Sustainability Communications: Setting the Right Tone for Your Business 

Sustainability – it’s the most pressing and important topic of our time. And yet, for businesses, it’s not always a straightforward process to communicate your sustainability principles, both internally and to the world.  

Fears around greenwashing, obtaining buy-in from senior decision makers and even having a clear understanding of your company’s environmental impact can make the idea of sustainability communications extremely daunting.   

So, on Tuesday morning at Future Leap in Clifton, sponsored by AMBITIOUS PR, we heard from a panel of sustainability communications experts from different sectors to share their experiences and insight into how to approach sustainability comms, and their top tips for achieving impact.  

The panel – Robin Clempson of Albert Goodman, Jane Halstead of Neighbourly, Ed Garrett of Garrett Creative and Katy Barney of AMBITIOUS PR, with chairing from Sibusiso Tshabalala of the Black South West Network – were all very clear that to achieve effective sustainability communication, the process must start internally.  

“It’s hard to be authentic to an audience about your sustainability if nobody in the business is aware of it.” Katy Barney explained. “Of course, change has to start from someone, but it’s so key to educate and communicate with your colleagues not only what you’re doing, but why. ESG is for everyone, and being aligned as a business is crucial.” 

Robin Clempson, Marketing Director at Albert Goodman echoed those sentiments, explaining that before the accountancy firm even thought about communicating their sustainability procedures externally, the team took a long time to really firm up and become comfortable with their messaging.  

There is no doubting that the climate crisis is an uncomfortable and complex situation. And once messaging is out externally, it’s there for the whole world to see. Deeply analysing your own messaging and being clear on your businesses impact and target areas will go a long way to ensuring your sustainability messaging is authentic and accurate.  

When you feel the time is right to communicate externally, Ed Garrett believes the key to effectively communicating your message is keeping things short and sweet.  

“We’re living in a world where attention spans are short, and getting shorter. If you want your audience to engage with you and listen to what you have to say, your content has to be clear, concise and to the point. It’s a cliché, but a picture really is worth a thousand words. Long form content of course has its purpose, but infographics and especially pictures can build an instant connection and really resonate with people. Including this in your sustainability comms strategy is vital if you want to cut through the noise.” 

Despite the importance of sustainability comms, there is certainly an underlying awareness and dread of being accused of greenwashing, which can have a very detrimental effect on a business, as well as potentially impacting levels of senior support for ESG principles.  

The answer? If you’re authentic and honest with what you share, you can’t go far wrong.  

Jane Halstead said, “Certainly our viewpoint at Neighbourly is that something can only be classed as greenwashing if you’re either lying about what you’re doing, or trying to hide something elsewhere. Celebrating successes, even if they are small on social media for example, is part of the process of change. You’re not claiming to be there yet, but by being honest it’s hard to argue that you’re greenwashing.” 

Ultimately, like any communications strategy, planning and attention to detail is key. Each business will be in a different environment and stage of their journey. However, if you can create an engaging internal culture around sustainability within your company, be crystal clear on your messaging and what you want to get across, be honest and authentic throughout the process, and embrace engaging visuals throughout, you will begin to see change as a result of your sustainability communications.  

Please find some useful resources that were shared during the discussion below:

Written by event sponsor Ambitious PR

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