6 Environmental Leaders in the Beverage Industry Share Tips for Telling Your Sustainability Story

May 18, 2017 | BIER

In the last decade, the beverage industry has emerged as a global sustainability leader, with many companies working hard to design sustainability strategies that drive business value and the greater environmental good. But the success of the industry and its leading companies isn’t solely based on effort; it’s also rooted in the creative ways they’re telling their sustainability stories.

Every company engaging in sustainability has an important story to tell—the story of how sustainable behavior leads to improved business success. In other words, you have an opportunity to share the long-term business value you create through your efforts, as well as the achievements and goals that are material to your business.

The bottom line? Telling your sustainability story in a meaningful way will do a service to your customers and your business.

With this in mind, Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) reached out to sustainability leaders at our member companies to gather insights and tips to help your company tell its own memorable sustainability story.

1. Define your story’s purpose
In order to craft a compelling sustainability story, you have to know why you’re telling it in the first place and what you hope to achieve.

“Telling your story in a meaningful way involves strategy, and every strategy needs an objective,” says Meaghan Sternowski, Constellation Brand’s Environmental Sustainability Manager. “Whether you’re a public or private company trying to meet disclosure requirements, attract new investors, enhance your company’s reputation, drive business value, or simply do your part to protect environmental resources—or a combination of them all—answering the why will be key for developing your narrative.”

Meaghan’s Tip: Use the sustainability goals in your corporate strategy to help you outline how and why they play an important role in creating and sharing your business value narrative.

2. Identify and engage key stakeholders
Stakeholder engagement is critical for effectively telling your sustainability story—but it’s often overlooked or under-prioritized by many organizations, according to Kim Marotta, Molson Coors’ Global Senior Director of Corporate Responsibility.

“You can’t tell your story without buy-in and engagement from key stakeholder groups,” she explains. “Not only do these groups provide the vital insights you need to shape your story, but they’re also your storytellers. They’re the people who can champion your story inside and outside company walls.”

Kim’s Tip: Identify and engage key stakeholders sooner, rather than later. This will allow you to create a more effective storytelling strategy, a more compelling narrative, and show stakeholders their insights are important and valued. In addition, assess your stakeholder groups on a regular basis to ensure you’re putting effort behind those that need more attention or communication.

3. Find out what your stakeholders care about most
From C-suite executives to NGOs to customers, your organization has several unique stakeholder groups to consider when developing your sustainability story—and uncovering what they care about most is key, according to Laura Nelson, BIER Transparency & Disclosure Working Group Facilitator.

Building off Kim’s insights on stakeholder engagement, Laura says: “Your sustainability team is probably tracking and analyzing a ton of data, but each stakeholder group cares about different things. Understanding what’s most important will help you meaningfully report on your progress and shape your overall story.”

Laura’s tip: Conduct a materiality assessment. Materiality assessments are formal stakeholder (internal and external) engagement exercises that build rapport with key groups, and help you uncover specific insights you can use to build a strategic communications plan.

4. Craft a strategic communications plan
As the old adage goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail—and this couldn’t be truer when it comes to telling your corporate sustainability story.

“Be thoughtful from the beginning. Everything you aim to achieve by telling your company’s sustainability story and how you’re going to share it should be carefully considered, discussed and then outlined in a plan,” says Mauricio Chavarria, The Coca-Cola Company’s Senior Communications Manager for Environment. “A strategic communications plan should ground your execution and serve as a roadmap, helping ensure you have the right content, resources and strategy in place to reach your storytelling goals.”

Mauricio’s tip: Create a master communications plan that details your overall objectives, maps resources and defines the channels you’ll use to broadcast your story. Within that plan, use the insights you’ve gleaned to develop tailored communications strategies for each of your stakeholder groups.

5. Tell your tale across your company’s marketing channels
Fetzer Vineyards’ Public Relations and Communications Manager Courtney Cochran says leveraging each of your company’s marketing channels—both traditional and digital—is a great way to spread the word.

“From your website to your employee handbook to social media, all of your marketing channels can play a helpful role in getting your message out,” she says.

Courtney’s Tip: Go beyond your owned-media channels, and reach out to any connections you have at local news or industry publications to promote your story. But make sure you lead with the value proposition, such as an exclusive interview with a member of the company’s leadership team. If you want to get covered, you have to pique their interest and make it worth their time.

6. Amplify sustainability leadership via story collaboration
Collaborating with the competition is becoming increasingly embraced across a number of business sectors as more companies realize that sustainability takes a collective effort. And that collaboration should also be part of your sustainability storytelling, according to Kate Krebs, American Beverage Association’s (ABA) Senior Environmental Policy Advisor.

“Collaboration on messaging amplifies the overall message, and will help draw even more eyes and ears,” says Krebs. “This allows all companies to shine while also underlining the power of collaboration.”

Kate’s Tip: Develop a platform to show off the great work being done through industry collaboration. For example, ABA created a web-based platform that showcases sustainability leadership stories of its member companies. Through this platform, ABA disseminates energy, climate, fleet, packaging and recycling work, and provides downloadable infographics that can be easily shared on social media.

Focus on innovation that has metrics and benchmarks so the story can be updated on environmental holidays every year. In addition, focus on creating content for social media channels that’s also mobile friendly.

Go Spread the Word
The beauty of telling your sustainability story is that it’s always evolving, giving you the ability to continue to show the world your commitment to your business and the environment. Use these tips and insights to jump start how you communicate your successes.

BIER has been helping to tell the beverage industry’s sustainability story for a decade. Hear our story from our members.

The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) is a technical coalition of leading global beverage companies working together to advance environmental sustainability within the beverage sector.
By BIER [crp]

The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) is a technical coalition of leading global beverage companies working together to advance environmental sustainability within the beverage sector. Formed in 2006, BIER is a common voice across the beverage sector, speaking to influence global standards on environmental sustainability aspects most relevant to the sector, affect change both up and down the supply chain and share best practices that raise the bar for environmental performance of the industry. By doing so, BIER is able to monitor data and trends, engage with key stakeholders, develop best practices, and guide a course of action for the future.

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