How to master your sustainability communication online
The digital world allows you to shout to a wide audience about the fantastic work that your business is doing to be more sustainable. But it also leaves you vulnerable to criticism if you communicate it the wrong way.
ESG, sustainability, corporate responsibility. Whatever term you choose, the way you communicate the messaging about it online needs to be strong, consistent, sincere and transparent…not as easy as you might think!
Here are our top tips on how to master your sustainability communication online.
Have a clear vision
Before even starting to think about how to master your sustainability communication online, you need to make sure your sustainability message itself is rock solid. If this isn’t the case, your online sustainability presence will be easy to unravel due to its inconsistency and lack of substance.
Start by thinking about your business goals, the common sustainability challenges within your industry, and what you aspire to achieve in the future. Our Head of Sustainability and Change, Julie Owst, recommends:
“Your environmental priorities should be shaped by your key impacts. In food, this is likely to be driven by the food you buy, food packaging and waste. In social terms, you’re probably in a good place to help skills development as an employer or address food poverty. Start by understanding what’s relevant to your business model and your stakeholders.”
Having a clear vision in the bag will make sure your digital communications will flow much more easily and succinctly.
Social media might be the home to funny dog videos, dance trends and recipe inspiration – that doesn’t mean your sustainability content can always tap into this. Finding the balance between being engaging yet earnest is a tricky one, and something that needs to be decided on a post by post basis.
A fun picture of the team at a charity volunteering day? Go right ahead and bring the fun into the online post. An update on your carbon footprint? Might be one to tone down a little.
However! There is another important balance here; don’t fill these types of sustainability posts with technical jargon and detail. Keep it simple, honest and optimistic, and link out to your sustainability webpage for the nitty gritty details, and the tangible proof points for authenticity.
On the note of keeping things optimistic…
GWI has coined the term “apocalypse fatigue” to describe the growing backlash and exhaustion towards negative sustainability news:
“It can be tiring to hear the same story told time and time again: that we’re not on track to meet our deadline, and probably won’t. This is where apocalypse fatigue can kick in […] brands need to help make eco narratives less apocalyptic, especially with inflation and other crises burning on in our minds”.*
There is also the growing risk that people feel hopeless – and in this space we absolutely have to maintain optimism and perseverance, as there’s no viable alternative.
It’s therefore crucial to ensure your online sustainability communications don’t focus on the doom and gloom, but instead focus on what’s within your gift to influence for the better. Don’t talk about what you haven’t achieved yet – emphasise what you have already achieved, and what you are excited to be working towards achieving in the future.
Transparency is key
It might be tempting to make it seem like you have all the answers. We get it, what if someone accuses you of not being sustainable? Not doing your part?
However, on the contrary! Pretending you have all the answers (because, let’s face it, no-one really does, and the science is always evolving in this space!) only opens you up to criticism if you’re found out as not doing something sustainably.
We recommend owning the fact you don’t have all the answers… but are working hard to do so in the future. People will appreciate your honesty, and will be more likely to acknowledge the fact that being sustainable as a business is an ongoing task – and no small feat! Explaining your challenges will encourage trust and a more collaborative approach.
The online space, especially social media, is renowned for harsh criticism. Hold your hands up to your shortcomings, so no-one else can expose them for you. Just make sure to also communicate the fact you are working hard to learn as much as you can to improve. In fact, posting about your sustainability journey frequently as new updates occur is a great way to story tell, build your brand and garner engagement online.
If all else fails, simply act like you are speaking to someone 1-1 in person (the only difference is that you’re separated by a screen!)
On top of this, it’s important to remember to follow the Green Claims Code (a set of principles laid out by the Advertising Standards Authority to ensure business’s green claims are genuine and not misleading), to protect your business. Anyone is able to report your business for violating the code, so it’s important to be vigilant and sense check your sustainability content going out online, whether that’s on your website, blogs, social media channels or emails.
Show the people behind your brand
Showing the people behind your business is a great way to break down the barrier between company and consumer, and plays a large part in how to master your sustainability communication online.
As covered by our Social Media Manager, Charlotte Phelps, in From plate to post: how chefs can rock social media, it’s important to humanise your brand by spotlighting your employees wherever possible.
Your people are your best asset – so make sure everyone else knows that too! Behind every brand decision, including sustainability, are the employees that bring it to life… and putting a spotlight on your team online will be your hidden weapon for engagement.
Although sustainability work is the responsibility of the business to manage and enforce, it is the work of individuals coming together for a greater, shared cause that put the vision into action.
An easy way to post about this is by showing your volunteering and charity work. At Bidfood, we love to share pictures of our Best Teams out and about volunteering, especially since introducing a paid day each year for employees to volunteer at a charity of their choice. It’s really rewarding for them and brings our sense of purpose to life for employees in a very tangible way.
If you are yet to have a business wide strategy for volunteering, why not reach out to your employees to ask about what volunteering they might do and if you can post about it, and see what you can do as a business to support them.
This all ties into the previous point around transparency too – these are the people who are enacting your sustainability vision each day!
Look at your analytics
This is the main way to get learnings from your online content. The digital world allows you to take a deep dive into how people are viewing your content, which you might not have been able to get with print or face to face so make the most of it!
For your sustainability website content, you can use Google Analytics to track page visits, engagement time, demographics, conversions and more.
Social media content can get a bit trickier, as you might need to look at the analytics of your sustainability posts on each platform separately. However, there are also some really useful third party tools out there, such as Sprout Social or Hootsuite, which can pull your analytics from different platforms into one place.
Nervous about not seeing the results you’d like?
We get it. But it’s important to see it as a learning opportunity and a chance to adapt and test your content to find that sweet spot of engagement. It’s a slow and steady race, but the once the ball is rolling and you’re in the full swing of your sustainability digital comms, you’ll start to see patterns fairly quickly. Including what your audience DOES love to see!
There you have it, 5 simple but reliable ideas on how to master your sustainability communication online.
Read more about our ESG and sustainability vision here: Positive force for change | Sustainability | Bidfood UK.
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