Sustainability reporting: A masterclass from Leaders for Climate Action
For heads of sustainability in Europe today, reporting according to the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is one of the biggest tasks ahead. To help experts and practitioners master sustainability reporting and navigate through the standards, Leaders for Climate Action (LFCA) has launched a compelling educational program. The first cohort included founders and CEOs, climate officers, but also people from marketing, legal, compliance and product divisions from tech companies, start-ups, and B corps.
We had the honor of leading the communications module, the second-last of the program. By that time the group had learned all the key aspects of ESG reporting from industry experts.
It was our job to present the importance of:
- An uplifting message backed up by data
- An executive voice to amplify the story
- Launching the report internally first to create a groundswell
- Engaging the internal team to act as brand ambassadors
- The dangers of greenwashing
We also discussed four outstanding reports from both B2C and B2C companies, as well as a case study from a client’s first ESG report. There was a lot to cover in two hours! As a handout we provided a template that will help them create a communications plan for launching their report.
The session was a real eye-opener for us. When I asked the group for their comfort level on a scale from one to ten with marketing and communications, most of them answered two to three. One person said nine. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Many of the participants are members of their companies’ green teams and have taken on added responsibility for sustainability. Most are coordinators, and will loop in colleagues from legal, compliance, HR and communications as part of their launch plan.
As I talked about one of my favorite topics – having a key spokesperson – one participant commented that her company had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, meaning they don’t communicate the good things they do. They consider themselves a “humble” company.
What would your advice be in this case?
I suggested she use her leverage internally to influence the CEO and get her/him/them comfortable talking about it internally first. If successful, go external.
This is an issue I had never come across and could be an instance of “greenhushing.” The opposite of greenwashing, greenhushing describes a situation in which companies choose to stay silent on their sustainability efforts and achievements. One reason is fear of criticism, backlash or reputational damage. Have you seen Apple’s Mother Nature campaign? I thought it was cool (referencing Thoreau, hello English majors); others, including Inc., found it cringey.
My main message to the group was: You are the guardians and gatekeepers of the most powerful message for companies right now, the sustainability story. Don’t waste all the good work that goes into reporting by not communicating about it. Start internally. You don’t want your people to see it on Instagram first. And use your executive team to amplify the story.
This was the inaugural program for the LFCA, and they did an impressive job of it. Congratulations to Piotr Drozd, Lucy Bowen, Anna Esakova and team. If you’re looking for a program to introduce your team to the fundamentals of sustainability reporting, look no further.
Interested in our free template for creating your communications plan to launch your ESG report? Reach out to us.