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Part 3: A story for good: How to tell your ESG story

10 May 2024 | 4 min read

Understanding ESG is an essential part of running a business in Australia today. In Part 1 of our ESG series, we looked at why ESG is important for your business. In Part 2, we looked at practical ways to get started, and improve how you manage your business’s ESG risks and opportunities.

So the next step is to let everyone connected with your business know about your ESG story.

The key to communicating your business’ ESG is transparency, said Bendigo Bank’s Head of Sustainability, Brooke Pettit.

“There are many reasons why ESG is so important for your business. Often businesses want to reduce costs and improve efficiency. They also want to make sure they're keeping up with industry standards,” Ms Pettit said.

“But the number one reason for telling your ESG story is to keep people connected to your brand.

“Showing your commitment to sustainability goes well beyond what customers think. There are so many groups of people that have interest and connection to your business, like employees, investors, suppliers, and partners.”

Ms Pettit said investors and banks are becoming more interested to know how your business operates beyond dollars and cents.

“Considering that loans made by banks to support SMEs grew by 28 percent last financial year to $588 billioni, it’s important to let them know everything about your business,” she said.

“Telling your ESG story to all parties will go a long way to helping them understand your ESG priorities and better understand how you manage ESG risks like climate change and modern slavery. They'll know how you’re progressing them and explore ways to work together.

“Everyone in your value chain will be accounting for ESG in their own way, so it may be useful to engage to learn insightful tips and to collaborate.”

How to share your ESG story

There are many ways for you to share your ESG story with your stakeholders. You should include it as part of your operational plans, making sure that it becomes second nature to how your business runs and is part of the company’s mission.

You can include the most important elements into your marketing and communications. Some examples include advertising campaigns, and social media and digital campaigns. You might also consider public relations and internal communications alongside developing a sustainability report.

“ESG is also a key part an employee attraction strategy today. Consider how you might include your ESG story in job advertisements and interviews. You may also use it as a pulse point for employees when considering motivations for employment with your company.

“Whatever tools you use to communicate your ESG story, it’s important to back up your claims with evidence. This will avoid greenwashing and bluewashing claims. It’s the exact reason why data matters so much to your company’s ESG.”

What is Greenwashing and Bluewashing?

Greenwashing is when a company exaggerates how environmentally friendly it is. Companies can spend advertising dollars claiming their practices are environmentally friendly. Instead, there may be little or no real investment in environmental sustainability. Or there may be inadequate data to support the environmental claims.

It can also be when companies use colours, images and other visuals that imply environmentally sound practices that don’t match company practice in real life.

Similarly, Bluewashing is when a company overstates its responsible social practices. This might include overstating a diversity and inclusion strategy, or safe work policies for employees.

“Whether done intentionally or by mistake, greenwashing and bluewashing can significantly impact brand reputation. It can also create financial and legal risks too,” Ms Pettit said. 

“It’s all about perception. Companies want to meet consumer demand for environmentally and socially conscious products and services. But unless these claims stack up, there is a real risk of losing trust with stakeholders,” she said.

Bendigo Bank’s approach to sustainability

Like many other companies, large and small, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s ambition is to drive action towards a resilient and sustainable future. We want to grow the prosperity of customers, communities, shareholders and our people. 

You can find out more about our approach to managing sustainability related risks and opportunities in the 2023 Sustainability Report.

Your Business Matters.
Any advice provided in this article is of a general nature only and does not take into account your personal needs, objectives and financial circumstances. You should assess with the help of legal, financial and taxation advice, whether it is appropriate for your situation before acting on it. Please read the applicable product disclosure statement(s) on our website before acquiring any product.
Brooke Pettit is Head of ESG and Sustainability at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. You can follow Brooke on LinkedIn- external site.

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