How to get press coverage of your ESG report without a shitstorm
In 2024, ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) reports will become mandatory for large companies in the EU. But ESG reports create both opportunities and risks for good and bad press, so how do you communicate the results to the press? Here are three tips.
You have to be careful, but it is possible to get positive press on your ESG report even if you are a black company. The first step is to be brutally honest about it. Photo: Zhang QC, Unsplash.
In the wake of the Consumer Ombudsman’s injunction on sustainable communication, many companies are facing a challenge: How to communicate ESG results with PR in the press so that they are received positively by the market and without the risk of greenwashing accusations?
Note: ESG is about more than climate, but climate is used as an example throughout the post for better readability.
In 2022, the Consumer Ombudsman issued greenwashing injunctions to a large number of companies, as they believed that the companies were violating the Marketing Act through their sustainability communication. Most companies did have sustainability initiatives, but they overused the words in their marketing to a degree that didn’t match their efforts.
At its core, the Consumer Ombudsman is based on the Brundtland Report’s interpretation of the word sustainability, which in short means that a company’s activities must not harm future generations. This means that the company must be at least carbon neutral in its operations (which is just one of many areas) – and that’s virtually impossible without planting trees or buying carbon credits.
It’s a strict interpretation that means that a lot of companies are currently breaking the marketing law even though they haven’t received an injunction.
There are two main areas where companies are breaking the law:
1) They use terms such as “sustainable”, “eco-friendly” and “green” in their marketing, which according to the Consumer Ombudsman is far too general and imprecise (a car manufacturer that has cut CO2 emissions by 50% does not mean that consumers can drive “green”).
2) They don’t have third-party evidence to back up their claims. For example, if you have been awarded a Nordic Swan Ecolabel, you can market it. But it’s forbidden to slap a generic term like “sustainable” on your face cream.
Avoid the pitfalls of ESG report communication
We are in a time when corporate responsibility and sustainability must not only be practiced, but also demonstrated and there is an obligation to communicate it. ESG reports are a key tool for this, but also bring challenges.
The Consumer Ombudsman’s sustainable communication mandate requires more than just sustainability claims. Companies now need to substantiate their claims and avoid ‘greenwashing’. So how can your company adapt to these new requirements and how can a PR agency help communicate your ESG reports in a credible and effective way?
1) Understand the ESG reportBe aware of whether the company has prepared a thorough and complete ESG report and any gaps and areas of weakness. One option is to work with an ESG-focused PR agency that can help you take a critical look at the ESG report and lay the foundation for strategic communication.
2) Be honest and transparentESG-PR: In your ESG-PR, it is essential to be honest about your company’s sustainability weaknesses. This will not only help you comply with legislation, but also build trust with your customers and stakeholders.
A concrete manufacturer that claims to be environmentally friendly because it has invested billions in reducing CO2 emissions is the subject of a shitstorm. Conversely, a concrete manufacturer that calls itself an environmental pig and therefore works to reduce its CO2 emissions is sympathetic.
3) Communicate clearly and concisely: Have you reduced your plastic consumption by 11.5%? So tell us you’ve reduced your plastic consumption by 11.5% and where you know it from. Steer clear of “Significantly less plastic” or “CO2 friendly”. By working with a PR agency, you can ensure that your ESG communication is understandable, free from unnecessary technical language and free from potential media crisis bombs.
Before you trumpet your ESG credentials, it’s worth asking to what extent ESG is integrated into your business strategy. Is sustainability considered in all aspects of your business and communication? It promotes genuine engagement, demonstrates concrete actions and means you can worry less about sharing your ESG initiatives publicly.
Still not sure? Talk to an ESG-focused PR agency
ESG reports bring both challenges and opportunities. By taking the Consumer Ombudsman’s injunction seriously, you’ve come a long way. You can significantly minimize risks by working with a PR agency that specializes in ESG PR and communication to help your company navigate the challenges, but also build a stronger and more credible sustainability profile.
To learn more about how a PR agency can help your company understand and communicate your ESG reports, please contact Mark Kjær on +45 4142 3635 or email@example.com.
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