Sustainability Communication

Sustainability communication is an integral part of corporate responsibility. But why is it important?

Recent extreme weather events highlight climate change's urgency and its tangible effects now impact individuals, businesses, and economies. With scandals, greenwashing, and widespread mistrust, stakeholders are becoming increasingly aware of corporate responsibility.

Companies must now tackle the issue of greenwashing, adopt sustainable practices, and authentically communicate these efforts to stakeholders. Please note the sustainability communications information contained in this section is separate from sustainability reporting.

This section discusses communications relating to marketing materials, social media, website copy, press releases, blog posts, articles and other written information.

What is sustainability communication and why does it matter?

Sustenuto defines sustainability communication as: 

“the act of consciously integrating sustainability in a communication strategy by telling stakeholders about a company's sustainability goals and efforts.”  

Sustainability communication is therefore a valuable tool and a bridge between organizations, individuals, and the broader stakeholder community to promote sustainable activities.

In the era of global boiling, sustainability communications are more important than ever. A new generation of well-educated consumers and stakeholders can distinguish between authentic sustainability efforts and greenwashing. They seek transparency, honesty and prefer to engage with products and services that align with their conscious values.

What is currently wrong with sustainability communications?

In their extensive research in sustainability communication, Radley Yeldar team spoke to professionals from various sectors to understand the strengths and weaknesses of sustainability communication. They used language analysis software and manual review to analyze sustainability webpages from 50 of Forbes' top 100 brands, comparing them to leading sustainable brands. They also reviewed existing research and interviewed experts from different disciplines. The findings showed that while sustainability communication has been advanced, many improvements still need to be made.

The research highlighted several issues:

  • Complex insider language is often used, which can alienate the general audience.
  • Sustainability is often communicated in a complex way which may not be relatable to most people.
  • Overused terms like "sustainability" have lost their meaning, and many buzzwords like “eco-friendly” and “green” further dilute the message.
  • Many sustainability communications fall into a "stock sustainability pattern" using generic corporate language such as “for our shared future” that lacks authenticity.

How to communicate effectively

The PRCA’s Communications Guidelines for APAC, released in September 2023 provide a clear set of guiding principles to refer to when communicating environmental sustainability actions of businesses. These guidelines help companies ensure that their environmental claims are authentically communicated with transparency. The guidelines are as follows:

Source: PRCA

The PRCA’s Communications Guidelines provide detailed explanations of each of the 5 steps for companies to follow to ensure transparent communications and avoid greenwashing. Below is a summary of the guidelines:


  • Avoid misleading statements or visual treatments related to environmental aspects or advantages
  • Use reliable and credible third-party data or research conducted by the company to support claims
  • Ensure that substantiations for claims are easily accessible, searchable, and understandable to consumers
  • Clarify and verify claims when promoting sustainability-linked products or services



  • Use technical language or terms backed by reliable scientific evidence
  • Contextualize and substantiate terms like "recyclable", "biodegradable/bio-based", or "ocean plastic" when describing product life cycle strategies
  • Substantiate net-zero or carbon-neutral claims with clear communication on methodology and accounting metrics used



  • Share information about environmental progress in the context of the company or product life cycle
  • Avoid implying that specific product or activity claims extend to the overall performance of a company, group, or industry without appropriate substantiation
  • Specify to what the claim relates (e.g. product, specific ingredient, packaging)
  • Use alternative means to make qualifying information readily accessible when time or space is limited
  • Best Practice: Seek information from stakeholders about measures taken to establish the veracity of a claim, such as conducting life cycle analysis or carbon footprint



  • Pre-existing aspects should not be presented as new
  • Keep environmental claims up to date
  • Do not claim to have achieved sustainability without definitive methods for measuring it
  • Make clear and specific comparative claims
  • Do not base claims on the absence of an associated component
  • Avoid presenting generic features as unique or remarkable
  • Claim environmental superiority only with a significant advantage
  • Check specificity and basis of comparison
  • Avoid misleading labels or claims
  • Robust substantiation needed for absolute claims



  • Balance positive and negative environmental aspects in communications
  • Avoid cherry-picking information or spotlighting certain segments to create misleading impressions
  • Consider the overall sustainability of a product, service, brand, or business
  • Work with stakeholders to advocate for a balanced and transparent approach to communications
  • Include links to more information about broader sustainability efforts and progress


For examples of companies with purpose who are excelling in their sustainability communications, please refer to the websites of LUSH, The Body Shop and Patagonia.

