Is Sustainability Just a Tick Box? Or Can It Be More? 

After COP 28 last year, as well as the perpetual drip feed of news about the environment, it’s becoming more imperative than ever for organisations to not only take part in their fair share of ESG initiatives, but to communicate effectively about their sustainability achievements and philosophies. 

As a year full of elections approaches us, we are going to see a lot of political changes, and environmental regulations will be a large part of these shifts. For example, the UK will likely have its first Labour government in over a decade, and the likelihood of this leading to environmental regulations is high. 

Of course, ESG isn’t just about regulations. Social obligation in regard to sustainability is at an all-time high, with business reputation often hinging on how they approach ESG goals. Is it time to consider sustainability to be a fundamental part of any organisation’s comms strategy, rather than just a tick box? 

Downplaying Comms 

Different organisations can approach comms in entirely different ways. Some place comms in regulatory affairs, where it’s treated as risk mitigation, while others put it in corporate affairs. Others still place comms under the CSO, where it comes right at the end of any process to act as a capstone (creating press releases, for example.) 

These approaches all place comms at different stages in their processes, but by stifling comms to one point in the pipeline instead of allowing insight into the entire operation, you’re not taking full advantage of its potential. Comms’ imagination and creativity dies when it’s relegated to a step in a longer process. By integrating comms into the entire process, or even bringing comms into the C-Suite, their full potential can be unleashed. 

How to Approach Sustainability Comms 

In 2024 and beyond, businesses will need to find a way to think long term on sustainability while facing short term pressure on their bottom line. Sustainability is becoming more of a focus for clients and customers alike, so while it may be an intensive undertaking to adopt ESG goals, it will be worth it in the long run, especially if you can effectively communicate your sustainability efforts. 

The thing about ESG is that it’s a governance tool – it’s very black and white and doesn’t have much to say about morality or how you treat customers. That’s where comms comes in. By creating a narrative around your organisation’s sustainability efforts, they can be reframed as active efforts made to improve your organisation and the world at large, rather than pesky obligations. 

CSR can be an intimidating beast for the more operational side of an organisation. Reputation is such a nebulous concept, so those more concerned with facts and figures may all have their different interpretations of CSR and ESG goals. Comms roles can help join the dots between these various interpretations, and when used to their fullest capabilities, should be able to achieve cohesion between different operational functions. 

The value of sustainability comms isn’t simple compliance. That will always be an important part of the role, but being able to convey the new directions your organisation is going in philosophically is a greater purpose. 

The Value of Sustainability Comms 

When treated like an afterthought, ESG will always be the fly buzzing next to your ear. Decisions will be nearly signed off on, only for someone to ask “oh, and does this align with our ESG approach?” But when it’s integrated properly into an organisation’s core philosophy with comms at the helm, ESG can become such an inherent part of that organisation’s DNA that it becomes one of the first considerations when making any decision. 

The best way to make sure that sustainability is integrated properly into the forefront of your organisation is to keep up consistent comms, both internal and external. If you’re looking to hire a comms professional to help you with this pursuit, please reach out to Allyson Kurian.

Author: Allyson Kurian - Senior Consultant

Posted on 20.03.2024

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