Be open and transparent.
That’s the number 1 rule when it comes to successfully communicating business sustainability efforts to customers and stakeholders.
Why? And what does transparency actually look like in communications about business sustainability efforts? Read on to find out.
With so many companies claiming to be environmentally friendly, people are getting more and more sceptical about those claims. It’s very hard to tell those with real integrity from those making empty promises and using climate change for their own business gain.
Consumers simply don’t know who to trust when it comes to climate commitments.
If your company is actually doing the work to integrate climate positivity into the core of your business, then you need to be able to prove yourself and win that trust.
And companies that aren’t actually doing the work need to stop claiming they are – because they’re losing the trust of their customers.
Take Volkswagen's greenwashing scandal, for example, when their dodgy offsetting saw them the target of a Greenpeace campaign.
Or H&M, who have been using sustainability in their marketing campaigns for a while now – from their ‘conscious collection’ to their focus on recycled, reused, and 'sustainably sourced' materials. A recent Quartz exposé has shown that H&M’s sustainability claims are questionable – which, as commentators pointed out, is now eroding trust in the brand:
Trust is everything in brand marketing, and that’s especially true when it comes to climate initiatives.
And trust? Trust comes from believing that a company will uphold the claims they make, so to gain it you need to be communicating your climate journey with honesty, openness, and transparency every step of the way.
Researchers define transparent communication as having three key components:
But how do you translate this research into action when planning your own company’s climate change communications? A couple of practical tips:
A little more detail on those two factors...
The biggest way that you can bring transparency into your climate communications is to explain your journey openly, and explain it in full – including the bad as well as the good.
Often, communication around sustainability initiatives is distilled into a simple slogan, a one-line pledge (‘We’re committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2040’) or claim (‘We’ve cut our emissions by 60%’).
This might meet with best practice for marketing copy generally – keeping the message short, concise, and easy to understand – but, when it comes to climate communications, more actually is more.
To trust your actions, your audience needs to understand why you’ve decided to take this approach to sustainability and how you plan to get there. And that means adding detail.
This should include:
Sharing your journey in this way shows that you’re taking climate impact seriously. As a brand you’ve put in lots of time and effort to understand your environmental impact and researched the best way to go about addressing that – and you’re being open and honest about exactly what that process has looked like so far.
Of course, in practice you won’t be able to share the full backstory with every mention of your sustainability plans across all channels – but you can make sure that a detailed account is super easy to find on your website for those who want to go and find out more. You could create a dedicated ‘sustainability’ webpage, for instance, where you can tell your story and add updates as you go.
As we’ve seen, truly transparent communication means that your audience needs to be able to actively participate in the conversation about your climate journey.
Firstly, that means making sure your climate communications are accessible and digestible to ensure your audience can easily understand your sustainability initiatives.
A few tips:
And secondly, it means creating two-way communication – opening a conversation with your audience about your sustainability as a company.
That means offering ways for customers to ask questions or offer feedback on your climate action – and it means being open to adjusting your approach based on this feedback.
You could host a webinar or briefing when you release a sustainability update, giving plenty of time for Q&A. You could create an FAQ section on your website, addressing regular questions or comments. You could survey your customer base regularly. Or, it could be as simple as providing a point of contact for any questions about your climate initiatives – which also helps customers to feel that your climate initiatives are coming from your team as humans, not as a brand or business tactic.
At Lune we make it easy for companies to start communicating their climate impact, through our Lune Sustainability Pages – customisable, shareable landing pages which act as an open record of a business’ carbon credit purchases.
Here’s one example from open banking company, TrueLayer.
Their Sustainability Page promotes ‘availability’ of information by clearly communicating:
Plus, ‘accountability’ is enhanced through:
Seen another great example of messaging about climate impact from a business, or a beautifully designed sustainability webpage?
We’d love to take a look – tag us on Twitter or LinkedIn or drop us an email on [email protected].
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