Effectively communicating about your business’s environmental, social and government programs is the key to avoid being cancelled in 2022. Between the pandemic, the Great Resignation and associated labor woes, supply chain malfunctions, and climate-related catastrophes, there are myriad opportunities for a business to face public scrutiny this year. Waiting until the pitchforks are wielded to convince your audience of your good intent is a trap many companies fall into.

While most businesses already engage in activities that enhance or protect stakeholder communities, many don’t effectively parlay their actions into trust with those communities before a crisis hits. At Novitas, we include ESG considerations and recommendations into all of our client work and recently stood up an ESG practice to meet the overwhelming need that our clients have for ESG engagement. Strategic public and media relations connect the dots between the demand for businesses to do the right thing and the work they do to that end. The stronger that foundation is, the more resilient a company is to a reputational threat.

Before landing in the crosshairs, you should take the following lenses to your ESG efforts.

Decide who to talk to

A business should know their key audiences. Employees, investors, and community stakeholders should all be included when evaluating ESG programs and their impact. From how environmental protection affects your neighbors, to the effects of lobbied-for legislation on employees, a company must start with knowing who you are talking to and what those groups stand to gain and lose from business initiatives. This will inform how issues are positioned and pitched to wider audiences in moments of calm and crisis alike.

Context sets the stage

Of course, there’s only so much a single business or industry can do to affect wider environmental, social and government realities regardless of size or perceived influence. Building relationships with reporters and stakeholders to share your values and ESG initiatives that demonstrate those values provides a business with a strong, positive reputation.

Form these relationships before you need them.

Articulate the goal

A business isn’t engaging in ESG arbitrarily. Whether it’s a commitment to sustainable energy or implementing diversity and equity initiatives, businesses see value in ESG programs – and so do your investors. PR and media relations highlighting these efforts should include goals of the action, how impact will be measured and steps being you’re taking to achieve success. ESG promotion that doesn’t include these elements can be more easily discredited as a simple PR stunt rather than earnest effort. In other words, walk the walk before you talk the talk.

ESG doesn’t only provide feel-good vibes for a firm. In The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist, Christine Bader notes the integral need for ESG endeavors because investors consider long-term viability and scalability in their analysis of a business. She writes, “A business must invest in the societies from which it derives its profits to ensure that its customers continue to be there and that governments continue to renew its license to operate. A business must be useful to society and be seen as such.”

Strategic promotion of ESG endeavors can ensure a business is seen as useful, and useful entities are harder to cancel.