It is not possible to craft a meaningful experience around sustainability if those who are creating the message do not have a deep understanding of what sustainability is.
This is may seem to be an obvious conclusion to make but I think we have all seen what happens when it is true. When we experience greenwashing often times there is simply a lack of education and understanding at the heart of the issue.
I also believe that as the word sustainability becomes mainstream there are more and more sustainable initiatives that are being communicated. Some of them, inevitably, will not be sustainable. Others will be. And now no longer just faced with the past challenges of explaining what sustainability is they are faced with new challenges: overcoming additional noise and a devalued meaning. In some ways it is positive that the word has become commonplace because it means we’re talking about it. But the challenge of communicating genuine authenticity and truly change-making sustainability has never been greater. Here’s five tentative steps to do it:
Step one: Self-assess
What do you do and in what regard is it actually sustainable? Factoring in all the other components does it truly warrant that title? Not sure? Do some research or hire an expert. If not, go back and try again.
Step two: Self-educate
Who is involved creating and communicating this experience? Do the people on your team fully grasp the implications of what you’re doing? Not just this initiative but this whole “sustainability” thing? If not, educate them.
Step three: Find soul
Dig deep, research, find influences, find inspiration. Consider what you do and why you’re doing it. Get passionate and expressive. Synthesize this message but do not over simplify it.
Step four: Fact check
Run your message by the experts. Make sure the information is correct and the facts are straight and that somewhere in the process something was not lost, misrepresented or misunderstood.
Step five: Respect your audience
Your audience is intelligent, to varying degrees they are aware of the issues. They are members of our current society. Be real with them, show them respect and speak to them as intelligent beings. Do this well and they will see that there is soul behind what you’re doing.