Sustainability communications should be a dimension of how businesses operate today. It's important that companies be green – and beneficial to all concerned that they communicate it effectively.
Sustainability itself squares with the fundamental components of smart enterprise – provide best-in-class products/services to customers, profits to shareholders, fulfillment to employees, and be responsible to the community. But it can also be perceived as change, which very often can be threatening. That threat can be mitigated by robust, strategic communications.
Sharing information about green initiatives adds a layer to how companies present themselves to their various constituencies. The story is often technical in detail, but ultimately good sustainability communications present a clear picture of benefits to customers, consumers, communities, and future generations.
For me, sustainability communications is more than public relations. It is:
Fact-based analytical thinking – The numbers have to support true progress in pro-environment products and practices. Sometimes it helps to have an outsider ask questions that identify perspectives and values, perhaps also sourced from independent third parties. The point is to mine out details and look at those details within a broader context.
Strategic communications – The messages and stories of sustainable innovation are ultimately exciting and important. But the ways they are communicated, the words and pictures and the channels by which they are delivered, have to be well considered and budget-rational.
An evangelist for innovation – Humankind has found ways, with fits and starts, to fix things that in turn help us survive and even thrive. It’s a basic principle of microeconomics that we drive toward efficiencies, and very often that means finding ways to use fewer resources to accomplish more. That's sustainability. It's universally appreciated – but only if people know about it.
Mission-driven, honoring the future – This can be the most challenging part of sustainable practices and communications. Investments in leaner technologies, resource-saving methodologies, and new lines of business are often viewed as costly in the short term. People have to see what the longer-term ROI looks like. To instill belief and patience in that eventual delivery, all stakeholders should adopt the vision of what will result further down the pike.
What’s encouraging is that so many businesses have already answered this challenge affirmatively: for them, green business is smart business over the long haul.
What does sustainability communications look like? Maybe it’s a single article. Maybe it’s a social media program. Perhaps it’s a CSR, a Corporate Social Responsibility report, or other ongoing internal or external public relations programs to let select audiences know what the business is doing and accomplishing. In any form, it’s always about sharing ideas to make for a greener world.
My work in sustainability arguably goes back to childhood – if you really want to know the long story contact me – but my professional engagement with accelerated in the past decade. Visit my blog to see the breadth of contact I’ve had with companies that are effectively communicating how they are ensuring a greener earth, striving to stabilize climate disruption, and driving toward sustainable businesses in the 21st century.
Sustainability Communications: Instill belief in long-term business strategies
Companies need to tell their green stories
Going green today is less an option and more an imperative. As Allen L. White, vice president and senior fellow at the Tellus Institute in Boston writes, “A new paradigm is emerging: stakeholders are holding companies accountable for their impacts on the preservation and enrichment of natural capital, human capital and social capital.”
I am happy to tell the stories those stakeholders want to hear. All 10,000 of them.
Contact Russ Klettke to discuss your green business communications needs.
Businesses are going green for at least three reasons. People – customers as well as employees, and the communities in which they operate – demand it. But energy efficiency, smart use of landscape and increased employee productivity all spell improved profitability. Ultimately, enterprise leadership shows a conscience about the health of the planet when they elect to operate in environmentally responsible ways. It's the "triple bottom line."
It’s incredibly rare to find a colleague whose business savvy is matched by a keen sense of exploration and passion for the environment.
– Tim Schuler, Managing Editor, Green Building & Design