Organizations once viewed social impact strategies and corporate responsibility initiatives as add-ons to their core business activities. Today, many leaders see corporate social responsibility as central to how they approach their business and the future financial success of their organizations.
ESG is one reason for that shift. ESG is a way for organizations to attract investors, talent and customers based on their performance in three categories: Environmental, Social and Governance.
ESG strategies thrive on collaboration across an organization. They bring together investor relations, senior leaders and sustainability and operational teams, like supply chain. But to succeed, communicators must also be brought in as strategic collaborators.
Depending on your organization, this may be easier said than done. Below, we outline how you can articulate the value of communication in advancing an ESG strategy and how to get a seat at the table.
Articulating the value of communication in ESG strategy
Imagine someone has a brilliant idea. They plan out everything that needs to happen to bring it to fruition and share the idea with experts who can help. Then they wait for the idea to materialize. But nothing changes.
Without a communication strategy to support the idea, it either wasn’t clearly conveyed, didn’t reach the right audiences or didn’t inspire people to act.
When explaining the value of communication to key stakeholders and decision makers, it’s helpful to use concrete examples of how a communication strategy can successfully address challenges. Here are three examples of outputs that demonstrate the benefits of effective communication:
1. Consistent, cohesive messages
Communicators ensure that your organization is talking about its ESG strategy in a consistent way, whether in internal communication, at a conference or across digital channels. While different teams and audiences will require specific information or plans, communicators can help organizations develop foundational messages that capture the focus and purpose of the ESG strategy.
2. Informed and engaged teams
Internal communication supports a successful ESG strategy in several ways. First, it helps connect key teams to the information, resources and instructions they need to complete their work and advance ESG-related projects. Second, internal communication helps create an emotional connection to the work. According to McKinsey, 70% of employees now demand purposeful work. Communicators can tap into this desire, helping teams understand their role in advancing a social impact strategy and inspiring them to take action.
3. Compelling storytelling
Creating an emotional connection to your organization’s ESG strategy is also important for audiences outside your employee base. Communicators can help organizations create a clear why for their ESG strategy, outlining the benefits it creates for its key stakeholders and influencing them to support the work. Communicators also bring expertise on how to leverage specific channels to tell the story in the right place, format and time.
How communicators can get a seat at the table
The points above provide a clear rationale for the value that communication brings to an ESG strategy. But it’s difficult to develop effective communication if communicators aren’t embedded in ESG planning conversations. We’ve outlined three strategies communicators can use to influence ESG and social impact strategies:
1. Identify key touch points
Pinpoint the meetings or sub-teams in which it would be most valuable for communicators to have a voice, rather than asking to be invited to every discussion. These meetings might be quarterly executive steering meetings, regular report outs or annual planning meetings. You may also choose to focus on key channels where the communication team should have a role, like an annual ESG, social impact or corporate social responsibility report, or preparing key messages for an investor call.
2. Use data to make the case
Data is always more persuasive than opinions. Be prepared with statistics that illustrate the quantitative impact of communication in strategy adoption, change management, employee engagement and brand perception as you make the case for incorporating communication into ESG strategy planning.
3. Bring ideas
Be an active participant and strategic asset to the ESG strategy team by bringing ideas for how to bring the strategy to life Start by familiarizing yourself with the work as it stands today to understand what the team is currently using for messaging or tactics. Then, review communication best practices, case studies and competitor activities. Take what you observed and brainstorm ideas for various tactics and strategies your organization can leverage.
ESG is increasingly becoming integral to how organizations position themselves for the future. With a seat at the table, communicators have an opportunity to help shape that strategy and advance it through compelling, consistent and creative communication.