By Valentin Quisquater
11 Apr 2023

The benefits of sustainable change

It speaks volumes about the importance of sustainability that President Biden’s first executive act was to re-join the Paris Climate Accord. Tackling the human impact on the environment is the most pressing issue facing the planet and one which places a responsibility on all businesses to become sustainable. Here, Lucy Klinkenberg-Matthews, Head of Sustainability for Paragon Customer Communications, explains the benefits of sustainable change and how Paragon is enabling its customers to deliver sustainable communications strategies.   

Key trends and messages  

Sustainability is not a short-term market trend; it’s been a feature of social debate since the 1960s and remains a prominent topic of public conversation. What has changed, however, is consumer behaviour. In the past, politics, protest and boycotts were the chief means of bringing about social change; today, people increasingly understand that their buying power has influence and are using their choice of brand to have a positive impact.  

As a result, the demand for sustainable products and services has risen sharply, affecting all sectors, including retail and finance. This shift is driven mainly by Millennials and Generation Z looking for brands that use their social platform to support common aims. Indeed, with more information at their disposal, these tech-native consumers will even check out the authenticity of a brand’s green and social credentials before choosing it.  

This means companies need to make genuine efforts to become sustainable and be honest about their achievements. It’s not just being environmentally unfriendly that can drive customers away, so too can ‘greenwashing’, the practice of making the company look greener than it really is.  

The benefits of sustainability  

Increasing public awareness of climate change as environmental and social issues means that today, the majority of consumers would prefer to give their custom to sustainable businesses. Recent studies in the US have found that 87% of consumers have a more positive view of businesses which support social or environmental issues, with 88% saying they would be more loyal. In 2017, 68% of millennials bought a product because of its environmental or social benefit[1]. Of course, when it comes to sustainability, protecting the natural environment isn’t the whole story: consumers are now imploring companies to consider their social, governance, and cultural impact as well. 

What can brands do? 

In practice, sustainable change comes in many forms, whether environmental, social and via governance. Across the retail and financial services sectors, for example, businesses are adopting energy-efficient technologies, minimising the use of plastics and paper and making greater use of recycled or reusable materials. At the same time, they are also seeking to employ practices and policies that are best for all people connected with the company, from workers to suppliers and beyond. 

In 2017, health giant Johnson & Johnson pledged to source 35% of its energy needs from renewable sources. In Coca-Cola’s 2020 sustainability goals, they have pledged to recover at least 75% of the bottles that they introduce onto the market[2]. 

Leading financial players such as Goldman Sachs have also sought to diversify their workforce, particularly at board and executive level[3]. The multinational investment bank and financial services company’s EMEA Diversity and Inclusion scheme, for instance, set aspirations such as ensuring 50% of all analysts and entry-level associates would be women, and 9% in the UK to be black professionals, while the company set out to have a 30% senior women representation.   

Many companies have also adopted carbon offsetting; investing in schemes that reduce carbon in the atmosphere in equivalent quantities to the amount their actions create. Increasingly, companies are also analysing their lifecycle sustainability impacts, and choosing supply partners who can support and help deliver their long-term sustainability goals and aspirations. 

Sustainability affects all areas of a company’s operations, including customer communications. To reduce impact here, organisations need to measure the carbon and social footprint of their digital and electronic communications so that they understand where improvements can be made.  

A standard letter, for example, can produce around 20g of CO2, while an email generates around 4g – more with attachments. According to Ovo Energy, if every UK email user sent one less email per day, it would reduce carbon emissions by over 16,000 tonnes[4]. Progress can be made here by working with a communications partner with similar sustainability goals and the capabilities to deliver on them. 

While these actions deliver vital environmental improvements, businesses that can demonstrate their sustainability credentials, improve their reputation and customer appeal, helping to attract and retain talent and opening the door for collaboration with organisations that share the same values. Ultimately, it also improves a company’s revenue.  

How Paragon can help with sustainable change 

Paragon is committed to supporting businesses in putting environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks at the heart of their communication processes. 

As a trusted partner to some of the world’s leading organisations, including many financial services providers, Paragon has an ongoing responsibility to build a sustainable business, and to contribute to a sustainable economy and planet by supporting clients in offsetting their environmental and social impacts. 

We were recently awarded the EcoVadis Gold Rating, putting us in the top 5% of around 50,000 global companies assessed for sustainability performance across four key areas: environment, fair labour practice, ethics and supply chain management. 

Paragon’s impacts are global. To capitalise on the existing frameworks and drive our programmes to the next level, Paragon is developing a Sustainability Ambition 2030 – a policy that is centred around the three core principles of Planet, People and Partners. In doing so, Paragon will join our clients and stakeholders in committing to a Net Zero economy that creates a fairer, more equitable society where all individuals and business can thrive. 

In a bid to achieve Net Positive Communications by 2030, PCC is committed to delivering a sustainability calculator for all products and services, while at the same time making carbon net-zero options available for all its solutions, as well as outlining numerous other key sustainable pledges. Our supply chain partners are all committed to the same values, including zero waste to landfill and creating an environmentally resilient future. 

By reducing inequalities through a diversified workforce, expanding local community recruitment and evolving our ethical standards within the industry and society, we are also committed to shaping the sustainable future of our industry.  

Working with a communications partner with similar sustainability goals and the capabilities to deliver on them can help your organisation to meet its green objectives.

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