B2B Supply Chains: Turn Up the Volume on Your Sustainability Story
Beth Crisafi Smith
September 3, 2020
Evidence abounds that investment in companies with favorable Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance is not only here to stay – it is on the rise. In the past six years alone, the quantity of global assets managed according to sustainable-investment strategies more than doubled to $30.7 trillion, equivalent now to one-third of all managed assets.
ESG-driven investment strategies among asset managers and institutional investors alike continue to expand, outperforming market indices during recent economic volatility. Moreover, companies with robust ESG programs repeatedly demonstrate superior financial performance and can weather the economic impacts of events like the COVID-19 pandemic better than their peers with weak ESG agendas.
It is no surprise that the pandemic has triggered a greater focus on ESG issues. We have witnessed increased attention on social injustice issues and increased scrutiny on how brands respond. S&P Global Ratings reported that, as of June, 17 S&P 500 companies have been forced to respond to the public outcry to protect their reputations and businesses from negative comments on social media.
Corporate governance will experience an overhaul after the risks exposed and exacerbated by the unprecedented global shutdown. And in the painful yet prevailing pivot toward business models that eliminate the need for physical presence, the pandemic also redefines the meaning of “sustainability” in the context of business continuity. The growing demand on both the buy and supply side of the B2B value chain for sustainability and ESG communications strategies reveals the gravity of this business imperative.
During this time of heightened awareness of environmental, social and governance risks, now is the time to turn the volume up on your sustainability communications.
With the greater emphasis on ESG management in the B2B supply chain, advanced manufacturers can expand brand awareness and market share by evaluating and communicating their environmental and social attributes to their customers. To craft messages that not only resonate but also inspire action along the supply chain, approach your sustainability communications with these strategies in mind.
Align with 2-3 UN SDGs. Narrow your corporate messaging to a focused set of U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that really matter to the performance of your business. By selecting a few meaningful goals that align with your brand and value proposition, rather than attempting to align with all 17, you will be able to refine your pool of proof points to support your sustainability claims. This allows you to deliver communication that will resonate with your audiences, backed by proof embedded in your business and messaging authentic to your brand.
Conduct a sustainability audit. An internal audit can help you identify where your sustainability impacts align with your overall business strategy and your targeted SDGs. Peer and customer benchmarking can reveal how and where your competitors and customers are telling their own sustainability stories. These insights can inform your approach as you craft messaging and a communications plan that will stand out among generic claims and engage your customers to learn more.
Define your messaging. Bring together all your internal stakeholders – from marketing and sales to technical representatives and scientists – to agree upon the sustainability messaging and topics that will move the needle for your business. This is also an opportune time to identify what hard data you have available to support your sustainability claims. Lack of tangible data can mute your sustainability story: Customers and investors seek out that proof, so gathering the right data from across the company fuels and fireproofs your messaging.
Foster internal excitement. Develop internal engagement programs to introduce your strategy to the workforce in a way that fosters enthusiasm and action. Making employees aware of your commitment and action toward ESG targets will encourage them to support internal initiatives and to spread the brand message throughout their own networks.
Inspire external action. Develop external engagement programs to position your business as a sustainability champion within your value chain. Integrated communications that reach your audiences across digital, social, virtual, and traditional media will help reach your target audiences with your sustainability story. Helping your customers overcome their own ESG hurdles not only deepens the value you deliver but also adds to the impact of your program.
Tackling ESG impacts along a complex supply chain requires a more holistic approach with close coordination along the supply chain. Simplifying your approach, solidifying your message and communicating with your customers can go a long way to advancing sustainability for the entire value chain, creating a much greater impact on the world – and on your bottom line.