Change focus from reports to speaking up about sustainability!
Finnish businesses were ranked among the most sustainable in the world in the 2017 Global 100 index.Fotolia
Companies should implement more effective communication strategies for sustainability, states Julia Bushueva in this week's column.
All over the world, companies have been talking about sustainability for a number of years. Very few of them actually walk the talk. Most leading companies would like to improve their sustainability performance, but they often do not know where to start and how to capitalise on sustainability. On top of that, some of them are lost in terms of the objectives. Corporate sustainability is typically understood as necessitating strict reports, certificates and tedious calculations. But is it really so?
The fact is that weighty PDF reports are of little to no use if they do not speak to the values of customers and engage them with the brand. Honestly, no one has the time and patience to read such lengthy tomes. Sustainability indicators, such as GREs, greenhouse gas emissions and LCAs are just numbers in those PDF files if their meaning is not “translated” into an everyday reality that customers can relate to.
Finland has a long tradition of promoting sustainable development. For Finnish companies, reputation plays a tremendous role, and they tend to invest time and effort in the reduction of their environmental and social impacts. Finnish businesses were ranked among the most sustainable in the world in the 2017 Global 100 index. However, the one thing that companies in Finland often overlook is engaging with customers around sustainability initiatives.
“In order to be resilient in the future, a business needs to become more open and creative in the way it approaches sustainability communication.”
Finnish communication tends to be shy and modest, even in the business world. Finns do not like to brag about their achievements and definitely avoid talking about their plans until they have reports with hard numbers in their hands. Why is this a problem? Because when only the company’s top management knows how “green” the business is, there is little value in it for the brand.
In order to be resilient in the future, a business needs to become more open and creative in the way it approaches sustainability communication. Instead of spending months to prepare a “perfect” communication campaign after the project has been archived, using social media can help to engage customers, stakeholders and employees during sustainability campaigns.
Making use of social media channels and interactive formats, such as infographics, videos and Snapchats, gives a chance to receive instant feedback. The key here is not to shine as a brand but to let customers have the opportunity to become the heroes of the company’s sustainability stories.
There are no perfect ways to execute a corporate sustainability strategy, and there is always going to be someone who is not satisfied with the outcome. Being authentic, demonstrating openness and having the courage to speak up about sustainability actions can help companies to build communities of brand ambassadors that can create a powerful change.