Communicating ESG: best practice

In the latest series of life-changing three-word acronyms, ESG brings as many questions as it bears promise. When a business aims for a true impact of its ESG policy and the message it bears, a strategic approach to PR is required. The WHEN and HOW communication experts step in are determinant factors.

There’s more to it than that

Measuring your businesses’ social and environmental impact, assessing its performance against standardised benchmarks; the past few years have brought a clearer picture on what ESG means and what the benefits of a sustainable business are. 

Being a growing and realistic expectation from your audience, communicating on how your company is measuring and achieving its ESG targets remains a challenge. This is clearly illustrated by the common mistake of using CSR and ESG acronyms interchangeably.

In this context, how do you approach this issue strategically while authentically engaging stakeholders?

Early start

Because ESG involves many moving parts, PR professionals should be involved at the very early stages of your planning, be it at the concept stage or drawing board. Consumers, regulators, shareholders or suppliers, ESG reaches far and wide.

This will help them target stakeholders in order of priority and gain enough margin to shape a narrative that truly reflects your organisations’ landmarks and commitments.

Beyond the marketing department

ESG is a cross-cutting issue, it involves more departments than marketing. A PR manager needs to secure privileged access and input from all relevant members of an organisation, all the way up to the C Suite. The goal is to define clear ambitions and compelling messages.

Stretch the timeline

Compared to traditional campaigns, an ESG PR strategy is rather on the long end of the timeline. By definition, the entire rationale of ESG is everything but short-termist. It is an ongoing campaign that requires medium and long-term metrics to assess impact and success. Moreover, as ESG involves a large amount of stakeholders, identifying and prioritizing them is a time-consuming prerequisite to launching any sort of campaign.

Look inside

Internal audience buy-in is the key to a performing and relevant ESG communication strategy. A company engaging on an ESG roadmap will make sure that employees endorse the policy and the message. 

It’s a two-way exercise

An ESG communications strategy is sustainable when the audience talks back. This means that it should include actions to gain relevant feedback from target audiences to help you shape a shared vision of the organisation and its future.

Aim high

Given the importance of the topic, the C-suite cannot take a back seat on this. Policy and organisational-driven ESG projects should reserve specific roles for the CEO at least. PR experts then have the task to equip this person with the stories and the facts that support the organisations’ ESG performance and build trust with all audiences.

Purpose Communications will help you shape an efficient ESG communication plan with the help of its three-step approach:

  • Analysis: Purpose Communications experts take stock of your internal communications around ESG, identify ESG leaders and spokespeople within the organisation and review gaps/best practices.
  • Concept: Your story appeals to the expectations of your internal (employees, boardroom, shareholders) and external audiences (stakeholders, regulators, society, media).
  • Impact: An ESG messaging package tailored to all target audiences, together with appropriate timelines and benchmarks.