Why is communicating ESG relevant to you or your organisation?
Discussed in the webinar “Igniting your marketing strategy through ESG” on 23rd February 2023
Hosted by TMC Strategic Communications’ CEO Tim McCloud and Social Impact Director Alannah Moore, our latest virtual event welcomed an expert panel of speakers from Siemens, Cognovi Labs, Planet Mark and Perfectly Fresh!.
Discussing the complex, but importantly symbiotic, relationship between Marketing and the Boardroom, the panel delve into their own perspectives on Why is communicating ESG relevant to you or your organisation? Providing actionable insight and commercial experience, learn how to enhance brand visibility and improve brand reputation.
Watch the episode below:
I mean, we’ve talked about all the iterations of ESG – and if you start listing all the topics that sit under that you get a very, very complex picture.
So without communication tools and not just relying on the experts – those who are working on this day to day, where they are buried in the detail – we actually often need that kind of bridge into proper genuine communication and marketing to be able to share those ideas, those concepts, and bring people with us on that journey – bring them into the conversation.
Then once they’re in, actually make the things we’re talking about, really relevant to them. That’s where that kind of emotion starts to happen. I really think there was a massive shift when we started talking about climate justice. For instance, people, politicians, and society, really started to understand climate change was a human issue – not just about polar bears.
That’s a really big mind shift, but alongside that shift came huge changes in policy. Real movement starting to happen at last on that topic. The science and the logic had been there for years and years – decades even.
In fact, before that kind of narrative started to be shared.
I think that’s a really good example of why the two expertise need to meet. Why we need to work together, and why we really need to drive together, because a lot of this stuff is getting too late to do something about. We need every tool that we can to make these changes.
I would say, some of the complexity going forward is going to be how these topics interlink.
I do think that the narratives are getting better around the individual sustainability elements, but when you start to take the whole picture and how the spider web of things affects each other, one decision might be better for the environment but worse for human rights.
So we have to decide, what’s right and what’s wrong?
Taking a real 360-degree view of decisions that are made or products you might want to buy or use. These are going to become increasingly important. That is the next hurdle in the communication challenge.
Well, if I’m honest, my ESG journey is comparatively short compared to the rest of the panel. Back when we commonly referred to this area as CSR, I was able to delegate that to a whole other team working in a different office.
I think my epiphany was working elsewhere before Perfectly Fresh!. I realised that actually, the very engagement I had in the in the food industry I was working in, was part of the problem.
That actually delegating ESG and environmental impacts to other people to perform was a bit disingenuous when some of it was coming from myself.
So I had a bit of a wake up moment and I think that’s actually a really, really important thing to reflect on when we’re talking about marketing in ESG. It’s very easy to generalise groups of people and say “consumers” or “customers” or this “demographic group”. When we do that, we dehumanise them and we treat them all as one single block.
In actual fact, every one of those people are individual citizens and they’re going to have their own moment of realisation. One of the powerful things about working in harmony with marketing on this, is marketeers are most often able to remind you that these are real people.
So even when you’re falling into the trap of the language of ESG, of climate crisis and the action that needs to be taken, your marketers can pull you back out and go, ‘Ok. So what does that mean when we’re buying salad?’ Because it can become overwhelming, it can become something where there’s just so much to do. “There’s just no point.”
I’ll disengage and your marketeer is the one with the key to the human component that can help make your message relevant and less scientific. More now, more a little tiny thing I can do today to get ready for tomorrow.
Beni Gradwohl, Ph.D.
I think Simon and Olivia said it very well and I want to piggyback on some of what they said in terms of personalisation. But think about how ESG has been represented in the past.
We’re looking at carbon footprint. Given the numbers, we’re looking at, diversity, equity, inclusion. We’re looking at the governance components, but let’s step back.
If we look at the overall population out there, I think we probably all agree that there is more than a critical mass of people who believe that the environment and ESG is important.
So why isn’t there an upswell of support? What’s missing if 50% – 70% of the global population believe it’s important?
Why are we not already making significant progress? Well, the fact is, because we are not emotionally engaging.
Do you really think that somebody who reads a newspaper around the carbon footprint of a company, or how many independent directors are on the board, is going to change their behaviour?
No. Words matter. You have to position it differently. We always talk about personalisation, but really what’s important in the personalisation is the fact that I can now relate as a human being on a deep, emotional level.
I’ll give you a personal example from an engagement we have with a client who was an entity which was very much into ESG. We would call it, in the United States, very ‘progressive’.
They were very much against fracking. Subsequently, they went into every client meeting and every conference, talking about how bad fracking is.
“We are against fracking. It’s bad for the environment. It’s bad for clean water.”
You know, in Europe, it’s probably similar to in the US. As soon as you talk about fracking, you divide the country into half; half says ‘Yes, that’s true. It’s bad for the environment.’
