Earth Day may have come and gone, but many businesses are taking to heart what used to be a once-a-year acknowledgement and committing to sustainability in their day-to-day activities.
Today (May 4) the popular Pandora jewelry line said it will no longer use mined diamonds. The accessory maker will release its first collection using lab-made stones in the U.K., and turn to other markets in 2022.
”For millennials in particular, the awareness of what a lab-created diamond is, is significantly higher than with the older generation,” Pandora CEO Alexander Lacik said in a phone interview with Bloomberg. “They are more concerned about sustainability aspects.”
Also this week, luxury dining destination Eleven Madison Park announced it will reopen as a strictly plant-based restaurant. Before the pandemic, the three-Michelin star eatery could run a bill of almost $1,000 for two, delivering multiple-course meals, including foie gras-stuffed roast chicken and honey lavender duck. It sat atop the bucket list of many foodies and in 2017 was on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
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Sustainability PR Best Practices
However, not everyone welcomes these changes, as they can result in severed ties with distributors who depend on them for business, or simply inconvenience those who enjoy a certain product.
As a result, sustainability PR becomes a necessity for organizations making such moves. Telling the story about how or why a brand comes to these decisions is essential to maintain relationships with an intended audience.
Sandy Skees, Porter Novelli's global lead, purpose and impact practice, defined sustainability PR as “an expansion of the company narrative,” as well as a “new language of business” that “extends how a company explains the new types of goals, challenges and accomplishments" it "is making in how it impacts the environment and society.”
And it’s extremely important to define these goals on a grand scale to appeal to current and potential stakeholders.
“Sustainability PR is more than the usual financial and market information—it’s how a company is living its purpose, how it is actually accounting for its environmental impacts or ways it is participating in creating a more equitable society,” Skees said. “These stories are increasingly of interest to all stakeholders, from investors, to customers, to employees.”
Some of her best practices for rolling out sustainable PR strategies include:
- Integrating internal sustainability experts and consultants in framing messages and ongoing communication to ensure accuracy and context.
- Clearly present goals that are specific and time-bound, with as much detail about the programs that will get to those goals
- And present updates on how you are doing and what roadblocks you may be encountering.
“A steady cadence of news and updates about progress against goals (climate, water, waste, energy, DEI) is a best practice,” Skees added. “More and more indices and ranking organizations, as well as investment firms, are monitoring progress beyond an annual CSR report.”
The Importance of Context
In the case of Eleven Madison Park, a tasting menu will still run $335, which, even before the pandemic would have been outrageous for a majority of diners. Chef-owner Daniel Humm is circulating this week in the media—talking sustainable food sourcing on National Public Radio and showing the Wall Street Journal how he turns a beet into a delicacy. Pronouncing his reasoning and driving the direction this story will take with extreme detail seem to be his strategy.
Skees said sustainability announcements need to be continually contextualized for stakeholders.
“Announcements about goals, commitments, coalitions or milestones reached are an important part of sustainability PR,” she said. “They signal to stakeholders what key initiative the company has decided to lean into, because no organization can lead across all aspects of environmental, social or governance imperatives.”
There are several ways to contextualize sustainability efforts, Skees said, including:
- Mentioning other who have launched similar actions;
- Noting broad results the commitment will yield; and
- Including innovative, different or advanced aspects of the action.
Distributing results also will play a key role in the public’s acceptance of sustainability processes, including how effective the company's commitment is in addressing the environmental impact it wants to make.
“The messaging needs to transparently communicate what, how, by when and with whom the company will be working to meet their commitment,” Skees said. “It may be a 'me too' from a landscape perspective, but truly transformational for the company–and that matters.”
Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal