ITL #564   Leading with impact: how to be strategic with sustainability comms in 2024

4 months, 2 weeks ago

(Comments)


Prioritizing authenticity and incorporating sustainability messaging into existing comms strategies can help companies inspire trust. By Tiffany Guarnaccia.



This year, emphasis on sustainability communications will be critical among businesses, stakeholders, and consumers who are aiming to make strides in their climate-focused goals. And with the US gearing up for another pivotal presidential election, there will be continued discussions around what climate justice means and how industries of all shapes and sizes are contributing to the fight against climate change. The tech industry specifically is in a prime position to make major strides in 2024.

 

Just take a look at the numbers. In 2022, across nearly every industry, venture funding took a nose-dive. However, the climate tech space didn’t see much of a dip in investments until early 2023. In the first half of the year, the sector only saw $13.1 billion in funding – 40% less than the same period in 2022 (CTVC). Yet, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel with a total of $16.6 billion invested in climate tech companies in Q3 2023. The time is now, of course, if we want to reach the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

 

For communicators, this year marks a critical moment. One key theme during Climate Week NYC in 2023 was that as business leaders continue to emphasize ESG efforts, transparency in their communications must be a top priority. As consumers demand more from corporations, companies can be vague about their sustainable practices.

 

This year, we’ll see companies held to a higher standard for their sustainability practices and for how they’re talking about their goals and progress. When it comes to sustainability comms, leveraging PR strategies that focus on realistic, long-term plans and transparent messaging is the key to success. Let’s take a deeper look at the strategies companies can lean into to effectively communicate their goals and progress.

 

Clarify and refine positioning

We’ve seen incredible growth in the sustainability market over the past few years — and it shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Projected to peak at $62 billion in 2030, nearly all industries and verticals (like financial institutions and the energy sector) are now making big waves in the market at rapid speed.

 

As more players enter the industry conversation, the landscape naturally becomes a bit convoluted. We see this happen when any topic experiences a sudden onset of growth, and sustainability is no exception. This marks a pivotal moment for communicators; now is the time to reflect and refine market positioning. In order to carve out a space of their own, communicators need to assess how they are currently showing up in conversations, identify their unique points of view, and evolve messaging to align with the needs of the current landscape.

 

Communicators should ask themselves: What new or unique approach/offering can we leverage in the sustainability conversations? Do we have data-driven insights or meaningful progress to share that could break through the noise? How can our messaging evolve to reflect the current landscape without compromising on authenticity?

 

As the market continues to grow, it’s critical for communicators to evaluate shifts in the landscape, assess what they’re bringing to the table and refine how they’re showing up in the space. Market changes, new technology and current events can make a significant impact on key audiences and how they respond to brand messaging. In 2024, keeping abreast of rapid industry changes is key for communicators to maintain relevancy and achieve effective positioning in the rapidly growing sustainability conversation.

 

Prioritize authenticity

With businesses feeling more pressure to amp up their sustainability efforts, this all too often results in the costly mistake of greenwashing. We’ve seen it time and time again: companies spend time and money on marketing themselves as eco-friendly instead of actually minimizing their impact on the environment. Just last year, we saw the world’s leading provider of carbon offsets, Verra, under fire for an investigation that revealed 90% of its rainforest offsets failed to protect rainforests and potentially made global heating worse. This also implicated Verra’s big name clients like Disney, Shell and Gucci who relied on these offsets to honor their individual commitments to reducing carbon emissions.

 

Needless to say, greenwashing tactics are guaranteed to backfire and can have a detrimental impact on consumer trust and a company’s brand. This year, incidents of greenwashing are likely to be more amplified – and more damaging – for all industries due to the political climate and new anti-greenwashing legislature.

 

Take California’s new anti-greenwashing law, for example. The new law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, cracks down on businesses making “green” claims in the state. This is likely to inspire other states to take similar action in the year ahead, extending anti-greenwashing legislation far beyond the borders of the Golden State. As corporate consequences for greenwashing mount, it’s more important than ever for communicators to ensure that authenticity and transparency are at the core of all sustainability comms, from ESG reporting to measuring environmental impact.

 

Progress doesn’t happen overnight for any business, and honesty is always the best policy when it comes to maintaining trust with consumers, employees and stakeholders. In 2024, it’s no longer an option for companies to stay silent on sustainability — but it’s even worse to get caught up in corporate hypocrisy and legal challenges.

 

When it comes to maintaining transparency, the most important rule of thumb is to start the conversation regardless of where a company might be in reaching its sustainability goals. Companies should set realistic goals for themselves and ensure all messaging, including announcements, thought leadership and media relations efforts, align with those goals. This is critical to ensuring that sustainability goals stay within reach and promoting authenticity and transparency along the way.

 

Companies new to CSR need not be discouraged

CSR is an integral component to a successful, holistic comms strategy. In fact, research shows that 82% of today’s successful brands incorporate CSR into their comms strategies. As consumers demand more accountability and increasingly seek out companies that align with their values, CSR should be a critical area of priority - and investment - for communicators this year.

 

Companies investing resources in CSR for the first time don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Think through existing partnerships and client relationships. There may be opportunities to execute CSR activations in tandem with a client partner or retool certain existing comms efforts to better emphasize sustainable business practices.

 

Companies can also leverage existing sustainability initiatives through common PR strategies like thought leadership, media relations, relevant industry events or speaking opportunities, and amplification via social or owned media. Even if a business is just starting out with sustainability comms, there are often overlooked opportunities to amplify a unique commitment, highlight progress or showcase existing efforts.

 

Additionally, companies should consider setting aside resources to involve executives in certain industry tentpole moments. For example, Climate Week NYC is an annual event that brings together thousands of business leaders and changemakers to drive climate action. This could be a prime opportunity for a company executive to attend key events, take part in a speaking session, or spark inspiration through networking with industry leaders.

 

Looking ahead: a critical moment for sustainability comms

In today’s complex landscape, achieving effective sustainability communication is no easy feat. With consumers demanding more from companies than ever before, communicators understand the importance of sustainability comms and are striving to carve out a space of their own in a rapidly growing conversation.

 

Through strategic positioning in the market, prioritizing authenticity and incorporating sustainability messaging and CSR into existing comms strategies, communicators can help companies meet their goals and inspire trust among consumers, employees and stakeholders in 2024.

 

 


author"s portrait

The Author

Tiffany Guarnaccia

Tiffany Guarnaccia, CEO and Founder of Kite Hill PR.

mail the author
visit the author's website



Forward, Post, Comment | #IpraITL

We are keen for our IPRA Thought Leadership essays to stimulate debate. With that objective in mind, we encourage readers to participate in and facilitate discussion. Please forward essay links to your industry contacts, post them to blogs, websites and social networking sites and above all give us your feedback via forums such as IPRA’s LinkedIn group. A new ITL essay is published on the IPRA website every week. Prospective ITL essay contributors should send a short synopsis to IPRA head of editorial content Rob Gray email



Comments

Welcome to IPRA


Authors

Archive

June (4)
May (4)
July (5)
June (4)
May (5)
July (4)
June (4)
May (5)
July (4)
June (4)
May (5)
July (4)
June (5)
May (4)
July (5)
June (4)
May (4)
July (5)
June (4)
May (4)
July (5)
June (4)
May (5)
July (3)
June (4)
May (5)
July (4)
June (5)
May (5)
July (5)
June (4)
May (4)
July (4)
June (3)
May (3)
June (8)
June (17)
March (15)
June (14)
April (20)
June (16)
April (17)
June (16)
April (13)
July (9)
April (15)
Follow IPRA: