Sustainability and ESG: Enablers Of The Purpose-Driven Narrative

March 27 2023

Stakeholder and customer expectations have changed drastically in recent times, putting much pressure on businesses and brands to actively engage and communicate. It is now an expectation from stakeholders that businesses must operate with more accountability to the planet and people, besides making profits. This is not just true of regulators and investors, but also of customers and employees.  On top of this, businesses and brands are also faced with a marketplace and communications landscape that has changed tremendously. Effective stakeholder engagement is shifting from information broadcasting to story co-creation. These are real challenges that impact businesses and brands today. 

A New Narrative Anchored on Purpose – The WHY

The new “rewired” economy requires businesses and brands to have a new narrative to win the trust of stakeholders and build customer loyalty. Consumers and stakeholders are now consuming content with an expectation that goes beyond listening and understanding – they expect to have a stake and say in the news and the sharing process. Of course, on condition that the content is meaningful and relevant to them.

Looking at this paradigm shift, we can clearly see that brands and businesses that clearly communicate their PURPOSE or “WHY”, have a much better chance of winning over their audiences’ trust and loyalty.

An authentic purpose-driven narrative is certainly the game changer today.

Businesses and brands must communicate beyond the functional and obvious. As pointed out by Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, organisations that truly succeed must answer their WHY and this must be about purpose, cause or belief. 

It is certainly imperative for us to communicate and share our purpose-driven journey with our stakeholders and customers. After all, PURPOSE is now perceived as the new ‘product’ of the marketplace; the GREEN movement is akin to the digital wave we once raved about years ago; and SUSTAINABILITY is now the new ‘profitable’ that dominates boardroom discussions. In fact, we can see how the financial and capital community is now scrutinising sustainability indicators as part of their investment evaluation process.  

As such, to elevate our brand and reputation, and enable our stakeholders and customers to be a part of our storytelling journey, it is important for us to build a narrative that is anchored on our PURPOSE or WHY. This is key to bringing our stakeholders along in our journey to share our vision and business goals. 

Sustainability and ESG as the Enabler – The WHAT and HOW

With the green movement and changing stakeholder expectations, it is time to create a purpose-driven narrative that is centred around Sustainability. Climate change, diversity and inclusion as well as other Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) indicators impact each and every one of our stakeholders. A purpose-driven narrative engages stakeholders through relatable subject matters, involving the relationship between brands and the people (your stakeholders), our planet (collective ownership) and even profits (sustainable wealth creation). Indeed, SUSTAINABILITY, as the new “profitability,” presents a very strong thought leadership platform for our brand and corporate narrative. 

Many companies and brands have prioritised ESG within the purpose framework of their organisations’ reforms and reinvention plans for growth. Indeed, ESG criteria fit right into this narrative as it provides a framework for us to measure our sustainability efforts. It is also relatable and relevant for stakeholders. 

In other words,

PURPOSE gives us the true north (the WHY) to anchor our narrative, and ESG provides a framework of WHAT and HOW we are delivering on our purpose.

This will give us facts, figures and other measurable initiatives or deliverables as part of our communication and engagement with stakeholders. ESG is not just about compliance. It is truly the enabler for us to communicate our purpose. 

Good to Great

Without a doubt, Sustainability and ESG frameworks are the vehicles that enable our purpose-driven narrative to be communicated. They can help us share our story of how we are taking tangible steps from where we are now to where we want to be – a GOOD to GREAT story that gives room for your audience to be a part of it. This is crucial to winning in the marketplace since stakeholders, including customers, are now taking an integral part of the conversation in the marketplace.

 

Andy See
Founder, Principal Partner & Managing Director, Perspective Strategies
After spending more than 10 years working with leading multinational and Malaysian consultancies including The Boston Consulting Group and Edelman, Andy decided to reinvent his career by setting up his own firm. This led to the birth of Perspective Strategies in 2006. The boutique agency grew quickly with the promise of delivering strategic counsel and quality services to clients and has over the years won numerous industry awards on the global and national levels. Aside from steering the firm’s strategic direction and managing key client relationships, Andy regularly conducts spokesperson training and speaks at industry events on strategic communications, issues management and stakeholder engagement. Currently, he is the President of the Public Relations and Communications Association of Malaysia (PRCA Malaysia), spearheading efforts to champion the interest of PR professionals including industry best practices, quality and standards as well as talent development.  Since 2017, Perspective Strategies has been part of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), one of the world's leading independent PR agency networks. Andy is on the Executive Committee, serving as Secretary and Regional Vice-President for Asia Pacific (APAC). As Regional Vice-President, Andy leads PRGN's initiatives in growing the network's presence in APAC by pushing to enhance communication, improve coordination and drive momentum at the regional level. Andy also actively contributes articles and thought leadership pieces on PR, leadership and strategic communications in various publications and online platforms.
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