Storytelling Can Help Better Communicate Sustainability Value To Investors
Increasingly investors see sustainability as an opportunity and a business advantage, but most also say companies don’t successfully communicate how “sustainability initiatives are linked to their strategy, financial performance and value in meaningful ways.”
That’s according to research by Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), a UK-based initiative that works under the aegis of the United Nations Global Compact. Investor Study: Insights from PRI Signatories, co-written with Accenture, finds that a majority of CEOs (still only 57 percent, but that’s a topic for another day) say they are able to set out their sustainability strategy. However, only 9 percent of investors say that CEOs can do this. And while 38 percent of CEOs say they communicate the business value of their efforts, only 7 percent of investors agree.
These findings reveal “a striking gap which exposes the shortcomings of many companies in effectively communicating their approach to sustainability and its links to the traditional measures of business value and success,” says the report.
The PRI report makes a number of recommendations for addressing this challenge, though curiously, only one—“focus on opportunity and value,” rather than risk and mitigation—is fundamentally about communications. The others are suggestions for systemic changes often beyond the scope of an individual company: commitment to the long term, developing the knowledge base of investment advisors, developing common metrics across industry sectors, collaborating with policymakers to reshape markets and systems. These are worthy efforts, but they overlook something every company can do that I believe would vastly shrink the communications gap: create strong brand stories for sustainability.
Carolyn McMaster helps sustainable businesses and cleantech companies boost brand value through compelling brand stories and thought leadership positioning. She is a principal of San Francisco–based Thinkshift Communications, a Certified B Corp and California public benefit corporation that works to drive sustainable business forward. Follow her @thinkshift and connect on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolynmcm.