Bringing sustainability into your brand story

By Forster Communications

Even when you’re pushing the envelope, stories about your sustainability activities can become siloed, feel unauthentic or simply don’t resonate with colleagues and customers. Our recent interactive workshop, ‘Finding the Thread’ – run by our Client Services Director George Ames, in collaboration with our creative partners Nice and Serious – focused on joining the dots between sustainability and brand communications, helping organisations unleash their storytelling potential and deepen brand value without the risk of greenwashing.

Communicating your sustainability efforts can be daunting. On one hand, there’s the risk that stories appear dull and uninspiring, or don’t fully capture the good work that’s being done. On the other hand, there’s the risk of accusations of grandstanding or greenwashing if storytelling is too forthright. It’s no surprise that many brands don’t know where to start, or are fearful of starting at all, leading to inaction and detached, confused messaging.

The answer? Find the thread. Start at the beginning and ask:

  • Why does the brand do what it does?
  • What does it help to achieve in the world?
  • What is its heritage and how is it evolving?
  • What meaningful action and progress has been made?
  • What needs to be invested in, improved and done better?

Your brand is how you show up in the minds of customers, so it’s important to communicate everything about the brand – including sustainability – in a way that’s authentic, thoughtful and reflective. By being honest and genuine about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what it will achieve, brands can build trust and an emotional connection to their audience.

Be action-focused

Talking about what you’re doing is important, but stories are more engaging when they explain how. Customers want to know what’s going on behind the scenes to make your promises happen, and colleagues want to understand how they’re a part of the impact your brand is driving. Being transparent about your sustainability journey also influences positive action within the wider industry, positioning your brand as a real changemaker.

Start small

The delight is in the detail with sustainability. Smaller stories bring strategies and targets to life, and gives sustainability communication a sharper brand lens. By confidently and consistently telling smaller stories, brands can paint a credible bigger picture to frame their overall efforts.

Think long-term

Sustainability commitments and targets are long term, so the communication around them should be too. A forward-looking communications strategy shows a clear awareness of the task at hand; sustainability is never ‘complete’, so authentic brands are prepared to take their audience on the journey with them.

Be imaginative

Your brand’s sustainability strategy is vital for driving change within the organisation, but as a business framework it’s not always going to directly resonate with your audience. To find the thread, choose the engaging and inspirational stories that you know will appeal to your customers and employees, and tell them in imaginative ways that bring to life your brand.

Know when to turn the volume up (and down)

Proportionality is key to finding the balance between greenhushing and greenwashing. Activities should be communicated transparently, but not everything needs a press release or a big launch. Communication should be thoughtful and proportionate to the topic at hand, so when there’s a key story to tell it’s able to really shine.

Don’t wait for perfect

Brands are often wary of communicating their efforts because they want to get it exactly right, but sustainability is all about progress, not perfection, and your communications should reflect this. We need to be transparent about the challenges we face, and being open and honest about your efforts – including the way you’re finding the thread – creates authenticity and trust. No brand is doing things flawlessly – the important thing is that they’re doing things. We can’t wait for perfection to communicate what we’re doing.

If you need help finding your thread, get in touch with

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