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Sustainability, really?

I know, I know. Sustainability… again. We get it. It’s boring, a little preachy, time consuming and potentially expensive. Add to the mix that we are creatures of habit and we find ourselves in quite the twenty first century conundrum.

Being a Sustainability Consultant, I receive questions daily about what sustainability really means: “So, if I make my own toothpaste, I’m sustainable right?”

The truth is simple - the above is but mere misconception. Sustainability isn’t preachy or boring, nor is it expensive or time consuming. Sustainability is badass - we are literally saving the world. Call us Clark Kent and sustainability misconception is our kryptonite.

Sustainability has gained an inaccurate reputation over the years through questionable fear-evoking 'marketing' methods. Jargon is being thrust at the average Joe with no explanation or context with facts and statistics which are not relatable and questionably sourced. We’ve been spoken at with language we don’t understand, and have been deafened by facts and figures that really, quite simply, aren’t relatable. Until recently it has been easy to turn a blind eye to the developing sustainability crisis, but now the topic has become a permanent installation into our society we're here to encourage the correct perspective and curb the negative presumptions that the word sustainability may trigger. In the general waste bin that nonsense goes.

So long to the stuffy perceptions of sustainability. Hello to the fun, inspiring and thought provoking upgrade - sustainability 2.0.

Boring isn't bad

It's a familiar situation. That friend comes along to the summer barbecue and will hold no issue with vocalising their opinions on the abundance of single use cutlery, cups and plates. There's the vegan who shares the statistics from a Netflix documentary on chicken farming while you're tucking into your annual friends Christmas dinner. The person who appears to be horrified by the balloons, glitter and party poppers en masse at their niece's birthday party.

Whereas these people in the past may have been deemed eloquently as party poopers or killjoys, they're now becoming a welcome phenomenon. People are now eager to listen and engage in these conversations and become open to exploring alternatives.

Sustainability data isn't written for entertainment - it’s data. It is analysed, compared and triple checked for any inconsistencies or lack of clarity. Although you and I probably don’t want to plough through piles of facts and figures, keeping sustainability data formal and clear is necessary for people to do their jobs. Data researchers and analysts are the crux of scientific development and should be praised for doing just that.

It's critical for sustainability understanding that being 'boring' for functionality purposes has its uses, and should be segmented from the consumer element of the industry.

Produce for purpose

Your sustainability team may be producing work that’s a little lacklustre in its appearance, a little jargon heavy in its delivery. These outputs are normally delivered in the only frameworks possible, being delivered to analysts, CEOs, senior boards, third party verifiers. These are informative deliverables with an objective to create insight over entertainment. There's a time and a place for everything - and those more heavy duty deliverables stay true to their selected purpose.

Understandably, your customers probably won’t care about this hard work. This is where choosing your audience is key to delivering sustainability reports in a functional yet inspiring way. Deliver those encyclopaedias of dry data to the relevant bodies, pairing data with a slick and simple design for readability purposes. But for those at home who are interested in your sustainability activities, give them a story.

What does 400kWh actually look like?

Sustainability has a legacy for being quite the turn off in business discussions. In our rapidly developing world fighting to protect the planet, the word is now a staple requirement to every business. Sell your sustainability credentials the way you sell your products, talk about your sustainability policy the same way you talk about your new range of goods. Get excited - you are, after all, helping to save the world.

Get your creative team (or hire a creative digital agency like Studio Republic) to design your reports in a way that’s engaging, incorporating understandable language and celebrating your sincere enthusiasm for sustainability.

If you’re not reporting, but rather selling your sustainable service or product through advertising campaigns - online and offline - do the same. Be bold, because people admire that your hard work isn’t all being done just to benefit your bottom line. You care, and people love that.

Give people those “dry” facts that your data heroes have laboured over, but give it to them in digestible terms. Using LEDs for one year might have saved you 400kWh of energy, but what does 400kWh of energy look like or even mean? It is difficult for people to connect emotionally to figures like this, and if you really want your figures to inspire change and action, you need to make them make more than sense - you have to make them have meaning. What do the carbon emissions you've reduced mean? How about a digital visualisation on the paper you have saved?

Develop a sense of scale by attaching your data to what’s relatable and familiar for your customers. They might find it hard to get their heads around how much of an impact your energy saving actions have had on the world, but translate your 400kWh saving into how many hours of TV watching that has saved, or how many full charges of an electric car that equates to. Make it clear and concise, enough that any Susie from number 49 can understand.

It’s not all about you

Your business may be doing phenomenally from its primary sales and heralding its sustainability credentials, but this latter element is, surprisingly enough, not all about you. Your consumer is the one who is the focus in this situation - they need products and services which will benefit them and add value to their lives. The rest is a great bonus, but it's not what they're researching when stood in a supermarket aisle choosing between two different types of carpet cleaner. They want to know the job will be done, the price is fair, and more commonly people are checking for easy ways to spot an ethical responsible business.

You’re the most sustainable company in the world, your services are saving lives, your products are saving the environment, but if you aren’t offering to add value to your customers’ lives they simply won’t engage with you.

To use Studio Republic as an example. There are thousands of creative digital agencies out there that we compete with everyday. There are also a handful of other sustainable digital agencies that we compete against too. Being sustainable alone isn’t enough to make a splash in the big pond of competition that’s out there. Our work on being sustainable wouldn’t count if we didn’t offer our customers high quality services with their needs at the centre of everything we do. We simply wouldn’t be able to continue to operate based on our good intentions alone. We have to work on our services each day to ensure that we deliver on our promises and that our customers’ needs are always being met. That’s what our clients are effectively paying for.

The ethics, the sustainability, the creative for good is at the core of who we are, and it is what helps our client to choose us over all of the amazing agencies who offer the same services as we do. It’s our point of difference. It’s our mutual connection with the people we work with, it’s the essence of our relationship. It’s how we make our positive impact on the world.

To find out how we can collaborate to make the world a better place, and push your company to achieve all it can achieve, get in touch with us today.

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