Communicating sustainability in marketing can be a strategic advantage for companies

sostenibilità, sostenibile, ambiente

In the current era, when environmental concerns are becoming increasingly apparent, sustainability has become a priority for companies around the world. Companies review their strategies to adopt sustainable practices and must communicate these actions to their audience to share and promote them.

World Environment Day is celebrated on 5 June, while World Oceans Day is celebrated on 8 June. Together, these days offer an unprecedented opportunity to highlight the importance of the conservation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. And to raise awareness of key issues such as climate change, pollution and sustainable development.

It is therefore important to reflect on the importance of sustainable projects and their communication for companies.

What does sustainable mean?

Sustainable today is one of the adjectives most frequently used on tv, radio, social media, press. We talk about sustainable economy, sustainable development, sustainable energy, sustainable society, sustainable companies. Sustainable is everything that is compatible with the needs of safeguarding environmental resources and quality of life. So, what is sustainability in a nutshell? In the environmental, economic and social spheres, we can define it as a development condition capable of ensuring the satisfaction of the needs of the present generation without compromising the possibility of future generations to realize their own.

Sustainability in marketing today definitely represents a strategic advantage for companies, allowing them to differentiate themselves from the competition, create an emotional bond with consumers and build a positive reputation. This is a real opportunity to help build a better future. However, it is not enough just to adopt sustainable practices, it is also important to communicate effectively the efforts made towards sustainability.

But how do you communicate sustainability? We asked Leonardo Ristori, founder of the communication agency 4.0 RGR, who explained how to communicate sustainability and what are the tools and strategies to communicate it. Let us see together the main reflections he shared with us.

Why sustainability is an advantage for companies

Sustainability is expressed essentially in three environments, defined by the acronym ESG (environmental, social and governance), as it affects the environment, social and companies. Why does sustainability benefit companies? Because, for example, it allows access to numerous public tenders or specifications of private companies aimed at sustainable businesses. Let’s imagine that a fashion company wants to prove to be sustainable. To do so it must demonstrate the sustainability of the entire supply chain. So it puts in its specifications that suppliers must also be able to demonstrate their sustainability.

Moreover, thanks to sustainability, profitable partnerships can be established. In fact, sustainable companies tend to look for partners with whom to start collaborating, cooperating, sharing channels and the like. This is because today the more evolved enterprises are brought to reason in terms of ecosystems, therefore the partnerships become an important aspect. Sustainable companies also have a much greater chance of obtaining funding, as the financial, banking and capital system today considers sustainability as a rating factor.

It has also been shown that sustainable companies:

  • have higher equity value
  • are more aware of their efficiency mechanisms and ready to improve them, if necessary, also benefiting in terms of competitiveness and cost reduction
  • attract more valuable and quality human resources

Why it is important to communicate sustainability

Sustainability is now a global megatrend, everyone is talking about it, so it is important for every company to be in this trend. This is relevant not only to the image of the company, but also to its positioning. Sustainability is integrating into all aspects of business, so marketing and its strategies are influenced by sustainability.

So today every company is faced with an epochal challenge, that is to learn to measure and then to tell about sustainability. The difficulty arises from the fact that the very institutions that provide ratings to companies provide widely diversified sustainability indicators. And this is because there are still no shared and established methods to act in the same way. This must be taken into account when reporting or providing information on sustainable actions, because we need to know that the effects of these communications could be different.

How to communicate sustainability

In order to communicate sustainability, a company must first quantify it. In short, it must develop an integrated report of all the performances from the economic, competitive, social and environmental point of view, that allows to analyze these aspects singularly and in relationship between they. This is necessary to be able to tell the outside about the company in a holistic, that is, integrated way.

In doing so you should be particularly careful not to fall into the Greenwashing. In other words, that environmentalism or façade environmentalism that leads to presenting their activities as eco-sustainable, trying to hide their real negative impact. How to avoid it? First of all, staying honest and avoiding using terms such as green or eco if they are not supported by actions or precise data, or talking about nature and climate if you are not taking concrete actions to preserve and take care of them.

We must also maintain transparency and sincerity, for example by not hiding or silencing problems. Or even using well-known and standardized labels for products that really meet sustainable criteria, cautiously using expressions such as better for the environment and nature, quite difficult to support.

Useful tools

So, ultimately, and as with any communication campaign, the fundamental principles for communicating sustainability correctly are to talk about what you know and what you really do. Staying true to brand identity and values, with transparency and honesty.

It goes without saying that you must also know how to identify the right channels, according to the target to which communication is directed, and the most effective ways to communicate. You have to take care of your brand reputation, managing it for example with the support of media intelligence, and for deeper and revealing insights and analyses, even an acute analysis of the work of competitors can be valuable.

communicationcorporate communicationdigital marketingmarketingsustainability