How important is sustainability communication for brands and employer branding?

Whether on social media, when shopping, or out and about, the topic of sustainability is everywhere you look and is especially important to the younger generation. Companies that want to win over this group of society as future employees will have to focus on sustainable communication in the long term.

For sustainability communication to be successful, a company needs the right sustainable strategy.
Image: © Viacheslav Iakobchuk / Adobe Stock

Sustainability communication has to be credible!

“Actions speak louder than words” – that is the general consensus among the generation that values a sustainable corporate culture. If a company’s green marketing is not credible, it risks being accused of brand greenwashing and the repercussions of the resulting violation of trust will be strongly felt. With that in mind, sustainability communication is all about acting sustainably and consistently pursuing an ethical and environmentally friendly strategy in order to market the brand authentically.

In this context, corporate social responsibility (CSR) – the specific contribution that a company makes to sustainable business – is not exactly new, but it has received a lot more attention in recent years. The values of society have changed and consequently so have the expectations that young people have of brands. Companies therefore need to be aware of the essential aspects of successful sustainability communication:

#1 Following through on what you communicate

By consistently demonstrating that you are implementing good practices and acting sustainability, you will ideally turn sustainability into your brand’s USP.

#2 Authenticity

The Internet makes it possible for anyone to verify any claims you make at any time. Consumers and future employees trust companies when what they communicate is reflected in tangible results. That is the only way to maintain the desired public image.

#3 Transparency

The path to an optimal sustainability strategy is sometimes complex and arduous. Potential setbacks that slow down a company’s sustainable transformation can still be turned into something positive. Openly addressing these issues among consumers not only strengthens trust, but also creates an opportunity to hear their point of view and come up with improvements or solutions that may not have been considered during the planning phase yet.

#4 Willingness to engage

The importance of social media in marketing communication cannot be denied. Interaction with the end consumer is a factor that strengthens brand trust. Authenticity is also vital here in order to make potential customers willing to engage. However, communication on social media platforms can be challenging and should be approached with a clever strategy.

In this regard, sustainability communication is not just limited to one side of the coin: critical questions, remarks, and discussions should be expected, which means a certain loss of control on the company’s side. Then again, a brand will be questioned and discussed on social media anyway, so it is wise to make yourself present and proactively participate in the discourse. Ultimately, that presents an opportunity for you to expand your company’s scope of action.

#5 Continuity

Successful sustainability communication requires staying power. Trust, authenticity, and therefore the brand will only grow with regular commitment. Companies that stumble at the first hurdle will not succeed in building trust over the long term.

Sustainable communication in employer branding

An entire generation is demanding solutions from politics and business to slow down climate change. Environmentally conscious behavior and actions will not just be limited to the personal daily routine of individuals, but will also become a fundamental issue in all aspects of day-to-day life. As a result, high expectations are placed on companies, forcing employers to adapt to the needs of young talent if they want their brand to last in the long run.

The focus of younger employees is therefore less on having a high salary or climbing the career ladder, but more on wanting to bring about lasting change through their work. A work-life balance, working from home, flexible working hours, and a good team are the optimal prerequisites they need to fulfill this calling and support their company in a motivated and innovative way.

However, sustainability should not just be feigned, it needs to be put into practice throughout the company and ingrained in the employer’s basic principles. Not only will that make the company more attractive as a potential employer, but will also boost the performance of employees because they identify with their employer and thus act with an eye to the future.

Case studies and how these companies shaped their sustainability communication

A holistic view of the complex issue of sustainability is essential for successful sustainability communication. For companies across all industries, that means that the suitable processes overlap in many places, but the various business sectors still have different focuses – which, in a way, is reflected in their communication in this area. The following companies serve as good case studies for sustainable business and how it is communicated:

  • Beiersdorf AG is the parent company of well-known skincare brands that all have one thing in common: an end-to-end sustainable supply chain. The necessary measures for achieving this are broken down in detail for consumers.
  • Patagonia produces textile and outdoor clothing and has promoted sustainability and environmental protection ever since it started out. Its website gives customers insight into the production and supply chain, and also lets them gain a picture of the environmental impact and social background.
  • Ben & Jerry’s not only uses sustainable, fair-trade ingredients in its ice cream, but also makes a contribution to society by employing disadvantaged people in its production facilities.

A genuine attitude lays the foundation for credible sustainability communication

Sustainability communication does not mean presenting the entirety of individual measures in a good light. For a brand to appear authentic and credible, a company needs a sustainability strategy that comes from within. Sustainable and ethical practices must be deeply rooted in the company’s structures and form part of its DNA as an internal attitude. This is the only approach that will ensure its credibility as a potential employer and enable effective employer branding.