A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal - Communicating your ESG narrative
Smoke Signal, A Public Relations Podcast
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Smoke Signal, A Public Relations Podcast
A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal - Communicating your ESG narrative
Sep 20, 2023 Season 4 Episode 44
Dan Wilcock

In this episode I am joined by Dan Wilcock, Sustainability and Governance Manager for the UN Global Compact Network Australia.

The UN Global Compact Network may be the biggest movement you haven't heard of. 

A special initiative initially set up by then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, it is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with 10 universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption, and take action in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

With more than 18,000 companies across 160 countries, it is the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative. 

In this discussion we take a dive into all the different terms out there - greenwashing, bluewashing, whitewashing,  green hushing – and what they really mean for PR and comms professionals.

Dan wraps all these terms up into the neat package of ESG-washing and says the reason we are seeing more of this now is that there has been a real increase in appetite for ESG information and that is coming from every direction – customers, employees, boards, supply chain partners, finance providers – all these groups now have an active interest in what a business is doing on ESG. 

This has been accompanied by a rise of misinformation. An online sweep or corporate websites by ACCC put it at more than half of businesses had made concerning claims about their environmental credentials. For Dan there’s a spectrum from puffery through to outright fabrication, with the majority being sloppiness and hyperbole – which doesn’t excuse it. 

The UN Global Compact Network just completed a series of consultations with the Australian business community on ESG which found:

  • We’re in a transition period, there is a lot happening very fast. Businesses need to upskill and likely mistakes will be made.
  • Businesses are consumers too. A third of businesses they spoke to had also fallen victim to greenwashing
  • Reporting and disclosure is very much in flux – there’s a way to go for organisations to streamline data gathering, and delivery of the right narrative
  • 93 percent of our respondents said green hushing had been considered as a potential approach as a result of the attention that it's getting right now.
  • The business community is looking for more detailed guidance from regulators. (Check this guidance from ACCC giving eight principles for trustworthy environmental and sustainability claims)

For Dan it is about developing a bit of confidence, closing the capacity gap and being informed - businesses should not fear regulatory action from making legitimate and truthful environmental and sustainability claims.

And why does all this matter? Because business will only get harder for companies that aren't aware of their impact and aren't transparent about their impact.