Building an ESG communication strategy for your business?

Paul Crabtree B2B Branding, B2B Content Marketing, B2B Creative, B2B Insurance, B2B Storytelling, B2B Strategy, Industrial, Professional Services, Technology

 

The urgency around net zero is growing. Companies have an important part to play and are often one of the largest sources of emissions. Many are taking action.  All are under pressure to take action.  

Many large global companies are leading the charge by publishing ESG reports, some voluntarily and others to comply with regulations put down by the SEC in the US and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive in Europe. As part of this, their procurement teams are making demands of their supply chain, looking to understand what steps they are taking to take responsibility for the impact that they have. 

The chances are, as a B2B marketer, communicating your sustainability strategy has landed at your door. 

This issue is important for the workforce, too. Organisations with purpose have long been revered (source: PWC) and there are many studies that show that the new generations joining the workforce take this very seriously.  64% say it’s important that employers act on environmental issues and one in three (31%) would turn down roles in companies with poor ESG credentials, and over half (54%) would take a pay cut to work for a business that reflects their ethics.  This matters. 

The chances are, as a B2B marketer, you feel inversing pressure about getting this right. 

There is only one direction of travel and that is one where sustainability is an important part of your organisational creds and brand story.  Smart B2B marketers have seen this already and have weaved it in to provide richness to their corporate story.  

Many have not, afraid of being accused of greenwashing, nervous of becoming a twee cliché or for many, baffled by an ever-increasing number of frameworks, certifications, accreditations or just paralysis from a lack of confidence to articulate a complicated and emerging area credibly.    

Recent activity by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority who have introduced 6 guiding principles for checking the validity of green claims are useful, but also act to add another layer of jeopardy into your storytelling, particularly as they report that 40% of claims are misleading and they have the power to levy fines.  

The chances are, as a B2B marketer, that you know that you must navigate your way through it. 

Back in August 2022, I knew we needed to do something about it, but was not sure where to start.  

Now, in 2023, we have published our first ESG report, and our approach to sustainability percolates across everything we’re doing. It has been anchored to our internal motto of “doing the right thing” by our people, by our planet and by our partners.  We’ll publish one annually reporting on how we’re doing. 

As a business of 30 people, with a modest turnover, we have decided to get ahead.  As a business with large enterprises, and global clients who are grappling with this same challenge, we wanted to show a way ahead and support them on their way.  This self-reflection has helped us see ourselves for what we are:  

  • A great place to work and grow – we have the best feedback of any B2B agency on Glassdoor and excellent team satisfaction levels 
  • Our impact as an organisation is already quite small.  We can do better, but we must take responsibility for what we do 
  • We make a massive difference through the impact we have when supporting our clients in their endeavours. 

As we’ve worked on communicating our ESG strategy, we have learnt some lessons. All are portable and relevant to other B2B companies too: 

1: This is not different to your brand positioning.

Stay true to your brand, your values and your organisational purpose.  Treat your ESG credentials as an extension of them

2: This is not a singular page in your creds.

It weaves through everything affecting your approach to partnerships, your team and how you operate.

3: This is not about accumulating badges.

From obscure websites. Unlike an enthusiastic cub scout’s arm, this is about the right endorsements that align with your aims.  It is not an exercise in volume and at present, there are a lot of places offering badges. We’ve found solace in looking at what industry associations are preferring as well as asking questions about he frameworks that underpin them. Our ESG report shows the frameworks we think are more important.

4: There is no universal right answer.

Everyone’s creds and story will be slightly different.  The approach is to tell your own story starting with where you are, and defining where you want to get to reporting back using a level of data to provide authenticity that does not compromise your comfort levels.  IN our ESG report, we publish KPIs across our 3 areas of focus – doing the right thing by our people, our planet and our partners.

5: There is an advantage to being there first.

Most companies want to make progress in this area. Take a leadership position and if you show them the way, then you will attract others who want to work with you. 

6: This is more than being “green”.

It covers all aspects of being a good company meaning it touches HR and people, operations, facilities, your marketing and who you partner with. And the chances are, you’ll already be doing good things. Asking the right questions, or working with someone who can help, will help uncover your complete narrative.  

7: This is relevant to all your audiences.

Your team (present and future), your suppliers and your customers. Each has an interest. Don’t blinker your perspective to only think of one audience.

8: This is not a one-off.

Your sustainability creds evolve over time, and common practice with ESG reports is to publish them annually. This is very much about and ethos to do the right thing and be pushing to be a better company to work for and work with.  You cannot park this activity on the shelf, as it will need updating. 

9: This is not going away.

Sustainability is not a fad.  It will not go away if you ignore it. Compiling and telling your sustainability story is a matter of when not if. 

10: This is not just about you.

To have the largest impact, expect to help others.  Our largest emissions come from our scope 3. As a result, much of our startegy is about helping others or committing acts of advocacy.  As well as appearing in Success Stories for Sage Earth, we’ve already been invited to speak at 2 events to share our story.  This is on top of the work we’re doing to help our clients with their sustainability efforts.  We’re always keen to help others as part of having a bigger impact than we can have by focusing on our own operation.  

We hope that by sharing our story, we’ll inspire you to take action, too as then Velo will create an even larger impact. So, if you target a niche and are a technology, professional services or industrial company and need support shaping your own ESG initiatives, we are on hand. 

Before you do, we’d recommend you read our ESG report and judge us on our own creds! 

Paul Crabtree

Paul Crabtree

Managing Director

Leads the strategic services for the agency, PC is a hands-on agency owner working directly with Velo clients day-in, day-out!