The other one says, ‘but it’s good for the economy.’
So change the personalisation. Change the narrative. Instead of saying ‘I’m against fracking, it’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for clean water.’ maybe ‘I believe every American family deserves clean water. Fracking is a risk to that.’
You have said exactly the same, but completely changed the environment. People now can relate, they understand you, and now they’re open to have a conversation.
And so emotions in marketing need to go hand in hand with the facts, but we have to position it in a way that we are truthful about the fact that we create that emotional engagement.
So if we were to take the emotional part – that connection is really important. I think there are extremes in emotion with topics such as climate protest, and people are then pulling back.
But with organisations, and marketeers especially, how can we understand that the emotion and the connection is important?
There are many different types of programs out there to evidence and showcase your sustainability. I think people are struggling to know which ones to choose or showcase that particular example of their ESG journey.
So we have to always come back to the very simple truths that lie at the heart of things.
We can often overcomplicate with lots of acronyms and terminology. The thing that I always come back to – when you take the E within ESG – ‘environmental’ – why do we care about environmental sustainability?
Why does it matter?
It matters because we don’t want to undermine the natural environment that we live within. All of the systems of nature that we rely upon for our survival.
We don’t want to ruin that, whether it be through pollution, through carbon emissions, through cutting down and reducing biodiversity – all of those different elements.
It’s fundamentally about us not undermining the environmental systems that support us.
So, then why do we care about social sustainability?
Well, that’s because we don’t want to undermine the social mechanisms. A lack of inclusion, a lack of diversity, inequality within our society undermines our ability to have a sustainable ongoing society that that will last and persevere.
Then governance; do we have the right structures in place to make good decisions about the environment?
The reason why we care is because fundamentally, what is our economy? Our economy serves to help the largest possible number of people to live a good quality of life.
To have access to the products, the services and the things that they need in order to live that good, healthy life.
Why is it important for you to talk about, and use emotion and use all of these tools at our disposal about ESG and what your company is doing?
Because it’s something that unites all of us.
I love the metaphor of the race to zero campaign – which is led by the UN – which Planet Mark is one of the partners of – because when it comes to carbon emissions, it is a race to zero.
But the interesting thing about this race is – it’s not about who’s first across the line, it’s about who’s last across the line, right?
That’s what matters. All that matters is are we emitting more or less? Are we storing more carbon in the soil, etcetera, or less?
Rebalancing that equation is what we’re trying to do. If you’ve done something that’s absolutely fantastic and has made a difference.
You’ve reduced your carbon emissions, or you’ve improved your social sustainability? That’s great. That’s wonderful. But you can magnify your impact tenfold, 20 fold, 100 fold.
If you tell a whole other bunch of people, what you did, what worked, what didn’t. Now you’re accelerating them on their journey, where they can copy you rather than having to reinvent the wheel.
That’s what helps us make sure that we get the last people across the line as fast as possible. By sharing what’s working and what’s not and doing so in a very credible way.
It gives people the assurance what you’re saying is what you’re doing. That you have confidence in the data and that the evidence that backs that up.
It’s avoiding green washing, but just as importantly to avoid, the term ‘green hushing’, where people don’t talk about what they’re doing because they’re afraid of exposing themselves to it.
Actually, it’s really important that we talk about it because otherwise collectively we suffer from everyone having to figure it out by themselves. It’s much more effective if we share.
It’s time to close the gap between your Marketing and ESG objectives. There’s never been a better time to #StartNow. Find out more here.
Want to hear more? Listen to our panel discuss further topics below…
How do we ignite our marketing campaigns using ESG?
How do we ignite our marketing campaigns using ESG?
We are in a time of global economic and environmental crisis. The pressure and demands on brands are immense. Connecting with audiences on an authentic level is becoming more challenging. Understanding their emotional and behavioural actions is harder still.
How to use the power of emotion when communicating about ESG?
How can organisations harness the power of emotion when communicating about ESG?
A systemic shift is underway and organisations need to be fully prepared. With new risks, geopolitical uncertainty, and regulatory requirements driving operational change – are you ready?
How can marketing and sustainability teams work more closely?
How can marketing and sustainability teams work more closely together?
It’s time to close the gap between your Marketing and ESG objectives. Our latest 'Igniting your marketing strategy through ESG' webinar delves into enhancing brand visibility and improve brand reputation.
Head of Sustainability, Siemens.
Find them on LinkedIn.
Sustainability and Innovation Manager, Perfectly Fresh!
Find them on LinkedIn.
Beni Gradwohl, Ph.D.
Co-Founder and CEO, Cognovi Labs.
Director of Policy and Partnerships, Planet Mark.
Find them on LinkedIn.