We’re in the business of marketing communications, so obviously we are focused on making sure the right message about our clients’ products, brands, company, etc., is getting to the right people. Clearly that’s a big reason why we’re hired.
But, when it comes to sustainability communications, sometimes clients can be reluctant to tell their “story” because:
- They don’t want to reveal their imperfections.
- They don’t want to leverage sustainability efforts as a “marketing tool” for fear of being criticized for blatant self promotion with the intent to sell more product and thereby increase profitability.
- Management isn’t willing to support sustainability marketing/communications efforts financially because of perceived lack of ROI.
While those concerns are valid, more and more evidence is pointing to the important reasons why companies should be talking sustainability, not only to benefit the triple bottom line (remember people, planet AND profit), but also to secure management buy-in. According to a recent study cited on GreenBiz.com, some of the more compelling data points for telling your sustainability story include:
- Nearly half of the American public considers a company’s environmental reputation when making a product choice. Two years ago that number was around 23 percent.
- Today, half the American population can actually name a product that they’ve chosen or dropped as a result of learning more about a company’s environmental record. (That’s up from only 20 percent in 2008).
- Millennials—the largest demographic group outside of boomers—are even more likely to consider a company’s environmental record before making a purchase. In fact, they are twice as likely to have chosen a product based on the manufacturer’s/supplier’s environmental record or practices.
- From a CSR perspective, 30 percent of Americans consider a company’s nonprofit partnerships and donations when deciding whether to buy a product. However, only 6 percent regularly choose products or retailers based on those partnerships and donations. The activities that have the greatest impact on purchase decisions are local activities. We’ve heard consumers say, “If it’s local, I can see it and it benefits me and my community.”
Of course, above all, you must tell your story honestly, which often means revealing your imperfections in order to avoid losing credibility. As consumers and other stakeholders are requiring increased transparency, NOT telling your story may actually negatively impact your bottom line in the end.