The Ethical Copywriter

Rachel Baker

Keeping up with ever-changing sustainability advice

Businesses are often met with a barrage of different advice on how to be more sustainable. Not only can this advice be contradictory, but it seems there is always some new research criticising a solution that we thought was sustainable.

Take tree planting, for example. It’s becoming increasingly popular for companies to offset their carbon emissions by contributing to a tree planting initiative. It lowers their carbon footprint and shows customers that they’re committed to sustainability. But climate expert shave recently pointed out that reducing your carbon emissions in the first place is much more effective than offsetting them retrospectively. And some of the less reputable schemes actually damage local ecosystems by planting non-native species.

Navigating what appears to be ever-changing sustainability advice can be challenging for businesses. However, they key to having a positive impact is to see your sustainability policy as an ongoing, evolving, work-in-progress. For all of us, changing the way we live and work will take time – it’s not going to happen overnight. The important thing is to always be listening, learning and taking steps in the right direction. Here’s how you can do that.

Become carbon literate

While it can feel like the sustainability landscape is always changing, this is not necessarily the reality. Often, the issue is that an idea or solution has become popular in the mainstream – held up as a perfect, one-stop solution – without attention to nuance. You can combat this by being as informed as possible about carbon emissions, so you can make measured decisions rather than following trends.

The CarbonLiteracy Project was set up to educate people about carbon emissions and make it easier for them to calculate and reduce their carbon footprint. They assist organisations in putting together and delivering their own carbon literacy training to employees. They also allow organisations to get certified as CarbonLiterate Organisation (CLO).

Even as an individual, you can take a course with The Carbon Literacy Project, or simply do some further reading. How Bad Are Bananas? by Mike Berners Lee isa great entry-level read, offering a light-hearted breakdown of the carbon footprint of everything from flights to bananas.

Communicate with customers

How often do you chat with your customers about sustainability? If you don’t at all, you could be missing a trick. Communicating with your customers about sustainability fosters discussion, which in turn can help you with your sustainability strategy.

The modern consumer is increasingly aware of climate and social issues, is well-informed and wants to make purchases that align with their principles. Of course, this can seem daunting to purpose-led businesses. You might worry that you’re under constant scrutiny and at risk of being “cancelled”. But flip this around and you can make use of your customers’ passion and know-how – to spark new ideas and inspiration for how your business can be more sustainable.

Tell customers what you’re already doing and what you’re planning to do. And importantly: ask customers what’s important to them. Make the process collaborative. This might include having a clear and detailed sustainability policy on your website, discussing sustainability issues using blogs and social media, and getting feedback from customers via polls and forms.

An added bonus of being transparent and receptive to dialogue around sustainability is that it can boost your profits too. You’re more likely to earn people’s trust and keep themas loyal customers in the long term.

Don’t look back in anger

As mentioned, sustainability and climate change are incredibly complex topics. If you’ve realised there’s something you should be doing better, see it as an opportunity rather than a failure. You took action based on what you thought was right at the time. But as long as your business is willing to learn, adapt, and share this journey with your customers, then you’re on the right path.

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Keeping up with ever-changing sustainability advice

Businesses are often met with a barrage of different advice on how to be more sustainable. Not only can this advice be contradictory, but it seems there is always some new research criticising a solution that we thought was sustainable.

Take tree planting, for example. It’s becoming increasingly popular for companies to offset their carbon emissions by contributing to a tree planting initiative. It lowers their carbon footprint and shows customers that they’re committed to sustainability. But climate expert shave recently pointed out that reducing your carbon emissions in the first place is much more effective than offsetting them retrospectively. And some of the less reputable schemes actually damage local ecosystems by planting non-native species.

Navigating what appears to be ever-changing sustainability advice can be challenging for businesses. However, they key to having a positive impact is to see your sustainability policy as an ongoing, evolving, work-in-progress. For all of us, changing the way we live and work will take time – it’s not going to happen overnight. The important thing is to always be listening, learning and taking steps in the right direction. Here’s how you can do that.

Become carbon literate

While it can feel like the sustainability landscape is always changing, this is not necessarily the reality. Often, the issue is that an idea or solution has become popular in the mainstream – held up as a perfect, one-stop solution – without attention to nuance. You can combat this by being as informed as possible about carbon emissions, so you can make measured decisions rather than following trends.

The CarbonLiteracy Project was set up to educate people about carbon emissions and make it easier for them to calculate and reduce their carbon footprint. They assist organisations in putting together and delivering their own carbon literacy training to employees. They also allow organisations to get certified as CarbonLiterate Organisation (CLO).

Even as an individual, you can take a course with The Carbon Literacy Project, or simply do some further reading. How Bad Are Bananas? by Mike Berners Lee isa great entry-level read, offering a light-hearted breakdown of the carbon footprint of everything from flights to bananas.

author

Rachel Baker
The Ethical Copywriter
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