quality of life.
PROFESSIONALISM IS THE GOAL
How do you develop your sustainability policy? Large companies or groups often employ sustainability managers or form expert groups, while small and medium-sized companies discuss the strategy in the whole team or in a workshop. Whatever the approach, it is important to understand and take this complex issue seriously. This includes looking at developments and opportunities for companies, questioning them critically and discussing them as a team. As sustainability is part of the overall strategy, it is always a matter for top management.
BIGGER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER
Every company – from a one-man show to a large corporation – can integrate sustainability into its business strategy. It is important to look at the individual ways in which each can contribute. The first step is to assess the current situation: What has been done so far to conserve resources or be socially responsible? The next step is to identify appropriate actions for each area of corporate sustainability.
The goals don’t always have to be the biggest: Even a small team can make a difference by reducing waste – from photocopying paper to disposable plates in the kitchen. What matters is not just the “size” of the action, but that it is taken seriously: For example, if you want to make a bigger impact on social responsibility, look at your entire supply chain, not just one site.
THE RIGHT WAY TO COMMUNICATE
“Do good and talk about it. This old PR adage hits the nail on the head when it comes to communicating sustainability. There are many ways to do this. Here are a few examples:
Internal communication: Not only customers but also employees prefer sustainable companies, as numerous studies show. Communicating sustainability goals and issues internally has two advantages: Employees are more emotionally connected to the company and also carry the message from the inside out. Communication can take place through employee magazines, the intranet, regular emails or meetings.
Show transparency: Communicating the company’s goals and aspirations for greater sustainability is one thing. But in the end, the numbers should add up; only then will it be credible. Listed companies with more than 500 employees are obliged to publish a sustainability report. But small and medium-sized companies can also voluntarily use this opportunity to inform employees and (potential) customers about the company’s social, environmental and economic performance.
Media relations: Whether press releases, press conferences, videos, social media or podcasts, sustainability is an exciting hook for all forms of media work – “do good and talk about it”. It would be a shame if all your efforts to act sustainably were not perceived from the outside. It is therefore worthwhile to include the topic generously in PR work. In the long run, the company will be perceived as sustainable by the public.
There’s really only one no-no when it comes to communicating sustainability issues, and that’s greenwashing. Greenwashing occurs when companies try to create a sustainable image through misinformation. It is not always easy to distinguish between sustainable action and greenwashing, especially as large companies often promise overly ambitious measures. However, a look at the figures often shows that these targets are not even close to being met.
Greenwashing also occurs when a company advertises organic cotton, for example, but the manufacturing conditions in the factories remain abysmal. Sustainability must be viewed holistically, and those who engage in greenwashing risk losing trust in the company or brand, or even being called on to boycott a product.
Only companies that are honest and thorough in their approach to sustainability will be perceived as committed. The golden rule for sustainability communication could be “Do good and report transparently”.
If you need help with your sustainability communication in the German-speaking market, we look forward to a no-obligation introduction. We will be happy to advise you.