If your business has started its emissions reduction journey and has set a target, well done! Now is the time to start communicating this commitment – and your progress against it – to your audiences.
Sound scary? It needn’t be, says Luke Dean-Weymark, co-founder and co-director of Compass Studio, a Sydney PR and digital marketing agency that help brands that “do good” to communicate environmental and social impact.
While some brands have beautifully designed, hundred-page sustainability reports, your organisation doesn’t need to be put off if that’s not where you’re at. “You don’t have to turn on a switch and all of a sudden become an environmental warrior,” says Luke. “It doesn’t have to be aggressive. Social media posts, blog posts or sending emails to your customer base are an easy way to start.”
Does your CEO need convincing?
Before you can start sharing your achievements, you might have to get the support of your communications team, executives or CEO (depending on the shape and size of your organisation). Not all of them will love the idea of sharing climate goals publicly, but informing them about the benefits will help.
“Some organisations can be concerned about alienating their customers,” says Luke. “But having values-aligned customers will ultimately strengthen your brand. There has been a huge shift in the way consumers value sustainability in the last five years.”
A 2020 report commissioned by package delivery company Couriers Please, supports Luke’s claim. It concluded that nine in 10 Australian consumers are more likely to purchase ethical and sustainable products. The survey also reported “85 percent of consumers want retailers and brands to be more transparent about the sustainability of their products”.
Luke argues that if your corporation has made the commitment to reduce carbon emissions, it’s better off with a customer base that celebrates this.
“Because there are so many more consumers valuing sustainable choices, your brand can connect with not just more consumers, but better-quality ones. Consumers who value the same things your brand does, will be more likely to stick with you in the long run.”
Luke also argues that sharing your sustainability story adds character to your brand, making it more memorable for consumers. “People are more likely to talk about an organisation or a product if there’s a story for them to tell about it. If your customers have additional talking points about, say, a product they own, they’ll be more likely to tell the story of that product to their friends.”
Luke also says sharing sustainability achievements can help with customer retention. “It’s a unique selling point that can differentiate you from competitors who may not be offering sustainability achievements.”
Executives can also be nervous about sharing sustainability goals in case the organisation doesn’t achieve them, but Luke doesn’t share this concern.
“You don’t have to be perfect,” says Luke. “Talk about your mistakes as well as your wins.Transparency is so vital to consumers and investors. Your audiences will value that you’re heading in the right direction.”
Keep your comms simple and concise
You’ve got support from your team and you’re ready to start spreading the word. But how do you make the most impact with your climate communications? Keep it simple and clear, says Luke.
“These documents can get pretty huge. But often the shorter, more succinct ones are more engaging. The simpler you can make them, the easier they are to digest, especially for shareholders.”
Graphics, infographics and attractive design will also help your audiences understand not just your achievements, but the value climate has to your organisation. “Visual representation breaks up the heaviness of the data. Illustrations in particular can really help bring your organisation’s climate story to life," says Luke.
Language should also be simple and clear, and should genuinely represent the shared goals of your team.“Setting goals needs to be a collaborative process,” says Luke. “And don’t be afraid to talk passionately. Talk about why it matters to you as a business –bringing personality to your climate communications will give it more impact.”
Organisations that don’t have communications resourcing, including designers or a design budget, can consider tools such as Canva’s ‘SDG Project Report’ template. This asks organisations to identify how its goals align with a set of 17 integrated and interrelated and globally recognised goals, with headings and text that can be written straight in to the template.
Another option for sharing your climate commitment is to seek accreditation, such as B-Corp certification.“For businesses that aren’t looking to publish annual sustainability reports but who want credibility, B-Corp certification is a great option.”
Luke encourages young businesses to apply for B-Corp accreditation early in their business journey.“It’s actually much easier to achieve when you’re starting out than it is for big corporates.”
The long and short of reporting on your climate wins is that it doesn't have to be big, scary or overcomplicated: what's most important is that you simply begin doing it, and doing it clearly, and in a way that makes the most sense for your business and customers.