5 ways to strengthen your business sustainability story

5 ways to strengthen your business sustainability story


More and more businesses are promoting their products or services as ‘sustainable’, and for good reason. Society is more aware and concerned about the environment and the legacy we are leaving for future generations than ever. People largely want to make a positive impact.

But the last thing we want is for sustainability to be just the latest bandwagon. As a collective, Australian regional and rural women in business hold great power to lead this space and become a shining light. We can show how business can be done differently.

But how can we tell our business sustainability story so it cuts through the noise with authenticity and heart?

Here’s how to do it — without the greenwash.

Don’t just say something is sustainable, tell us how and why

The days of simply saying something is sustainable are gone. If you want to stand out and avoid greenwashing, you need to go deeper. What do you mean when you say something is sustainable? Be specific. Use your business storytelling as an opportunity to lead, educate and inspire people, while demonstrating what it means to you and your business.

For example, if sustainable food is your jam, tell us how and where the products or ingredients are grown. What makes them sustainable? What farming methods are used? Who are the people behind the food and what are their values?

Allow your community to fall in love with the sustainability story behind the scenes. Whether it’s fashion, handmade goods, art, homewares or creative services, there are so many good stories to be told.

Do your homework

When you are choosing suppliers, products or materials, don’t be afraid to ask questions. What are the products made from? Where and how are they made? If something is advertised as ‘sustainable’, ‘recyclable’, ‘environmentally friendly’ or ‘compostable’, ask what that means.

As a business owner, it’s up to you to understand what you’re using and purchasing. Yes, it’s a minefield. And the details can be hard to understand. But the more you do this, the more you’ll feel confident in your choices and be empowered to tell your sustainability story through social media, blog posts, advertising and PR.

Avoid accidental greenwashing

It’s vital to make sure your environmental claims are accurate, so you can avoid accidental greenwashing. ‘Greenwashing’ is making false or misleading environmental claims to make your business seem better or less harmful when it comes to environmental impact (whether deliberate or accidental). In Australia, this is regulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission under Australian Consumer Law.

So, you need to make sure you are spot-on when it comes to making environmental claims — and have evidence to back them up. Don’t exaggerate. And be mindful of absolute claims and words like ‘all’, ‘always’, ‘never’ and ‘only’. Unless you’re 100% sure, it can be much better to say things like ‘reduce’, ‘minimise’ and ‘aim to’ when communicating your story. It can also be helpful to have some questions and answers prepared so you can stay ahead of any customer queries.

Inspire your community

Businesses are all about relationships, and business storytelling is no different. Whether it’s about using more sustainable materials or reducing waste, sustainability is a wonderful opportunity to engage with your community online and face-to-face.

Ask people what they’re interested in knowing more about. You can listen and learn while you lead. Encourage your community to take their own sustainable actions at home or in their community. Showcase great things that are happening in your community and celebrate fantastic initiatives from other like-minded businesses. Be a pillar of hope and inspiration.

Pick one thing

If it all feels overwhelming, pick one thing to start with and make this your flagship story. Maybe you’ve committed to more environmentally friendly packaging. Or maybe you’ve installed solar panels at your business or home office. Make this your key talking point. Write a blog post and talk about it on social media. Be genuine and enthusiastic. What makes you excited? Let your instincts guide you.

You don’t have to pretend to be perfect, and you don’t have to be an expert. Remember, this is a journey that we’re all on together. You might not have all the infallible solutions yet, but you can still have a voice and contribute to positive change. 

There are so many good stories that deserve to be heard and so many ways to make a difference.

Regional and rural women in business are the makers, doers, dreamers and innovators; often by necessity, sometimes by choice. We are the problem solvers, the menders and fixers that people look to, whether it’s at home, work or in the community.

For this reason, we have more influence than we might think. People listen to what we have to say. And, by telling a better sustainability story about your own business (with a lot of love and heart), you can make your own impact and help leave the world a better place.


Justine McClymont is an environment, climate and sustainability feature writer, copywriter and content writer based on Bundjalung Country in the Clarence Valley / Northern Rivers of NSW.

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