Sustainability means different things to different people and businesses. At the heart of sustainable intent is meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. It’s not just about the environment and natural resources, but also sustainability encompasses social and economic impact.
Key sustainability pillars
Our agency, TAP, specialises in the agriculture & food sector. Agriculture is often subject to criticism when it comes to the environment, which is unjustified, in my opinion. The companies we work with genuinely understand that farming must become more sustainable by playing its part in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss, while feeding the growing global population. Like many sectors, agri-food businesses are integrating sustainability into their strategies with many wholly invested in the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals. Not surprisingly, the predominant pillars we’re seeing include: health & safety, environment, climate, food security, governance & ethics, community and society.
We’re also seeing more businesses introducing time-bound goals and objectives for accountability – these could be objectives to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, reduce water consumption, increase community support or improve employee diversity.
Sustainability needs to be economically viable for the business, and also the end user. Embarking on a more sustainable business model can be quite daunting because of financial and resource implications – particularly for SMEs.
One of our clients is an innovative agricultural SME. The company has embarked on a complete review of the business from the ground up. The company has assessed the carbon footprint of its operations, as well as for all of its products. The latter covering freight implications for purchasing raw materials and delivery of finished goods, manufacturing processes, packaging, and labelling. Once the carbon footprint of the whole business is quantified, then the business can start the journey to become more sustainable. No mean feat for a small company with just 10 employees.
How will strategies evolve?
Sustainability does not stand still, and as progress is made, strategies are evolving and goals are changing.
This evolution can be driven by markets, stakeholders and regulations, but forward-thinking companies have proactively built sustainability into their business strategy. This leads to opportunities and results in risk-mitigation (against, for example, reputational damage and stranded assets). Also, as investment strategies & other influences change over time as a result of externalities, then sustainability goals will change too.
How can agencies support this process?
So how can agencies support their clients on this sustainability journey?
- Strategic planning, messaging and delivery that are embedded in real values, not just greenwashing.
- Internal engagement – help your clients nurture their people to embed values and understanding.
Communication should use the right tone, level of detail and timing. Share and celebrate best practice stories internally (and externally). This whole process can also help with talent retention.
- Developing internal systems for training, learning & knowledge share.
- External reputation – communication should be authentic and true to your client’s values. The proof points and stories that validate a company’s sustainability commitment could come from any area of the business.
Never “greenwash” which could result in a great deal of reputational damage.
A strong narrative and commitment can also help in attracting new talent into the business, as well as aiding customer/client retention and delivering to the bottom line.
- Certainly, the agri-food industry faces huge challenges to reach Net Zero goals. The same applies to other sectors. To achieve the ambitions, stakeholders within industries must work together and accept that we’re all at different stages of this journey. Wherever a company is on this journey, everyone can improve. Even companies within a challenging sector can discover better practice, act accordingly and communicate it.
Collaboration and sharing of experience are vital so that a wider audience can learn, grow, and be inspired.
As thenetworkone agencies, we’re passionate about what we do and we offer a wide range of skills, services & expertise. So whether it’s systems, tools, story-telling, advertising or influencer engagement, to name but a few; there is so much that we can contribute to this movement.
Emma Craigie, Head of Content & Media, The Ad Plain Ltd