As communications consultants to organizations large and small, we know that there continues to be trepidation for some about how best (and whether) to raise awareness of their organization’s commitments and actions related to environmental impact. Let us review the lay of the land. It is now well understood that Millennials and Gen Z are motivated to purchase from brands that do good. This has driven the adoption of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) factors to guide and evaluate an organization’s impact.
Sustainability is no longer a buzz word; it is now a business imperative. But for many organizations, especially large, complex corporations, there are a number of reasons to pause before communicating aggressively about environmental impact.
The largest being a gap between the organization’s intent and current environmental impact, which is increasingly something that the marketplace (and regulators) can measure. The potential to fall short of public commitments raises reputational stakes, at the very least. The reality for most organizations, in most industries, is that there is hard work – and considerable investment required – to make measurable progress. Stakeholders are likely not in full alignment, either, and so the communications challenges of both setting expectations and meeting them will be complex.
Pivoting to What You Can Say
Whatever your organization’s reasons for anxiety on the topic of environmental commitments, they are likely valid. There will always be reasons to wait. There will always be risk in communicating on topics that have been politicized. But it is also a risk to wait (see Delta Airlines, Home Depot and Coca-Cola on voting rights). Younger generations are increasingly motivated to protect the environment, so finding ways to manage your organization’s narrative is a part of actively engaging a critical stakeholder segment. Here are three tips to communicate your organization’s environmental impact:
Pick a goal to decrease specific environmental impacts by a future date. This will have to be driven by the C-suite as it will require action plans for all aspects of the company that are connected to the goal. These future goals can be a great way to motivate your organization to get behind a positive change and allow for time to make the changes in sustainable ways for the future of the business.
Incorporate organizational values.
It is always a best practice to allow your organization’s values to drive decisions related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Use your corporate values to determine what and how to communicate the organization’s commitment to the environment.
Start by taking small action and communicating with your closest stakeholders: Your employees.
Your employees understand you better than any external audience will. Take some actions and begin to share those stories with your employees. Create space for feedback and engagement and learn from what you hear. We are living in a time where opting out on critical issues can be perceived very negatively. Do not let your organization get caught in that risk. Rather, take the opportunity to gain clarity on your organization’s commitment to the environment and take steps that make sense for your organization.
Tunheim seeks to help organizations be understood by stakeholders who are critical to their success. A necessary component of being understood is taking responsibility to communicate and to listen. What holds your organization back from communicating its commitment to the environment? If you need help, we would love to hear from you. Contact us.