Traditionally, October is known as Breast Cancer awareness month, as an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. During this month men and women are encouraged to make themselves more aware of the symptoms and help that is available. Ironically, most people are aware of breast cancer, but they don’t really know the basic facts and the steps to take to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same. Breast cancer does not discriminate between young and old, male or female.
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Over the last few weeks we’ve seen videos of people screaming while getting soaked in the ice bucket challenge. From celebrities showering themselves in ice, to friends, family and strangers joining the trend.
People wanted to get their own version out there, nominating each other and spreading the word and raising funds for charities. it’s been a challenge that social media users couldn’t get enough of.
As this stunt proved to be popular with all age groups, demographics around the world, it managed to raise awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive disease of the nervous system, and significant donations flowed from far and wide.
But how effective are such fads, from a longterm perspective?
Making new behaviour ‘stick’ takes effort that allows the change to become part of the everyday norm, and sometimes, gimmicks like the ice bucket challenge can act as a catalyst for behaviour change, however showering in ice alone may not deliver the needs of charities for the longterm, while others argue that such campaigns may do more harm than good.
The Giuardian ran an interesting article on the subject, you can click here to read more about it.
Or for an interesting insight from an economist’s point of view, you can click here to see what they make of the challenge.
In any case, it is vital to ensure that a viral campaign raises awareness about the disease, while also going beyond the one off donation into an ongoing commitment that converts this highly successful viral campaign into one that engenders positive, long-term behavioural change.
Finally, I am pleased to share with you some great tips and ideas from Forbes on how other charities could benefit, a personal favourite is the ‘no-selfie challenge', click here to read the article.
The efforts around developing and integrating sustainability practices in an organisation clearly demonstrate how important effective change management and learning is in successful organisations. If an organisation’s rate of learning isn’t greater than its rate of change, then its going to fall behind the competition.
Employees in organisations, particularly customer service led organisations, are constantly solving problems, often under stress and with very tight deadlines. But how employees learn and adapt to the new norms, in an ever changing world, plays a critical role in how successful their organisation is, and how quickly it responds to changes in the fiercely competitive markets where they operate.
When reviewing various organisations’ leaders, we can assess fairly quickly how quick these companies are at adopting change, such as the integration of sustainability, and the learning curve associated with that.
Managers in those organisations tend to help their teams by ensuring that they work within a supportive learning environment, this can mean that employees feel confident to ask questions, admit mistakes, and freely share creative ideas that can help business become more efficient and effective while integrating sustainability.
Those skills in the leadership of an organisation mean that employees are aware of their role, accountabilities and feel empowered to take decisions, whilst being comfortable with the very real risks that are present in the workplace today. This means that they can engage in the learning processes and adapt and implement change more swiftly.
It goes without saying that to take this form organisations need to be supported by concrete processes and procedures that are widely communicated and understood by the workforce, the key point is how people are engaged.
Employees in an organisation, and people generally, feel compelled to change what they do, not because they are given an order or an report that shifts their thinking, but really because they are shown a fact and the relevance and impact related to that fact which influences feelings, their thinking and their behaviour. In providing employees with this awareness, change management influences their commitment and encourages a higher level of engagement. Sustainability to Action can help you socialise your sustainability policies and strategies, please contact us for more information.
Managing an organisation towards a sustainable future is an area that is often discussed and debated, however, there are certain basic skills and leadership qualities that business leaders require to have in order to future-proof their organisations.
These are the questions Sustainability to Action (STA) seeks to answer in our own business pursuits as well as within the sustainability programs with our clients. Broadly speaking, there are some insights that highlight the skills that can help in driving sustainability within an organisation and radiate to its stakeholders and community:
About this image: Excellent campaign by the Spectator which ran during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The message was clear, it engaged the reader and articulated the offer that a free issue was availabe to readers.
Management and strategy departments in organisations often spend a considerable amount of time developing core strategic plans and activities for their organisations. Similarly, careful thought and planning should take place around how best to engage on those plans and strategies, and how to ensure that everyone understands their role in how to make those plans come to fruition.
The benefits of looking ahead and how it demonstrates the value of the communications team in any organisation can be seen in examples where companies have invested in thorough communications planning. As a communications professional, you are faced with a wide range of content and material which need to go out to the business, consisting of a variety of information, from HR and legal communications to social engagements.
To ensure your communications achieves it original goals, you can focus your messaging in a way the ensures the following:
Answer the “so what?” Question
When people read any messages or communications, we automatically wonder ”so what?” , make sure your communication resonates with your audience and clearly explains what this may mean for them or how it could impact them.
When used correctly, they can make complicated or technical information more interesting and easier to understand. Find an object, item or experience your audience can relate to and link the communication metaphorically. It can also help readers to remember this communication in future.
Telling a story
We all like to tell a story of what happened when...and people like to read a story start to finish, not just read about a moment in time. Telling a story helps the person reading it to ‘experience’ it.
What? When? How?
As kids, we asked questions to learn about the world we live in; as adults, rather than being told, we prefer to find the answers for ourselves. So when communicating to your audience, try to make a statement that gets them engaged - ask them whether they agree with your statement thereby allowing them to get engaged with the information, to think about it and to arrive at a conclusion.
Sustainability to Action can help you to achieve your communications goals, contact us today to see how we can help you.
