How communication professionals can drive a company’s ESG story
Over the years, businesses have realized that the sustainability of the planet is at stake and have decided to make a difference with strategies that fuel growth, whilst strengthening the environment and society. For instance, Tata Tea started its #JaagoRe campaign in 2003 to spread awareness about various topical social issues and make people think about them and take action. The latest chapter of this campaign highlights the issues of water scarcity, segregation of waste, and the need to turn to sustainable products by reimagining well-known nursery rhymes such as Jack and Jill and Twinkle twinkle little star. The communication was simple yet effective and sought to invoke public consciousness which remains the hallmark of this campaign.
The meteoric rise in ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investment shows that more organizations have realized the importance of such policies and are incorporating them into their structure. In fact, a Bloomberg report found that ESG assets reached $35 trillion in 2020, accounting for a third of global assets under management. With 15% growth, they could reach $50 trillion by 2025.
Moreover, this emphasis on ESG has also been reflected in consumer sentiment as seen in a recent study by DoSomething Strategic, which showed that 76% of Gen Z respondents have bought or would consider buying from a brand with a good social impact. In fact, in another study, it was found that 94% of Indian consumers expressed their willingness to pay a premium for ethically sourced and produced goods.
This shows that today’s consumers don’t just choose a brand based on product quality. Therefore, with more brands doing their part for sustainability, we, as communication specialists, have the responsibility of managing the reputation of the organization. Communicators need to articulate the impact of ESG policies to internal and external stakeholders. With an increased focus on ESG in the workplace, the responsibilities of the position have evolved to encompass sustainable development.
Communication is the key
As communicators, you can become the voice of your organization’s ESG story. This includes customizing the ESG needs according to the consumers’ and companies’ demands. Communicating ESG policies is at the heart of a healthy marketing ecosystem and a compelling and creative story-telling process is key to ensuring the right message reaches the right person. Your brand’s ESG initiatives should inspire action and also have a meaningful impact on society. Hence, to communicate the impact of your brand’s ESG initiatives, some important things to keep in mind are:
Be real: It is important to ensure that the initiatives have a purpose and are not just a marketing strategy. They should be designed by experts and have scientific backing.
Be consistent: It cannot be a one-off marketing strategy. Consistency is important to make an impact. Your brand should consistently strive to create a long-lasting impact on the environment and society.
Avoid jargon: Translate complex technical information into more simplistic language to craft the right message. The marketing strategy should strive to improve the customer experience while strengthening the brand’s retention and growth. Be mindful of the words used and articulate the impact in a meaningful way.
Should be channel agnostic: Focus your communication on the message you wish to convey and the recipients, rather than on the medium through which it is delivered. In this age of technology, it is essential to use multiple mediums to communicate the relevant message to the audience.
Must have an impact: The initiatives should have a measurable impact. For example, Lacoste, a global apparel brand, wanted to send the message of conservation. The company introduced limited-edition polo shirts as part of a three-year partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Save Our Species programme. They replaced the iconic crocodile logo with logos of 10 threatened species and donated the proceeds to the preservation of these species. Such sustainability campaigns can inspire further action.
As the ESG landscape keeps evolving, communicators have to ensure that their client’s brand awareness is improved. A report found that poor external engagement with stakeholders can destroy about 30% of the value of a company. The study also reported double-digit declines for organizations when ESG missteps went public. Therefore, it is essential to articulate the objectives of an organization to consumers, investors, and internal stakeholders efficiently and create more engagement with your client’s initiatives.