Ten Lessons to Communicate Sustainability

According to a recent survey by KPMG, annual reports on corporate social responsibility is on the rise—..."corporate responsibility reporting has gone mainstream—nearly 80% of the largest 250 companies worldwide issued reports, up from about 50 percent in 2005.” The reputational value surrounding disclosure on corporate ethics and economics were among the top drivers referenced by KPMG that are influencing more and more companies to publicly report out on key CSR indicators. In the mad rush to publish CSR content, how effective are companies at communicating themselves to stakeholders effectively? How do they differentiate sustainability as a business and societal directive? How do they communicate clarity when there is conjecture about the future?

The eloquence by which President-elect Barack Obama speaks of his vision for our nation is, in my personal view, one of the defining and winning elements of his campaign. Trying to communicate such vision to 100 million registered voters, through nothing more than the delivery of words, is an incredible skill and nothing shy of amazing. President Obama’s victory speech was exemplified how and why words matter.

There are some basic principles and key lessons in communication that we can draw from the leadership of President Obama and his ability to communicate complicated and often unresolved issues to diverse audiences. These key lessons on are valuable for communicating complex information like a corporate sustainability strategy, which is often not well defined, not yet rooted, and in most cases, a vision or framework for business strategy and governance.

Key Lessons for Communicating Your Sustainability Strategy

1. Create Trust by Giving Praise
2. Be Articulate and Succinct
3. Be Visionary yet Grounded in Tangible Example and Application
4. Show Emphasis but not Exaggeration
5. Transcend All Stakeholders with Common Themes and Examples
6. Be Realistic on the Present and Future
7. Demonstrate Force and Grace Simultaneously
8. Don’t Overwhelm Your Audience
9. Create Enthusiasm
10. Leave a Door Open for Others to Join

I am sure there are other basic principles one can draw from President-elect Obama’s oratory and speech writing skills, however, these ten principles are directly applicable to corporate communications and disclosure on sustainability.

This was excerpted from an article that originally appeared on www.evancarmichael.com. It was written by Mark Coleman, senior associate & world inc. case leader with the AHC Group, Inc., a management consulting firm.