Sustainability & the Marketing Communications Strategy

For companies still fighting the tide against sustainability, the walls are closing in. Whether it is the White House’s plan on climate change effects that seeks to regulate coal-fired power plants, or the news that some public relations agencies are refusing to work with climate change ‘deniers’ – it is becoming ever more difficult to do business without showing concern for the environment. Even the recent news that a city with one of the worst air qualities in the world – Beijing, China – will close its coal-fired power plants and facilities by the end of 2020, is a significant milestone in the global sustainability movement.

In the same vein that tobacco producers denied the effects of smoking for decades, carbon producers who don’t present a solution or responsibility for their byproducts could also face a similar, expensive fate in the court of public opinion.

A grassroots movement around the world is now demanding more sustainable business practices from companies. There will only be more and more legislation, public pressure and media attention on these issues over time. The trickledown effect is that large companies, such as Lockheed Martin Corporation, are also insisting that their suppliers agree to a code of conduct that adheres to strict standards on sustainability.

Maintaining a current, integrated marketing communications strategy is a critical part in any sustainability plan. If an organization wants to effectively communicate its sustainability goals to the outside, than it needs to begin within. You won’t be able to implement the changes needed to make your organization more environmentally conscious if you can’t convince your greatest assets – your employees – to lead by example. Studies consistently show that employees, especially those in the 22-35 year-old-bracket (millennials) are eager to do the heavy lifting by contributing to, and advocating for a company’s sustainability efforts.

If you don’t communicate your strategies and activities externally, utilizing the most common social media platforms, a business or an entire emerging industry could lose ground and revenue to the increasing number of environmentally-conscious consumers.

Time and again, a smart marketing communications strategy becomes an afterthought for some brands, but it’s similar to planning a big party and forgetting to send the invitations. If you’re doing all this hard work – why not maximize the benefits? Certainly, some brands are worried their efforts will be misconstrued and they will end up on a greenwashing list. There’s also a concern that by making a company’s sustainability goals public, it gives adversaries or competitors more leverage to control, (or slant) the overriding message on social media channels. Mostly, though, we hear from our clients that they feel inadequate about their progress on sustainability and worry about being scrutinized for not doing enough, fast enough.

Whether it be executed by in-house communicators or through the help of PR and marketing consultants – a marketing communications strategy is the key to showcasing your sustainable endeavors, no matter how modest they may be. Silence equates to a negative impression, which is a hard thing to shake. Whatever your company’s appetite for sustainability is, don’t be afraid to share your successes. Sustainability is a playbook that hasn’t been finished. If your plan is to raise awareness of climate change through global events or to simply encourage your employees and coworkers to think and act more ‘green’ – it’s up to you and your business to discover which direction your journey will go.


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