By Guusje Bendeler
Research clearly indicates that today’s stakeholders expect more from companies — they want to purchase from and work for companies that champion sustainability. This shift in attitude is dramatically altering the way that companies conduct (and even think about) their businesses.
However, since modern audiences are accustomed to having loads of content provided to them at their fingertips, contemporary sustainability has given rise to a new type of challenge for many organizations. In addition to acting responsibly, companies are now expected to effectively communicate about this stuff — which can seem like a daunting task on its own.
We recently had an opportunity to discuss the relationship between sustainability and communications with Chris Librie, eBay’s senior director of global impact and giving. Librie is an expert communicator — skilled at drawing audiences into discussions about sustainability, business, and the intersection between the two — and our conversation showed us why. He was full of insights, opinions, and ideas (some of which had us laughing out loud).
What follows are a few of the takeaways from our discussion with him.
“Earlier in my career when I was at S.C. Johnson — which is a company of brands — one of the reasons I had that role there was because I had been a marketer [before] and kind of understood the world of the marketer, which is to drive market share and deliver a P&L," Librie explained.
“It really helps to sit down with them and get into that. What are the issues that the consumer has with your product? We were able to find a number of those and develop them into sustainability programs.”
“Ultimately sustainability is a way to position a company for the long term, so you have to understand what the business is trying to accomplish to be able to put yourself in the marketer’s shoes.“
To this end, he sees the role of the sustainability reporing shifting. Most organizations should continue to produce formal sustainability reports, but these should focus more exclusively on data, analysis, and explanations necessary to understand a company’s footprint. Reports should no longer be viewed as the place where companies try to tell their sustainability stories.
“The fact is that even if they’re really well-written, very few people read them.”
These tactics should be catered to different audiences, timely (supporting other things that are happening within the organization or in response to events going on in the world), and rolled out throughout the year.
“Increasingly, I think the opportunity for companies is to take a point of view on sustainability issues and talk about them with a voice — not just kind of in a ‘touting our latest achievement’ way, but actually getting into a dialogue with stakeholders.”
To learn more about how companies can connect purposeful sustainability with engaging communications tactics, read our full conversation with Chris Librie here.
Image credit: Pixabay
Guusje Bendeler is co-founder and Chief Strategy & Creative of thinkPARALLAX, a creative marketing and communications consultancy committed to building brands with purpose. Her work with clients such as Southwest Airlines, Qualcomm, International Paper, and Beam Suntory — has included overseeing the development and implementation of corporate brand strategies.