We've written several articles on this blog about how sustainability reporting can be an excellent tool for breaking into new markets and supplementing your marketing campaigns. We've also talked about how employee engagement on all levels is vital to any successful sustainability program.
But all of that hinges on whether or not people actually care about your sustainability planning.
Does your sustainability programming capture peoples' attention or does it leave yawning?
Are your sustainability goals something to get excited about?
Believe it or not, there can actually be consequences if your sustainability reporting is boring.
Think Progress recently highlighted an interview with successful online journalist Stacy Lambe, who had a message for the clean-tech industry, especially those B2B companies:
“He had a message for communicators in industries run by engineers and former finance people: clean economy companies and issues tend to be boring.
I think clean energy just has to find something to take it from the very niche world it’s in… and find a way that is much more broad and shareable.
How to fix that? Be (really) short, punchy, visual and shareable (lists and pictures of kitties help a lot, too).
But Stacy made a larger point: The format of our content has to be part of the attraction for the millions of BuzzFeed readers. How “shareable” and fun it is to people who don’t live and breathe the latest wind turbine engineering development matters a lot if you want to break out on the Internet:
[Buzz] is really boiling down to very visual, but very punchy and approachable either information or word choice itself…”
Now, we aren't suggesting that your next sustainability report feature cute animal pictures or celebrity gossip tidbits, but we do want to focus in on the concept of sustainability reports being something people want to share.
If you're doing something especially interesting or innovative, other companies and your target consumers are going to want to start talking about it. Environmental websites and watchdog groups will analyze and republish your material.
Essentially, exciting sustainability reporting has the ability to self-generate buzz and raise awareness.
Creating Share-Worthy Sustainability
So how can you make your sustainability reporting something exciting and shareable without compromising on real progress or sinking into lazy greenwashing marketing?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Challenge yourself by creating stretch goals for renewable energy use or emissions reduction. While it's great you plan on increasing renewable energy use by 10% next year, it's far more buzz-worthy and better for your bottom line to aim for 25%. The best part is, if you make a genuine effort, people will still applaud you even if you fall short.
- Start by sharing yourself. Publish your sustainability reports to the web and make your goals public. Many large companies have entire webpages dedicated to just their long-term sustainability goals. It's time for small companies and B2B marketers to start doing the same thing. Trust us, your customers are starting to green their supply chains, and making your sustainability public knowledge can only help.
- Do something outside the box. Nothing gets attention and word of mouth like trying something new. For example, NASCAR's sustainability program includes using a herd of sheep to maintain the grass on their property and a parliament of owls to control the pest population. Not only are these plans working, but they make for great, shareable knowledge.
- Go big or go home. If you really want attention, don't just aim high - aim to be the best. Companies are getting noticed for reaching zero-waste facilities, 100% recycled materials, or being the first to do something right. Volkswagen's Chattanooga facility has gotten press attention and awards for its Think Blue sustainability program because it's the first automotive manufacturing facility to get LEED certified.