brand story & messaging, sustainable business

For sustainability success, walk the talk—and build the brand

Carolyn McMaster | June 3, 2014

We’re wrapping up a client’s sustainability report, which has me thinking about the role communications plays in the ability to achieve a company’s goals. Sustainability success requires support from all corners: employees, shareholders, partners and customers. And to generate that broad support, a company needs to clearly communicate its vision, set goals and hold itself accountable.

It takes a concentrated communications effort to make sustainability visible throughout an organization, even a small one. To then progress beyond awareness to trust and commitment, companies need to be open and honest about their failings, and make specific commitments to actions that will help them meet their goals. Without that transparency and accountability, reports and other communications are just sunny marketing hype (and we know how well that engenders trust).

Gaining buy-in goes beyond talk, though. Company leaders may say they’re committed to sustainability, but others won’t get the message if leaders aren’t taking action and modeling a sustainable mindset. For sustainability to truly take hold, it needs to be part of everything the company does—not ghettoized in a separate department, or limited to picking off low-hanging fruit and achieving immediate cost savings.

The sign of success is when sustainability is integral to a company’s brand. People will expect sustainable behavior (classically, a brand is a promise), and it won’t be a separate “thing.” When that happens, you can stop thinking about how to communicate about sustainability, and focus on simply communicating.

Get more tips on sustainability communications in our 9 Ways to Promote Sustainability without Greenwashing report.


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