It’s no secret that to succeed in today’s global economy, professionals need to have a global skill set. This is especially true for those who work in the sustainability field, those people who work in organisations that seek to integrate sustainability and raise the bar within their industries. They need to have abrader understanding of their business and industries, and how sustainability fits within that framework.
I have been working in communications and marketing in the sustainability and policy field for over a decade. Throughout my career in sustainability, I have seen organisations struggle with the issue of terminology and language.
Communications people are generally driven by a passion for telling stories coupled with strong skills in areas such as writing, the use of language and interpreting information. It is often the role of communications teams to process complex, sometimes jargon-filled information and translate it in to messaging that resonates with specific audiences. But for those of us who do not have an academic background in sustainability, how can we be sure that we have fully understood and correctly communicated those messages?
Marketing and communications professionals working in the sustainability sector, as well as journalists reporting on it, know that they must be able to speak and understand industry language.
I believe that acknowledging and addressing this knowledge gap is a first step in achieving the goal we are all trying to promote for our colleagues and clients: demonstrating that a sustainable approach is the only way we can build safe future for generations to come.
What are your views? Do you think the jargon we use is clear, or do we need to use common language to get our messages across? Please take the survey in the column on the right and share your opinions.
Shareholders, members of the public, investors and NGOs increasingly seek more transparency and information about organisations’ sustainability performance. This is a significant breakthrough that has occurred in the recent years.
Disclosure can pose a real challenge for organisations, and they need to respond to these requests for transparency efficiently and effectively.
Ideally, reporting for any given organisation, including it reporting on sustainability, should be integrated into a single integrated report that communicates every aspect of a company’s performance. This provides all the information about an organisation in one easy to use and access document.
This highlights the different types of reporting that are out there, making matters slightly more complicated from a company’s perspective.
There’s the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Integrated Reporting (IR) and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board to mention a few of the options that are available.
My preferred option is Integrated Reporting (IR) as it is a process that is based on integrated thinking that results in an integrated report that is produced by an organisation periodically and communicates on value creation over time.
The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) defines an integrated report as “a concise communication about how an organisation’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects, in the context of its external environment, lead to the creation of value in the short, medium and long term.” Making a compelling argument towards this method of sustainability reporting.
In any case, effective sustainability reporting can be a powerful communication tool that enables effective communication with stakeholders about how organisations are performing against their set objectives. Companies that embrace this are likely to have an advantage over their competitors and boost value for shareholders.
However, it can be challenging when an organisation starts its sustainability journey as it includes regular sustainability data gathering in a reliable and consistent manner.
I recently read an excellent blog post by Matthew Farrow, Executive Director Environmental Industries Commission, on Business Green’s website. In this blog Matthew goes on to list the ten things that he’s learned in his in my first decade working in the green policy world. As I read through the blog I realised that we all have lessons learned and insights that we can share to help us learn from each other and to help others along in their sustainability journey.
I will start by sharing some of my ‘lessons learned’ and hope that you will join me and add some of your own in the comments below. If I get enough feedback, I will collate a follow up blog to make sure all readers can learn from this exercise.
Three key learnings that I would like to share:
Sustainability has a lexicon that acts as a barrier to entry, simple language and direct messages are significantly more effective and inclusive. We are all vested in a sustainable future.
People often assume sustainability is a lofty ideal and businesses should focus on economic growth and development. Sustainability includes economic viability, and a successful business can only be successful in the longterm once it incorporates sustainability within its four walls.
Managing an organisation’s supply chain can can help in managing sustainability effectively, allowing organisations to do this voluntarily is admirable and has led to interesting results. Sometime peer pressure and public opinion drive organisations to manage their supply chain more effectively, but it seems that regulations may be a more effective route.
Please share your thoughts and responses! You can email me directly, or comment below.
I look forward to engaging with you.
As more organisations adopt sustainability management practices, the topic of sustainability has risen on the corporate and organisational agenda globally. When sustainability as a concept is integrated within an organisation, this presents an opportunity to do things in a different way, including how communications is developed and implemented. And when starting to implement a sustainability framework, it is important to reflect on the fact that you are essentially embarking on change programme; a new way of working and thinking.
Change management with an effective communications and engagement process is part and parcel of any successful sustainability initiative. Communication, which is based on engagement, means that people will understand messages more easily as they feel that they are being listened to, every step of the process. Sustainability communications, in the end, is all about turning high level strategies into manageable, understandable, knowledge bytes that support the delivery of tangible results. In this context, communications plays a pivotal role in integrating and embedding sustainable work practices.
It’s well known that a sustainability communications strategy will identify communications objectives, right audiences, the key messages and channels of communication, such as traditional and digital. When developing your sustainability strategy, you should ensure that all sustainability messaging supports and complements your broader corporate communications. Part of effective communications is the ability to involve people rather than merely sending out emails and bulletins. Sustainability communications needs to create a sense of shared responsibility, where each individual plays a role. Developing a shared agenda, that is owned and driven by stakeholders and provides channels for two-way communication, enables work on community critical issues and supports an organisation’s license to grow.
Through this ‘new’ approach of engagement and developing a shared agenda, sustainability offers a great opportunity to to positively impact your organisational culture, which in turn affects internal stakeholders and has impact on how you manage your relationships with external stakeholders.
You will find that more often than not, sustainability practices work in tandem with people’s personal values. We all want to have a better, brighter future. A cleaner environment and cohesive communities, wherever we live.
Sandra Anani is passionate about sustainability, with over 19 years’ experience. She has dedicated her career to sustainable development and communications.