How important is language when it comes to communicating climate change?

January 25, 2022
Pic credit: Unsplash

In our latest Blog on Fintech Futures we discuss the power of lanuage. Here is what we wrote

In the same way that a great idea can be cannibalised by poor execution, the most important Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) communications can come undone because of poor or insufficient language. We have previously discussed the many complex factors impacting how we communicate the climate crisis, but one simple element that is often overlooked is the words themselves.

So why does this need our attention? The importance of ESG credentials grows with every passing year, through increased regulation, heightened focus from investors and a demonstrable impact on an organisation’s bottom line. In 2022, the environmental crisis has perhaps never been more pressing for businesses. Communicators are central to ensuring their organisations are able to commit to and execute succinct ESG communications plans to weather this period of rapid change and heightened consumer expectation.

As an organisation, putting clarity at the heart of your communications is no longer a nice-to-have. With the brand-new Green Claims Code already in effect in the UK, regulation is finally catching up with businesses that do not live up to their environmental promises.

The impact of language in financial services

This issue naturally affects sectors where there is already entrenched jargon or enhanced regulation, such as financial services. For communicators operating in this environment, even more attention must be placed on the clarity of messaging and ensuring that no vital information gets lost in translation. This is a very literal reality when dealing with global audiences and multi-language communications.

Financial services is a sector that also grapples with misinformation and a lack of trust, with the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer showing financial services at its lowest levels of trust since 2016, and 7% behind business in general. Furthermore, misinformation comes at a cost. 69% of respondents to a Yext survey reported that they would change their bank or insurance company if they had a bad experience with the company’s information online. Simplifying messaging and ensuring it is fully understood, therefore, must be a priority in the sector.

We can help you craft a communication strategy that makes your valuable ESG information relevent, accessible, and engaging for all your stakeholders Get in touch 

3 ways to ensure greater clarity in your ESG communications strategy

Cut the jargon

One of the most significant causes of inertia, or a lack of action, is an absence of clear information. Too much of climate inaction is caused by not understanding the latest data or jargon surrounding the ever-changing issue of the environmental crisis.

Language must always be simple, clear and actionable. It is the responsibility of communicators to ensure this. ESG communications strategies must cut through the scientific language and stick to the information that your customers can use, presented in clear ways that they can truly understand. Visuals, such as infographics and live content, can be an effective way to achieve this.

Issues related to the environmental crisis are naturally complex, without a clear narrative, often changing information and many conflicting factors. Without ESG communicators at the vanguard of all climate commitments, businesses risk alienating their customers and missing crucial opportunities for engagement over this emotive issue.

Think wider than your most popular demographic

Climate change has a global audience, even if your business doesn’t yet, and communications need to reflect this.

An innovative ESG communications strategy can not only help the planet but can grow brand awareness and engagement with your organisation’s story. Being a disruptor or game changer in this space could attract an international audience you never expected, but poorly translated communications can prevent this captive audience from becoming loyal customers. Continually monitoring the reach of your ESG communications plan and seeking translation where appropriate is a worthy investment.

This is particularly true of the wide-reaching impact of many financial services organisations, where a global outlook is commonplace. Sophia Kianni, founder of Climate Cardinals, a youth-led nonprofit that's working to make the climate movement more internationally accessible, revealed some shocking statistics on the realities of climate literature in her inspirational TED Talk. Some 80% of all articles published are written in English (Scopus, 2012), and yet 75% of the world’s population do not speak English.

For communicators, this stark misalignment bears an important message on translation and education. If we are to move towards a more conscious future, ensuring that your ESG communications can be translated between markets for maximum impact is crucial. As communicators, we must mobilise a global audience, and single-language messages risk getting lost in the noise. How global is your ESG communications plan? If this hasn’t yet been a consideration for your business, it’s time to make it a priority.

As Kianni concludes on this topic, “The more people are informed about the climate crisis, the greater chance we have to coordinate collective efforts in protection of the future of our planet.”

Test, test and test again

If you’re unsure of the clarity of your communications, a simple way to assess this is to test them. In the digital age, this has never been easier. Ask your customers and seek their input on what you can do to make your ESG communications clear to them. A simple social media poll could unlock significant insight with zero cost to your business.

Alternatively, consider your own employees. How can they help your organisation achieve greater clarity? Could you host internal focus groups to identify whether the key messages of your ESG communications strategy are understood? This has the dual benefit of empowering all colleagues to better understand and communicate your organisation’s environmental commitments, ensuring greater levels of ESG integration. In financial services, where the war for talent rages on, demonstrating your business’s purpose and vision for the future could also be a powerful tool for employee retention.

Ultimately, the age of inaccessibility when it comes to climate communications is over. ESG communications must always seek to empower your customers and ensuring high levels of clarity in every piece of language you use must be a top priority in order to achieve this. Organisations should be prepared to commit to clear, concise communications that ensure your customers understand your environmental ethos and can translate your commitments into their own actions.

We can help you take your ESG communications strategy to the next level. Get in touch with Communique today to access our exclusive team of global experts who will work with you to develop and promote full ESG integration for your financial services organisation.


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