How can UK businesses best communicate their climate goals and actions?
In this guest article, Edward Bass, Digital Lead for Infinite Global, discusses how businesses can implement climate change communications to better achieve net zero targets.
As the climate crisis continues to increasingly manifest itself, it is no surprise that business leaders are starting to seriously consider the impacts their enterprises have, and how they might mitigate these in the future.
This will undoubtably begin to impact the purchasing and partnership decisions UK businesses make, with recent data from GWI suggesting that half of the senior decision makers in UK businesses feel that helping the environment is increasingly important to them, while a similarly large proportion are willing to pay more for products and services they consider to be eco-friendly.
Given the impact these companies’ climate and sustainability actions, and how they are perceived, will have on future business relationships, it is vital that these are communicated effectively. To help provide some guidance, here are some useful recommendations:
Be clear about your objectives and avoid generalisations
While broader terms such as ‘climate’ and ’sustainability’ are useful catch all terms, when it comes to expressing the steps your business is taking in these areas, they can often be seen as vague or nebulous when considering the sheer range of potential environmental actions. As such, it is wiser to be more specific about the actions your business is taking – for instance, putting steps in place to combat air pollution, recycling or decarbonising.
You may also want to consider framing these actions in relation to established initiatives and models, for example the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Kate Raworth’s Doughnut, as these will help lend your communications validity.
Regularly report on progress – and consider the timings
While statements of intent can be persuasive, nothing confirms them more than transparently sharing the outcomes. Using your communications channels to share your progress in meeting your climate and sustainability objectives allows you to tell an engaging ongoing story which is far more relatable and impactful than a yearly update.
While utilising events such as Earth Day or United Nations Climate Change Conferences (COP) allows you to be ‘part of the conversation’, limiting yourself to these as opportunities to share your stories could mean that your message is lost when much of the business world will be doing the same. Instead, you may want to consider scheduling regular updates in your internal content plans to ensure more overall visibility.
Communicate human stories about the steps your employees have taken to help achieve organisational and personal goals
Undoubtably your organisation’s story of sustainability is a compelling one, however, to make this more relatable you may want to consider asking your employees to share their personal stories and use this as content across your companies’ social channels.
More than just generating useful content, this approach can also help your teams consider their own environmental responsibilities and help focus their efforts both within the business and on an individual level.
Beware greenwashing (and greenhushing)
With regulatory bodies, not least including the Advertising Standards Authority, taking an increasingly tough line on communications which risk misleading consumers about the environmental credentials of a product or company, brands must tread carefully. Overexuberance to make bold statements about climate change which can’t then be substantiated may do more harm than good – both reputationally and to the broader mission to change consumer behaviours.
On the other hand, brands must not shy away from talking about these issues. Partly this is a commercial imperative – companies need to proactively push what they are doing to adapt their business, products and services to meet the changing needs of increasingly eco-conscious consumers and maintain market share, as well as to attract new talent with environmentally-focused values. But it is also imperative to the net zero mission more generally – with visible action key to creating a positive ripple effect across sectors and the economy. Those who don’t adapt, or at least fast follow, will be left behind.
Understand which key issues are resonating in the media and tailor your communications accordingly
The global conversation around climate change is complex and encompasses many themes relating to both environmental threats and solutions, which in turn results in a constantly shifting media narrative. To best align yourself to this and ensure your communications are optimised for relevance, we recommend tracking which climate narratives are currently resonating the most – both broadly and in your specific industry sector.