insights

Sustainable storytelling: how do you get started?

#Uncategorized  •  25/08/2020  •  Katelijne Norga

Is your organisation taking big steps in sustainability and corporate social responsibility? Then you have every reason to shout it from the rooftops. But how do you make sure your message is heard? The answer is: storytelling. Here are our tips for making sustainable storytelling work for you.

Tony's Chocolonely: the textbook example of sustainable storytelling

Storytelling: it is an age-old practice. According to best-selling author Yuval Harari (Sapiens), our ability to invent and share stories is even the only explanation for the fact that humans dominate the world. Stories touch, they convince and set in motion. That is why they are an indispensable skill in a business context as well. Because whether you are a government agency, a service provider or a manufacturing company: with your sustainable story, you want to reach your stakeholders in such a way that they remember you and spread the word.

Develop a powerful narrative

In many organisations, several sustainability projects and programmes run alongside and overlap each other. By communicating separately about all these initiatives, the outside world hears a fragmented story, which does not benefit your brand. Therefore, create one coherent, clear story that is in line with your mission and that strings together all your sustainable projects and programmes. By being consistent, you will achieve more impact and engagement.

We ask for data. We believe in stories.

Storyteller Jeff Leinaweaver

For the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM), we created a digital annual report with their mission statement ‘Together we make tomorrow more beautiful’ as a steppingstone. The stories we wrote fit seamlessly into the overarching OVAM mission and core themes (waste and space recycling, circular economy, healthy soil and sustainable material use).

Focus on your own ambitions and remain authentic

You want to tell the world about your company's sustainable achievements. But at the same time, you don’t want to engage in greenwashing. Our advice: tell your own story, zoom in on your ambitions, and remain authentic. Sustainable business is a process, in which you refine your goals step by step. If you are currently in step two, be honest about it. But be sure to say how and when you want to reach the next milestone. Name your challenges, and also the things you didn’t do. This will keep the window-dressing ghost at bay.

 

Tip: you are convinced of the ‘why’ of sustainability: for your organisation and for society. Build your message on that ‘why’. In this way, it is recognisable and tangible for your audience. 

Avoid clichés in your images

Visuals are key in storytelling. But don’t use them to pour an extra sustainable sauce over your story. Exit recycling icons, windmills and water drops. Choose realistic, recognisable images of your products, your processes, your company and your people. This will make you come across as much more credible and will show the outside world that you are serious.

Make your story shareable

Your audience is on social media every day to read, like and share ... Make use of that and offer your followers bite-sized chunks, i.e. small, shareable stories, that they can easily share with their network. If negative news circulates about you, positive stories can help to counter it. As long as they are authentic and honestly reflect your commitment to sustainability. 

 

The textbook example of sustainable storytelling is Tony’s Chocolonely. With the baseline Crazy about chocolate, serious about people and the mission ‘Together we make chocolate 100% slave-free’, the brand presents an inspiring and impactful story. Coherent, authentic, fair and shareable. In short: super powerful.

Belgian circular start-up Yuma Labs’ motto Tomorrow’s sunglasses from yesterday’s waste seduces with its honest simplicity. Message, text, image: everything fits. And that is the secret of good sustainable marketing.

Do you want to discover, tell and share your own sustainable story?

 

Contact us to find out what we can do for you.

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