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Sustainability is key to good business

Sustainability is key to good business

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability managers have specific budgets for marketing and communications, directed towards the delivery of the business’ sustainability strategy, but are these only in place to help companies simply look good?

2degrees, a sustainable business network and solutions provider, found in a recent survey that 60 per cent of respondents view marketing, communications and engagement with stakeholders as essential to the delivery of an organisation’s sustainability strategy.  

When organisations develop and execute strategies to become more sustainable, they may be embarking upon a far-reaching organisational change programme, where internal and external communication is critical to success, according to the study.

Anastasia Orkina, director of environmental marketing at Nokia, said, “We know something has to be done for the environment, but what people will always ask is ‘What is the company doing?’ Our focus in on educating people that it is everybody’s responsibility as human beings to look after the environment.

“To get people to listen though, the communication of environmental solutions is lacking. You have to give solutions in an engaging, entertaining way. It has to be simple to act on.”

Nokia recently won the Best Green Internal Communications category at the Green Awards for its ‘Power of We’ campaign.

The ‘Power of We’ campaign has also had concrete impacts at Nokia. The recycling rate of used phones and accessories among Nokia employees has increased 600 per cent compared to previous efforts.

Kirsi Sormunen, vice president of environmental affairs at Nokia, said, “We wanted to raise awareness around our environmental performance, also internally to encourage debate and discussion around our future targets, and to engage an increasing amount of our employees in environmental actions and practice in everything we do.”

Orkina added, “It’s can’t just be about extra value for companies. CSR is becoming an essential part of a business and consumers will start to see this as a must have criteria on products and brands.”

However, the 2degrees survey revealed that 40 per cent per cent of respondents believed their chief executive was supportive of CSR and sustainability strategies only because of the beneficial effect on the company's corporate reputation.

Two-thirds also thought that cost savings were a key motive to CSR programmes and 56 per cent citing the opportunity to enhance current and develop new revenue streams.

Orkina say’s Nokia’s corporate social responsibility strategy isn’t about caving into industry pressure or just simply trying to impress consumers.

She says, “Being environmentally responsibility isn’t about external pressures. It’s about doing more, doing our bit and showing how easy it is for people to contribute and make a difference.”

Contrary to Orkina’s remarks, 40 per cent of survey respondents cite PR or corporate reputation management as one of the key reasons for their chief executive’s commitment to sustainability and 90 per cent of chief executives still believe sustainable business strategies are imperative for their business, in spite of the current economic environment.  

Martin Chilcott, chairman and chief executive of 2degrees, says, “Far from “greenwashing”, our survey found that CSR and sustainability managers use communications to embed change in the organisation; to demonstrate the need for sustainability and illustrate the benefits to stakeholders, from the board, to existing and potential employees, to suppliers and customers.”  

Ssustainability needs to be brought to the core of every organisation, and reflected in its positioning, messaging and marketing, according to Chilcott.

He says that marketers do have a responsibility to try to reduce the carbon footprint of their activities, which can be achieved through more efficient use of technology, particularly, web 2.0 tools, and other resources.

“It’s not just what you communicate - it’s how you communicate it that’s important. You can’t preach to consumers or employees. You have to approach it in a human way,” concludes Orkina.

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