PR has an important role to play in the adoption of better business practices when it comes to ethics and environmental factors across all levels of business, whether stakeholder leadership, coworker or client level.
If you’re unsure where to start, speakers at last week’s CIPR conference Climate Change and the Role of PR had plenty of ideas for getting people on board, organisation-wide.
1) Use your influence wherever you can within your organisations
‘How comms professionals can save the planet’ – Climate Group’s director of internal communications Luke Herbert
‘It’s a risk, as a business, to say one thing and do another. Get your executives in the right forums. Show them what other executives are doing; get them on courses. Be upfront and clear about the risks of saying this, and delivering this,’ advised Luke for getting leadership teams on board with environmental initiatives and strategy.
‘It’s much better to plant your flag in the future, and work back from that – leadership strategy is easier than a follower strategy.
‘Exert your influence on your organisations where you can. If they have huge revenues, they have huge footprints. The first thing is to commit. Be really ambitious – the bigger things are negotiable, even if they’re not solvable. Set up pathways for the trickier problems.
‘My one message to you is to lead the change.’
2) Empower your decision makers with the information they need to be aware of
‘Truth, responsibility, opportunity, risk, legacy: 5 words in 15 minutes to sum up the importance of the plastic crisis for every business’ – Plastic Planet UK’s co-founder Sian Sutherland
‘The idea of the ‘ethical consumer’ is silly – rather, it’s a design problem; it’s a production problem,’ said Sian Sutherland on how businesses need to start taking action on the plastic crisis.
‘Your organisation’s decision makers need empowerment on this – they need to know the materials of the future, the innovators and the convertors. Wherever there is change, there is always opportunity.
‘The myths and the facts of climate change are all our responsibility and we need to start telling the truth. You guys – the PR and comms industry – are the ones with power. It is a business where we can create change at scale and pace.’
3) Educate clients and provide leadership on sustainability initiatives
The role of public relations: how to advise clients and your business to go Green – #EthicalHour’s Sian Conway-wood, CommHero’s Asif Choudry, PersonaR & WhiteElephantDigital’s Andras Sztaniszlav
‘We need to educate our clients and ensure that sustainability is embedded in what they’re doing,’ said Sian Conway-Wood.
‘The real dark side of this is that brands that are greenwashing are dominating the sustainable conversation, and the media is such a big influence on us and how we understand these topics as well as the action we go on to take. We just haven’t got the time to waste – I passionately believe that greenwashing is where we should start.
‘Sustainability is becoming more and more of a consumer demand – because education is happening and awareness is growing, the way to be profitable is to be sustainable. And if there are clients that are outside of the echo chamber, we need to be a sustainability lens for them, and I think positive stories are the way to go’.
Asif Choudry advocates for being an example for clients when it comes to making change: ‘In the last ten years, we’ve been involved in a sustainability drive. We took decisions to ensure every sheet of paper we use is FSC-certified and sustainably sourced.
‘All of this takes commitment and it takes investment – none of this comes for free. We don’t pass this down the line to clients. How much are you willing to put your money where your mouth is?’
And for Andras, there has been one big lesson the PR and comms industry can take from the pandemic:
‘Driving conversation with all stakeholders is the most essential part – we’ve learned that it’s fine to make mistakes sometimes, that it can be right to do something wrong if it starts conversations.
‘The main part of our role is broadcasting, but this is more about conversation and dialogues. Individual actions are just as important when it comes to the hard work ahead on climate change.’
Interested in more from the CIPR Climate Change and the Role of PR conference? Read our write up of the half-day event here.
For more on ESG and the important part public relations and communications can play, watch our webinar The ESG Opportunity For PRs.