One method of communicating with stakeholders is through the mechanism of reporting.
Sustainability reporting provides value that goes beyond communication, as it obliges organisations to monitor sustainability performance, which in turn provides data to shape organisational priorities and strategy.
However, simply reporting on sustainability practices is not a guarantee that the company is actually making a conscious effort to become more sustainable. As a result, reporting has provided plenty of opportunities for organisations or individuals to expose corporate greenwashing. This has caused some firms to be increasingly wary of communicating positive sustainability messages – a phenomenon that has been labelled “green hush” – unless they have strong proof of the effectiveness of their efforts.
From a communications perspective, even those companies that demonstrate real confidence in their sustainability communications fail to make the best use of the research, data and information that goes into their sustainability report. As such, in recent years, companies have been using more creative approaches and accessible channels for conveying their sustainability story and performance, such as Oatly’s Sustainability Report.
For the sustainability marketer, an approach to communication which emphasises openness and dialogue with stakeholders (including critics), rather than relying on the selective use of ‘good news’ information is the key to avoiding such greenwashing sins.