New Era of ‘Soft Sustainability’- Report
25 March 2015 at 9:22 am
Social media is driving a new era of “soft sustainability,” where companies are shunning buzzwords and aiming to connect with consumers based on their values, according to a new report.
Sustainability communications agency, Sustainly has released The 5th Social Media Sustainability Index, which analyses how 475 global companies communicate their sustainability actions and initiatives using social media. Researchers assessed more than 2,500 corporate sites and social media channels to inform the report.
The top performers on the Index – led by Unilever, Intel, Coca-Cola Company, Philips and McDonald’s – “all successfully communicate what practitioners recognise as sustainability without, for the most part, ever ushering the S word,” the report said.
“How do you talk about sustainability when no-one really knows what it means? That’s the quandary facing the world’s biggest companies.
“Today, as companies, governments and NGOs all struggle with the challenge of persuading the public why sustainability matters, some are starting to explore a new type of communication strategy – one that stresses the sustainability values that matter to real people without hitting consumers over the head with the type of sustainability professional jargon that only confuses and alienates them.”
The report notes the role of social media platforms in putting sustainability issues into the thoughts and decision-making processes of the general public, through its ability to connect “millions of people all over the world on issues and interests they share, and which has fueled the spread of information (and misinformation) about sustainability issues.”
“Communicating sustainability is easier said than done. While both companies and consumers understand the importance of sustainability issues, they don’t speak the same language.
“It’s not just consumers and companies that have this disconnect. Within companies themselves, the language used by sustainability professionals can leave the marketing and communication department scratching their heads and struggling for a way to communicate sustainability to the outside world.
“Increasingly, companies are looking to talk in terms that make sense to the outside world.”
Sustainly advises companies to “connect with people in an entertaining, informative and authentic voice on the issues they are passionate about. Simple things like food that won’t hurt you. Products free from poisons and carcinogens. Paying workers a decent wage. And not harming local habitats or communities.”
“Instead, the companies that make up the Sustainly Top 100 communicate tricky topics like transparent supply chains, minimising waste, resource scarcity and diversity in the workplace through the narratives like innovation, digital literacy, artisanal making and wellness.”
The Executive Summary is free. Register to read it here.