Whether you are an established counselor or just getting into the industry, there’s a common mantra in the corporate communications sector: never forget where you came from, for the things you learn early in your career will carry you far and long.
On rare occasions, though, it’s important to change course from an earlier path, however comfortable or well established it may be. As we close out the first year of the Biden administration’s commitment to clean energy and climate change, there is increasing pressure and scrutiny on public relations and communications leaders – and all businesses — to take a fresh look at their relationships and commitments and their potential impact on our shared global environmental emergency.
In today’s climate focused landscape, maintaining relationships with companies that contribute to warming our planet while also touting sustainability commitments and innovations is an ethical conundrum that no longer flies under the radar. Client positioning is intrinsically tied to being socially responsible. The narrative needs to change to focus on transformative and transparent environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG).
It’s no longer enough to be socially correct. To be successful, a brand and its C-suite must use ESG as the catalyst for what transparency means to today’s global audiences and customer base and must understand how it sets the pace for other parts of its business.
At Silverline, we champion organizations that embrace principles of ethically responsible business education, showing where and how climate change and clean energy impact more than just top and bottom lines.
In the good old days of ESG, clients would ask us to create “scorecards” to measure how effectively a company ranks in particular buzzworthy sectors: the number of trees saved, or the amount of money invested in clean energy sources. While these measurements are great for corporate reports and photo opportunities, the reality is that today’s customer base demands more from its companies—and it’s up to us as counselors to address why these demands need to matter inside and outside of an organization.
Today’s breed of ESG requires the creation of a “clean supply chain,” where companies and brands recognize obvious and not-so-obvious processes that contribute to their manufacturing, production, marketing and distribution efforts, as well as the stakeholders who are affected by their actions. As we help brands and companies shape these systems, we have a dual role to help them understand the role that each plays in shaping the short- and long-term effects of their climate and energy ecosystems.
When a company sees its clean supply chain mapped out—and crucially, the stakeholders who are affected—it quickly realizes that messaging of different “company divisions” harnessing “different energy sources” is an exercise in semantics.
In an effort to educate agencies and brands alike on how to shape their clean supply chain, start by measuring the level of sacrifice offered to your stakeholders, and look for ways to elevate it. When a client joins our roster, there is a mutual understanding that neither side is going to sacrifice reputations by merely greenwashing its constituencies. We are going to show how a technology, process, company or person measurably impacts its audiences. Whether working within an agency, an emerging startup or an established industry, being actively and genuinely transformative and transparent is hard work. This new era of ESG requires us to roll up our sleeves and embrace the effort.