Empty words don’t have the same impact as nature’s fury

This article was originally published as part of PRmoment's Impact Report.

The verdict’s in. It’s a code red for humanity.

We know we are facing a crisis and it’s time for action. But the climate change movement is littered with phrases like 'carbon neutral by 2030', 'net zero by 2050' or 'reduction in emissions'. Or as Greta Thunberg puts it, 'blah blah blah'.

Not to say these goals and targets aren’t important, however, I believe passionately that it is our responsibility as communicators to turn them into something meaningful. Here are some things I’ve learnt along the way, (sometimes, the hard way).

A good place to start is to avoid business jargon and use simple, plain language. While we may pat ourselves on the back for using big words, all they do is alienate our audiences and send them into a climate-induced coma.

One way to get around this is to share tangible, concrete examples of what you are doing as a business and how customers can join. Think people and pictures.

What relatable stories can you share on what you’re actively doing to support the environment?

At The Body Shop, for example, we know vegan beauty is a big deal for our customers. So, we’re working hard to get 100% of our product formulations certified by The Vegan Society by the end of 2023. We’re sharing the news in language that’s less ‘science’ and more ‘street’. At the same time, we’re encouraging shoppers to take action to join us in our mission to protect the planet. We’re rolling out refill stations in 500 stores around the world by the end of the year to inspire people to reuse packaging rather than throw it away by making it easy, accessible and convenient. If we play our part, each person can prevent up to 32 plastic bottles going to waste each year, collectively adding up to 25 tonnes of plastic in the first year alone.

Next, that simple pearl of wisdom from our parents - think before you speak.

Every multinational and corner shop now has something to add to the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) conversation. Before you do, ask yourself do you truly have a right to speak in this space or are you just jumping on the bandwagon?

For an activist company like The Body Shop this is especially important as we are expected to have an opinion on just about everything. It’s critical to practice restraint and respectfully stay out of conversations where we are not the real experts. In other words, push your organisation to be authentic; or stay in your lane.

Having a diverse team is critical. Diversity not only brings in different perspectives, it drives authenticity and helps organisations get the message right. Importantly it helps avoid pitfalls like woke-washing. People are way more clued up than you think. They will see through your words and call you out on your inaction. As guardians of brand reputation, it’s our role to challenge internally and ask for substantiation before putting something out externally.

Your company may be doing amazing things to save the world. But there’s a blind spot we all should be really mindful of. White saviorism.

Remember that ‘white saviours’ belong in the 1980s. Let’s keep them there. Africa accounts for only 2 to 3% of the world’s carbon emissions and the West has been shipping its waste to Asia and other continents for years to keep its own house clean. Keep your narrative contemporary, rooted in reality and give credit where credit’s due. Again, diverse teams can help combat this.

And finally, let's get back to Greta Thunberg and our youth today. We're in this mess thanks to generations of blah blah blah, willful ignorance, and inaction. We're passing a filthy baton on to them. So the least we can do is give the next generation a voice on our platforms. If they aren't empowered to help us change course, our empty words will eventually be drowned out by a raging planet.

Article written by Sanjani Shah, Global Head of PR, The Bodyshop

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