Interest for sustainability remains on the rise, and a growing number of companies are making it a topic of their communication. One study has shown that 49% of all consumers have a positive view of corporate sustainability communication, despite just 27% of them believing that the information in that communication is trustworthy.
That lack of consumer faith comes primarily from an overflow of irrelevant and uninteresting information. Sometimes, the communication hasn’t been adapted to the target groups in question, which results in many consumers tuning out. At the same time, we have to tussle with greenwashing and self-congratulatory messaging, making it hard to know who is telling the truth anymore.
The big challenge for businesses comes down to winning back consumers’ trust. As companies, how can we take responsibility and help consumers to make more sustainable choices?
Sustainability in your brand’s DNA
Conscious sustainability efforts can strengthen your brand on many levels, reinforcing your position in the market and contributing to sales growth, while also leading to improved customer relationships and employee morale. But it only works if those efforts are genuine.
Sustainability has become a conclusive factor in today’s business landscape, and interest continues to grow. If you want to remain relevant, it comes down to living up to new expectations and actively working with sustainability – just talking about sustainability is rarely enough.
To capture customers’ trust, you need to make sustainability an inherent part of your brand’s DNA. Take a long-term perspective and implement environmental principles at every level of your operation, both in your business strategy and your business model. This will give you a solid foundation to rely on in your future sustainability communication.
Case: Green Greener
Many newer brands have been born out of a focus on sustainability, which makes it significantly easier to maintain customers’ trust. Take, for example, our customer Green Greener, a new company looking to make it simple for people to profitably invest in renewable energy projects and thereby be part of our energy transition. Green Greener wants to allow everybody – from everyday people to major investors and businesses – to contribute based on their own abilities and interest. Investors will see yields in return, while simultaneously making our planet more sustainable.
We have helped Green Greener develop their brand and communication platform, and we hope to soon reveal more about this collaboration.
Find your focus
You can’t talk about everything all the time. To make a real difference, it’s important to find the right focus and concentrate on the area where you can make the biggest impression. For example, if you work in transportation, where emissions are the greatest cause of concern, it may not make the most sense to focus communication on the recycling programme at your corporate office.
Keep your eye on the actual issues and limit talk about irrelevant initiatives. It’s best to let other topics take space in the broader public discourse. With the right focus, you’ll minimise confusion in a busy media landscape and give your sustainability communication a bigger chance to reach and influence the right targets.
Show and tell
In many ways, sustainability has become something of a trend. We talk about it because everybody else is talking about it. But if you want to capture customers’ trust, it’s important to start by taking action because it’s the right thing to do – not because you’re trying to create market interest. Make concrete initiatives and share the results. This is the evidence that generates trust among your consumers. Highlight real, proven efforts and respect the complexity of the sustainability issue.
You can even talk about the journey ahead, including your ambitions and thoughts about the future, but only if you have a concrete plan and can show you’re working in that direction (e.g. investments in new equipment, innovations, that you have ended older practices, etc.). When you can prove that your environmental work is making a difference, you have the possibility to make a bigger impression.
Once you have found your focus and grounded a sustainability strategy that runs through your entire brand, it’s time to start communicating. Share your sustainability efforts and explain why they are important both for you and your customers. What you say needs to be believable if you want to have an influence, so make sure that your communication is in no way misleading. Be clear, informational and concrete to ensure the “average consumer” can understand what you mean.
And never forget that honesty is where sustainability begins and ends. Be willing to talk about the things that aren’t going so well and explain why. The more transparent and honest we as companies can be in our environmental dialogue, the greater chance that we will gain back customer trust.
Author: Norea Nyström
The article is based on an interview with our strategist Åsa Källström, who has specialist expertise in sustainability communication.