Sustainability Communications Guidelines and Regulations

Sustainable communication guidelines are evolving rapidly. Below are some of the requirements that have been developed worldwide to assist organizations in developing and implementing sustainable communication guidelines.

Please note this is a rapidly evolving space and these guidelines are subject to change. It is recommended to check the updated details online.

  • Singapore Code of Advertising Practice(SCAP): The SCAP establishes advertising standards and guidelines in Singapore. This code helps organizations ensure their advertising practices uphold ethical standards and accurately communicate their sustainability efforts to consumers. In addition, according to Sandra Seah, Bird & Bird, “The Singapore Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act 2003 (CPFTA) protects consumers against false or misleading claims, including those related to greenwashing. The CPFTA is administered by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) and CCCS will likely be the agency overseeing any greenwashing concerns.”

  • EU Green Claims Directive: This sets out rules for organizations making environmental claims in their marketing and advertising materials. It ensures that businesses accurately portray their environmental impact and avoid misleading consumers, promoting transparency and credibility in sustainability communication. From 2026, the EU is to ban greenwashing and improve consumer information on product durability.

  • UK Green Claims Code: administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), The UK Green Claims Code offers guidance on avoiding misleading or unsubstantiated environmental claims in advertisements.

Referring to sustainable communication guidelines helps communicate sustainability efforts and avoid greenwashing. Making certain claims such as organic claims for example should only be made if the product is certified organic by one of the world’s recognized certification bodies, such as the UK Soil Association. Another tool which can help businesses is communication planning.

The Benefits of Communicating Sustainability Accurately

Good communication for sustainability is important for businesses, regardless of their size and sector.

Here are some benefits to good sustainability communications:

  1. Employee Alignment: Enhances morale and aligns team members with organizational values and goals.
  2. Stakeholder Trust: Builds and solidifies trust through transparent and accountable practices.
  3. Investor Appeal: Potentially augments organizational valuation and investor relations by showcasing commitment to sustainability.
  4. Brand Reputation: Improves organizational reputation and brand image among consumers and industry peers.
  5. Market Positioning: Enables creating a niche in the market as a responsible and conscious business.
  6. Consumer Loyalty: Improves customer loyalty by resonating with their values and ethical expectations.
  7. Partnership Opportunities: Opens avenues for collaborations and partnerships with like-minded entities and initiatives.
  8. Risk Mitigation: Enables organizations to address and communicate sustainability risks, averting potential crises proactively.

Developing a Sustainability Communications Strategy

Before crafting your sustainable message, these are the steps required to craft your narrative in a way that is meaningful and compelling for your multi-stakeholder audience:


  • Identify communication objectives that align with your company's sustainability goals.
  • Prioritize the most critical outcomes.
  • Consider external frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals.



  • Tailor your message to your target audience's specific needs, values, and concerns.
  • Understand who you are trying to reach and consider factors such as location, existing engagement, communication channels, and preconceptions.



  • Articulate why sustainability matters, the steps your organization is taking, and the impact of your initiatives.
  • Make it specific to your organization and consider your stakeholders' perspectives.
  • Refer to Storytelling for Sustainability for more information and a worksheet on how to create your sustainable story.



  • Determine the information you want people to know, the emotions or attitudes you want to evoke, and the actions or behaviours you want your audience to take.



  • Align your message with effective channels, including traditional media, social media, and digital platforms, to reach and resonate with your audience.



  • Create a plan that defines goals, identifies target audiences, develops key messages, chooses appropriate channels, and sets metrics for success, while being adaptable to changes.


  • Regularly update stakeholders about your sustainability efforts and progress to maintain engagement and relevance.


  • Monitor the effectiveness of your communication strategy, make necessary adjustments, and regularly measure and report progress to build trust and credibility.

Sustainability communication demonstrates the commitment of a company to speak truthfully and authentically about its sustainability strategy, goals, and efforts. It helps companies build their reputation, create a competitive advantage, and engage diverse stakeholders.

Additional Resources:

Communications Planning Resources and Template: UNGlobal Compact Network Malaysia & Brunei ESG SME Hub

Insights on Driving Consumer Behaviour Change: A Brand Guide to Driving Sustainable Behavior Change

Inspire & Create: Why storytelling is important for sustainable brands

Written by
Holly Naylor
Sustainability communication, Founder of Inspire & Create