Clearly in Business Leader: Is fear silencing your ESG initiatives?

14 June 2022 | 3 min read | Clearly News
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

This article features on Page 9 of the June/July 2022 edition of Business Leader magazine.

The following sentence may be a little uncomfortable for many business leaders and marketers to digest, so here goes:

Your name – brand – no longer commands your customers attention in the way it once did pre-March 2020. Rather, they place greater value on those product and service providers who are operating their businesses along more sustainable lines and positively contributing to society.

However, there has been a spate of businesses publicly called out in the media (and rightly so) for making false claims with their ESG communications about their so-called green and purpose-led agendas. In fact, the Competition and Markets Authority found this to be the case with 40% of claims made by businesses.

The reputation of those businesses found guilty of green-washing and purpose-washing will take a beating, and much work will need to be done to regain the trust and loyalty of their customers. What frustrates me most is that their actions are suffocating those of the many businesses who are doing remarkable things for people and the planet.

The reputation of those businesses found guilty of green-washing and purpose-washing will take a beating. And rightly so.

Indeed, we are seeing an increase in the number of businesses who are keeping their ESG communications relatively quiet about the ways in which they have become more environmentally and societally responsible. The reason for this is fear.

Their fear is that customers, competitors, or even the media might accuse them of using sustainability to gain a competitive advantage by tapping into the growing consciousness of today’s customers. This makes sense, but it is not an obstacle that cannot be navigated.

Customers are increasingly being drawn to those businesses who are giving more than they take, that much is obvious. To gain the credibility of their target customers, businesses simply need to back up their claims through what we call Responsible Reporting Communications.

This is an extension to your existing communications and public relations strategy in that Responsible Reporting conveys everything that the business has done, is doing, and plans to do when it comes to people and planet.

To gain the credibility of their target customers, businesses simply need to back up their claims through what we call Responsible Reporting Communications.

More important is that it demonstrates the impact these initiatives have, whether it is reducing the company’s carbon consumption through a new waste reduction programme or boosting youth unemployment in the local area by providing paid internships, for example.

Within the next 12 months, Responsible Reporting will become just as important as financial performance reporting. There will be no hiding from this, consumer and client demand will necessitate it.

If your business has something to say, let us communicate it clearly for you. Email me directly on paul@clearlypr.co.uk