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Helen Ellis

Published on

January 31, 2024


employee advocacy, employee engagement, greenwashing, sustainability

With greenwashing and purpose washing on the rise, many companies are understandably cautious about what and how they communicate when it comes to their own sustainability activities. We often see companies opting for the ‘safety’ of conservative and consequently quite dry vehicles for ESG communications. The annual sustainability report is a popular format, along with requests to promote it.

Whilst this may feel like it minimises the brand reputation risk around ESG communications, does it really? Or are businesses unintentionally exposing themselves to an arguably greater brand reputation risk from an overlooked source? Their employees. 

Employees are increasingly recognised for the role they can play as their company’s biggest advocate or detractor. However, many businesses are missing a trick when it comes to engaging their employees on sustainability topics. With a company’s commitment to environmental action and diversity and inclusion in the work place a key factor in attracting talent, this presents a potential hiring and retention issue. But it also poses a brand reputation risk. Imagine dealing with accusations of greenwashing from your own workforce.

Employers need to bridge the sustainability communications gap 

We recently partnered with 3Gem to survey 2,000 employees across the UK to find out what they thought about their employers’ environmental and social sustainability credentials. The respondents were from various sectors, company sizes, and job levels.  

Our research exposed a worrying gap and potential brand reputation risk.  

  • A third of employees believe that their employer is all talk and no action when it comes to environmental and social goals.  
  • Over a quarter of employees say they are frustrated by the level of commitment their employer demonstrates. 
  • Over half of employees claim to see little or no progress towards these goals 

Senior management tends to have a more positive view of the sustainability actions their company is taking than the general workforce. 

Perhaps most tellingly, 17% of employees never receive any updates about their employer’s sustainability progress and less than half receive updates on a quarterly, monthly or weekly basis. A common issue we uncovered is that employees know their workplace has ESG targets and commitments, but less than half of the people we surveyed could tell you what the specifics were or how they were being actioned.

If employees don’t believe their own company’s actions, it is only a matter of time before doubts are expressed. But also, it’s a missed opportunity to empower a powerful group to advocate for your business. Organisations must use ensure their people are travelling on the environmental and social journey with them.

Create ESG communications that will cuts through and resonate with your employees. Sustainability communications deserves to be VIVID.   

So next time you’re considering how to tell your sustainability story, make sure you are doing the substance justice. We’ve got the creative services and capabilities to inspire your employees to do the talking for you.  

Download our latest report ‘Words are nothing without action’ to find out more.  

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