The dos and don’ts of an effective sustainability strategy

Clear and honest communication is key

Sustainability is an important consideration when creating a marketing strategy. Consumers are more discerning than ever before. They can and will look up your facts to see if the messages being put out are true. They will also look at the business and its practices as a whole.

Sustainability needs to involve a company’s core activities, it’s not enough to have a line of eco-friendly products. Business not only needs to make an effort to move towards sustainability but to communicate what they are doing.

So, how should we communicate the efforts towards sustainability being made?

The takeaway is clear: messaging must be open, honest, and involve the whole company making a move towards sustainability.

The dos and don’ts

So how can we avoid the pitfalls associated with green messaging? Expert sustainability consultant Malcom Forsyth has insights into what we should and shouldn’t do.

Above all, he stresses that the tone and messaging need to be credible. Any claims made need to be backed up by real evidence. Don’t claim something unless you are sure of the evidence – customers can and will look up your facts. Malcolm suggests that you should let the data tell you what you can and can’t say about your company’s sustainability efforts.

Another do from Malcom is to report on incremental goals. Start now by reporting on small targets rather than wait for big changes. Have a message that says – we are working on it; we are getting there. This can be done by setting realistic targets that are well within reach and can be achieved short-term. Just as importantly, set medium- and long-term goals as well and detail how you will achieve them.

A good sustainability strategy shouldn’t be done “quick and dirty”. Take the time and effort to understand the data and implement real changes. Consider using an external rating system or board, it can help you show customers the progress being made towards these longer-term goals.

Something else you should consider is that it’s okay to fail. By reporting your failure to meet a target you are actually increasing your credibility. Instead of trying to downplay them, report on your failures, then explain how you will do better next time. Being transparent about shortcomings builds trust with your customers.

Another important tip is: don’t just rely on the marketing team. Malcolm recommends involving the whole company and your customers as well. It will help determine where real impacts are being made and where more can be done. Outside perspectives will help you understand how the company is being perceived and where you can improve or communicate better.

Be bold and ambitious

Sustainability is not some end point that you can rush towards. Malcom asks us to see it as an exciting journey where “if we aim for the moon and miss, we’ll still end up amongst the stars”. A good sustainability strategy is a journey where you improve as you learn and show your customers how you are getting there by being honest and transparent. And remember: always back up what you say with the best data you can find.

Get in touch if you’d like us to help you on your journey to creating a sustainability strategy that is open, honest and persuasive.

Or if you like this kind of content, listen to our monthly podcast – create, connect, communicate or check out some of our other latest blog pieces where we discuss keys issues shaping marketing communications today.


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Posted by
Kim Lommaert 
on May 18, 2021

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