IS YOUR BUSINESS’ COMMUNICATIONS FUNCTION CLIMATE CHANGE READY?
By Lisa Smyth, Commtractor, Content and Copy writer, Communications Manager at RedR Australia
In recent months Australians have felt the impacts of climate change like never before. What might have once been considered a distant threat has become all too real as people watch the devastation of the bushfires unfold in real time.
There is no doubt that every sector, industry and business will be impacted by climate change in the decade ahead. Supply chains, infrastructure, asset prices, labour productivity and economic growth itself are all at risk. What was once ‘known’, once predictable, once forecasted, can no longer be relied upon to guide a business’ future. So, what does this mean for communicators in the year ahead?
1. Prepare for the unexpected
With our new reality already upon us crisis communications will, inevitably, take up a much larger part of the day-to-day communications function. If you don’t already have crisis communications skills now is the time to upskill. If your team doesn’t have an issues and crisis communications plan in place this is the year to develop one.
Strategy, social and SEO all take a backseat when your supply chain has been cut due to floods on the other side of the world, or construction is halted for weeks due to rolling hail storms. Do you have a reputational risk matrix on hand to help you make quick decisions? Can you have a statement approved by the Board within a few hours? Now is the time to prepare so your response during times of crisis can be as strategic as possible.
2. Be explicit and open
Deloitte research from 2019 revealed that climate change is the number one concern for both millennials and Gen Zs, which means that communicating about your company’s corporate social responsibility projects or environmental initiatives will no longer pass muster. This month, Microsoft announced plans to be ‘carbon negative’ by 2030 and Toyota stated it plans to reach zero CO2 emissions in all manufacturing plants worldwide by 2050. Your communications must be able to overtly address what your organisation is doing to hit net zero emissions, and you must be able to engage in dialogue with customers that is informed and educated – talking around the issues will only look like your organisation is dodging tough questions.
Moreover, shareholders will want to specifically understand not just how your business plans to lower emissions, but how it will prepare and adapt for future shocks and disruptions to the business due to the impacts of climate change.
3. Your CEO has no choice but to be an ‘activist CEO’
Customers, shareholders and staff all need to hear and see your CEO leading from the front on the issue of climate change. Jumping into the conversation is no longer a choice, but a necessity.
Your CEO needs to understand the issues in detail and must be able to speak to how climate change is affecting the business. They must have all the pertinent talking points at the ready, and financial figures to back up the business case for every decision made. How your CEO delivers these key messages will be just as important as the content, and given how unpredictable each day will become, CEOs will be relying on their communications teams more and more.
Acting and communicating about climate change is not in opposition to business, it is, in quite literal terms, the future of it.
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