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Green PR: Crafting eco-conscious campaigns in the climate crisis era

by | Nov 28, 2023 | Public Relations

You’ve probably noticed that there is a topic that rarely ever leaves public discourse—the environment. When there is news about a pop star reaching new levels of financial success, there will always be questions about their CO2 emissions. We talk about the environment constantly—and what’s more, we’re relating just about everything we can to it.

We lament not only the socioeconomic impacts and loss of life during (and after) war but how it negatively affects the environment too. Gen Z has revealed itself to be more ecologically conscious than previous generations. As many PR experts have posited, your success in the realms of PR and advertising will hinge in large part on how well you can communicate with them.

Green PR has been crucial for some time now—but it’s become even more of a priority in recent years. So, with that in mind, let’s delve into the best strategies and potential drawbacks when it comes to building eco-conscious PR campaigns.

Understanding modern Green PR

Green public relations describes the act of highlighting and communicating your client, brand, or company’s sustainability efforts, environmental friendliness, and ESG initiatives. 

Green PR is not about how well you can greenwash a company and minimize the public’s view of its environmental discrepancies. It’s about partnering with and helping clients who are making genuine efforts to become more sustainable. 

Green PR has the potential to enhance brand image and reputation. This, in turn, increases customer loyalty and potential, attracts new investors and partners, and gives your brand a competitive edge and market share.

Some detractors believe that Green PR is just a fad—but that view is easily debunked. Today, major organizations such as the UN continue to push for green economies. Businesses like Uber, a global transportation powerhouse, have goals to emit zero CO2 emissions by the year 2040. This isn’t just a fad—we’re in the middle of foundational changes.

Green PR isn’t going away anytime soon—if anything, it’s only going to become a bigger priority. As always, early adopters, particularly those that immediately implement best practices, will be the ones that profit the most. 

Going green: The best practices for green PR

Green PR doesn’t function if it’s reduced to mere lip service to environmentally-conscious goals. To achieve a good effect, green PR agencies have to get the messaging right and walk the walk in terms of verifiable metrics. 

On top of that, finding numerous creative solutions for how businesses in various industries can contribute to green goals while still maintaining their bottom lines is a constant challenge. To help tackle those challenges, let’s first start with best practices.

Sustainability-first in messaging

Green PR can be applied to any industry and niche. After all, the environment affects us all. What most PR professionals find tricky is finding the right angle to use. Your process and approach should be eco-informed. It should be the foundation of client messaging.

Your client or company’s ESG efforts should be at the core of all messaging. You should be bragging about the company’s green policies, protocols, and activities in every piece of owned media.

If you’re going to communicate your company’s sustainability efforts, then you shouldn’t just focus on individual acts—instead, highlight the eco-friendliness of the whole process. 

If you’re running a green nonprofit, you shouldn’t just talk about your efforts. Mention that your bank also works with other green non-profits, which further highlights your insistence on eco-friendliness wherever possible. 

Use facts and figures

So your brand has instituted various sustainability practices and efforts but how are they useful and impactful? What difference do they truly make? 

A good indicator of attempted greenwashing is implementing changes that are obviously cosmetic—especially if a company has had a tenuous social and environmental history. Thus, it’s important to use facts and figures in your messaging.

By what percentage has your client reduced emissions? How much biodegradable packaging has it begun to use? Has it hired consultants and experts to achieve its green goals? These are all questions you should be answering. 

Don’t be afraid to use numbers and graphs, especially in your visual media. Infographics are particularly helpful in conveying this information.

Employ a multi-pronged approach

While you should lead with Green PR, there are other areas of your company’s undertakings worth discussing too. Many companies seem to fail to realize that ANYTHING green is an opportunity for green PR. 

Even if it’s something unrelated, like your company dabbling in options trading, you can emphasize your focus on green stocks and seem more sustainable. This is also the case with real estate, where your client can emphasize the use of sustainable materials, energy-efficient designs, or a focus on accessible housing.

To use another example, even something like a tech firm could make a commitment to use data centers that have focused on sourcing energy from renewable sources. We’re being completely serious here—anything green is an opportunity for green PR, and every business can do something green.

The challenges of green marketing

If sustainability and environmental consciousness were easy, everybody would be doing it. But there are challenges and considerations you should make before taking this path.

Compromising profitability for the environment

For a long time, businesses have compromised ethics and sustainability to ensure profitability. For instance, energy companies have worked to suppress evidence of climate change and their parts in it since the 1970s. Through some clever PR, British Petroleum (BP), coined and successfully promoted the term “carbon footprint” as a distraction.  

Often, there is a fear among companies that going green can impact their bottom line – it can. But it doesn’t have to. There are a lot of incentives to go green—from tax breaks to acquiring new customers. For instance, if you’re purchasing a fleet of electric cars, relay how it’s an environmentally-motivated investment, but also mention how you save on insurance, thereby achieving both goals (profit and safeguarding the environment) at once. 

It’s up to Green PRs to communicate this with their clients and help them formulate ways that allow them to achieve their business objectives and their sustainability goals. This, in turn, allows your clients to keep their stakeholders happy.

Avoiding greenwashing and dishonesty

When a company takes drastic measures to appear green, it’s often met with public scrutiny and incredulity. Overemphasizing the sustainability undertakings of your brand can backfire, especially if they have a questionable history in this department.

It’s a good idea to dilute green communications with positive messaging from other areas of the business.  For instance, in achieving PCI DSS compliance in the payments department, sustainable supply chain management when it comes to logistics, or new standards that have been met in terms of data transparency in the ever-more important areas of data security and privacy. 

These are win-win scenarios—the messaging is much more likely to connect and not be met with suspicion if it’s enmeshed with a rational, profit-motivated element. Plus, this approach makes it much more likely that your clients (and their stakeholders) will approve.

Conclusion

Green PR is an exciting sector that’s only going to become more important as time goes on. It stands at the crossroads of business, creativity, and a wider sense of social responsibility, giving it a unique and important position in the ever-changing landscape of today’s world.   

What you need to aim for is authenticity—and this will require you to walk the walk. If you want to craft great eco-conscious campaigns, it has to come from a genuine and informed place. This is a long-term commitment but is also rewarding in its own right. 

Although this requires a lot of work, it’s worth it—the goal is noble, and green PR has a chance to not only improve a business’s bottom line but to effect real change in the world. It’s a truly rare opportunity—one where everyone (you as a PR professional, the business in question, and society at large) can win all at the same time.

Nahla Davies
Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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