The future of our planet depends on an acceleration of game-changing business models – but they need powerful communications to help them thrive.
The shift towards a low-carbon, less resource-intensive global economy requires the emergence of a business community more willing to disrupt traditional models. It must collaborate with others (including competitors) and find new ways of working that reduces risk in the supply chain, cuts out waste and diminishes our reliance on natural resources.
And we are beginning to see some interesting trends emerge.
Slowly but surely, sustainability issues are being dealt with more strategically, particularly within the larger businesses. No longer is it purely about environmental impacts or corporate responsibility. Now it is about minimising social, reputational, ethical and financial risk – not just in-house but along the value chain, from consumer to supplier, and beyond – and finding the competitive edge by non-traditional means.
As a result we are witnessing more profitable partnerships form, not just between business and NGO, but also between business and business.
Can corporates be transparent?
Of course, the beast that is globalisation is driving plenty of this corporate action right now – at least for the big boys that have supply-chain tentacles crossing geographical boundaries and demanding customers dispersed across the planet.
But the currency for corporate transparency, honesty and ethics has become more valuable too, particularly in the wake of the 2008 economic crash bought about by poor due diligence and an absence of risk adversity. Just look at the horsemeat scandal. It did its best to wipe millions off the share price of the likes of Tesco, but was similarly catastrophic for those it shone a spotlight on too.
Add into the mix an increasingly aggressive campaigning fraternity, fuelled by the amplification offered by social media, and the incentive for telling a better story continues to swell.
And it is with these trends that communications strategies must keep apace. The fine line between success and failure is so often determined by effective engagement and communications techniques. These can bring multiple stakeholders on board and change the hearts and minds of the individuals and organisations involved.
Communications to drive action
Implementing effective communications to promote the pioneering shifts to new and exciting ways of doing business, helps to stimulate others into action.
By demonstrating leadership and creating debate that business-as-usual isn’t the only option, the leaders can inspire others to think in different ways and find innovative solutions to common problems. This may be internally (through engaging staff to be a part of the mission) or through collaboration and partnership efforts (in supply chains, across industry sectors or with NGOs).
And communications around sustainability is very much a boardroom issue. It should lie at the heart of the brand, be driven by and supported by the CEO, and be fully integrated into the mission and vision of the company. Then it should be experienced by the entire business – from staff, and suppliers, to influencers and consumers.
We live in a world in which the performance, transparency, leadership and community engagement of a business is embraced by a number of different audiences –provoking both challenge and exciting opportunity. It is those companies that think differently, act boldly, and look for new solutions that will engage and drive forwards the innovation we need.
And communications will deliver the much-needed acceleration. Success stories of greatness are all very well and good. But if that something great isn’t shared, its impact and influence is minimal.