Why it’s important, and how to get started.
Have you ever gotten stuck comparing products, wondering which business or brand has the best environmental practices, genuinely cares for the environment, and takes sustainability seriously? If the answer is YES, you’re not the only one.. by a long shot! An eyebrow-raising 69% of consumers struggle to identify whether brands practice sustainability. It’s unsurprising when you think about it, with people inundated by choice and snazzy marketing these days, with environmental commitments being shouted from the mountain tops. Unfortunately (…and very frustratingly), so many of these declarations are still more show than substance. People are struggling to find the information that they want, to find those businesses that are going beyond words with their authentic actions.
Now’s the time for businesses that are taking real action to step up to the mark, and take your place as leaders driving sustainability, climate action, and environmental resilience. People want action. The climate needs action. Your commitment to the environment through your EcoMerit Environmental Certification, and to being a progressive better-for-the-world business, matters.
Do people really want to know?
Yes, they do. The appetite for quality information is growing every year. People want to know, and quite rightly are probing statements on environmental commitments, and looking for the actions that match the claims being made. Yes, price, functionality, and quality are still key considerations, but they’re not the only considerations and are frequently being toppled from the top of the list. An active and growing cohort of people are moving away from mindless consumption to mindful consumption, asking questions of brands, products, and services before engaging as a customer. Oftentimes referred to as conscious consumerism, the growing awareness of the climate crisis is prompting more and more people to pause and take stock. Here’s a snapshot of market insights to reflect on:
- 88% of consumers want brands to support their efforts to be more sustainable.
- 9 out of 10 consumers say they will continue to pursue ethical, more sustainable, and environmentally friendly purchases beyond the pandemic, a time when people en masse reconnected with nature and their environment.
Sharing the impacts that you’re having in minimising waste, water, and energy usage, developing innovative processes, adapting your operations, or embracing onsite renewables, is an important message to share. You’re supporting consumers, and you’re alerting other businesses to your positive environmental credentials as they look for suppliers that support their efforts to green supply chains. What’s more, by signaling the value you place in sustainable business practices, you’re supporting employee morale as well as enhancing your profile as an employer of choice, with over 70% of people more likely to work for a company that has a strong green footprint.
Have confidence in your message.
Be transparent about the actions you’re taking and the impacts you’re having. Supporting consumers with non-vague, specific though accessible detail that educates and informs is a win-win for business and the consumer. It’s important not to overpromise and under-deliver. Align your actions with your ambition. By being more specific and sharing your authentic actions, you have the opportunity to support a progressive business community, serious about taking action. Measurable actions with independently verified impacts, such as those achieved through the EcoMerit Certification, are clear indicators of the business importance you’re placing in sustainable practices. Getting vocal about the work that you’re doing can also raise awareness and encourage more action, from the business and wider community.
What to communicate.
It’s important to plan and organise your messaging. Through applying simple filter questions to your process you can identify the 3 Ps of your communications messaging – Purpose, People, and Point. You want to be known as a trusted and credible source of environmental information, applying a filter framework to guide your messaging will stand to you and support you to develop consistent, thoughtful, and well-crafted communications.
- Purpose – Why am I sharing this information? Is it specific, relevant, and timely? If you are communicating progress, have you applied a measurement to show this progress?
- People – Who are your target audience?What is the general level of understanding, and do you have an existing relationship? Are you engaging a new audience, or supporting your existing audience to learn more? Crafting a strong and targeted message that resonates and is relevant will help you to build rapport.
- Point – What is the key message you want people to understand after engaging with your communications? How do you want the reader to think, feel or act after reading your message? Is there a call to action? Tell your audience why they should care, and keep it simple. There’s no need to overcomplicate things.
Identify your key message and the supporting points, and decide how you can meet the general understanding of the subject matter. Translate your actions into easily digestible content, offering enough detail and depth that people are curious, engaged, and interested to know more.
Getting the word out there.
Whatever your product or service, telling your sustainability story with openness and transparency is key. By communicating your business achievements, recognised through your EcoMerit Certification, you’re sharing what you’re doing. Supported through the guidance of the EcoMerit team, you’re taking actions that are tailored to your business and which individually and cumulatively have an impact. Along with over 100 businesses, you’re part of a thriving community taking action. Reporting a greater than 60% reduction in emissions averaged across the EcoMerit community over 10 years, and with average cost savings of €10,000 in year one alone, the EcoMerit community of businesses are having an impact, while also achieving significant cost savings driven through resource efficiencies.
What will work best to communicate your message? Is it through print, broadcast (radio and television), social media, your business newsletter, or all of the above? It’s important that you identify your channels and if external, identify a point of contact to engage with, for example in your local or regional newspaper, or radio station. If you’re writing a press release, the three most important elements to include are:
- Write a catchy headline that grabs the readers’ interest.
- Get to the Point – summarise your subject and context in the first paragraph.
- Body – make it relevant to your audience, and make it resonate.
End the press release with your contact details. Be available for follow-up questions. If it’s through social media or radio, apply your 3 Ps. Prepare and organise your message, link it to the bigger picture, or current events. Make it resonate.
Always make sure that your business’ website is updated and that your sustainability commitments and environmental achievements are easy to locate. The next time someone is bamboozled by product choices, support them by having clear, and accessible information on your website.
Authentic action counts.
Just recently, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the starkest yet, declared a code red for humanity, warning of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts, flooding, and the 1.5C temperature limit being broken in just over a decade. This crisis calls for drastic and collective action. It calls for strong leadership from all of society, from individuals, communities, governments, and businesses.
Businesses hold a crucial role in achieving the required reduction in global GHG emissions needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. All businesses big and small have the power to lead by doing. By being a better-for-the-world business, through your sustainability commitments and environmental actions, you are acting as part of a thriving EcoMerit community of businesses making positive changes to support a healthier, more sustainable, resilient future for all.
It’s important to share what you’re doing, and take your place in showing business leadership.
Author: Michelle O’Sullivan is the Founder of ConsciousCopy (www.consciouscopy.ie). She is an expert in susitanability copy writing, helping businesses communicate their sustainability journey. She is a valued member of the EcoMerit Oversight Board.