Sustainability communication – a learning process between brand and marketing
A study* from 2019 already showed: Almost half of the people have a more positive attitude towards a brand if it addresses sustainability in its communication.
(*Study “Spotlight: Sustainable Consumption”, M Science research unit)
The demands on companies in terms of how they act are growing steadily and ever faster. For many years, sustainability has played a growing role in this. More and more, transparency and attitude are expected from brands. The pressure to act is high.
From sustainability reports to sustainable brand positioning to campaigns for more environmental protection: sustainability communication encompasses many different tasks. It plays a decisive role in addressing the issue. For entrepreneurs, for employees and for society.
Sustainability in companies: an individual learning journey
Integrate sustainability in a company is first a decision and then a learning process. As a rule, it starts with an assessment of the sustainability situation: Do you already know your carbon footprint? How big is it and which topics along the value chain are responsible for it in your company? Fundamental aspects of the brand and sustainability potentials in the company are closely linked. Because if we want to make the most of our corporate brand, we must live it – day after day and in all activities. From corporate management to employee behavior to marketing. That is why the sustainability strategy should be part of the corporate identity. Reversed, this means that we need clarity about our corporate identity and an understanding of our corporate brand. We therefore understand the brand as a personality that should be attractive to your target groups, provide a basis for identification and therefore also live according to credible values. These values serve as fundamental guard rails for all corporate activities: also, for more sustainable approaches and, as a result, later for communication.
The overarching vision, which is formulated hand in hand with the strategy, always floats along with all fundamental decisions. For more orientation in everyday life, we formulate smart goals – in the case of the sustainability strategy, even specifically for ecological, economic and social aspects.
With foresight to sustainable success.
In summary, the procedure can be structured into six process steps:
- corporate brand as a basis
- sustainability assessment
- vision, sustainability strategy and goals
- integration of the sustainability strategy into the CI and the brand
- implementation in actions and projects
- start communication
If environmental protection has a special significance in a company, this value should be highlighted in all stages of the value chain. This is the basic rule for any authentic communication: first the action, then the communication. At the same time, we should always be aware that the times are over when we think we can predict everything and leave no room for doubt. Instead, we need to understand and accept that we cannot know everything. We need to engage in lasting learning processes. Yes, that also means being vulnerable. It is important to make a start. Collecting data and taking the first step. And how do we begin the implementation? Let’s start where it’s easiest for our company! Get started, generate first successes, and make your team proud of what they have achieved. After that, we can always put a clear focus on the most important aspects so that we generate a really big impact. This is completely individual for each company and can, for example, be jointly assessed and evaluated in interdepartmental workshops. The beginning goes much smoother when there is a small success to tell.
Yes, it is anything but easy to always keep your orientation on this journey or to see the whole potential. It helps to involve partners who bring experience to the process and a courageous view from the outside. It will be worth it: Not only external target groups, but above all employees and potential professionals will have a more positive attitude towards your brand if they include sustainability in their communication.
So, whether it’s a purchase decision or the choice of employer: sustainability has become a decision criterion. Even far away from movements like Fridays-for-future and zero-waste, environmental protection is reaching the masses with climate change. We should embrace the challenge, because we have known for a long time that we cannot and should not wait for “the others” or the political framework conditions. We must become active as companies and individuals to really do something effective for ourselves and the following generations. Make a difference and talk about it. This is also the case in the field of sustainability communication: companies that communicate their own activities in a target group-specific and needs-oriented way reach more people. For strong brands and successful marketing, sustainability communication will therefore be much more of a compulsory topic instead of the freestyle in the future. And you know what? Not only does it have a positive impact for everyone, but it’s also fun!
Desiree Sturm, 16.12.2021