Asked & Listened to with Marleen Diener


Marleen Diener

Marleen Diener is responsible for the Wirz Group's Centre of Competence for Sustainability. In five questions, she tells us how WIRZ promotes the topic of sustainability.

7. June 2023

What are the biggest challenges in sustainability communication?

One of the many challenges is the balancing act between substantial added value and excellent creation. The origin of good communication lies in simple and clear messages. However, sustainability per se is a very complex, multi-layered topic. When communicating sustainability, therefore, a sensible way must be found to communicate sustainability achievements in a comprehensible way without trivialising them in favour of simplification.

Does communicating sustainability contribute to a better world?

Yes it can. Good sustainability communication has the potential to provide orientation in the "sustainable jungle", empower people to make more sustainable choices and thus make a real impact on our environment. In terms of our advertising integrity, we have a responsibility as experts in our industry to protect consumers from deception and misinformation - a responsibility we take very seriously. At the same time, we identify and concretise new potentials in the field of sustainability in workshops with companies and clients by means of holistic strategic consulting.

How should companies proceed that currently implement little or nothing on the topic of sustainability?

Sustainability is never just a communication issue. The foundation of sustainability performance is laid in the corporate strategy. Relevance is an important keyword: Detached initiatives without reference to the target group and DNA of the company are not meaningful. Based on the sustainability goals, the topic or role of sustainability must be located within the brand. Questions such as "Is the company sustainable native or sustainable immigrant?" must be clarified in order to then align the corresponding internal and external communication with the relevant target groups. In sparring with Dr. Prof. Johanna Gollnhofer from the University of St. Gallen, we developed a sustainability workshop in which we work together with the client to determine the current status of sustainability and the goals to be achieved. After this inventory and the goals, we put together the perfect team from our various forces according to the needs in order to communicate about sustainability in a well-founded way.

How can companies avoid greenwashing accusations?

In the field of sustainability, the rule is: first actions, then words. In the communication of sustainability, these proof points are of central importance, as they lay the foundation in terms of content. If certain efforts have not yet been completed, they must be dealt with honestly in communication, in the sense of clear declarations of goals and transparent insights into the roadmap. Furthermore, there is no credibility without measurability. The more verifiable the sustainability efforts are, the smaller the surface for attack. Not communicating anything for fear of greenwashing - this is called "greenhushing" - is also not advisable, as you give away a lot of potential.

What are current trends in sustainability communication?

In the communication of products and services, terms such as "sustainable", "climate-neutral" or even "climate-positive" are used. However, every newly manufactured product leaves an ecological footprint and thus pollutes the environment - with appropriate efforts, they are therefore at best "more sustainable" or "climate neutral". Correctly, messages are becoming more and more precise. Armedangels - a clothing brand known for its sustainable fashion - responds with radical honesty, for example. Their campaign "sustainable products don't exist" creates awareness to rethink one's own consumption behaviour and thus puts their purpose above possible sales potential.

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