Is your sustainability story too complicated?

Even with a straightforward and strategic sustainability plan, sometimes the message to stakeholders gets muddled. So how do you know if you are telling a simple and compelling sustainability story?

Companies that try to do everything lack the focus to make truly meaningful change.

You can't be all things to all people, and neither can an effective sustainability strategy. Companies that try to do everything (such as go carbon neutral, hire local, move to 100% telecommuting, redesign products to be zero waste, offer vegan lunch options in the cafeteria, install a rooftop garden, _and_retrofit the building) lack the focus to make truly meaningful change.

Instead, companies having the most effective sustainability plans are usually laser sharp in their sustainability strategy -- identifying just a couple of key leverage points to guide all subsequent sustainability decisions. That's what we recommend (cover your bases, but choose to excel in one area at a time).

But even with a straightforward and strategic sustainability plan, sometimes the message to stakeholders gets muddled. So how do you know if you are telling a simple and compelling sustainability story? In a recent article in Fast Company, The 10 Questions Every Brand Should Ask To Ensure It's Simple Enough, author Margaret Molloy gave some great insight. (While she is talking about branding, we think it applies equally well to sustainability communications.)

Below, we've amended the 10 questions that Molloy poses in order to present them in a sustainability context.

  1. Is senior leadership committed to providing a simpler sustainability story?

  2. Do I know what our brand’s sustainability purpose is, and is it articulated in a simple, memorable, and inspiring way?

  3. Do we have the tools in place to get everyone to consistently deliver on our sustainability purpose?

  4. Have we made it as simple as possible to innovate at our company?

  5. Is our brand deeply focused on what drives sustainability preference within the market?

  6. Are our sustainability messages in sync with the customer experience?

  7. Do customers share our view of who we are and what we want to be?

  8. Are the sustainability aspects of our products and services clear and easy to navigate?

  9. Do we know the sustainability issues where simplicity would be most appreciated and inspire greater loyalty?

  10. Do we have a simple road map for the customer journey?

We recommend you read Molloy's entire article for additional insight. It really got us thinking...and we bet it will spark a discussion around your office's water cooler too!

Jennifer Woofter is a member of the 2degrees Advisory Board and is the founder and president of Strategic Sustainability Consulting , a boutique firm specializing in helping rapidly growing mid-size businesses integrate sustainability into their business model. She tweets at @jenniferwoofter .