Communicating Your CSR MessageMay 26th, 2010 by Julie Urlaub
Global environmental awareness over the last decade has been on a steady incline. Corporate and small business sustainability action indicates more companies are beginning to recognize sustainability risks and opportunities in addressing environmental and social concerns. However, even the most action-oriented organizations face reputation risks when marketing claims exceed sustainable action.
Today’s consumers are becoming more educated, and many companies are realizing there is a diminishing return in simple ‘green’ marketing. The dramatic increase in global awareness has resulted in a significant shift in ‘green’ consumer expectations. To manage one’s sustainability reputation in today’s social media environment, leading business sustainability minded organizations realize that actions speak louder than words.
A strong reputation is a critical component of every business, but it is especially important in driving consumer eco awareness of a specific product or service. To build business and product reputation, a company should be able to demonstrate what they say they value. In this light, a recent lesson learned by many organizations is the over-statement of company sustainability intentions and actions.
When communicating to the outside world, be aware that the audience is not privy to the same level of internal information and business action understanding. Sometimes referred to as the “curse of information”, loosing site of this basic concept can get your organization into some undesirable conversations. Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind:
- Are you conveying your understanding of the big picture or specific action?
- Is the topic of your message a significant environmental or social achievement?
- Are other activities in your company consistent with this message?
- Have you engaged stakeholders and incorporated their feedback?
- Do you have data to back up your claim?
- Could your claim be supported by a third party?
- Is the message honest and not self-glorifying?
- Is the issue you are addressing material to your business?
- Have you invested significant resources?
- Did you spend more money on the activity than on communications?
- Have you already achieved the results in your claim?
Green consumers are seeking out companies that deliver on their expectations. Effective and transparent communication is key.