Listen to Your Local Communities, Where to Start with Sustainability

September 12, 2023

If you’re a business that’s looking to fulfill the E in ESG genuinely and authentically but feel overwhelmed with not knowing where to begin, look no further. At Communique our team of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) business model integration and corporate communication specialists can assist you in driving your businesses in the right direction.


Where do you start?

In an ever-changing world, with the growing pressures of climate change, every entity is faced with the responsibility to adapt, grow, and learn. When governments start rolling out regulations, businesses often wonder where to begin. Incorporating something that hasn't been a priority for a long time can be challenging, but it's not impossible.


One way to answer the question of where to begin may lie in an often-overlooked part of your business model: your local communities. Engaging with local communities can help you both meet sustainability goals and foster authentic loyalty.

Investing in this sustainability measure creates positive outcomes for all involved, including businesses, society, and the earth. Here are some valuable reasons to focus on local community engagement along with some practical tips for application.

  1. The tools that local communities have often align with sustainability needs.

Local communities often possess a wealth of knowledge, resources, and skills that can be harnessed to achieve sustainability goals. For example, you can learn sustainable land management practices from indigenous communities, sustainable agriculture techniques from local farmers and gardeners, and collaborate with local environmental initiatives that have already made a significant impact in the community. Additionally, non-profits that work effectively in the area can offer valuable insights.


Collaborating with local communities and tailoring their needs to what your business can offer is a great way to utilize their valuable knowledge and start building connections. This method is often overlooked, but many local communities lack resources that businesses can help provide. By doing so, you align your goals and can meet regulations, depending on the context. This not only benefits the environment and the community, but it can also create opportunities for collaboration and partnership.


For example, the home furnishing brand IKEA’s MÄVINN collection features local artisan created home accessories made of leftover denim, and banana barker fibers. Banana bark fibers are a waste by-product from banana farming that are utilized in this collection to create lampshades. The techniques and skills used to do this come from local artisans from India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam.


In order to do this IKEA collaborates with companies like India’s first community owned craft brand Rangsutra, to employ thousands of local artisans. These artisans use their local Indian art and craft heritage of their respective communities to create sustainable handmade pieces. The skills the artisans provide matched with the financial support of companies like IKEA creates sustainable livelihoods for the artisans and reduces IKEA’s waste footprint. This is one of the many ways various businesses can collaborate with local communities to increase environmental sustainability and reduce their climate footprint.


Here are some practical tips that businesses can use to implement this:

  • Engage with local community leaders and members and learn from their expertise. Often, community members have compiled and documented their expertise and are interested in sharing their knowledge to uplift their community. You can always reach out to an ESG consultancy such as Communique that will be able to research local community leaders and connect you to them.
  • Partner and collaborate with local organizations and businesses to support sustainable practices and initiatives. This can be done by providing financial support, offering your business services if applicable, or by creating a new collaborative initiative with the local businesses or organizations.
  • Integrate the local knowledge and resources into your own business practices and decision-making processes. The helpful knowledge you've gained from your local community can prove to be a valuable asset to your own business.
  • Utilize ESG consultancy connections. When you work with ESG consultancies such as Communique that have actively been involved in all aspects of corporate and environmental and social governance for over 15 years, working across 100 projects, 8 sectors and 5 continents, you’re sure to be connected with the specific methods that help your business collaborate with your local community. Communique can design and deliver your internal and external ESG Communication strategy that would highlight the impact you wish to achieve, based on the evidence from the progress made and the commitments you set.


  1. Prioritizing the needs of local communities can help businesses foster loyalty among stakeholders.

Establishing and maintaining customer loyalty is vital to ensuring the success of a business. Successful businesses prioritize their customers as key participants and collaborators.


When businesses prioritize the needs of local communities and take sustainable actions to address those needs, it can create a sense of loyalty and trust between the business and the community. This can lead to increased support for the business, as well as positive social and environmental impacts.


Loyalty towards businesses becomes even stronger when local communities can witness the efforts made by businesses towards a brighter future. Today, consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z, highly prioritize brands and businesses that take positive actions towards the betterment of society and the environment. Evaluating business ethos before purchasing has become common among many Gen Z's. When businesses support local communities in a sustainable way, it not only helps the environment but also increases the loyalty base from customers who value such actions.


For example, the outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia created the platform Patagonia Action Works where they showcase the local grassroots initiatives they support. They also connect their customers to their initiatives and provide space for their customers to inquire further and collaborate with the initiatives listed on their platform. Also included in the Patagonia Action Works is their Worn Wear program where customers can practice sustainability by trading in their worn Patagonia clothing or buying used Patagonia clothing items.


Due to their efforts, they have a loyal customer base, especially by Gen Z and Gen Y (Millennials) customers who highly value company environmental efforts. An article by Catherine Morin on explains “Patagonia’s Customer Base and the Rise of an Environmental Ethos” and the extent to which environmental efforts are important to customers. Capgemeni Research Institute’s 2022 consumer behavior tracker “found that nearly 80% of consumers want to contribute to the fight to save the planet for future generations” (Capgemeni2022). The evidence clearly shows the rise of the conscious consumer and collaborating with local communities sustainably can ensure the longevity of your business and the earth.


Here are some practical tips that businesses can use to implement this:

  • Conduct a Materiality Assessment and engage with local communities to identify their priorities. This can be an effective way to build trust and collaboration. By asking community members about their needs and concerns, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to local stakeholders and foster a sense of shared purpose. Communique’s services include performing a materiality assessment in order to help facilitate these processes. It’s also important to understand why a Materiality Assessment is important for communication which Communique explains in this paper.
  • Prioritize local community needs in decision-making processes. When customers see that your decision-making process takes their needs into account, they are more likely to remain loyal to your business and respect its values. This aligns with how many customers choose which businesses to invest in, as they want their own values and the values of the businesses, they support to be compatible.
  • Communicate openly and transparently with local communities about business activities and impacts. Transparency is key to building trust with customers, which in turn fosters loyalty. In today's age of widespread misinformation and scandals, the value of truth and honesty is highly regarded, particularly when it comes to environmental issues. By demonstrating a genuine commitment to sustainability and being transparent about your efforts, you can gain the trust and loyalty of customers who prioritize these values.


In conclusion:

Listening to local communities is the optimum investment in longevity. One way to grow as a business is to listen to local communities and adapt to their needs, this ensures the business remains relevant and successful.


This requires understanding all aspects of sustainability, including environmental, social, and economic factors. By considering these different dimensions of sustainability, businesses can shift their perspective and view sustainability not as a task to be checked off, but as a cultural shift within the company.


This approach results in a business that is built to last and can adapt to changing perspectives and practices. Investing in longevity in this case means taking the necessary steps to ensure that as local communities grow due to their needs being met, the business also grows with them.


When local communities see businesses listening to them, engaging with them, utilizing their knowledge, being transparent, and including them in decision-making processes, it uplifts the community. They now have a business that not only aligns with many sustainable development goals, but also invests in a brighter future for all.


As we all strive towards sustainability, it's important to prioritize progress over perfection and acknowledge the efforts of all stakeholders, including businesses, governments, and society as a whole. By consistently trying to do better, we can collectively build a brighter and more sustainable future. Set up a consultation with Communique to help you get started.


What now?

Set up a consultation with Communique to help you get started. With Communique’s plethora of experience, you’ll be connected, guided and delivered an ESG framework that will help you meet your ESG goals. It’s time to shape your ESG story and Communique has the tools and methodology to do just that.



Author: Maha Abdel-Karim, Junior Environmental Consultant

Photo credit: / // //




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