Early in March of 2012, CBSR ran a webinar on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability Communications. The purpose was to explore how to effectively utilize communications and marketing as a tool to engage business customers, consumers, and employees in CSR and sustainability initiatives.
The guest speakers for this webinar - Anthony Santilli, Bullfrog Power, Nick Drake, Carillion Canada, and Tim Southam, Mountain Equipment Co-op - defined what communicating with impact means to their organizations, shared insights on exactly how they are getting stakeholder buy-in, and highlighted some of the challenges that they have faced throughout their communications journey.
Three connecting themes emerged from this conversation, all necessary for meaningful engagement and stakeholder buy-in.
FINE-TUNE YOUR SUSTAINABILITY MESSAGE TO STAKEHOLDER VALUES
Decision making is driven by many forces including our values and habits, and external factors such as affordability, convenience and social norms. Whether your organization is looking to engage business customers, employees, or consumers, take the time to dig deep into the key drivers for your particular audience and cater your message to their need. Bullfrog Power for instance sells an intangible product which requires education for organizations to understand why they should be participating in renewable energy programs. Bullfrog’s communications efforts aim to build a dialogue; educate customers about energy choices; and drive action. When engaging business customers, Bullfrog has a deep understanding of their customers’ key drivers for sustainability programs (operations, sales and marketing, finance, and governance) and caters their message to fit those particular needs while also helping customers achieve their sustainability goals. Truly understanding customers has enabled Bullfrog Power to launch their infamous “Pay More for Energy” campaign that fostered a dialogue on true cost of energy and allowed them to “weed out non-target market”.
INTEGRATE CSR COMMUNICATIONS WITHIN EXISTING MARKETING CHANNELS
There are many opportunities to integrate CSR specific communications into your existing communications efforts across multiple channels. Mountain Equipment Co-op, for example, is using multi-communication models including web, social media, and retail space. MEC is using the built environment itself to communicate commitment to sustainability and imbuing performance data from their accountability report within the existing shopping flow. MEC also uses identifiers, such as eco attributions related to product information to inform purchase decisions along with standard product description and specs. For MEC, engaging their members in sustainability or CSR efforts comes secondary to engaging them in active outdoor lifestyles, MEC’s larger brand story. An integrated communications approach allows MEC to keep creating a truly inspiring brand around fun, adventure, and passion while also engaging members in their sustainability values.
CREATIVELY USE EDUCATIONAL TOOLS
Educational tools within the right context can be powerful vehicles for engagement. Speakers shared how they’ve leveraged relationships with partners, suppliers and NGOs to develop educational programs, lunch & learns, and site tours. What’s important is to tailor your message to your audience within the most appropriate framework. Carillion recognizes that changing attitudes takes time, and as part of their employee engagement strategy, launched an on-line sustainability booklet to help employees and customers understand the importance of climate change impacts, and provide easy to access sustainability opportunities and tips. Their goal is that by raising awareness of climate change impacts, and cultivating an association to everyday decisions, employees will recognize that there are alternatives to current status quo and make more educated choices in their personal and professional lives – for instance, source sustainable wood in their projects. Carillion also provides clear tips on how to make more sustainable decisions by including that information in bids for new projects, site inductions, and team talks.
CBSR thanks the speakers for sharing their expertise. To continue the conversation on this topic please contact:
- Anthony Santilli, Bullfrog Power - email@example.com
- Nick Drake, Carillion Canada & Caribbean - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tim Southam, Mountain Equipment Co-op - email@example.com