5 Ways to Avoid Crafting a Hollow Environmental Credo

Even for the most seasoned writer, corporate credos pose a special set of challenges. To ensure that environmental credos are well-crafted and achievable, communications executives must be involved throughout the entire process, from conception all the way to implementation. Whether it’s for your own organization or for a client, the following five tips serve as a guide for helping communicators—and their managers/clients—prepare an environmental credo that strikes the right balance.

  1. Understand what the CEO/client wants. Meet with the CEO/client to gain insight into the environmental issues he or she feels strongly about. When a credo bears the imprimatur of senior-most leadership, its passage through the organizational gauntlet becomes an easier task.

  2. Educate leadership about the qualities of a good credo. An environmental credo needs to be a compelling statement of an organization’s values. Unfortunately, this is more the exception than the rule. Click on many corporate Web sites and you’ll find a gauzy, cliché-riddled statement of “our environmental values.” In many cases, this is worse than no credo at all. Make sure, then, that before you begin to write, senior leaders understand what a meaningful and dynamic credo looks like. Show them samples. Then enlist their commitment to help you fight to reach that goal.

  3. Check with your industry’s associations. Chances are that your industry’s trade groups have published guidelines about environmental issues. This could serve as a model for your company’s own environmental credo, and may even uncover issues that you hadn’t considered before.

  4. Aim high, but be realistic. Your company alone can’t save the world, so don’t try. While lofty ambitions are nice, make sure that the elements of your credo are realistic; when over-promising, you run the risk of under-delivering. Remember, your company will be judged by various constituencies, including the media, who will be all too happy to report on how well you live up to your credo. Also remember that a poorly or hastily crafted environmental credo can serve as the basis for future lawsuits, as well as damage to your company’s reputation.

  5. K.I.S.S. it: Keep it simple... (we all know the rest of the phrase). Remember that your credo will be read and hopefully embraced by many different people, from the C-suite to the mail room. It needn’t be a lengthy manifesto containing lofty language. A particularly good example comes from Ikea: “Low prices are the cornerstone of the IKEA vision and our business idea—but not at any price. At the IKEA Group, we believe that taking responsibility for people and the environment is a prerequisite for doing good business.” The company then provides an online brochure that provides specific details around its credo in action, from manufacturing to employee programs.  

An environmental credo is nice, but its importance and the company’s commitment can only be demonstrated through corporate actions. If your company is not already doing so, become involved in a cause that relates to elements of your credo, and then communicate that involvement to external stakeholders. This will make the credo a living part of your organization, and an integrated piece of your overall brand.

Robin S. Goodman is EVP and a partner at Makovsky + Company. 

This article was adapted from PR News' Employee Communications Guidebook, Vol. 3. This and other guidebooks can be ordered at the PR News Press online store.