| Crunch! Measure what needs to get done.

Expand! Time to catch up on some reading. |


Chapter 08

Communicate! How to tell your story.

Interestingly, any communication on the sustainability of an organization will be subject to scrutiny. At least if you’re not the UN, the suspicion of greenwashing is easily at hand. At the same time, however, there are only a few stories that can be as engaging as those about saving the world.

After this chapter, you…

  • know what to (not) do when communicating your sustainability efforts
  • should be sensitized for the need to provide some basic level of transparency
  • know which target groups require what sort of communicative content

Do’s and dont’s

To leverage the power of sustainability communication for your reputation, brand image, or marketing efforts, there are a few things that you should consider. Here are five tips on what you should do and another five things you should not do.

Do Don’t

Be brave! Know that you cannot know everything. Begin. Get involved in learning processes. Make yourself vulnerable.

Focus yourself!
Start where you make a difference. And then do what you think is important and right.

Show attitude!
Taking responsibility means giving orientation. Making announcements. To expect something from others. Enduring shitstorms.

Think differently!
Think around the corner, break up familiar patterns. Allow humor, irony, or even sarcasm, be loud, have fun, and if necessary, provoke.

Team up!
To have a real impact means to team up with like-minded people: Together you are stronger!

Hide trade-off: Labelling a product as environmentally friendly based on a small set of attributes when other attributes are not addressed that might make a bigger impact on the eco-friendliness of a product as a whole.

Provide no proof:
 Making an environmental claim without providing easily accessible evidence on either the label or the product website.

e vague: Using terms that are too broad or poorly defined to be properly understood (i.e. “all-natural”).

State the obvious:
 Stating something that is technically true but not a distinguishing factor when looking for eco-friendly products (i.e. advertised as “CFC-Free”— but since CFCs are banned by law this is unremarkable).

The lesser of two evils:
 Claiming to be greener than other products in its category when the category as a whole may be environmentally unfriendly.

Make transparency your backbone

If you have to be naked, you had better be buff.
– Don Tapscott

Goes a famous quote from the book The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business.

In the past years, we have seen extraordinary levels of transparency: businesses make themselves clearly visible to shareholders, customers, employees, partners, and society. Financial data, employee grievances, environmental flaws, product weaknesses, good news, and bad; today, they all can basically be seen by anyone who knows where to look.

For any proactive sustainability communication to work out, you must make sure to get the basics right. That means to provide at least to some degree a level of transparency allowing stakeholders to get an authentic impression of your social, ecological, and economic performance.

Put some of this information on your website. If you need guidance on what sort of information stakeholders might be interested in, you can either consult SASB  or the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

Beyond this basic level of transparency, different target groups will require different forms of information. While in order to convince your investors, you will need to focus your communicative efforts on providing facts and much data, getting media coverage will only succeed if you have a great story to tell.

Formats and target groups