How do we define ‘sustainability’ in communication? It’s about consciously integrating ‘sustainability’ in a communication strategy by informing stakeholders about an organisation’s sustainability goals. Significantly, organisations can use messaging to inform their stakeholders about sustainability.
In fact, many businesses today are making positive changes to make sustainability a centre-piece of their strategy. By implementing an integrated ‘sustainable’ growth plan, businesses are helping to futureproof their brand relevance, business viability, and corporate culture too. Businesses that integrated sustainability and transparency strategically into their business operations, before the COVID-19 crisis hit us, have put an even stronger focus on it now during the crisis.
Kass Sells, Global Chief Operating Officer & President International, WE Communications focused on the topic – “The Purpose of Sustainability in Futureproofing Your Communications” and in this connection, he shared some important insights of WE Communications’ recent ‘WE Brands in Motion’ research – ‘Making Net Zero Net Positive for Everyone’.
Today, consumers are sceptical about brands, he pointed out, as he shared “the new brand mandate – fear less, do more. The days of hedging and half measures are over. In 2022 and beyond, brands must have the bravery to take bold stands and have the tenacity to act on those convictions over the long term”.
The research radiated the fact that “it’s an exciting time and place to be in now, and it also spelled out an opportunity – to apply communication to sustainability and ESG”, explained Kass.
The Bravery Mandate key India insights threw up many important facts. The number of consumers and decision-makers expecting brands to create stability in uncertain times rose by 23% since 2019; more than 2/3 of respondents expect brands to make multi-year investments in causes but also reassess their corporate policies at least every 6 months; and 70% said that they are more likely to purchase or recommend products or services from brands that address societal issues that matter to them. So, what are some topical issues that brands can focus on in the next 6 months? It can focus on “climate change mitigation, environment sustainability issues and access to education”.
Backed by the study, he elaborated how leaders today are forming a more holistic view of their responsibilities and a more expansive definition of their stakeholders. “And India isn’t walking the talk on climate change, it’s running full speed!” India will get its non-fossil energy capacity to 500GW by 2030 the year will forge ahead with many achievements – India will meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030, by which time the total projected carbon emissions will be reduced by 1B tonnes. And the country will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy to less than 45%. This trend will continue and by 2070, India will achieve the target of Net Zero.
The key learnings that emerged were: Don’t fake it – brands have to be authentic in what they say and how they act; Think (and act) inside-out – listen to your employees and take them on the journey, for employees can either be influential evangelists or devastating critics; purpose lives – commit to long-term goals but remain agile with fresh issues. And most importantly, “you’re in competition with yourself”. And is WE leading with ‘purpose’? For sure, and they are committed to the United Nations Global Impact.
And, against this revealing backdrop of very critical information, how can communication tread the right path? There are 4 key action points for communicators: Close the gap – ensure employees understand the rationale behind sustainability commitments and take them on the journey; Debunk the myths – communicate the benefits of your strategy and make it clear that sustainability is not too expensive; Listen often, speak clearly – connect with employees regularly to understand their expectations and, finally – think global, act local – make sure your ESG strategy has local impact, but deliver on action with far-reaching & global benefits.
It’s about living the brand
Engaged in a conversation with Kass, Rakhee Lalvani, Founder – Rakhee Lalvani & Associates outlined that are two types of companies – one that focuses on making money and another that looks at how to serve the nation and the people. Against this background today, the purpose has indeed become louder, but are companies walking the talk? It’s about living the brand in this space, elaborated Kass as he stressed on the fact that personal service is much more important, when a brand can make an impact on the world. To confirm his statement, he added – “We do see companies spending more time on purpose-driven sustainable work”.
How do you integrate PR into the mainstream? Companies that are doing it well, are evolving over time and “consistency is the name of the game” he pointed out. PR was also impacted by the pandemic that entered our lives. “For many of us Covid was extremely challenging, but we adapted and moved forward quickly,” was his take.
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