How to Effectively Communicate Your Sustainability Efforts

Alex Sanders

Practicing greater sustainability can please shareholders, customers, and even prospective business partners. As long as everyone can see and acknowledge what you’re doing, your sustainability efforts could help you win more funding, win more clients, and even get an edge over some of your fiercest competitors.

The question is, how do you communicate your sustainability efforts effectively?

Decide on a Strategy

Your first job is to decide on an effective environmental sustainability strategy. If you have a foundational strategy that makes logical sense and has a focused purpose, you'll be much better capable of explaining your intentions and target results to a lay audience.

For example:

  • Converting to an electric vehicle fleet. For starters, you could convert your fleet of traditional vehicles to electric. Electric vehicles are typically more expensive than comparable gas-powered vehicles, but because they're much more energy efficient and less reliant on maintenance, they typically pay for themselves. On top of that, they produce far fewer emissions, especially over a long-time horizon.
  • Reducing overall emissions. You can commit to an assortment of practices that produce your greenhouse gas emissions. That could mean switching to more energy-efficient devices and appliances, reducing pollution, reducing reliance on transportation, or any number of other individual strategies.
  • Complying to specific standards. Are you trying to adhere to certain standards or achieve a specific certification in energy efficiency? Doing so can give you an objective benchmark for achievement – and something tangible and measurable you can share with your audience.
  • Starting new initiatives. There are countless initiatives that can improve your environmental sustainability, from planting more trees to launching a new volunteer effort.

Any effort you make to improve the sustainability of your business or benefit the environment is going to be well received, though some actions are more valuable than others and some actions are more expensive than others. You'll need to think about your goals, your target audience, your budget, and other factors before deciding on a final strategy.

Be Transparent, but Not Obnoxious

One of the advantages of optimizing for sustainability is appealing to the masses – but if you’re suspected of only virtue signaling, your efforts could end up working against you. Anything you do for the environment is going to be positive, but if you want to communicate your environmental efforts effectively, you need to demonstrate your sincerity in trying to make the world a better place.

The critical piece of advice here is to avoid being obnoxious with your promotional efforts. If your environmental sustainability plan serves only as a cheap advertising strategy, you're not going to get those reputational benefits. If anything, your target audience may become more skeptical of your intentions and practices. Feel free to market and promote your sustainability initiative, but don't go overboard.

Focus on the Results

Planting trees and switching to electric vehicles are nice strategies that will likely be well received by your target audience, but if you want your messaging to be more persuasive and compelling, you need to focus on the results. How much have you reduced emissions, exactly? How have your most recent strategic changes directly benefited the planet and other people?

Issue an Annual Sustainability Report

Today, 92 percent of S&P 500 companies publish annual sustainability reports, informing shareholders, journalists, and the general public about their efforts to operate sustainably. These reports are not required, but they are useful tools that can make communicating with your target audience simpler and more straightforward. You can easily create a template based on sustainability reports that other businesses have created; what elements made these sustainability reports effective, and how can you replicate them in your own report?

Also keep in mind that your sustainability report doesn't have to be annual. You can publish a sustainability report on a monthly, or even weekly basis if you have new metrics or initiatives to publish.

Tell Stories (Preferably With Humans)

Information is much more compelling and persuasive to the public if it is presented in a storytelling framework. Putting humans at the center of your initiatives and telling stories about what you're doing are much more valuable strategies than just blandly regurgitating facts. Post a photo of an employee planting a tree or talk about the journey your business is taking to convert the entire fleet to electric vehicles; you'll win far more admiration.

Engage and Interact

Finally, be willing to engage and interact with your target audience. Instead of simply publishing your sustainability report, post it on social media so you can answer questions and engage with other people who have read this report. Are there criticisms worth addressing? Are people complimenting your efforts? Are there any points of uncertainty that need to be clarified in your reports? This is an excellent learning opportunity and an opportunity to show that your company cares about what other people think.

Achieving environmental sustainability is hard and communicating your advancements in sustainability can sometimes be even harder. But with a solid communication strategy in place, you can reap all the benefits of your new environmental initiatives.

Alex Sanders
Zupyak is the world’s largest content marketing community, with over 300 000 members and 3 million articles. Explore and get your content discovered.