Effective communications are of particular importance to companies focused on sustainability. When done right effective sustainability communications are able to engender the perception of sincerity which can positively impact both a company’s performance and its reputation.
A 2012 Hill+Knowlton Strategies Survey found that the public’s trust in companies was declining as their access to information was increasing. However, more recent research suggests that the declining levels of trust can be addressed through honest communications focused on a company’s sustainability efforts.
According to a 2013 online survey by Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Americans are more likely to trust and respect those businesses that effectively communicate their sustainability efforts and projects.
Those surveyed were almost unanimous in indicating that communicating sustainability was of the utmost importance. A total of 91 percent of respondents said implementing sustainability was “critical” to the long-term success of a business.
The survey indicates that being transparent and honest, including exposing imperfections, can help a company to build trust. A total of 82 percent said that they believe that a company can regain public trust through an honest and transparent reporting of its efforts to be more sustainable, even if that reporting highlights where it falls short of its goals.
The survey revealed that there is a relationship between openness and public trust. Eighty-four percent indicated that greater visibility into corporate sustainability efforts will increase trust in a company. More than half (54 percent) said that these firms would be “more profitable” as a result.
Sustainability communications can even encourage a buy-in from investors and consumers. Fifty-seven per cent said they were more likely to invest in or buy from a corporation that was working to become more sustainable.
Another noteworthy findings revealed that sustainability disclosures should be done on an ongoing basis. Eighty-one percent believe companies should report on their sustainability efforts regularly rather than through occasional static reports.
Overall the study indicates that honest communications about sustainability efforts can positively influence public perception, build trust and even help an organization to regain credibility.
© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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