AS going green increasingly becomes part of the initiatives of many companies, communicators working in organizations should grow in their awareness of environmental issues and sustainability. More importantly, they should be able to communicate these efforts well to boost their company’s image.
And with good reason. A July 2020 survey found “79 percent of brand consumers are changing their purchase preferences based on a brand’s social responsibility, inclusiveness, or environmental impact.”
With that, “millennials and Gen Z—who tend to spend more than their older counterparts—increasingly seek brands that align with their values,” says Yonder CEO Jonathan Morgan in an article “As UN Report Raises Stakes, Some Basics of Green Communication” in PR News Online.
While he notes that while sustainability and climate change commitments have had a higher profile recently, he acknowledges the fact that these can be tricky.
“As sustainability declarations are more frequent, they also receive greater attention,” he cautions. “With greater attention comes increased potential for criticism.”
It’s not that simple, as “companies are under an extraordinary amount of pressure to get sustainability right. In addition, they’re vulnerable should they get it wrong.”
So how can communicators set up companies for success? Morgan offers us some tips:
· First, do the work
Put simply, that means walking the talk. Make sure your communications are backed up by solid work. People see through photo ops that are nothing but performance and self-promotion.
“If your company isn’t environmentally conscious, don’t communicate that you are,” says Morgan. “Do the work first. But do it promptly.”
Undeniably sustainability communication can be daunting. “When a company isn’t transparent about sustainability practices, consumers will speculate that it’s because it has something to hide. Critics will fill in the blanks themselves.”
For PR News Senior Editor Schuman, doing the work for communicators begins with understanding causes.
“Do your research,” she says in an article “3 Tips: How to Make PR More Impactful in PR News Online.” “It’s the job of PR practitioners to not only understand the history of social causes, but also how those causes affect diverse audiences and their communities.” This will help you create a PR plan that addresses the specific needs of your target audience.
· Lead with authenticity
It will be good to remember that environmental and sustainability awareness has increased over the years, with millennials and Gen Z consumers leading the way. In short, they cannot be fooled.
That is why authenticity is important in communicating your company’s initiatives. This is especially true for consumer-facing brands, who tend to be highly visible and inherently subject to intense scrutiny.
“Communicating sustainability practices that aren’t thoughtfully planned or strategically executed can present serious challenges,” says Morgan. In addition, “when communicating about sustainability and climate change, substantiate everything. This includes current messaging to past data to future long-term pledges and commitments.”
He warns that “failing to back up claims can put your brand, marketing campaign, and authenticity at risk.” Penalties include litigation, and or unpleasant time in what Morgan calls the online court of public opinion. In both situations, your brand’s value and reputation face significant damages.”
Schuman, on the other hand, believes that we can show authenticity by “forming communications strategies that align with your corporate values.” This will show that these aren’t just soundbites, but “causes that affect change at every level of the…