ESG marketing - The importance of telling your story
ESG marketing - The importance of telling your story
Over the last decade, ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) has become a key focus in both the business and investment worlds. But sustainability isn’t just important to investors. Environmental protection, social justice, and ethical management have become increasingly meaningful to consumers, particularly among millennials.
According to Morgan Stanley, 86% of millennials are interested in sustainable investing, and a Sustainable Brands survey found millennial investors are more likely to integrate sustainability into their consumer behavior. As millennials become employees, buyers, and investors, they’re taking note of positive corporate action and rewarding them with loyalty. A BoF & McKinsey report estimated 60% of global millennials are willing to spend more on brands with a corporate social responsibility commitment.
Knowing the importance of ESG to stakeholders, it’s become critical to consider what you, as a marketing leader, are doing to elevate, share, and market your company’s ESG story. While most companies are aware of their overarching brand reputation, considering the specific reputational impact associated with ESG can provide new opportunities that both protect and enhance your brand.
How ESG can help build your brand
In a world of social media and 24-hour news, companies are under constant scrutiny by investors and customers alike, from their investment selection process to their employees' health and wellness benefits.
While the idea of sustainability isn’t new, incorporating ESG efforts, strategies, and reporting into a core business model is becoming increasingly important to companies. Centering your marketing efforts around the company’s sustainability strategies and telling that story effectively will increase brand loyalty and value.
Strong environmental, social, and governance scores lend credibility when building a brand. In fact, 37 out of the 50 top-performing brands in the S&P 500 scored above the median on ESG measures. As marketers work to position their company message in the marketplace, it’s essential to demonstrate your company’s values concerning:
- Corporate citizenship
- Environmental responsibility
- Ethical management
- Treatment of employees
Marketing teams that recognize the importance of communicating proactive and integrated ESG policies and outcomes can gain a competitive advantage over other industry players. Consider showcasing improvements in labor conditions, employee diversity, giving back to the community, and consider taking a stand on environmental and social justice issues to strengthen the company brand. Here are a few ideas on where to start:
1. Explore brand values
Values are at the center of any brand and are particularly important when defining and communicating a company’s ESG outlook and efforts. Consider how company values may need to shift under this lens and construct messaging that feels right for and authentic to your company.
2. Redefine your mission statement
Creating a mission statement specific to your ESG efforts can help articulate your company’s commitment to ESG. While aligning your entire mission around responsible growth may not be right for the business, building these values into your purpose can help set the tone for your company’s culture.
3. Set strategic goals
Consider developing a vision and strategic plan that values corporate social responsibility while articulating your company’s strategy to deliver on ESG goals. Setting and communicating goals is a way to hold your business accountable to investors and consumers alike.
Telling your ESG story
If you’re ready to put ESG at the forefront of your marketing and communications efforts, you’ll want to start by creating a strategy for sharing your story. From social media to the mission statement, to your program and products, to your employees, to investor and public relations efforts, consider how your messaging will integrate throughout our company’s brand. These approaches can help as you develop your sustainability narrative:
Consistent, differentiated messaging
In order to stand out from competitors, you’ll want to clearly identify your key differentiators and what makes your company unique. Plan to communicate your mission, values, and goals consistently. Your brand narrative can be kept simple and effective by ensuring every touchpoint where investors, employees, and consumers encounter your brand maintains a unified message.
Focused content marketing
We live in an era of constant communication. Content marketing ensures you’re keeping abreast of relevant issues and communicating your company’s position. However, within the massive world of ESG, it may be challenging to decide what topics to focus on. Remember: you don’t need to address every single issue. Work to narrow your focus on issues that integrate well within your company values, goals, and industry. Or, consider staking your claim as a leader on a specific topic.
To stay authentic, focus on proactive, values-driven motivation stories, highlighting your efforts without needing a crisis or a prompt. You can promote this through success stories, turning ESG data and outcomes into infographics, sharing employee testimonials, or by generating focused articles written by experts within your company. ESG issues and your company’s stance on them are essential to your customers, employees, and investors, so make this content easy for them to find and understand. It’s incredibly important you keep the content informational and not promotional. If you include a call to action, focus on a call that will benefit society and not your company. According to the Journal of Advertising Research, customers will care about your ESG messaging only if they do not recognize it as promotional.
Clever public relations
The media plays a crucial role in shaping public perception. Consider developing a public relations strategy that gets the word out about your company’s ESG efforts through appropriate media channels. Since most of mainstream business publications cover ESG issues, you can share relevant news with sources your clients and competitors frequent. Find ways to get experts within your company quoted on specific topics and share pertinent content with publications to give your company greater visibility.
While ESG is a priority, a company’s performance and products are still the key factors in investment and consumer decisions. For your investors, look for opportunities to demonstrate how your company’s ESG efforts translate into superior returns and better risk mitigation. Highlighting the direct connections between sustainability and business performance can support your ESG marketing efforts.
Beyond ESG marketing
A company’s ESG marketing efforts must extend beyond blogs and public relations to ensure your story is authentic. Customers and investors must believe the values, outcomes, and goals communicated are embraced and strategically weaved into your organization’s fabric.
One way to grow a strong corporate sustainability culture is by engaging employees. Finding opportunities to empower and involve employees in ESG goals and campaigns is a powerful way to build internal value and loyalty. Sharing success stories and helping employees take ownership of ESG efforts promotes success through a decentralized management approach.
Companies can also consider partnership programs to grow their message and build a positive reputation. By partnering with other businesses to share your story, you can amplify your message and make deeper connections within your industry. Consider joining your marketing efforts with other companies that also have robust ESG initiatives to help advocate for and promote each other.
ESG materiality assessments
With investors inquiring more and more frequently about what your company is doing in regard to responsible investment, how you treat employees and vendors, your dedication to sustainability initiatives, and other activities that fall under the ESG umbrella, it’s important to have answers to these questions.
An ESG materiality assessment empowers you to easily report your current state and outline what future initiatives will focus on. Learn what an ESG materiality assessment is, what the benefits for your organization are, how the assessment supports sustainable investment strategies, and how we can help support your ESG materiality assessment process and provide strategic benefits for your organization.