High Expectations for Sustainability Communications

Environmental management, sustainability and alternative energy are highly technical, engineering-oriented fields, and I respect the heck out of the technical challenges and statistical analysis required in those fields. 

So, once in a while, I ask myself, what’s a communicator doing in a place like this? In my view, communications fits in right here – promote understanding by key audiences, put the data in context, tell a good story so people will listen and remember, and so on.

A strong case is being built for sustainability communications. For example, in 2007, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for the climate change movie “An Inconvenient Truth” – this prestigious award won for communicating, not for overcoming a mighty technical challenge.

“Sustainable communications” is now emerging as a distinct discipline. Diane Verde of the London-based sustainability and communications consultancy Clownfish highlights Four C’s for sustainable communications: credibility, clarity, consistency and conversation (dialogue instead of a monologue). 

Social media, including the Web site and tools such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter, are primary tools for communications around sustainability. And, by the way, audiences are very suspicious about greenwashing. Yes, they want companies to do and say more about sustainability, but when they do, many people suspect or even assume greenwashing. The bar and the expectations have been raised.

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