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Language is crucial when communicating climate change.

Language is crucial when communicating climate change.

How important is language when it comes to communicating climate change?

Poor or insufficient language can lead to the destruction of important communications related to Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG).

Clear, concise communications should be made by organisations about their environmental ethos

There are many factors that influence how we communicate the crisis of climate change. However, one simple element that is often forgotten is the words themselves.

Why is this important? The importance of ESG credentials grows with every passing year, through increased regulation, heightened focus from investors and a demonstrable impact on an organisation’s bottom line.

Businesses have never faced an environmental crisis as urgently in 2022. Communicators are crucial in ensuring that their organizations are able to execute succinct ESG communication plans to weather this period, which is marked by rapid change and increased consumer expectations.

Clarity is no longer a luxury for organisations. The brand-new Green Claims Code is already in effect in the UKRegulators are finally starting to catch up with businesses that don’t live up their environmental promises.

The impact of language on financial services

This issue naturally affects those sectors that have a lot of regulation or jargon, such as financial services. Communicators in this environment need to pay more attention to clarity and ensure that vital information is not lost in translation.

This sector also faces misinformation and lack trust. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer showed that financial services had the lowest trust levels since 2016. Business was 7% behind.

Misinformation can also come at a price. 69% of respondents to a recent Yext survey reported that they would change their bank or insurance company if they had a bad experience with the company’s information online. The sector must make it a priority to simplify messaging and ensure that it is understood.

Three ways to make your ESG communications strategy more clear
  1. Reduce the jargon

A lack of clear information is one major cause of inertia (or a lack of action). Inaction on climate is often due to a lack of knowledge or inability to understand the constantly changing issue of climate change.

Language should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Communicators must ensure this. ESG communications strategies should cut through scientific language and present information that customers can use. It must be presented in clear, understandable terms that customers can understand. This can be done with visuals, such infographics and live video.

The environmental crisis is a complex issue. There is no clear narrative and many factors that can be argued. Businesses that do not have ESG communicators are at risk of losing customers and missing out on crucial engagement opportunities over this emotive topic.

  1. Think beyond your most popular demographic

Climate change has a global audience, even if your business doesn’t yet, and communications need to reflect this.

An innovative ESG communications strategy can not only help the planet but can grow brand awareness and engagement with your organisation’s story. You could be a disruptive innovator or game-changer in this space, but poorly translated communications can keep this captive audience from becoming long-term customers. Monitoring the reach of your ESG communications plan is worthwhile and seeking translation where necessary.

This is especially true when you consider the global reach of many financial institutions, which often have a global outlook. Sophia Kianni, founder of Climate Cardinals, a youth-led nonprofit that’s working to make the climate movement more internationally accessible, revealed some shocking statistics on the realities of climate literature in Her inspiring TED Talk.

One particularly noticeable point is that the majority of climate articles published are written in English, despite most of the world’s population being unable to speak the language.

This stark misalignment has important implications for communicators. It is an important message about translation and education. It is essential that ESG communications are translated across markets in order to have maximum impact if we want to move towards a more conscious future. Communication is crucial for communicators. If messages are not translated between markets, they risk being lost in the noise. How global is your ESG communications strategy? If this hasn’t yet been a consideration for your business, it’s time to make it a priority.

As Kianni concludes on this topic, “The more people are informed about the climate crisis, the greater chance we have to coordinate collective efforts in protection of the future of our planet.”

  1. Test, test, and test again

If you’re unsure of the clarity of your communications, a simple way to assess this is to test them. This has never been easier in the digital age. Ask your customers to help you improve your ESG communication. A simple poll on social media can provide valuable insight for your business at little cost.

Consider your employees as an alternative. What can they do to help your organisation achieve more clarity? You could host focus groups within your organisation to assess whether key messages from your ESG communications strategy have been understood. This has the dual benefit of empowering all colleagues to better understand and communicate your organisation’s environmental commitments, ensuring greater levels of ESG integration.

See Also
Reuters Graphics

In financial services, where the war for talent rages on, demonstrating your business’s purpose and vision for the future could also be a powerful tool for employee retention.

Climate communications are no longer inaccessible. ESG communications must empower your customers. To achieve this goal, clarity must be a top priority.

Clear, concise communications are essential for organisations. This will ensure customers understand your environmental philosophy and translate it into their own actions.

About the author

Gihan Hyde, a communication specialist and founder at CommUnique (an ESG communication start up), is an award-winning communications specialist.

She has been implementing ESG campaigns in eight sectors, across six countries over the past 20 years.

Her campaigns have positively impacted over 150,000 employees and 200,000 customers and have closed over £300m in investment deals. Some of the clients she has advised include The World Health Organisation (WHO), HSBC, Barclays, M&S, SUEZ, Grundfos, Philip Morris, USAID, and the Saudi Government. 

Gihan can be reached through LinkedInTwitter: @gehanam

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