Communicating on environmental metrics is sure-fire way to create tangible business value for your data. Sometimes, however, talking about communications to a sustainability manager can provoke a mixture of excitement and fear: excitement because there are often many meaningful stories to tell; and, fear because, if told, someone might call out greenwashing. Crafting a solid sustainability story is a process that will mitigate the risks while capitalizing on the momentum of what you have and will achieve.
At Quantis, we’ve worked with leading companies, such as Nespresso, HP, Steelcase, Biotherm, AccorHotels and the UEFA Euro 2016, to build their sustainability communication stories and tools based on metrics. They trust Quantis’ team of environmental sustainability experts because of this metrics-based approach. We consider robust metrics as the solid foundation for any sustainability communcation story. It backs up your narrative and gives purpose to your message. Based on this fact-to-act experience, we offer these…
5 Tips for a Solid Sustainability Story
1 – Meet your audience: Learn what’s important to them
Get to know your stakeholder groups, learn what is material, or a priority to them. This can be done with a materiality assessment, by surveying internal teams, committees and boards, convening consumer-focus groups, analyzing web stats, asking your customer service department, on-the-ground sales’ teams and, of course, via social media.
2 – Break-down the language barrier: Translate sustainability
First, you have to get people speaking the same language. Talk to your communications and marketing colleagues, those in procurement, product design, business development and even finance. Sometimes this means you have to translate the terms of sustainability into concepts, images and stories that all can grasp. Make sustainability fun and accessible to all stakeholders!
We have a cool board game that helps companies do just that. It’s called the Life Cycle Perception Game, a business game that gets cross-functional stakeholders on board (literally) about sustainability. Even the European Space Agency is using it!
3 – Get the facts: Walk the talk with environmental metrics
Yep, you need the metrics to build any solid communication whether that be from a corporate or product perspective. Doing a corporate or product footprint can give you the metrics you need to bolster your sustainability communications and ensure that they are fact-based. It’s a robust way to walk the talk. And, it’s truly the only way to ensure your environmental sustainability message is credible.
4 – Be transparent: Come clean about your challenges as well as achievements
In fact, what your stakeholders want to know is that you are doing something. And they want to know that you are basing your decisions on facts (see #3). Be honest about what you have achieved and what trails of your sustainability journey still seem like an uphill battle. Your stakeholders will appreciate your honesty and respect the journey even more.
5 – Find a happy medium: Get creative with your messages and channels
The most engaging sustainability stories are not told via spreadsheets and spider graphs (sorry to our fellow engineers) but are expressed through innovative mediums. Today’s digital environment gives us a blank slate with which we can tell these meaningful stories. Do this via interactive online tools, videos, infographics, data vizualization, etc (see more examples). The options are endless – make it exciting!
Hopefully these tips have sparked some ideas. If you’d like more inspiration on how to communicate your sustainability story, join our upcoming webinar “A solid story: Tips from top food companies on how they communicate credibly on sustainability“. It will also feature some non-food examples.
For information on how Quantis helps companies prioritize sustainability objectives or to build a solid communications roadmap, contact our communications team.