Being transparent in your business is important as an ethical business. Today we’re welcoming Melissa Hobson, a sustainability & conservation communications consultant & copywriter to explain how you can effectively communicate what’s going on in your business and why.

Are you a business trying to be more sustainable, ethical and responsible in your practices? Do you feel nervous about talking about what you’re doing in case someone calls you out because you’re not perfect yet? You’re not alone! 

When it comes to our journey to being a more sustainable, responsible business, it can feel scary talking about what we’re doing… because what if we’re doing enough? But, for me, talking about what we’re doing is a hugely important part of being a responsible business.

“Oh, you would say that, Mel, you’re a communications professional,” you might be thinking. Well, yes, as a PR consultant I do place a high value on good communications. But for good reason. Here are a few reasons why I believe it’s so important to talk honestly and with integrity about what you’re doing.

Nobody’s perfect

So, first of all, well done. If you’re still reading this, you’re probably taking steps to become a more responsible business (or are thinking about your first step which is, arguably, the most important!). 

When it comes to trying to be a more responsible business, none of us are perfect – we’re probably never going to be perfect. Once you’ve taken a few steps, you usually realise there are a now few more steps you can take. So don’t afraid to be honest about where you. And, importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not where you want to be yet. 

Those people saying they’re doing it perfectly? They’re probably not. I’ve come across some big companies recently keen to shout about their ‘commitment to sustainability’. Which sounds great! But when you drill down into that commitment, there are no other details of what they’re actually doing or science-based targets of what they want to do. Which starts smell like greenwashing, in my opinion.

Embrace your imperfections because it’s all part of the journey. It’s better to be taking steps forward than pretending we’ve won a race we haven’t yet started.

A pair of hands holding the earth. Text reads "The importance of transparency in ethical business communications."

You’re doing better than you think 

Are you using GOTS certified organic cotton in your garments and ensure workers across the supply chain are paid fairly but haven’t yet been able to eliminate plastic across all your packaging? Are you measuring and reducing your carbon emissions but haven’t yet reached net zero? Are you taking steps to make your website greener but haven’t yet got a fully paper free office? (Spoiler: that last example is me!).

It’s understandable to worry that sharing what you are doing might open you up for criticism about what you’re not yet doing. But I’ve found that, usually, people are supportive of what you’re doing and grateful for your honesty. And if you do receive constructive criticism, perhaps it will give you some helpful guidance on the next steps you can take and keep you accountable on that journey. 

We can help each other overcome challenges 

Talking about what we’re not doing as well as we’d like can be scary. But I’ve found that, usually, someone else has been through this already and is willing to give you some advice. Personally, if I see someone struggling with something I’ve already made progress with, I want to share what I’ve learned to help them out.

When I recently shared on LinkedIn that I was trying to reduce the environmental impact of my website (I had a lot of work to do – eep!), it generated a lot of conversation with other for-purpose businesses who were trying to do the same thing. We were all at different stages of our journey but, by sharing our successes and learnings, we were each able to move forward a little more quickly. 

You can inspire other people 

Talking about sustainability helps spread the word and inspire others to do more and do better. Sharing what you’re doing can inspire someone else to do something similar. I think it’s important to remember that this is not a competition: we’re all in this together. The more people taking sustainable actions, the better! 

Your customer base cares 

There is a growing customer base that cares about – and is knowledgeable about – responsible, ethical business practices. If you’re leading with purpose, people will buy into that. Maybe not everyone – sustainability is complex and each of us have different values – but if you don’t communicate your mission clearly, you might miss out on people who are aligned to your values but don’t realise those are your values. 

Put simply, sustainability is good for business. I believe for-purpose businesses are the ones that will thrive in future. So stay true to your purpose because this is what will attract likeminded customers to you. 

I hope this has inspired you to talk about what you’re doing (and what you’re not yet doing) to become a more sustainable business. What steps are you going to take to be more transparent today?

Melissa Hobson underwater wearing a snorkel and wet suit.

Melissa Hobson (she/her)

Melissa is a copywriter and PR consultant for purpose-driven organisations and founder of Baleen: the weekly digest of marine conservation news. She helps sustainability, conservation and for-purpose organisations achieve positive results through their communications. She loves nature – in particular, the ocean – which is why she’s passionate about making a positive difference to our planet and to people’s lives through her career. 

When away from her laptop, she loves diving, snorkelling (OK, anything by the ocean or on a boat), yoga and animals: she’s also a part-time pet sitter and trained as a BDMLR marine mammal medic.

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