What do Ipsos, the World Economic Forum, and Merriam-Webster all have in common? They’ve collectively pinpointed a theme that encompasses the current social sentiment of the world: a need for trust.

Globally, a desire for sincerity is becoming notably pronounced. As such, it’s no surprise that Merriam-Webster’s 2023 word of the year – authentic – reflects a collective yearning for something genuine.

In turn, Davos, the World Economic Forum annual meeting, just convened under the 2024 theme “Rebuilding Trust” to provide a crucial space for business leaders to focus on the fundamental principles of transparency, consistency, and accountability.

The Ipsos Consumer Tracker backs up these sentiments with data that highlights a resounding preference for these values and their paramount importance in establishing a brand’s identity. The survey results reveal that, when asked to associate the term “authentic” with a brand, consumers overwhelmingly gravitated towards attributes such as “Honest” (51%) and “Integrity” (40%).

In a marketplace inundated with choices, stakeholders are more likely to align themselves with brands that reflect the virtues of honesty and integrity, making sustainability communications and reporting a catalyst for cultivating authenticity in the corporate world.

Building Trust With Sustainability Communications

In the ongoing quest for reputability, sustainability has emerged as a central theme in business – one that creates a profound impact on consumer, employee, and investor perceptions. For example, in the aisle, consumers are increasingly shifting their spending toward products with sustainability-related claims.

As such, sustainability communications can act as a pivotal driver of brand loyalty and trust in three core areas:

  • Environmental Dedication: As the world enters an age of growing activism, consumers expect businesses to step up, especially when it comes to issues of climate change and environmental stewardship. Sustainability communications act as a bridge, connecting a company’s environmental initiatives with discerning stakeholders. Companies actively addressing issues such as carbon footprints, waste, energy use, and biodiversity can demonstrate a commitment to operating sustainably by communicating and marketing these efforts, while also contributing to a global discourse on ecological well-being.
  • Social Engagement: Sustainability communications extend beyond environmental stewardship and should also embrace social responsibility. Prioritizing fair labor practices, promoting diversity and inclusion, and engaging in philanthropic endeavors amplify a company’s dedication to societal well-being. Showcasing social engagement can help align a company’s values with consumers and potential employees seeking responsible brands.
  • Education and Awareness: Sustainability communications also function as a vehicle for education and awareness. As consumers become more conscious of the environmental and social impact of their choices, companies that communicate their sustainability initiatives empower consumers to make informed decisions. This enhances trust between the company and its consumers.

Ultimately, transparency fosters a sense of shared responsibility for a more sustainable future. In turn, how can companies back up and verify the claims they make in the public marketplace? Enter Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting.

Building Transparency and Integrity With Quantifiable Reporting

Disclosing information related to a company’s impact on the environment, social issues, and governance structures is not just about compliance. It’s an active choice to be forthright about operations through quantitative data and goals and demonstrates a willingness to acknowledge the company’s broader impacts beyond profit margins alone.

As sustainability communications build the narrative of authenticity, ESG reporting provides the robust data and transparency necessary to substantiate these claims. Showcasing metrics and outcomes is crucial in dispelling skepticism around greenwashing, ensuring that companies can substantiate their commitment to meaningful change.

Studies have shown that brands actively embedding sustainability in their communications and marketing efforts are achieving greater growth. As the marketplace becomes consumed with sustainability-related claims, ESG metrics and data will become the differentiator for companies that want to back up storytelling and marketing with tangible proof points.

The environmental, social, and governance aspects of a company’s operations form a comprehensive framework for evaluating socially responsible practices and tangible impacts. ESG information includes any indicators that shed light on the sustainability context of an asset, facility, company or region, whether historic, current or expected, and is collected under three primary umbrellas:

  • Environmental data should capture information such as annual carbon emissions and energy consumption, water usage, and waste and pollution output.
  • Social data focuses on statistics related to workforce diversity, gender equity, and human rights.
  • Governance data tracks company input regarding corruption, labor practices, and gender composition of the board of directors.

The quantifiable outcomes presented through ESG reporting can serve as a source of truth for companies seeking authenticity in the eyes of their stakeholders. By leveraging data to drive and measure goals, companies establish a foundation of legitimacy, reinforcing their commitment to environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and ethical governance.

Forging a Unified Path Toward Authenticity

In an era rife with skepticism, sustainability communications and ESG reporting boldly emerge as pivotal actions companies can take to build an authentic and responsible brand. Companies can showcase their commitment to transparency while forging genuine connections with consumers through quantifiable, comprehensive reporting, coupled with active communication of verifiable sustainability efforts. This unified approach not only cultivates trust but also establishes a lasting model for a sustainable and transparent corporate ethos that resonates with all stakeholders.