3 core principles for authentic ESG comms
11 May 2023
S0, you want to talk about ESG?
Over the past few years, increased interest in – and media coverage of – the climate crisis and social justice, have compelled many organisations to more thoughtfully rethink the purpose behind their operations. The activities these efforts result in are commonly accepted as a business’ Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) endeavours.
And the market is responding well to this shift in priorities: demand for ESG funds continues to outstrip supply, global ESG assets are set to reach $53 billion by 2025, and close to nine in 10 employees say they prefer to support or work for companies aligned with their personal values.
You would therefore be forgiven for assuming you need to come up with ESG messaging and communicate it immediately. And as a tech company, you play an important role in helping other business leaders improve their ESG credentials.
But before you jump straight into externalising your plans, take a second to ensure you’re following these three core principles that make authentic ESG communications:
1. Make ESG a strategic pillar for your business
ESG is a big tent which covers all the ways your company is committed to being social responsible and sustainable. This includes your resource management, emissions released during the manufacturing process from both you and your partners, and end of life product management. It also encompasses your commitment to local communities, labour laws and employee wellbeing.
So, before you look to release ESG communications, you need to ensure you first have a robust strategy in place. That strategy should be rooted in your long-term organisational impact – the move you want to make.
To achieve this, you need to identify clear actions that support your strategy. Without authentic action, your brand’s position, market share and your shareholder relationships may all be at risk. In fact, it’s largely why greenwashing and forced labour lawsuits are on the rise, according to Clifford Chance.
In short, ensure your strategy is robust and rooted in action before you start communicating.
2. Communicate your actions to the right audiences
Once you have a clear strategy and actions in place, you can start mapping out how you’ll communicate them to your audiences.
For example, if you’re changing your ways of working to improve employee wellbeing, you should have a strong internal comms plan to help your employees understand the intended benefits of the changes.
Similarly, if you’re working to become a more sustainable business, you need an investor relations plan that delivers your messages in the right way. It’s always worth talking to analysts to get their feedback on your plans before talking to investors to ensure your actions have a chance at making a real difference to the market.
Showing your customers or partners the benefits of the actions you’re taking also requires a dedicated plan and strategy. Should you host an exclusive event for your VIPs? How about inviting your valued customers to beta test a new solution or service that will reduce their own footprint? Do your partners need content packages to talk about your ESG strategy? The clearer you are on your target audience and how they’ll respond to your message, the better your results will be.
Finally, if you want to change brand perception more broadly, external communications are essential. Depending on where your audience consumes information, you’ll have to consider a combination of strategic media, social campaigns and influencer relations. And you’ll need to manage these engagements carefully, which takes us to our third principle…
3. Be transparent about your progress
From ‘compostable’ toothbrushes with bristles made from petroleum derived products and conglomerates mining rare earth metals in the world’s poorest countries, to the textile industry’s use of marginalised communities in unsafe factories, many businesses’ sustainability claims have been debunked over the years.
This has led to more scrutiny and a demand for transparent data. So much so, the EU has published the EU sustainable finance disclosure regulation to create a legal framework for ESG investment. Meanwhile, forward-thinking ESG-led businesses are publishing their science-based targets publicly and regularly communicating about them.
So, once you’ve determined what figure you want to publicly share and how you’re going to track your progress against your goals, you need to decide what your milestones are going to be, and train your spokespeople on how to articulate your story externally. Your spokespeople should be regularly trained and updated so they can deliver the different chapters of your business’ story based around those milestones you’ve decided to communicate.
By following these three principles, you’ll be able to talk openly about your commitment to ESG in a way that will match your audience’s needs. ESG is a complex topic – your ESG comms shouldn’t be.
Want to explore how ESG can work for your brand? Get in touch with our team!