The Rise of Sustainability Communication
In today’s world, consumers are more aware than ever of the environmental and societal impact of their choices. These conscious consumers are looking for brands that are committed to taking true planet action. Traditional Marketing is no longer enough, making Sustainability Communication an emerging key function in companies today. Nevertheless, it’s still a long way from where it needs to be.
Communicating corporate sustainability is no longer a one-way communication (cough, cough, annual sustainability reports). Sustainability communication is slowly becoming an open book. An open book that represents a truthful and authentic disclosure of a business sustainability strategy.
We seen brands using Sustainability Communication as an ingredient of their brand awareness and overall business success. Many other brands are desperately trying to follow, but unfortunately, some of them fail to succeed, and some others have it worse, they fall into the greenwashing trap.
What Are The Key Challenges Marketing Communication Teams Face?
Finding communication proof points
Scattered information, lack of regular reporting on progress, and struggles to map sustainability efforts to standard indexes of progress like UN sustainability goals are common problems that businesses face. These gaps create bottlenecks for Marketing and Communication teams, as they struggle to find one source of the truth, and therefore lack communication proof points.
Over communicating or under communicating
Marketing Communication teams fall into the difficult dilemma of their being afraid of saying too much or saying nothing at all. Over communicating without proof points can lead to greenwashing and under communicating can affect the brand’s positioning and growth.
Tell me more, tell me more…
Consumers want to know more. They are genuinely concerned about the effects of climate change and the impact of their purchase decisions. Whenever they see a label, statement or claim, they want to know more. By telling them more, they automatically trust the brand more. Unfortunately, not all Communication teams have the data and therefore content to fulfill that need.
Why Communicating Impact With Confidence Leads to Business Growth?
Despite the challenges they face today, communicators responsible for sustainability play a pivotal role in terms of brand success and business growth. Communicating the positive impact that your brand makes to your audience brings three key values:
- Builds trust and credibility
- Strengthens stakeholder relationships
- Creates a competitive advantage versus competitors
Actions speak louder than words, so let’s take a look into how some brands have managed to achieve a strong sustainability communication strategy, leading to unforgettable branding. Here are some of my personal favorites:
Since before sustainability was a buzzword, Patagonia has committed to implementing ethical and regenerative business practices, which has proven to be a major driver of its success. Today, their efforts go beyond minimizing harm and instead focus on holistic approaches to restoring the planet’s damaged ecosystems. For example, in their “regenerative organic cotton” initiative, Patagonia works with farmers to implement regenerative agriculture techniques that improve soil health, sequester carbon, and enhance biodiversity. They are also moving toward 100% renewable and recycled raw materials. Patagonia is now known worldwide for their regenerative practices, putting them on the forefront of the sustainability conversation and receiving overwhelming support from customers and investors.
The Dutch chocolate brand aims to have 100% slave free chocolate as the norm. Being transparent about their sustainability practices Tony’s Chocolonely publishes regular updates of their impact and business growth on their website. The fact that they share their progress on a number of sustainability goals shows their commitment to being transparent about the challenges they face and the progress they are making.
Through humor and creativity, Oatly makes memorable and engaging statements for consumers, strongly relying on their impact data and they use it as their bulletproof vest in their marketing communication campaigns. Oatly highlights the fact that oat milk has a significantly lower environmental impact than cow’s milk, making it a key selling point for many consumers, who are increasingly concerned about the environment. Oatly also challenges the dairy industry to be more transparent about its environmental impact and in one campaign they even offered to pay for dairy counterparts to advertise in its place if they are willing to share their own climate footprint data.
Top Tips for a Successful Sustainability Communication Strategy
- Be an open book: Share your goals, update on your progress, and be honest about your challenges.Transparency will build trust with your audience.
- Make data your bulletproof vest: In order to talk about impact, you need the facts. Use data as your evidence of your progress, goals and actions.
- Digitize and quantify your impact: By digitizing your impact data, you can make it easier to track, report, and share. You can also use technology to quantify the benefits of your impact projects, which will help you avoid greenwashing.
- Improve visibility across your supply chain: Don’t just look at your own impact, look at the impact of your entire supply chain. This will help you identify and address areas where you can improve your sustainability performance.
- Create collective action: Engage your stakeholders, such as audience, customers, employees. Let them know about your sustainability goals and progress, they’ll become evangelists of your progress.
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