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How to talk about sustainability

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by Chris Chilton
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How much do you really know about how sustainable your business is? You might see recycling stations, and know about printing policies, but, for example, do you know whether your business has aligned its operations with recognised sustainable and environmental measures?

Sustainability and environmentalism have taken a prominent place in modern business vocabulary and indeed in our daily lives. It’s a vital building block for business reputation – and we must all adapt our own practices and keep up with the rise in demand for sustainable living, working and consuming.

According to a recent poll conducted by Garnier, 73% of UK consumers want to be more sustainable in 2021 and, prior to the pandemic, HSBC’s 2019 ‘Made For The Future’ report shows that almost half of UK companies planned to increase their environment-related spending by summer 2021 – focusing particularly on improving manufacturing, internal practices and updating buildings and equipment.

Orchard’s sustainability partner ESI Monitor provides organisations with a clear framework to implement accreditable standards across their operations – they already have around 60 businesses enrolled around the world, all benefitting from exceptional clarity on what they are doing right and what they still need to do better.

Effective communication is part of this accreditation process. Looking around, it is clear to see that many businesses are reacting to stakeholder demand and communicating as much as possible about their sustainable credentials. But are they doing it right?

Many businesses fall short, either through not knowing how to best communicate, or, perhaps more worryingly, over-communicating on actions they haven’t actually achieved. ‘Greenwashing’, a term coined in the 1980s, has become more sophisticated with some businesses muddying the waters on their green credentials and misleading the public and stakeholders on how green they are, sometimes consciously but often out of ill-informed attempts to move with the times.

What can businesses do to make sure they get it right? Here are some top tips:

  1. Data – facts are your friends! To communicate effectively about sustainability you need credibility, and that comes from collecting and presenting data.

  2. Difference – anyone can say they are reducing workplace waste, but what is specific about your business’ sustainability drive? It might not feel like the biggest thing, but if it is different, it is interesting, and it shows you are thinking beyond the obvious.

  3. Honesty – a given for any communication for sure, but this goes double for sustainability. Honesty and authenticity are vital to avoid the ‘greenwash’ label.

  4. Aspirational – if you are working hard towards your green goals, don’t be afraid to say so. Progress will be welcomed, especially when it is backed with a clear road map to greater sustainability.

For businesses looking seriously at their sustainability credentials, ESI Monitor’s Environmental Business Operations Standard can deliver change within your business while Orchard’s communications expertise ensures positive recognition and sustainability positioning that bolsters your organisation’s overall reputation.

This year the UK is set to host COP26, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, which aims to bring together world leaders to commit to urgent climate action from the top. With the Paris Agreement and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there is increasing global pressure for organisations to take action and it’s vital that businesses in Guernsey and other jurisdictions follow suit – in actions as well as in words.

Chris Chilton
Chris Chilton

Managing Director - Finance & Operations

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