Five Ways To Make Your ESG Communication Impactful


In December 2023, UK’s advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority, banned ads by Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and Etihad Airways for giving a “misleading impression” of the airlines’ environmental impact. The Air France-KLM advert had said that the airline helped people “travel better and sustainably” while Lufthansa’s ads said that people would “fly more sustainably” with the airline.

Closer home, the Securities and Exchange Board of India introduced a new BRSR Core sustainability reporting mandate in 2023 in a revision of its existing Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) framework. Seeking to enhance transparency and combat greenwashing, the more expansive BRSR Core requires companies to account for the ESG impact of their value chain. The top 250 listed companies have to mandatorily file the BRSR Core report this financial year.

At a time when both internal and external stakeholders are demanding greater action and transparency on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) actions, and as allegations on companies greenwashing their ESG credentials are on the rise, ESG communication has become even more critical for companies to earn credibility and build trust.

Navigating the world of ESG communication can be tricky, however. Here are 5 ESG-related problems every company faces and easy, example-led ways to turn your ESG efforts into a powerful communication tool.

Challenge #1: I have loads of ESG data. How do I convert it into impactful content?

Too much data can be a tricky thing and if you have ever felt like you are swimming in a sea of numbers and spreadsheets, then know that you are not alone. Many corporates meticulously track ESG data but are unable to convert the mountain of numbers, charts and jargon into compelling stories that resonate with their stakeholders.

Here is a simple way to solve the issue.

Consider this: Hindalco, India's largest aluminium producer, is committed to ESG. It tracks an enormous amount of data on everything from its responsible mining practices to energy and water conservation to community development. Picking up the most impactful stories among the many becomes a challenge.

As their content partner TIC for World Water Day we chose to tell the impact story of their Jal Sanchaya program in video format. The program is about their commitment to water positivity and community. We could have focused on the water problem and just given the numbers. But instead we told the on-ground impact story in a simple video with context, with key initiatives and with impact on lives of people to create a connect with its stakeholders.

Check out the video here

Challenge #2: There are external and internal stakeholders. How do I communicate effectively with each group?

Communicating your ESG efforts effectively requires speaking to different audiences in a way that resonates with each group. Here's a real-world example from Mahindra Accelo, a company dedicated to sustainable products and responsible vehicle recycling.

Accelo achieved a major milestone earning a Eurofins certification for zero landfill waste. It announced this on LinkedIn and other social media platforms and garnered significant attention, a successful tactic for reaching external audiences like investors and potential customers.

But it didn’t stop there. Mahindra wanted to take it a step further and create greater impact through storytelling for internal engagement. It partnered with TIC to create a video for their weekly newsletter, which is seen by the employees and is also published on their website. The video showcases how Accelo is recyling vehicles responsibly under the brand CERO. CERO means zero in Spanish and stands for zero waste, zero pollution and zero hassles. The video traced the company’s responsible vehicle recycling process through the eyes of the common person. It shows how easy it is to recycle a vehicle and be a responsible citizen. By simplifying the message and highlighting the ease of participation, Mahindra Accelo effectively engaged its employees and encouraged a sense of shared responsibility for sustainability.

This example highlights the importance of a two-pronged approach. External announcements grab attention, while internal storytelling fosters a sense of community and purpose around a company’s ESG efforts.

Check out the video here

Challenge #3: Nuances are important. How do I create authentic content without it being perceived as greenwashing?

A recent PwC study revealed a shocking truth: 94% of investors do not believe the sustainability claims that companies make. Why? They feel the sustainability claims are exaggerated or just greenwashing. There is a trust deficit as to just how authentic the claims are.

So how can companies move beyond compliance-driven ESG communication and create content that is trusted and believed to be genuine? Here's the key: focus on value creation and human impact.

Tata Water Mission, a project to make India water positive, is an initiative that aligns with three UN Sustainable Development Goals. Water is a material issue for many companies and the Tata Water Mission story demonstrates how clear data, verifiable results, and human connection can put any greenwashing suspicions to rest.

TIC partnered with Tata Water Mission to capture the essence of its work. We showcased the strategy and approach, andthe on-the-ground challenges and realities. More importantly, we told real stories of real people. From building artificial glaciers in Ladakh solving decades old water scarcity in Ladakh to building water filters to tackle arsenic contamination in drinking water in Assam. The stories came alive with pictures, anecdotes and quotes.

These powerful stories aren't just compelling; they build trust. They showcase the genuine impact of ESG efforts, leaving no room for cynicism or accusations of greenwashing. This is the power of authentic content – it transforms a company from a greenwashing suspect to a green giant in the eyes of its stakeholders.

Challenge #4: ESG is full of jargon. How do I simplify issues and processes for my stakeholders?

ESG and all the other terms associated with it can sometimes feel like jargon that’s thrust on stakeholders. These technical terms can be a major barrier to understanding a company’s sustainability efforts.

The lesson here is to keep it simple. Apple, a company renowned for its intuitive and user-friendly designs, extends its keep-it-simple model to its sustainability communication as well.

The company’s ’Apple 2030’ commitment is a masterclass in clear and concise messaging. The core message? Protecting the planet while creating products that customers love. Apple achieves this by focusing on three key parameters: recycled and renewable materials, clean electricity, and low-carbon shipping.

Notice how Apple avoids technical jargon and complex explanations. Instead, it uses simple language that is easily understood by everyone. This approach makes its sustainability efforts relatable and fosters a sense of shared responsibility among all stakeholders.

Challenge #5: Consistency is important. How I do remain consistent and regular in my communication?

Between monitoring, measuring, reporting and running a business, adding consistent ESG communication might seem overwhelming. But here's the good news: it is quite simple.

Think of your annual sustainability report as a treasure trove of information. It's packed with valuable data and the key is leveraging it for ongoing communication. Just go a little beyond the data to find the real-world impact stories hidden within. Collect pictures, beneficiary stories and quotes to create content assets that can be used throughout the year.

Here's how TIC helps the Aditya Birla Group tackles this challenge. Every month, it curates content assets that showcase the human impact of its ESG efforts. During topical days, we collect ESG stories from all their group companies to tell a larger story. The stories are featured on a dedicated section of the Group website and also promoted on social media.

This consistent approach keeps stakeholders engaged and reminds them of the Group's commitment to sustainability. It also demonstrates that weaving ESG into your core narrative isn't a one-time report, but a continuous conversation.

Check out the stories here

Here are some tips for consistent ESG communication:

  •  Develop a communication calendar: Plan your content in advance to ensure regular updates
  •  Repurpose content: Extract stories from your annual report and tailor them for different platforms
  •  Utilise multiple channels: Leverage your website, social media and employee newsletters to reach all stakeholders
  •  Integrate ESG into your overall communication strategy: Treat ESG communication as a must do

By following these steps and learning from the successful examples cited above, you can transform your ESG communication into a powerful tool for building your reputation and establishing a connect with your stakeholders. Transparency, authenticity and audience-centric storytelling are the keys to building trust and demonstrating the genuine impact of your sustainability efforts. So, take control of the narrative, craft compelling content and watch your ESG efforts become a source of competitive advantage and stakeholder engagement.

TIC has created the IMPACT Framework for organisations to up their ESG communication efforts and drive results. Want a copy of the framework? Find it here.


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