Sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips. The word is omnipresent, be it in media campaigns, political manifestos, on company websites, brands, products, labels, receipts, etc.
In fact, a study found that on average this word is repeated over 10 times on each webpage of Forbes top 50 brands. More than a word, ‘sustainability’ has become a moral duty, a lifestyle, a community and choice, which makes it important to use this word wisely to communicate on the topic effectively.
So how do you stand out from the crowd, come across as authentic and pique your reader’s interest when writing about sustainability? Here are some do’s and don’ts on how to communicate about sustainability.
- Use too many clichés: the same study identified clusters of words and phrases that are repeated across different websites, which made it almost impossible to differentiate brands or companies from each other. Using phrases like “together we can”, “time to action”, “our planet is at risk”, “the biggest challenge” will make you sound mainstream and dull. Repetition of these ‘staple’ words means your message is losing its meaning.
- Use jargon or technical language: sustainability is a science and whilst it is important to back your writing on strong scientific foundations, keep it simple to avoid losing your reader. It is misleading to think that by using complex, scientific facts you will come across as more truthful and genuine.
- Sound too dramatic or dooming. It may be tempting to catch the reader’s attention by using dooming headlines, such as “we only have a few years left”, “our planet is dying a slow death”. However, whilst it is important to convey a sense of urgency on this matter, using scaremongering tactics will only spark “green fatigue” or “green exhaustion” among your readers. When being constantly bombarded by bad news, people will feel defeated and will want to give up.
- Be authentic: adapt your language to your company’s sustainability strategy. There is no one-size-fits all strategy for sustainability, so you need to adapt your message and language to your company’s needs and goals. By doing so you will distinguish yourself from your competitors. So instead of using clichés, explain your company’s strategy and actions in a comprehensive manner.
- Be pragmatic: explain what specific actions and steps your company is taking towards sustainability. Don’t beat around the bush: use facts, figures and testimonials which justify why and how something is sustainable. By giving the right amount of detail and context you will make your message more understandable. Describing something as ‘sustainable’ does not automatically convince your audience it is, unless you can validate it with evidence. For example, Patagonia explains how and why it uses recycled polyester to reduce emissions and its dependence on raw materials. Or Ecover, also unravels how its new 50% recycled polypropylene plastic caps help reduce plastic waste.
- Be relatable: describe your solutions to the climate crisis and their impact on the future. Make sure you are clear about what you want the “future” to look like so that you can engage and inspire your audience with a tangible vision. For example, Beyond Meat outlines its products benefits and describes its journey to “feed a better future“ as “already happening” hence making it within close reach for the user.
Writing about sustainability is a complex exercise which requires a lot of thought and strategy. Staying true to your company’s vision while offering tangible solutions and results will make your message all the more compelling.
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