Talking about sustainability? Here’s how brands can do it right.

We take on the industry's top questions about sustainability.

Sustainability is the buzzword of the day. As more brands and businesses roll out their sustainability commitments, one in five consumers are saying that they do not trust such claims at all.

Can public relations add value to a sustainability strategy? What can communications professionals do to bridge this growing trust gap?

To address this, we partnered with PRCA and brought sustainability insiders together for a webinar to jointly tackle the question: Does PR hurt or help sustainability?

Check out highlights from the webinar

Your top questions, answered

We were blown away by the sheer number of questions that came up during the event. Here, Janissa from Spurwing Communications takes on the top questions about sustainability communications from the PR industry.

How would you advise clients to look into building up concrete sustainability initiatives before they start communicating externally?

Sustainability is a transformation that requires real work by any company. For brand, this means transformation from the inside out. A starting point would be to understand the sustainability related goals and targets for the business, as well as action plans and timelines. The value add of a communications strategy could be to help build buy-in or support towards these business goals.

Where is the pressure for businesses to go sustainable coming from? Is this just another bandwagon with fancy buzzwords?

The movement on sustainability is part of a more fundamental shift taking place globally today. 124 countries have committed to net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. As part of the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, global investors representing US$90 trillion of assets under management have committed to responsible investment practices.

The best way for businesses to respond to this pressure is to start aligning your business strategies towards sustainable development and climate action.

How can companies build up concrete sustainability initiatives or commitments before they start communicating to external audiences?

  1. Focus on key areas that require action. Which part of your business is making the biggest environmental impact, and how can you address it? This varies depending on the industry.

  2. Make it a part of your business. Create plans and targets for how you will reduce your environmental footprint, and bring different parts of your business together to deliver on these targets.

  3. Build internal buy in. Senior management has a critical role in making it part of the business mission as well as the strategy. Communications builds internal momentum and helps employees understand the driving reasons behind these business decisions.

What are the different aspects we must take into consideration to enhance and exemplify sustainability through our website and social media platform?

Your website is a great platform to provide transparency and accountability around sustainability initiatives. It could be the go-to for stakeholders to understand your approaches, long term targets and how sustainability integrates into your business.

Messages tend to be simplified on social media – so making the information public on your website avoids greenwashing by being a credible way to provide proof. For example, investors and stakeholders can access ESG and sustainability reports. Customers or partners can also find out more about the business impact on people or communities.

Delivering on an organisation's sustainability ambitions can have significant commercial implications. How can brands get consumers to acknowledge that impact?

The biggest myth is that it is more expensive to be sustainable. In fact, the costs of business impact on the environment and communities have always been there. An increasing body of research suggests that good sustainability practices translates to business resilience to external shocks.

Businesses can navigate this shift with consumers by better communicating how a sustainable products or services will deliver impact. This WWF and Accenture study found that consumers in Singapore are eager to take action – and a third would even pay more – but demand better value for their purchase.

On the topic of sustainability, how can public relations agencies really prove that there is value-add to the business?

Success definitions do not necessarily have to be externally-oriented. Instead of launching a marketing campaign, consider internal communications as the starting point to help grow buy in amongst key business units, or demonstrate senior-level commitment to sustainability goals. Instead of approaching media or influencers, understand who are the stakeholders or partners that can help you reach your sustainability goals.

To speak to us about sustainability or your next communications challenge, reach us at

Janissa Ng is an Account Director with Spurwing Communications with expertise in advocacy and multi-stakeholder engagement. She currently chairs the PRCA Southeast Asia Sustainability Working Group to improve industry standards on sustainability communications.

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