How the power of storytelling can boost sustainable goals

Corporate communications plays a pivotal role in driving employee engagement and helping environmentally conscious organisations be more competitive

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 9, 2019. 

Volunteers set up a 20mx20m light installation, comprised of 2,000 solar lanterns, arranged to reveal the Zayed Sustainability Prize logo.

Following a month-long, five-country, transcontinental journey, the Zayed Sustainability Prizes Guiding Light campaign arrived to Abu Dhabi today. 

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

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In today’s environmentally conscious world, government organisations and businesses are facing increasing pressure to do their part to preserve the environment, support communities and adopt sustainable measures.

Being environmentally aware and adopting sustainable values and measures not only eases consumers' concerns and attracts talent, it's also good for business.

A study last year by Statista found that consumers are willing to pay an average 24 per cent more for sustainably produced goods. A separate survey by IBM also found that 67 per cent of respondents said they were willing to apply for jobs at environmentally sustainable organisations.

When it comes to driving sustainable and environmental change, corporate communications plays a crucial role in conveying an organisation’s goals and engaging employees, which, in turn, can help to enhance its reputation and gain a competitive advantage.

Start by setting clear targets

A corporate communications team should work with senior management to set clear targets for the business.

Questions to be asked include, but are not limited to: How could our business serve the environment in which we operate in? And how could we engage our employees and stakeholders?

Environmental and sustainability targets could encompass a range of causes such as minimising waste, preserving water, supporting local and young entrepreneurs, volunteering and using recycled products.

After setting targets, the corporate communications team will draw a road map on how and when these targets should be measured.

Drive engagement by effective storytelling

Why should employees care? What does it mean for them if their organisation is supporting cause X or Y? How is their work in the organisation driving environmental change and making their community a better place?

People care when a story resonates with them, when they see how they could be a making a difference.

This is where the power of storytelling comes into play. The narrative should be in line with an organisation’s values and mission and embedded in a way to effectively communicate with stakeholders, clients and the wider community.

This narrative should also be shared across a company's website, internal communications, between management and team members and, most importantly, through the way an organisation conducts its business.

Educate and raise awareness

When working with a client on their corporate social responsibility efforts, we ensured that staff in the wider organisation understood why the company decided to go paperless and why it chose to support youth-led businesses.

We conducted organisation-wide workshops, where environment agency representatives educated employees about the importance of preserving the environment not only in the office, but also beyond.

The corporate communications team also ensured that they sent out regular reports to employees highlighting the positive impact their work has on the environment and in the community.

The goal isn’t to raise awareness once, but to share constant updates so that employees see how their organisation is making a difference and are encouraged to also do the same.

Corporate communication plays a pivotal role in driving environmental and sustainability change
Manar Al Hinai

Acknowledge and reward

When I worked with a government organisation on developing their corporate communications strategy, typical feedback I received from employees was their willingness to make a difference and wanting to lead corporate social responsibility initiatives.

We thus appointed ambassadors from different departments to lead various initiatives.

It was crucial to not only raise awareness about the importance of the environment and sustainability measures the organisation was adopting, but to also acknowledge and reward those who drive and lead the change.

That culture of healthy competition and making a difference had a positive impact on employee morale and they felt their work was more meaningful.

Corporate communications plays a pivotal role in driving environmental and sustainability change, which can enhance overall company culture and help organisations stay ahead of the competition.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications adviser based in Abu Dhabi

Updated: December 11, 2023, 4:00 AM