The moment to act and communicate on climate change is now. The world is sitting up and listening intently. Organizations have a mandate to take action and an opportunity to help mold the future in the face of a changing climate.
In The Global Risks Report 2021, the World Economic Forum (WEF) reports that climate action failure will be among the top global risks in terms of impact over the next 10 years. The WEF has noted: “The near-term consequences of climate change add up to a planetary emergency.”
Accordingly, the last 12 months have seen a rapid increase in the number of climate-related commitments. More brands are promising to reach net-zero carbon, recognizing the need to strategically manage climate risks, and take advantage of the opportunities to innovate and change. Driving business transformation can enhance the likelihood of success in a low-carbon future. As businesses share their journeys, strategies and triumphs in their climate commitments, they inspire others to follow suit. However, there is still more to be done on this collaborative journey.
Why now is the time for action
More than 200 of the world’s largest enterprises predict that climate change could cost them a combined total of $1 trillion in the years to come. However, action on climate change is important from more than just an economic standpoint. It is considered the ethical thing to do, with sustainable practices increasingly impacting consumer perception and loyalty. In the near future, actions undertaken surrounding climate change may be the key lens through which consumers judge organizations. For example, employees use climate as a barometer of their company’s commitment to being a responsible business. Meanwhile, 43 percent of consumers actively choose brands based on their environmental values. Specialist stakeholders are also stepping up their demands.
Regulators, governments and investors expect to see organizations take committed action on climate change. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) continues to gain momentum and participation, with nearly 1,500 organizations expressing their support, including representation from every major type of financial market participant.
To satisfy this thirst for information and seize the opportunity to strengthen their reputation, companies can commit to and bolster their climate-related communications.
Here are some key considerations companies can keep in mind when setting a sustainability communications strategy.
How sustainability and communications teams can be catalysts for change
In any organization, communications should sit at the heart of its response to climate change, with a mission to advocate and accelerate change, whilst building resilience to risk. As one corporate affairs leader puts it: “Be your organization’s chief conscience officer.”
Both sustainability and communications teams are naturally adept at spotting changes in public attitudes, sharing stories, motivating audiences to buy into change, and setting out a clear vision for the future. Applying these skills to climate change and sustainability can help the world stand up and take notice.
Making shifts to shape future communications plans
Companies can also consider these strategic shifts when developing and executing sustainability communications plans:
So what can organizations think about in the near-term when communicating about climate change? As a first step, get the right internal team together, then be bold about both the company’s role and objectives. By working collaboratively, specialist climate teams and communicators can set and share an inspiring vision for a sustainable future.
Mark Hutcheon is a specialist in reputation management and corporate affairs. For over 20 years, he has advised and worked for major brands helping them protect and grow reputation. Mark helps clients understand their reputation through data, put governance and strategy behind it, detect reputation risk and grow reputation to unlock competitive advantage. He helps CEOs and corporate affairs leaders put reputation at the heart of their decision-making and provides support and counsel in times of opportunity and challenge. In leadership roles for both a global technology and leading sports brand he set the communications agenda, protected reputations in times of distress and created strategies that built trust and value in the business. Previously he was a partner in a reputation management consultancy.
Ben has over fifteen years’ experience in corporate purpose and sustainability and has worked with many organisations to give them the confidence and capability to create change on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. He has worked with some the world’s largest public and privately owned companies, as well as public sector and third sector clients. He coordinates Deloitte’s global TCFD community, a network that shares and develops best-practices on climate risk and strategy disclosures, and was lead author on our climate scenarios paper with the UK Met Office. He runs regular board and business training for clients on sustainability-related governance, risk, and reporting requirements. Ben frequently co-authors publications and speaks at events on emerging ESG risks including climate change, decarbonisation, biodiversity and digital ethics.