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Environmental, Social, and Governance issues continue to gain traction and capture investor attention in the corporate world. Yet, sustainability
professionals aren’t fully utilizing the power of narrative to engage.
It’s no secret that ESG
is on the rise. The mounting evidence of the positive relationship between ESG
performance, improved risk mitigation and long-term financial value has sparked
remarkable growth in ESG
As a result, institutional investors are urging companies to better communicate
their sustainability story.
ESG can be a dry subject, making telling interesting stories around it largely
uncharted territory. Without a clear path to follow, many corporate
sustainability leaders find themselves lost in the dark; what they need is a
In response, our team at thinkPARALLAX
developed a new white paper, The Formula for Communicating
which will help guide corporate sustainability and communications professionals
to better plan and execute effective communications strategies to achieve higher
ESG ratings. The formula focuses on three key pieces: establishing a solid
foundation, a strong sustainability report, and effective supporting
Why do some sustainability stories
while others fall flat? To tell an authentic and compelling CSR narrative, your
communications need substance.
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Every sustainable brand is built on firm foundations of strategy and
storytelling. This involves developing a brand narrative — complete with
purpose, vision, mission and values. After establishing a foundation, identify
your company’s stakeholders and key ESG issues. Use these issues to set goals
and build a comprehensive strategy for achieving them.
With this done, articulate your goals to internal and external stakeholders
through a sustainability communication
Investors and rating analysts can use this to connect corporate initiatives to
your overarching ESG strategy.
In 2018, some 86 percent of the S&P
produced a sustainability report. Whether it’s through a microsite, an
interactive PDF, a spoken-word art
or some other form of digital integration, a great sustainability report must be
organized and accessible for investors, rating analysts and others to easily
Your sustainability report should lead with the foundation you already
established. Next, display leadership alignment, which can be expressed through
a letter from the CEO. Demonstrate how your sustainability efforts fit into the
bigger picture by tying them to the UN's Sustainable Development
Most likely, your company faces material ESG challenges it’s working to improve.
Take this as an opportunity to embrace
in your sustainability report. Bearing your blemishes authentically shows
progress in a way that impresses investors and rating agencies.
Complementing your existing advertising mix with ESG-related ads and messaging
will keep investors and other stakeholders engaged with sustainability
A comprehensive thought leadership program — delivering your sustainability
story via blogs, op-eds, social media, speaking engagements — is a great way to
show an ongoing commitment to the material ESG issues your company is working to
A company’s main website is another valuable tool to display commitment to ESG
and prime visitors to think of your company as a sustainable brand. Making an
effort to have your company’s sustainability story heard has proven value.
According to Harvard Business
public sentiment influences investor opinion about corporate sustainability
Glassdoor is a great example of a medium that offers investors and ESG
rating agencies an unbiased look inside your company. Create a culture of
transparency by encouraging employees to write external reviews through outlets
such as Glassdoor. If your company prides itself on its
ethics or leadership style, it’s all the more important to have that supported
by external sources.
Of all the stories your company can tell, sustainability is one of the most
important. As ESG continues to grow in popularity among investors and other key
stakeholders, taking a comprehensive approach to sustainability
is critical to success.
Published Aug 6, 2019 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Jonathan Hanwit is co-founder of thinkPARALLAX, a strategic brand consultancy that works with companies to define and activate their purpose.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.