Sustainability PR professionals are experts in engaging stakeholders at every level, both internal and external. In an era of growing expectation for collaborative leadership to address the big global challenges and opportunities brought to us through the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, the next few years represent a critical window of opportunity for PR professionals who understand the new engagement era. The UN-Sustainable development goals is fundamentally shifting how businesses, NGOs and government engage with their consumers, stakeholders and encouraging them to rethink how they incorporate sustainability into long-term growth and innovation planning.
Sustainability PR experts have the unique implementation intervention roles to help companies and government achieve internal buy-in for their sustainability ambitions and build accountability for performance, from the leaders to the led.
Sustainability PR is becoming a growing source of confidence for investors and, through it, commitment to promote behaviours and policies that address long-term risks.
Reporting and Communications
Sustainability PR professionals are experts in helping companies disclose sustainability performance and create reporting and communication approaches that show a sustainability commitment to stakeholders at every level. Businesses are increasingly seeking to communicate their goals and achievements consistently with the sustainable development goals in their sustainability reports and overall company and executive communication. Today’s sustainability conscious investors are not just examining companies’ balance sheets anymore; they are looking for proof of social environmental and ethical investment. Sustainability PR experts are committed to helping organisation weave sustainability principles into their annual reports.
Who Needs Sustainability PR
Graham Sprigg, managing director of UK-based IMS Consulting once stated that ‘‘many organisations, including private, public and NGOs are now realising that their efforts and achievements in the field of sustainability need to be communicated more effectively’’. He observed that sustainability has moved past merely being a trend to becoming a cultural shift. All organisations will need to realise that sustainability is just not a desired activity but a necessary strategy specifically when developing communication campaign strategies.
From the foregoing, sustainability is now a central factor to effective business management. Its brand acceptance values is improving business marginal profits and mitigating the negative impacts of corporate behaviour on the community and the planet.
Many organisations are now realising that they need societal approval, or what experts would call, ‘societal licence’’ such as the support or consent of stakeholders in order to operate effectively.
Consequently, progress on sustainability means increasing persuasion on multinationals and local manufacturers to change their production and supply processes. It means persuading consumers to choose goods that do more good or less harm to our planet. It also means putting pressure on governments and policy makers to strengthen global partnership and regulate ethically for sustainable development.
Lastly, the increasing demand on organisations, NGOs, development partners and government to work in partnership with some strange bedfellows is also increasing demands for sustainability PR by organisations, especially organisation that need to facilitate actions or change attitudes of key stakeholders that can have the biggest impact on their sustainability objectives.
The Future of Sustainability PR Practice
Sustainability PR is one of the best things to happen to contemporary public relations practice. It has positioned the public relations practice as a change agent. Contemporary public relations professionals must be consistent in advocating for truth and honesty; and maintaining a strong focus on integrity and other core ethical values.
Public relations have a critical role in shaping a new world and we can accomplish that through a greater focus on impact relations and communications.
Practitioners should understand and communicate the enormous benefits of sustainability to both organisation and society. Once we understand those social, environmental and ethical demands on business and potency of strategic public relations efforts, we can get a glimpse at the role of sustainability in the future of businesses and the PR practices.
As a public relation practitioner who is also a social change advocate, I understand the power of sustainability PR from a future perspective. I consider social, environmental and ethical impact of my decisions, advice and actions owing to my own personal investment of time and efforts in support of the sustainability movement. In dealing with organisation or buying products, I now look out for certain words such as ‘’environment friendly’’ or ‘recycle’ on the organization’s profile or product labels to suit my new lifestyle.
Concluding, developments such as Paris climate change agreement have cemented the importance of sustainability. The agreement is today the most ambitious deal that ever received implementation consent of every country’s leadership because of the dire need to protect the planet. The agreement simply calls for a change in behaviour. I have changed my behaviour; many other individuals have become socially and environmentally conscious by selecting more sustainable options. Sustainability is no longer a trend, or just a business manoeuvre; it is a necessity to effectively run a business in this world and public relation must be seen driving that future.
The tasks which are set for us now, as co-creators of the global civilization is that of doing no harm, of using the national resource of our energy and creativity for the common good, and of uplifting the poor in whatever we can. These are the moral imperatives of this time, and PR professionals should incorporate these mandates in the agendas they are promoting.
- The Art of Original Thinking–The Making of a Thought Leader – By Jan Phillips Published by 9th Element Press – 2006 – United States of America
- Brundtland Report, United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development