Scientist Britt Wray starts her incredible TED Talk, broadcast in May 2019, with: “For all that has ever been said about climate change, we haven’t heard nearly enough about the psychological impacts of living in a warming world.”
As climate change continues to dominate the political and business agenda, it is important to consider the impact this is having on us as individuals, as issues relating to people and planet can often leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
“As communicators, we have a responsibility to ensure that the information we are putting out on sustainability is responsible, helpful and authentic to mitigate any harm to mental health. Therefore, considering the impact our ESG comms plans have on the wellbeing of our customers, clients and employees is a worthwhile exercise to ensure we are communicating responsibly.” Gihan Hyde, Founder & CEO Communique
This is often expressed as eco-anxiety, which is defined as: ‘Feelings of helplessness, anger, insomnia, panic and guilt toward the climate and ecological crisis.’ In 2019, Friends of the Earth anticipated that this anxiety towards climate change is affecting at least 70% of 18-24-year-olds. Concerningly for Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) professionals, only 26% of people surveyed from across 50 countries report having a clear idea of how they can contribute to solving climate change (Force of Nature, 2021).
Considering the wellbeing of your clients and customers will ultimately help you to drive the efficiency of your ESG communications. For example, you can deliver value-led information when stakeholders need to act or share guidance and impact statements when they need reassurance. For your staff, ESG projects can make a serious difference to not only their quality of life but their likelihood to stay at your organisation for the long-term. However, any ESG comms plan needs careful management to prevent eco-anxiety and uncertainty.
Here are some of top tips from Communique founder Gihan Hyde, to keep your ESG communications positive and actionable, and mitigate harmful impacts on wellbeing:
- Focus on the areas where you can make real change
This will be unique to every business so it’s important to take the time to identify where it will be most effective for your organisation or client to focus their efforts. Some businesses will need to take the time to get their house in order for their internal stakeholders before looking any further, others may be able to take strides towards widespread environmental action.
- Use comms to positively engage your stakeholders
Scaremongering can be as damaging as greenwashing, and therefore all ESG communications should focus on positive action where possible. You can do this by sharing information that inspires proactivity rather than being preoccupied with messages that might overwhelm or panic stakeholders. For example, instead of communicating the negative impacts of staff driving to office buildings, instead suggest helpful alternatives that they can use and let them know the positive effects of this if they take you up on it.
- Invest in training
Training not only keeps you up to date and effective, but it also provides an invaluable opportunity to network and share best practice with your fellow communications professionals. Stepping outside of your day to day and taking a holistic look at the impact of an effective ESG comms strategy within businesses can be an important time of reflection that reinforces the positive impact of communication.
- Monitor and report on the impact
Don’t just do it – follow up! Your ESG comms strategy shouldn’t stop after implementation; it needs continuous monitoring and reporting on for the benefit of everyone involved. From internal and external stakeholders who want to know their impact, to your own team driving these actions forward. As we know, what’s not measured cannot be managed. To effectively manage the success of your ESG projects, a robust measurement structure is crucial.
- Don’t forget yourself
Ultimately, for communications professionals, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed in the world we operate in. Our ESG comms plans share some of the most complex and important messages of our time, and we are responsible for driving positive action on a huge scale. Don’t underestimate the impact this might take on you as an individual. Be sure to take the time you need to keep yourself well and maintain your emotional resilience.
Though on the surface climate change is having a negative impact on wellbeing across society, communicators today have a unique opportunity to galvanise stakeholders behind positive messaging, turning the conversation from scaremongering to positive action. This action, we now know, will be crucial for ensuring that people and the planet can thrive for years to come.
Ready to invest in responsible communications that champion the wellbeing of both people and planet? Get in touch with Communique today to access a team of global team of experts that will help your business to define, translate and clarify your ESG strategy.