US presidents often use the somewhat arbitrary marker of 100 days in office to offer their early reflections. While I appreciate that the parallels between the position of president and my own role as director of Leff Sustainability Group are not exact, I’m keen to show my respect for American traditions.
As such, I’d like to offer five lessons from my first 100 days at Leff:
1) Green is (and will continue to be) the new black
The growing importance of sustainability is hardly news. I have, however, been struck by the extent to which green issues are now all-pervasive. They crop up in almost every discussion we have with our clients and almost every piece of content that we help create—be it an article on medical technology in the developing world or a podcast interview with a rising CEO.
The rising salience of sustainability is supported by a web of powerful forces. Business leaders are increasingly aware of the importance of protecting the environment—both as an end in itself and as a way to protect and create value for their companies. Businesses are also gearing up to grapple with an ever-broader range of sustainability regulation: for example, the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is due to come into force in 2025, and further details on the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed climate disclosure rules are expected imminently. And consumers are increasingly voting with their wallets, directing an ever-greater share of spending toward products with credible sustainability credentials.
2) Many companies are unsure how to talk about their sustainability efforts
In talking to clients and my broader network, I’ve been surprised by how often companies with great sustainability stories aren’t talking about what they’re doing. In many cases, this “greenhushing” is due to a fear of being accused of greenwashing. But sometimes, it’s simply that they don’t know where to start or how to develop and broadcast a message that will break through the chatter.
There is, of course, no one-size-fits-all strategy for effective sustainability communications. But all companies—irrespective of size or marketing and communications budget—can generate significant value by developing a clear sense of their sustainability story and telling that story consistently as part of their communications with potential and current clients. It’s better to start small and iterate than never to start at all.
3) Companies could get a much higher return on their sustainability investments
Given the increasing complexity of climate-related regulation, many companies are understandably focused on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting and other compliance measures. And once these significant efforts are complete, there is an equally understandable tendency to want to file them away and never think about them again.
But companies that fall prey to this temptation are missing an important opportunity. Much time and investment are required to produce a good ESG report, and these documents are rich repositories of data and stories. With a small additional investment, companies can repurpose this content to produce a broad range of spin-off assets. We have seen clients turn their ESG reports into everything from articles and op-eds to social media infographics and videos. Such assets can stand alone, or they can form the basis of a cross-channel campaign that gets your key messages out to a much wider audience.
4) It’s important—but hard—to use global climate events as a communication platform
COP28 is just around the corner, and many of our clients have started to think about how best to use the event as a platform to share their insights and promote their commitments. They are right to do so; COP will substantially elevate global attention to sustainability issues for several weeks.
The challenge, of course, is ensuring that your messages stand out from the crowd. Leff’s founder, Scott, has already written a thoughtful piece on this issue. His tips? Settle on a campaign strategy before embarking on content development, leave ample time to achieve greatness, and take advantage of key milestones throughout the year to keep the conversation going.
5) The Leff team can do anything
My colleagues are amazing. Let me give just one example: Last month, I was trying to explain the germ of an idea for an article illustration to one of my design colleagues. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “It could be like that man. You know, the man with the hat from that thing.”
Her: “Hmm…let’s dig into that a bit.”
Within five minutes, she had both understood my idea and come up with an infinitely better suggestion. 100 days in, I’ve just begun to scratch at the surface of what my colleagues can do.
Looking forward, I’m hugely excited to be part of the Leff Sustainability Group as we continue to help our clients navigate the ever-shifting sustainability landscape and to define and tell compelling, distinctive stories.