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It has never been more important for businesses of all sizes to create a long-term sustainability plan with goals they will deliver on. The benefits of doing so are threefold; you play your part in saving the planet, you build your reputation as a responsible business, and you increase the value of your business.

Delivering on your sustainability goals as a business is extremely important not only for the environment but also for your reputation. More and more companies are being held to account for “greenwashing“; we all remember the Volkswagen emissions scandal in the mid-2010s. So, however your organization plans to tackle the climate crisis, it must be more than just buzzwords.

Key sustainability statistics

Since 2010, the number of companies investing in sustainability has doubled1.

Fortune 500 companies spent $19.9bn (£15.08bn) on CSR in 20152.

230 out of the world’s top 250 companies now produce an annual CSR report3.

76% of the general population agree that business leaders must take the lead on sustainability issues4.

The three pillars of corporate responsibility

Creating a corporate sustainability strategy is a unique process for each organization. However, it’s important to recognize that any strategy or initiatives should be built on the three pillars of corporate sustainability.

1. Environmental

This could involve:

  • Reducing your carbon footprint and the use of natural resources
  • Decreasing the amount of packaging your organization uses or eliminating single-use plastics
  • Cutting your energy consumption and using more energy-efficient products
  • Implementing recycling programs
  • Producing new "green" products

For businesses, climate action can also have a positive financial impact. For example, lessening the amount of material used in packaging usually reduces overall spend. This is what Walmart has done did with its zero-waste initiative.

2. Social

This pillar is about “giving back” to the wider world and going beyond just what your business provides. This applies whether you’re a private, public or not-for-profit enterprise.

By employing the social pillar, you are looking to build the support of employees, stakeholders, and the community you operate in.

In practice, this could involve:

Focusing on employee retention and engagement:

  • Development opportunities
  • Flexible working
  • Better maternity and paternity benefits

Building awareness of your supply chain and the impact that it has on the wider world

  • Seeing whether child labor is involved in manufacturing your products
  • Find out if all people in the supply chain are being paid fairly

Investing in community projects

  • Fundraising
  • Sponsorships
  • Investments in local public projects

3. Economic

For a business to be sustainable, it has to be profitable. However, profit cannot be placed over the economic and social pillars. So, you need to ensure that your business can still thrive while making a positive impact.

This can be through:

  • Good corporate governance to monitor performance and profit​
  • Reducing costs in terms of packaging ​
  • Creating green jobs by moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources

It’s important to recognize that all three of these pillars influence what makes you a sustainable company. They should all be taken into account when creating your sustainability plan.

Promoting your sustainability objectives

Defining sustainability initiatives is one thing. It’s quite another to communicate them effectively so your key stakeholders are engaged.​ For initiatives to be supported and do well, they must resonate with your employees and your customers. Therefore, effective communication is key to ensure everyone “buys in” to what your organization is doing.

Authenticity is key

Thanks to greenwashing, people are often skeptical of new sustainability initiatives if they don’t understand how it fits into your business plan. This is why you need to be authentic in your communications and what you plan to deliver.​

Involve the right people

If you want to drive positive change across your organization and beyond, you need to involve key decision makers early. You should also include stakeholders who you know will nurture the right organizational culture to support your initiatives. ​

​Tell people how they can help

You need to make it clear how people can support your initiatives to make them succeed. This can be how they spread the word to how they actually make your plans happen. Success for sustainability is something that depends on collaboration. In fact a study by MIT shows 67% of executives think collaboration is essential to success.​

​Use proactive communication

For sustainability initiatives to positively impact on the environment, you should shout about your plans, progress and successes proactively. When companies respond to an issue passively, it tarnishes the work they are doing and trying to achieve. Therefore, stakeholders are less likely to engage in your corporate projects or promote them themselves. ​​

Don’t just say – do

There’s plenty of skepticism when it comes to believing corporate sustainability initiatives. So, don’t just communicate your plans and aspirations – share your progress with people across all channels. This can be through various channels and formats; from regular reporting to show your progress to using social media to share small wins and things you’ve learned along the way.​

​Ensure you have the full picture

Being transparent about where you are in your journey is important. However, you should also make sure you have a proper strategy behind your initiatives built in. Otherwise, it can be hard to reinforce what the point of your environmental goals are. Think of seeing a lone puzzle piece rather than the full picture; you can appreciate the individual part, but it doesn’t tell you the whole story. Even the best sustainable development initiatives are a challenge to promote if they don’t relate to the overall purpose.

Make the most of different channels

Your environmental sustainability is important to a variety of audiences. This is why you need to adapt communications to reach as many of them as possible through various channels. Adapt your styles and tone of voice where needed to really impact on your audience.

And always look to see if there are new channels you could be making the most of; a channel such as your corporate email signature. ​

Using corporate email signatures​

You might be asking yourself what makes an email signature effective when it comes to promoting sustainable business goals.

Let’s start by considering the use of corporate email in general terms. It is STILL the communication channel of choice for businesses worldwide.

Now think about how many emails are sent by your company every day. An average office worker typically sends between 35-40 emails a day. You then multiply that by every employee that works for your organization and that equates to a lot of emails.

This means that every email offers an opportunity to proactively promote your company’s goals, objectives, and offerings in a non-obtrusive manner.

Promote sustainability messaging via corporate email

Using email signatures that proactively promote your sustainability objectives is a great way to increase additional engagement with key stakeholders. And email signatures are remarkably flexible when it comes to what they can achieve. Add to that the consistent branding that email signatures provide and you start to see how you can use this channel to your advantage.

For example, you could use display banners to showcase your latest environmental initiatives or promote your sustainability awards. The recipient will want to read the email sent, which will predispose them to react to the sustainability content you’re promoting in your signature.

Utilizing a continuous display

Content shown in email signatures is continuously displayed. This means it is seen frequently and often. More and more people will see what you are doing from a sustainability perspective as your company sends more and more emails. And this will only reflect positively on your business reputation.

This is actually one of the best facets of the email channel, especially when it is used to reach external stakeholders like customers and partners. Every contact, from CEO to project manager, who sees your message will also see the content your email signature displays.

The internal stakeholder factor

An email signature can easily incorporate internal communications without having to get your users to do anything extra. It’s also a great channel for employees located in different areas. By adding a small message under internal emails such as telling employees not to print emails, you reach everyone and keep them up to date with the latest news without interrupting their work schedule.

Summary

You don’t have to look far to see the pressure mounting on businesses to reduce carbon emissions and achieve net zero targets. Companies worldwide have to do all they can combat climate change and reduce their impact on the environment, while ensuring profitability and corporate social responsibility.

However, it’s important that corporate environmental goals are communicated effectively. After all, sustainability initiatives are a drive to change a part of our society, or even your work environment. If we don’t communicate these well then how can we expect others to change their behaviors?

Along with the many communications channels already at your disposal, you should consider the use of the email signature. Email signatures are a great way of promoting your sustainable initiatives to a massive audience at little to no cost. You can make this channel go even further by implementing a third-party email signature solution, allowing for consistent branding, customized templates, and so much more.

Sources:

  1. Sustainable business development: Latest fad or strategic business practice?” globalbankingandfinance.com, Aug 1, 2018

  2. The future of sustainability in the UK“, telegraph.co.uk

  3. Sustainability reporting is growing, with GRI the global common language“, globalreporting.org, Dec 01, 2020

  4. Edelman Trust Barometer“, edelman.com, Jan 12, 2021

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