If you do sustainability just to be trendy, don’t do it at all. And especially, do not sell it

Newsroom 25/07/2023 | 13:37

Everyone talks about sustainability nowadays. In fact, we talk the talk so much that the notion itself has almost lost its meaning. But do we walk the walk? Is your company truly sustainable? That is the first thing we should answer before engaging in any PR activities that target this trend. Successfully communicating sustainability is already a challenge, due to misinformation, mistrust, and a lack of immediate benefits to the audience. So, let’s review some of the guidelines when engaging in PR.

By Cosmina Croitoru, PR Director Lighthouse PR

 

Firstly, we have to say it: many companies seem more eager to engage in communicating about how compliant and diligent are on environment and sustainability, and less on how they truly meet the standards. Of course, there are organizations that have taken bold actions toward these goals. In the general noise, though, where everyone is talking about it and fewer are doing something, compliant businesses get somehow … lost in translation.

Don’t get me wrong, the first thing we can all do to fight climate change is to talk about it. But that’s when we realize that it’s more complicated than expected. We often hear that we can change the world with our individual habits, like limiting our plastic use, shopping second hand, and using ”natural” products. These habits can be transferred to companies and organizations. These are good principles that bring responsibility and build character. But when done, must we advertise?

On a business level, sustainable marketing can improve brand loyalty and worker engagement. Since the world is reshaping due to climate change, doing nothing from this perspective has become a NO option. It equals losing the next generation of consumers, who are paying more attention to the world around them: what they eat and breath, what they wear and where do they live. So, what do we say about our ESG policies? How do we say it? What do we expect from this?

The report Words that work: Effective language in sustainability communications, suggests that, on average, the word “sustainability” is repeated 10 times on each sustainability webpage of Forbes’ top 50 brands, while the most sustainable brands only used it once. So, we could resume it like this: if you feel the need to use that word often, maybe you shouldn’t be using it at all. Since sustainable actions are generous enough for everyone to pick from, companies should communicate the precise actions they take, without emphasizing how sustainable they are.

The key step, however, in any ESG endeavor, before even communicating about it, is to get your facts straight. Research and learn! This way you may find out that sustainability policies can worsen inequalities. For example, environmental measures in high-income countries often come at the expense of low-income ones. For a multinational, you may bring socio-economic benefits at home, but exacerbating imbalances in lower-income countries, such as exploitative labor practices. The occasions when big companies such as Apple or Amazon are being scolded at events with a global audience, such as the Oscars, for being unethical are not few. Although investing huge amounts of money in sustainable marketing.

Narrowing it down, a company should be in check at all levels and in every practice it takes before engaging in sustainable PR. You may reduce your carbon footprint, but affect the quality of produce and, ultimately, deceive the buyers. Don’t do sustainability just to follow the trend. Do it strategically and …sustainable. Can you carry the change in the long run?

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