Meaningful sustainability change favours the bold and courageous

29 September 2022 Consultancy.com.au 4 min. read
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Recent policy developments have ushered in a new era of climate action in Australia. Stakeholders are putting considerable pressure on organisations to get sustainability right and keep them engaged on the way. Now, more than ever, leaders need to demonstrate vision and meaningful action, writes Julia Hoy from Sefiani.

Despite all the talk and commitment towards sustainability and climate change, Sefiani’s 2022 edition of the ‘Communications that Matters’ report has found that something is holding leaders back – fear.

When developing the report, we spoke with marketing and communications leaders from Australia and around the world, and their message was clear: leaders fear how much to say, how far to go, and how bold to be. Now, more than ever, leaders must be courageous.

Sefiani Sustainability Communications Survey

Based on the report’s key findings, the authors uncovered insights that can help organisations address the challenges they are facing when communicating about sustainability and engage their stakeholders with authenticity and integrity.

Move from ambition to action

Demonstrating genuine commitment to sustainability is now expected of every organisation. But doing so with honesty and transparency is critical, or organisations risk losing stakeholder confidence and trust. 

The companies that will be remembered for their efforts in sustainability are those that are true to their purpose and put the people they employ and serve at the heart of their approach. Nobody expects brands to get it right every time, but they expect to be a part of the journey.

While fear may be a barrier to companies communicating about sustainability, a more sustainable future relies on organisations that communicate their stories and share their learnings, clearly and consistently.

Stand out or fade out

Research shows us that brands with a strong and authentic voice in sustainability are more highly regarded by the community, industry, and global peers.

Driving positive change beyond your company’s footprint

This journey starts in the boardroom. Companies are recognising that the executive level needs to have a deep understanding of sustainability and work together on a holistic and united strategy that can be embedded across the organisation. Stakeholders will be looking to leaders to commit to ambitious targets, answer tough questions honestly and inspire them with the opportunity of making big changes that have big impact.

Don’t get caught up in the wash

In Australia and around the world, we are seeing an increase in the number of greenwashing claims. With harsher crackdowns from regulators now in place, expect this trend to continue. 

While this is a positive step for genuine climate action, it adds pressure to marketing and communications teams to ensure that claims are supported by proof points and backed with action.

state the number one trait of sustainability leadership is integrity

The increased scrutiny on greenwashing will add pressure to organisations that have not genuinely integrated sustainability. The ‘Communications that Matters’ report showed that sustainability remains siloed in many organisations, with few managing to elevate the conversation to become an overarching narrative that is meaningful to all stakeholders.

The result will be more examples of companies trying to do the right thing, but accidentally misleading consumers because of this internal disconnect, and copping the damaging consequences.

Further reading: Innocent’s pulled TV ad: What we can learn about greenwashing?

Use the power of the people

Employees are a company’s most powerful advocates, and they want to be part of your transformation. Our research found that 76% of employees wish for greater opportunities to participate in their companies’ sustainability conversations and have meaningful roles that support the development and delivery of key initiatives.

Companies that recognise the importance of embedding sustainability within culture and empowering employees to play a role in progressing sustainability targets will set themselves up for greater success, and likely enjoy greater employee retention.

Now is the time for organisations to be bold and courageous. To bring stakeholders together behind a narrative that balances past realities with present demands and a vision for the future. To act with integrity, honesty, and transparency they face new challenges on their journey. The challenges ahead will be hard, but the urgency has never been more important and the rewards more meaningful.