What to consider when communicating your eco commitments
Guest blog by Melissa Hobson
Companies that are led by purpose have a lot to think about: from energy usage to green web hosting, there’s always something else that can be done to make your business a little bit greener. Because of this, people are often hesitant to talk about the steps they are taking, thinking: “I can’t talk externally about what I’m doing until I’ve perfected it.”
I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news: your business will never be ‘perfect’ (when it comes to sustainability or otherwise!). As you improve and learn more, you’ll discover new ways to do better so there’s always another step to take. The good news: if you don’t need to wait for perfection, you can share the great things you’re doing in your business much sooner.
It’s understandable to feel nervous about communicating your eco commitments externally: what if someone thinks I’m not doing enough? Or, worse, thinks I’m greenwashing? But I believe that clear, transparent and honest communication is the best way to prevent potential backlash.
So, if you’re thinking about communicating your eco commitments or processes, here are a few top tips:
Are you prepared to share your journey externally?
You might be thinking: “Wait, but didn’t you just tell me not to wait until I’m perfect?” While I believe you shouldn’t wait for perfection before you start talking about your processes, I do think you need clarity on a few things before you start shouting about them. For example, I’ve seen some (often larger) companies send out press releases announcing their commitment to becoming more sustainable with no tangible details of what actions they are planning to take. As a purpose-led company, you’ll likely already know that just saying “I want to do better” isn’t enough without specifics on how, why and when.
While you don’t need to have ticked every box to start communicating your journey, it’s important to be clear on your situation (have you done an environmental review?) and what your goals are even if you’re not yet meeting them. It can also help with accountability to have committed to your targets externally.
Are you being transparent?
It’s so easy to shout about successes: when you’re proud of the things you’re doing, you want to tell people. But make sure you tell the full story, not just the highlights. Transparency is vital in all communications, especially when it comes to sustainability.
It’s natural to feel wary of sharing the things that aren’t going as well. However, doing this shows your business is honest and trustworthy – and reminds people that there are humans behind the brand. It can sometimes help you solve the problem more quickly. For example, if you’ve hit a roadblock, maybe someone else is facing the same challenge and you can help each other. Or perhaps you can inspire someone else who’s in the same situation.
Are you in line with the Green Claims Code?
If you’re based in the UK, any environmental or sustainability claims you make must comply with consumer protection law. This is to make sure you’re not (intentionally or unintentionally) misleading your potential customers through your marketing, advertising or promotions. This includes things like making sure your claim is fair, accurate, easily understood (even by people that don’t understand industry jargon), doesn’t exaggerate its impact and applies to the whole lifecycle of the product or service. But don’t worry if that sounds like a lot to remember. You can find a handy Green Claims Code checklist here.
Do you own up to mistakes?
When it comes to environmental processes, sometimes you might slip up. And that’s OK… if it’s dealt with in the right way. If you do make a mistake, be honest: what had you planned to do? What went wrong? And, importantly, what have you learned from this and what are you changing as a result? Trying to hide a mistake looks a bit shady and might make people wonder what else you’re hiding. While sharing your challenges and slip ups might keep someone else from making the same mistake. Because we’re all in this together. We need to take urgent action against the climate crisis and helping each other out is going to be key to moving forward quickly.
So, are you ready to talk about your eco commitments? What’s one thing that you can share today?
Melissa Hobson is a sustainability and conservation writer with a passion for the ocean. She provides copywriting and PR consultancy services for purpose-led businesses. To find out more or get in touch visit www.melissahobson.co.uk.
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