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  • Writer's pictureMakenna Millham

Sustainability lives on the corner of morality and monetary benefit for any company

In the last decade, sustainability has grown out of the hearts of tree huggers and permeated the mainstream’s conscience. Whether you’re advocating for the Green New Deal in Washington or looking for eco-friendly labels at the grocery store, saving the planet is top of mind for publics now more than ever. How will this new reality change the way businesses communicate with their stakeholders?

Implementing sustainable practices will prove to be one of the most lucrative public relations strategies for any company in the coming years. Baking eco-friendly habits into your company values unite a universal social good and a seamless marketing strategy.

A Social Issue for All

The sanctity of the planet’s health is an issue that encompasses all demographics—caring about conservation signals that you care about humanity. Fighting for initiatives, donating or implementing green practices will help prevent climate change events like wildfires, flooding and droughts, and improve public health and decrease costs. According to the USDA tactics such as “driving less reduces air pollution, decreases wear and tear on local roads, and saves money.”

Trust and Transparency

Implementing green practices strengthens trust between entities and their publics, feeding the cornerstone of public relations. Companies that authentically commit to a social good will attract more consumers. This strategy can even indirectly attract climate deniers, in that it is innately a transparent practice.

When businesses let their consumers see their environmentally friendly operations, they demonstrate that they have nothing to hide. That trust is not only key for business relationships, but it's also a pivotal part of innovation. As companies cannibalize and adapt, especially in the volatile digital revolution, consumers are more likely to stick with the businesses they trust.

Direct Revenue Opportunity

Sustainability is, in its concept, good for companies. It signifies the use of resources in a more effective and conservative manner. In a more quantifiable way, businesses can benefit by sustainability incentives and tax credits. According to The Balance Small Business, “a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your business tax bill because the credit is applied against your gross income. So if you spend $100 on an energy-efficiency project, your business tax is reduced by $100”.

Companies that build sustainability into their real estate can reap these rewards. Installing honey bee hives or plants on buildings are examples of eligible tax credits that can also help recruit more talent or get customers to spend more time at a business.

Furthermore, green measures improve the health of workers, potentially increasing productivity. Sustainability is already proving to be profitable and popular. According to the Sustainable World Strategies site, 92% of the world’s 250 largest businesses report on sustainability measures.

Changing the Conversation

PR teams are always working to maintain their clients' reputations, but they also serve their publics. In times of crisis, they serve as the storytellers disseminating essential information. The climate crisis not only provides an opportunity for profit, but also an opportunity to change the narrative. While sustainability is no longer exclusively a concern of hippies and biologists, there is a lasting stigma surrounding the importance of the issue.

Scientists who have long been heckled as alarmists are now pointing to record-breaking temperatures in Death Valley, exceptionally large wildfires on the west coast and unprecedented carbon emissions as evidence of environmental decline. The New York Times recently noted the severity of our situation, saying that “decades of growing crisis are already locked into the global ecosystem and cannot be reversed.”

Governments have failed to make adequate changes to better our environment, fearing a negative impact on our global economies. PR teams can work with publics and their clients to help change that. Working within the private sector itself and changing the narrative to emphasize the significance of this crisis could be our best bet.

By Makenna Millham

Makenna is a fourth-year PR student from the Bay Area. She has experience interning with the communications and PR teams at a major tech company and held the VP PR and Marketing position when she was involved with her sorority. Post-graduation, Makenna hopes to work for an agency that prioritizes sustainability.


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