Redefining Words: 8 Ways to Improve Your Sustainability Communications

There is no denying the climate crisis we face – widespread disasters including soaring temperatures, surging wildfires and severe flooding have become our new normal.

Climate change is a reality and no longer a prediction.

Individuals, businesses and economies are taking the hit.

People are getting wise to corporate responsibility and messaging.

Scandals, declining standards and mistrust are becoming the norm.

Regulations are changing – especially around green claims. False sustainability communications are no longer acceptable.

Sustainability is a major concern for people in the 21st century. But at the same time, communicating sustainability has become one of our biggest challenges.

Many brands are transforming towards sustainability, beginning from the conventional stage to emerging as sustainable brands. As SB (Sustainable Brands) shows, this journey has several stages, and at each stage, companies must communicate their product or service offerings to their varied stakeholders. But how can they do this effectively?

how to communicate sustainability

 Source: Sustainable Brands

Unlock the Power of Effective Communications in the Face of Climate Crisis

Several factors lie at the heart of responsible corporate communications. Here we will uncover strategies to connect with employees and the larger global community effectively. Here are 8 tips for communication strategies for sustainability and social change.

  • Authenticity – Communicate openly about your brand and inform your target audience about how you are working towards sustainability in your organization. Consumers appreciate transparency and view authenticity, effort and progress more than perfection. As The Drum highlights, “Sustainability initiatives must align with a clear brand purpose to be impactful, achievable and communicated authentically.”
  • Avoid generic terms and greenwashing – the overuse of terms such as “eco-friendly,” “renewable,” “recycled” and many more have been ill-used and overdone for years. Consumers have grown wise to false claims and these terms rarely, if ever, hold any value unless backed by proof and additional information. At best, these terms are misleading and at worst, are plain greenwashing. Planet Tracker has developed the “Greenwashing Hydra,” and highlights that ‘data gaps, risk of corporate greenwashing, multiple disclosure standards and a lack of globally accepted taxonomies’. This impedes investment strategies that support the transition to sustainability and can even perpetuate detrimental environmental practices.
how to communicate sustainability

Source: Planet Tracker

  • Start with the science – use genuine metrics of your sustainable achievements and tell true stories around them. This gives the reader far more context, authenticity and in turn will create much more value for your brand. Don’t share arbitrary targets; provide visualization and link to the details. Unilever for example clearly demonstrates the numbers around its sustainability reporting.
  • Highlight the true impact – Define what true sustainable impact looks like for your business and discuss how much of your business activities can be carried by society and nature. Quantify and admit your true and mitigated impact; educate your audience on the concepts that impact you and your boundaries. The VF Made For Change Report is a good example of a clear communication campaign for sustainability.
  • Share the risks – Be transparent about risks which will put you ahead of competitors. This makes you more adaptable to change, and customers will trust you. Highlight how climate change affects your business, prices, operations and delivery and discuss how you navigate your risks. Underscore how you are protecting the business for all your stakeholders. This sustainability report from Deloitte exemplifies how sustainability risk can be communicated.
  • Make people the centre of your story – The book “Building A Story Brand” by Donal Miller highlights the importance of storytelling for any brand. Bring the people driving innovation, leading teams, and taking risks centre stage. Whenever you can, make the story about them.
sustainable communication

Image Source: Canva

  • Creatively highlight problems – When talking about big global issues like climate change and human exploitation, it’s easy to overwhelm people with numbers and fear – which is unlikely to turn them into customers. Try a new and creative approach that makes it more personal. For example, Heineken’s Tiger Beer: Air-Ink project turns pollution into ink for artwork, while also working to make their supply chain more sustainable. This kind of campaign raises awareness and leaves a lasting impression of your brand.
  • Offer actionable advice – People want actions they can take away and easily implement for themselves to be more sustainable. Intertwining your brand with these actionable tips creates a message that resonates and one that will leave your customers wanting more of. Homes and Gardens for example provides tips on how to create their own eco-friendly garden.

Image Source: Canva


Sustainable communications are becoming more important than ever. From savvy consumers to changing regulatory requirements, the need is there to identify and promote sustainability through the power of words. Gone are the days when greenwashing and its shades were acceptable; today’s consumers, investors and other stakeholders seek higher authenticity and evidence to support sustainable claims. From using people-centric storytelling to sharing risks and evidencing your impacts, the time to improve your sustainability communications is now.

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