employee_engagement2When you think of a sustainable business, what first comes to mind? Do you have a clear definition?  More importantly, what do you think of when someone talks about a non-sustainable business?  Where do you, as a stakeholder, draw the line?

We’re asking these questions because stakeholder perceptions of businesses become reality and the wrong perception can prove costly. For this reason, our sustainability communications consulting often ask executives and communications teams if they know what their stakeholders are really saying about their company.

Reviewing a study from brand-engagement agency Given London and Ashridge Business School, practicing sustainability does not translate into business success unless properly marketed. “The study revealed that being a ‘good citizen’ in the eyes of sustainability experts does not necessarily add up to an ethical brand reputation in the eyes of marketers.”

As we search for examples which bridge this disconnect, we find that leading organizations drive sustainable business strategies across all aspects of the business, as well as, with key business stakeholders. These companies:

  • Define a clear relationship between sustainability, brand and reputation.
  • Promote consumer engagement in product development and innovation.
  • Establish close relationships with aligned business partners to create efficient environmentally conscious and ethically responsible supply chains.
  • Create transparent governance structures that facilitate effective stakeholder engagement and reporting.

In addition, the rise of social media has led companies to form new relationships with their stakeholders allowing for the engagement and collaboration in ways unavailable previously.  On the flip side, stakeholders are increasingly looking for authentic, transparent, two-way communication with executives, leaders, and management. In fact, thought leadership on the social web is becoming the sustainability professional’s new power tool because it bridges the gap between sustainability perceptions and facts.  The ongoing dialogue between leaders and communication teams with stakeholders provides information and resources to help others more fully understand the sustainability initiatives their organization supports.