I still remember my first Earth Day, which was also THE first Earth Day in 1970. I was in 4th grade (go ahead, do the math… I’ll wait). Preventing littering was about as much as I understood about being environmentally responsible and its relation to Earth Day.

Since then, there has been a fair amount of progress, though not near enough, in the almost 40 years since Earth Day started. The term “green” used to primarily represent recycle and reuse, but has expanded in scope to include Corporate Sustainability, also known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR uses a triple bottom line that measures success based on financial, environmental, and social metrics.

Many companies are embarking on sustainability programs and mostly for the right reasons, treating people and the environment with care and respect, and not just for PR. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t communicate your company’s CSR efforts.

Whether your company is involved in a formal CSR program or just embarking on various green initiatives, make sure your efforts are being communicated to your stakeholders who include customers, employees, partners, suppliers, shareholders, regulators, and local communities.

CSR Communication Benefits

In addition to increased revenues and decreased costs, CSR programs offer a number of benefits. Many of these benefits are enhanced by communication including:

·         Improved reputation – easier to hire good employees, build customer loyalty, and create shareholder value

·         Improved community relations – local involvement builds community support and makes doing business with local authorities easier

·         Improved compliance – public officials are inclined to work together with companies making efforts to meet regulations

With CSR, there are many ways to provide information and exposure regarding your company’s efforts, and all should be considered. The CSR stakeholder community is pretty diverse, so it’s to your benefit to get information out using a variety of media. Media should include all of the usual suspects such as press releases, newspaper articles, television news casts, radio public interest stories. Online mediums should also be used such as company and industry blogs, company Facebook pages, Twitter announcements, and posted podcasts.

In addition to news-type information, success stories and thought leadership from company executives can be used to create an interesting and powerful image to stakeholders.

Beware of Greenwashing

Lastly, be careful how you present your content. Information must be honest and accurate to avoid what is now being called “greenwashing” which is the act of making your company sound greener than it really is.  Don’t highlight your environmental or social improvements in one area to cover up for negative activities in another area. Companies that try and create a perception of sustainability to gain customer and stakeholder favor without backing up their claims will actually do more damage to their reputation than good.

Build up CSR Knowledge in Marketing

One way to help ensure you communicate accurately is to make sure you are knowledgeable about CSR. With recent changes in the government and an increased focus on sustainability, more and more companies will be embarking or expanding on CSR programs. Now is a great time to educate yourself on corporate sustainability, aka corporate social responsibility, so you will be ready to frame your company’s efforts in their best light. Aquinas College does a good job of explaining sustainability in layman’s terms.

Business Link says it best: “A successfully implemented corporate sustainability strategy positively impacts a company’s reputation and brand image by demonstrating that the company is taking responsibility for its actions and embracing change for the greater good.  In fact, an essential part of a company’s success is the engagement and development of strong relationships with internal and external stakeholders based on trust, respect, and cooperation.”

Another Earth Day has come and gone this year. I am grateful that it is no longer just about recycling or being green, but that it takes a larger stance, one that compels companies to take a good hard look at their impact on the earth and make the changes needed to ensure our children will enjoy the natural assets we have today.

What do you think about the role of companies as it relates to CSR?