Green PR Pays Green [$$$] Dividends

Green PR, like any other public relations discipline, is about creating a dialogue – two-way communications, basically, listening as well as talking. Engaging successfully with stakeholders about your company’s green PR efforts requires that an organization listen to its stakeholders’ concerns while recognizing both pressing and future issues facing its industry. The proliferation of regulatory pressures, sustainability rankings, shareholder activists, consumer demands, and the rising mainstream awareness of environmental and social issues is probably already affecting the way you do business. These developments are also likely to raise your stakeholders’ concerns and expectations of greater transparency and increased responsibility.

For a long time, most companies’ main audience was the shareholder, but recently, this focus has shifted to the stakeholder, which includes large external groups such as company suppliers, investors, advocacy groups, customers, NGOs, and government entities. In essence a “stakeholder” is any individual or group with an interest or stake in an organization’s operations and impact. Companies deploying green PR programs have come to realize that by engaging these stakeholders through focus groups, interviews, satisfaction surveys, road shows, open houses or philanthropic activities, companies can clearly determine how they are affected by the decisions of their various stakeholders. With this information, these companies are better positioned to target their green PR approaches.

Your green PR efforts will pay great dividends, particularly if your company is publicly-held. Properly orchestrated green PR efforts can attract the interest of the Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) community. According to the Social Investment Forum (SIF), professionally managed SRI assets have grown 380 percent since 1995 versus 260 percent for all assets, and have gone from less than 1 percent of total assets in 1995 to 12.2 percent in 2010. CalSTRS, one of the most influential pension funds and a member of the SRI community, stated in 2010 that, “As a long-term investor, CalSTRS wants to invest in well-managed companies that can address the physical risks of climate change and adapt to the changing regulatory and market realities of a carbon-constrained economy.”

It wasn’t that long ago that green PR was thought to be the province of “tree huggers” and other fringe elements; however, that has changed dramatically over the recent past as companies have come to recognize that going green and communicating it through green PR programs could yield positive results such as enhanced customer loyalty and increased valuations.

Your green PR efforts should be sincere and backed by meaningful and real actions. “Greenwashing” has been applied to those companies and organizations that engage in mere lip service and idle gestures, which could be more harmful to your company’s reputation than doing nothing at all.

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