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Ten very obvious tips on sustainability communications

Having now spent several days with various Ethical Corporation writers, editors and contributing editors on the 2012 Ethical Corporation awards shortlisting, here’s some simple tips for corporate sustainability communicators.

For experienced practitioners, I should say “look away now” so I don’t annoy you with truisms.

But having just spent quite a few hours, to understate things, looking over 260 award entry forms with colleagues, we came up with a few tips based on what we’ve just been reading for the last few days.

1) Remember that simple language is incredibly important when you communicate.

2) If you do it in a rush, it’s obvious.

3) Write it like you would say it, just without the “ums” and “ers” and digressions.

4) Avoid nonsense jargon and abbreviations, at all times.

5) CSR communications should be about core business, not activities clearly attached to core business.

6) Write to length, don’t just shrink the font!

7) Get someone to proof your work, at least twice, ideally three times, and not on a screen.

8) Endorsements from genuinely independent/critical friends matter most for credibility.

9) The value of your management system is not as obvious to others as it is to you.

10) Provide context for your story: Talk about what’s been achieved, and focus less on bigger aspirations than on slightly smaller achievements.

As I said, all fairly obvious stuff.

3 Comments

  1. Tish Lascelle

    I'm sure you didn't intend this to be funny, but I laughed all the way through it! Having been in the 'screener' or 'judge' seat myself, you nailed all the things that make me crazy too!

  2. I couldn't possibly comment Tish…:)

  3. Henry A Boyter Jr.

    Three additional ones I would add:

    1. Beware context when talking about dollar payback to the company when most of the original funding comes from taxpayers. Taxpayers don't get a payback and it can look like corporate welfare.

    2. Always check your payback against the life of the project. A ten year payback is not good when the project will have to be redone in five years.

    3. Understand your effort versus your company's usage. A 10 thousand gallon per day water savings is not very good for a factory that uses 10 million gallons per day. It should be done, but it raises many questions.

    These can be seen as parts of the ten listed, but they are three that can nullify everything accomplished if not understood. One big hole in a report is hard to patch.

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