The environment is likely to be a major news issue for many years. No company wants to find itself on the wrong side of the debate, but complexity, changing agendas, and occasionally mischief or misrepresentation, can wrong foot the best laid plans.
Ten Things You Should Do
- Understand where you are. It is worth commissioning an environmental audit to assess what impact your business has on the environment. This should look at everything including the raw materials you use, your processes, products, waste outputs, energy use, lifetime environmental impact of your products and the ability to recycle.
- Develop an environmental policy. This will show how you are planning to reduce any harmful inputs and outputs, lower energy use/carbon dioxide emissions, recover and recycle waste and make your processes and products more environmentally sustainable.
- Train and explain. Take time to explain to your own people the importance of changes in practices and the benefits that arise to them, the company and community.
- Monitor emerging issues. Environmental agendas and priorities change. Monitor current and emerging issues for possible impact, change tack if necessary.
- Benchmark. Look at your competitors and other companies in similar industries. How are they responding? Are you better, equal or poorer in your performance?
- Seek common ground. Are there trade bodies, professional organisations or other forums where you can develop common approaches to mutual problems?
- Publicise your successes. All stakeholders have an interest in your success. Issue regular updates on your programmes and involve your community, customers, dealers, employees, shareholders and suppliers in events to mark milestones.
- Be consistent. Ensure you have fact files to support all your claims. Programmes may impact differently on different groups and messages may have a different emphasis, but the common factual basis must be the same.
- Remember the frogs. The environment is an emotional issue and arguments are easily lost once soft concerns confront hard facts. Ensure you have hard and soft data. The fact that the frog and fish count in a local stream may have doubled will mean more to the public than the improved percentage of dissolved oxygen.
- Spread the word. It is worth having a panel of speakers, drawn from your staff, who can address everyone from the Cubs to the Chamber of Commerce to explain what you are doing and why. Done properly, this micro PR wins friends and creates ambassadors who can spread your message.
Five Things You Should Not Do
- Don’t forget the web site. This needs to carry a statement of your environmental policy and regular updates on programmes and progress.
- Don’t neglect communication. Brief staff and stakeholders regularly, produce literature, newsletters and video clips if the project is sufficiently large and ensure regular revision to reflect progress and the changing agenda.
- If you attract unjustified negative publicity respond quickly with authoritative factual rebuttal, but remember the importance of soft data.
- Don’t defend the indefensible. If there is a serious incident and you are clearly in the wrong it causes less damage to admit it, explain the circumstances, and say how you intend to rectify the problem.
- Don’t apologise for being in business. You create benefits for customers, worthwhile employment and value for shareholders and the economy. This is your primary purpose. Your environmental policy shows that you do this with a sense of responsibility to all your stakeholders.