In today’s world, where environmental concerns and social responsibility have become critical issues, the intersection of public relations (PR) and sustainability has emerged as a powerful force for positive change.
Organizations are recognizing the need to integrate sustainability into their business strategies and effectively communicate their efforts to the public.
As part of this year’s World PR Day Festival, Global Media Alliance in partnership with the industry, organized a PR and Sustainability event to enlighten professionals about the importance of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues.
The event had an exciting panel lineup – Eunice Osei Tutu, S&R and Internal Communications Manager at Pernod Ricard; Makafui Awuku, Founder & CEO of Mckingtorch Africa; Eric Affum Boamah, Public Affairs & Sustainability Lead at Coca-Cola; and Gifty Appiah, Associate Director for Tax Services & ESG at PwC Ghana. They took the audience through the essential role PR plays in promoting sustainability initiatives and how this collaboration is shaping a more environmentally conscious and socially responsible world.
Here are some key takeaways I gathered from the conversation that is relevant for every PR practitioner.
Shaping Public Perception
One of the primary objectives of PR is to shape public perception and build a positive image for companies and organizations. By aligning with sustainability goals, PR professionals have the opportunity to highlight their client’s commitment to environmental stewardship and responsible business practices. This involves crafting compelling narratives that emphasize sustainable initiatives, such as reducing carbon emissions, implementing ethical supply chains, or supporting community development projects.
Through strategic communication, PR practitioners can enhance public trust, create a positive brand image, and attract environmentally conscious consumers.
“Over the years, organizations see waste reduction and green initiatives as an isolation from the overall operations of the company. Companies need to know that they are solely responsible for the waste they generate and PR professionals need to communicate that” – Awuku Makafui
Effective sustainability practices require the active involvement of stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and local communities. PR professionals play a crucial role in engaging these stakeholders by developing communication strategies that inform and inspire.
By communicating sustainability goals, progress, and success stories, PR fosters a sense of shared responsibility and encourages stakeholders to actively participate in sustainability efforts. Transparent communication about environmental and social impacts builds trust and enables meaningful collaboration, driving further progress toward sustainability.
“The interest in ESG and Sustainability has seen a remarkable increase in Ghana in recent times for policymakers and organizational heads. Consumers no longer buy from organizations just because of their service but how caring they are to the environment and the people they deal with. The conversation has moved from numbers and the bottom line to the value they are adding to society.”– Gifty Appiah
In an era where environmental crises and controversies can swiftly damage a company’s reputation, PR professionals are instrumental in managing such situations.
Sustainability-related crises, such as environmental disasters or allegations of unethical practices, require swift and transparent communication. The onus therefore lies on PR Professionals to properly educate themselves on the new trends and the essence of ESG reporting to in turn share that knowledge to organizations as well as the general public.
“One of the gaps that need to be filled in PR is professionals specializing in sustainability and ESG-related topics to enable them to understand the language and trends so as to accurately communicate the benefits of these practices to both their organizations and target audiences as a whole.” – Eunice Osei Tutu
Measuring and Reporting Impact
Transparent reporting on sustainability performance is essential to demonstrate accountability and build credibility. PR professionals must work closely with sustainability teams to measure the impact of environmental and social initiatives, develop sustainability reports, and communicate progress to stakeholders. By employing storytelling techniques and visual communication tools, PR practitioners can make complex sustainability data accessible and engaging, thereby enhancing the credibility of their clients’ sustainability efforts.
“Organizations need to engage in sustainability efforts that leave a lasting impact as compared to short-term measures such as merely collecting waste.”- Eric Boamah
With this new trend of ESG and sustainability, it is important for us to learn from the advanced countries what worked for them as we take the necessary steps in indoctrinating it into our world. We, therefore, need to test the various theories and find out what works best for our market in terms of cost and value so as to provide solutions that are localized and functional.
The PR community has been presented with a unique opportunity and role in the promotion and education of ESG and sustainability goals. This new wave provides the platform to have open discussions and dialogue about what we can do as a collective to reduce our waste and also amplify the sustainability agenda. In communicating this agenda, PR professionals should be innovative in crafting messages and campaigns that drive the message. This can be achieved by converting text into art or installations to convey the sustainability message and leave a larger impact.
The integration of PR and sustainability is transforming the way companies and organizations approach environmental and social responsibility. By harnessing the power of strategic communication, PR professionals can shape, educate and intensify the need for organizations to properly imbibe sustainability into their business structure.
Together, PR professionals can drive positive change, encourage more businesses to adopt sustainable practices and foster a collective commitment to building a more environmentally conscious and socially responsible future.
On this note, let’s end with a call to action by one of our esteemed panelists. “As PR professionals, we need to push the agenda together on the benefits of sustainability to our organizations through education and accurate communication to attain the common good” – Gifty Appiah.