Blog 12.07.10

Sustainability communications: beyond reporting

The artist formerly known as Corporate Social Responsibility continues to be widely rebranded as ‘sustainability’. Is this better, or just different? It seems to be a positive step because the term implies that programmes are important for long-term business success – and not just a ‘doing good’ add on. Sustainability is gradually becoming part of corporate culture, with climate change the first issue to make its way into boardrooms the world over.

The focus of communications is shifting as companies realise that sustainability is about opportunities as well as risk management. More and more people – including the (wo)man in the street – care what companies do. As audiences diversify, so communications must also. Green marketing is gaining momentum, with everything from sporting sponsorship to in-store promotions crucial for catching attention and building trust. Even during the recession, price isn’t everything – customers care about quality and reputation.

Reports will still have their place, of course, as an annual compendium of sustainability achievements and challenges. It remains to be seen whether reports’ current focus on operational sustainability will shift to a product-based lifecycle approach. It could certainly help customers choose the greenest option. InterfaceFLOR is calling for this, as in this recent article.

What is clear is that sustainability communications are getting more complex and more creative, and this trend must continue. Targeting different audiences in different ways is a sign you take their opinions – and your communications – seriously.

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Peter Knight

Chairman and co-founder

GSK, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IKEA


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