This is a sponsored article from SustainabilityTracker.com member South Pole Australia.
We’re all familiar with philosophy’s favourite thought experiment: ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ Now let’s apply the same thinking to climate action. If a company takes climate action but doesn’t communicate about it, does anyone know it happened? No, and that means the opportunity for impact, engagement and learning has been missed.
So, while we prefer to keep trees standing (because of their amazing carbon storage benefits) there is a lot we can learn from this hypothetical scenario when it comes to the benefits of communicating about climate action – and the risks of keeping quiet.
South Pole’s 2022 Net Zero Report revealed that one in four companies taking climate action are ‘greenhushing’, or choosing not to publicise their climate progress. To avoid this pitfall and empower you to start, or continue, your climate communications journey with confidence, this blog looks at why companies should communicate their climate action and how to get it right.
Why should I communicate my companies climate action?
Showing progress, celebrating achievements and acknowledging challenges is pivotal to reaching global net zero as quickly as possible. Here’s why companies should communicate the climate action they are taking:
- You’ll be preferred by consumers. In a study by Republic of Everyone (now a South Pole company), 78% of respondents considered a brand’s social and environmental actions when making a purchase. Consumers are increasingly inclined to support brands that demonstrate a commitment to addressing the climate crisis.
- You’ll be the preferred supplier. Companies working toward net zero emissions are scrutinising their supply chains. CDP data shows that over 330 multinational corporations, with a purchasing power exceeding US$ 6.4 trillion, are urging their suppliers to disclose climate data.
- You’ll be an employer of choice. Research has also shown that 60% of employees say that companies are more attractive if they have a sustainability strategy in place. This movement toward sustainability-focused employment is further emphasised by the recent investment of prominent figures like Mike Cannon-Brookes in Terra.do, underlining the growing importance of sustainability in the job market.
- You’ll be a better choice for investors and partners. The finance community is facing significant pressure to use its influence to drive climate action. 80% of global investors deem a company’s management of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks as pivotal in their investment decision-making process.
- You’ll get ahead of regulation. While there are a number of reasons to discuss your climate action voluntarily, climate-related disclosure is also increasingly being mandated in countries across the world. For example, both the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and mandatory climate-related financial disclosure for Australian companies come into force in 2024.
How do I get my communications right?
Effective climate communication, whether by a seasoned climate leader or a beginner, serves to inspire, lead, engage, and have a lasting impact. Three principles can guide you towards achieving this:
- Authenticity Start with purpose – ‘why’ are you taking action on climate? The ‘why’ of a company’s climate strategy represents your narrative and acts as a compass. It ensures alignment with your business’s core values when articulating efforts publicly. Staying true to your ‘why’ helps maintain communications integrity, steering you clear of overstated climate claims.
- Impact: Ensure you’re making a meaningful difference. Focus on actions that have the greatest impact. While it is important to take care of the small things, such as in-house recycling or switching to recycled paper, those initiatives shouldn’t distract you from the need to allocate meaningful resources to things that have a greater impact, like switching to renewable energy or reducing corporate travel. Focusing your communications on these more impactful steps ensures that your messaging aligns with actions that truly matter.
- Transparency: Be honest, tell the whole story (not just the positive aspects), and don’t skimp on the details. By telling the whole story, including both the wins and the shortcomings, you will ensure that your communication is not misleading. Make sure you leave no room for assumptions or confusion by giving full details and providing the data to substantiate your claims. Be as transparent as possible as you communicate your climate journey, and acknowledge, if necessary, where you’ve gone wrong and why you’ve achieved results different from what was expected. Being humble and allowing others to learn from your mistakes greatly contributes to creating a sustainable future.
So, which companies are communicating climate action well?
- JCDecaux JCDecaux is pioneering the landscape of climate claims by steering away from confusing and misleading terms. The company has announced that it is no longer going to be claiming ‘carbon neutrality’ and calling on other companies to follow suit. Instead, JCDecaux is precise about ‘funding climate action’: taking responsibility for its emissions while being clear that this does not mean it has a totally neutral impact. By evolving its language in line with latest best practice, JCDecaux is setting an example on how to communicate about the role of carbon credits.
- Unilever Transparent communications can also help drive innovation, and Unilever is doing exactly that. The company has recently released its recipe for ice cream that can withstand higher temperatures, meaning the supermarket freezers don’t have to be as cold and therefore lowering emissions. It’s just one small step but by sharing the recipe for its peers to use, Unilever is showing true leadership and driving the collaboration and teamwork needed to reach our climate goals.
- Australian Vintage Limited (AVL) AVL is leading by example when it comes to its climate communication. The walk has been walked – AVL has worked through its greenhouse gas footprinting, its science-based targets and decarbonisation roadmaps – and now is focusing on talking the talk. AVL has chosen its ‘why’ and is using it to develop its narrative, which the company is now using as a platform for its climate communication.
Achieving global net zero requires us to use every tool in our toolbox: that also means collaborative effort from every company and industry. While constructive scrutiny is always essential, we must also remember to acknowledge those who are choosing to take voluntary action and celebrate victories along the way. Let’s make sure that every time climate action is taken, the world hears about it.
If you’re eager to delve deeper into how your company can take meaningful action today and communicate with confidence, contact us.
Article by Tara Oakley Head of Commercial Oceania and Lucy Curtin, Global Asso. Dir., Communications, Engagement and Leadership
This is an article from a SustainabilityTracker.com Member. The views and opinions we express here don’t necessarily reflect our organisation.