The Art of Framing Sustainability

by | Nov 20, 2019 | Climate | 0 comments

Words Have Power

In October 2019, Recycle CO2 with Thought Laboratories collaborated with BI Norwegian Business School’s Centre for Corporate Communication and Centre for Green Growth to host an event focusing on framing the popular term Sustainability. We know, through research, that the words that are used to communicate really matter. Words have the power to change the direction of society. However, certain words when overused turn into buzzwords losing its meaning and power to both persuade and inform. Such has been the fate for the word sustainability. This is because the concept of sustainability is ambiguous, with wide confusion over the use of terminology and methods.

The event turned out to be a great success, having over 200 engaged attendees who all share the passion for green growth and the importance of communication to reach our desired and collective goals of reducing our carbon footprint. Many companies struggle with sustainability; how to become more sustainable, how to measure their progress toward being more sustainable, and how to incorporate sustainability into their brand and products. These are all valid struggles for businesses, as the term sustainability has gotten more and more important over the last years.

This is exactly why we selected to host this important event to be able to discuss the meaning of sustainability across businesses, industries and cultures and come to a consensus on how to most effectively use sustainability. Having Thina Saltvedt working from Sustainable Finance in Nordea speak at the event was significant, because she demonstrated how language is important and that the finance community is taking sustainability seriously. She talked about how banks are diversifying into renewables and green solutions and will in the near future start to require companies to show they are sustainable before they can get a loan. Thina recommended the audience to diversify their investment portfolio into sustainabile companies.

Bjørn Kjærand Haugland, the CEO of Skift, leads the most ambitious climate membership organization in Norway. Skift consists of leading global corporations in Norway and the most renowned Norwegian companies with a drive to ensure that Norway will reach its climate goals by 2030. He talked about the importance of leadership and innovation and how Skift is not a think tank, but an “action tank” being at the forefront of putting sustainability on the agenda.

However, I must say that Frank Luntz’s quote “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear” really stuck. Because that’s right, isn’t it?

Use Language that RESONATES with Your Followers

Companies can claim being green, focusing on diversity and having sustainable business on the top of their agenda, but it doesn’t always resonate with reality and the public’s expectations. This is why the words one selects are imperative for gaining public acceptance. If a business or organization wants the public to understand their different efforts, they must use the language that resonates with their followers and put it into a more everyday language and tone of voice.

Start With What You Can

It is typical for us, the public to want to do everything at once, and also do it in the best way. We must remember that the term sustainability is fairly new to today’s businesses and is just now gaining importance. With that said, companies should not necessarily make all of their actions sustainable right away, but rather start where they can make a change and the passing of time to get all employees and the public behind these efforts.

The future is here now

KPMGs former CEO Arne Frogner, brought forward results from the Top Executive Survey 2019, showing that talented young people expect to work in a company with a strong purpose for sustainability.