After an extensive, year-long consultation process, the PRCA Sustainability working group, Co-Chaired by our Sustainability Consultant Janissa Ng, has launched the Guidelines on Environmental Sustainability Claims – a first for the PR industry. We spoke to Janissa to understand the context behind their development why communicators should adhere to them.
How long have these guidelines been in production and why are they different to other guidelines that exist?
We’ve taken about a year to develop these guidelines through an extensive consultation process that involved benchmarking against relevant global standards. We then actively sought input from journalists, NGOs, activists, and fellow PR practitioners, ensuring a well-rounded approach that incorporated diverse perspectives.
The World Federation of Advertisers and Clean Creatives have made noteworthy contributions in this area, but the PRCA initiative stands out in two key aspects. First, these guidelines are tailored for the PR industry. They address the specific challenges and scenarios that PR practitioners encounter, ensuring relevance and practicality.
Second, we recognise the need to provide the industry with actionable steps. That’s why we developed five simple principles for PR professionals. These principles are designed to be easily applied, ensuring better integration into daily work. This focus on the PR industry’s unique needs and our commitment to providing tangible steps that set this initiative apart.
Why is it important for communicators to adhere to guidelines on sustainability work, and how can brands benefit by working with agencies who follow them?
In a nutshell, sustainability communications is currently falling short of its intended goals. Rather than fostering understanding and collaboration on vital issues like climate and nature, it tends to undermine trust due to the prevalence of greenwashing, whether intentional or unintentional.
Ensuring that your brand is in capable hands is paramount. In the fast-paced media and social media landscape, every word a brand makes comes under intense public, institutional and regulatory scrutiny. Having a communications team well-versed in what to watch for helps de-risk this process. Additionally, as businesses face increased accountability for their social and environmental impacts, having a strategic partner with an external perspective can be invaluable. They can hold a mirror up to internal leadership and offer a critical viewpoint on complex or sensitive issues.
How do these guidelines reduce the risk for companies making claims regarding sustainable practices?
‘Risk’ is the four-letter word looming over the PR industry. It goes beyond the risk to the industry, or reputational risk for businesses; regulatory risk should also be a top concern. Major regulatory bodies and global institutions are increasingly scrutinising ‘green’ and ESG claims. Businesses can’t afford to get it wrong. The pressure is on for PR professionals to know what we’re doing and do what we’re saying.
Success with these guidelines would make them second nature to practitioners, helping us challenge deeply ingrained instincts in the industry. Take transparent communication for instance. Instead of simply highlighting the positives, we encourage a more balanced approach that addresses both sustainability progress and challenges. At Spurwing, this is second nature. We think about impact and context as we create content. When making claims, we collaborate with clients to showcase tangible actions and impact through specific projects.
Sustainability is a dynamic field in general, with evolving markets, regulations, innovations, you name it. The most significant challenge is to keep pace with these rapid developments. It’s not just about having the right skills; it’s also crucial to invest in building technical and area-specific knowledge to stay informed about key issues.
If you’d like to have a confidential discussion about how your business or brand can communicate your sustainability strategies and outcomes, please get in touch with us.
Get your copy of the PRCA Communications Guidelines on Environmental Sustainability Claims here.