Climate Change & Corporate Communications

In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket.


With enough drops, we can fill any bucket.

David Suzuki

When I cycle to work on my working days, when I choose to go vegetarian/ vegan in my diet, or when I protest at one of the climate strikes, I feel like I am doing my bit. Then, a thought comes into my mind- Why aren’t businesses across the world doing enough? Indeed, they have just as much of a role (or maybe even more significant) to play in the fight against climate control as I feel?

As the world warms, extreme weather events have become the “it” thing in our day-to-day lives. In fact, they have grown frequent, intense, and dangerous to the extent that many of our plant and animal species fear “being extinct” in the decades to come. The IPCC 2018 special report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees in the decades ahead makes me (or any individual) wonder as to why no radical steps are being taken by the governments of the various economies? Besides, I really want to understand why businesses worldwide are not playing a central role in curbing greenhouse emissions?

Adding to the above set of questions, I want to ponder upon what companies (across the globe) can do (in a collective manner) to curb the impacts of temperature rise in our day-to-day lives? What can these large organizations do to attain economic profitability as they have been doing so far, yet maintaining a curb on climate or temperature rise?

To add to the list, I want to know why is communicating the climate change initiatives (that have been undertaken by the companies) a mammoth task for any organization? What are the reasons that an organization, when it takes some initiatives on climate control, finds it challenging to communicate the same to the world, and if it does that-is unable to succeed in the desired way????

Tough questions and more challenging are the answers keeping in mind the global scenario in which our organization functions………. Let’s understand the last part of the set of questions posted since I feel communication is the essence of the success of any organization.

Climate rise is playing a growing role in the business competition. There is a dire need to pay attention to the greenhouse emissions by various industries. However, many corporates do not feel the heat of climate change. There has been an outburst of public voices demanding the need to communicate the measures taken by various companies at various levels.

Companies that perceive climate change as a social responsibility rather than a business problem are at a higher risk compared to those that take it as a business and economic issue than just acknowledging it a “Social Responsibility.” Organizations that are committed to making “Climate Change and its impacts” as an essential stakeholder in their business activities gain an edge in strategizing their policies and achieving their economic objectives alongside fulfilling their social responsibilities. However, such organizations do face a significant challenge- “The challenge of communicating its policies to all its other stakeholders.”

To communicate the steps that an organization takes or intends to take is actually a mammoth task and requires a lot of patience and perseverance on behalf of the companies. Acknowledging it to be a difficult task, communicating about climate change is possible and very much achievable. Before understanding how we can achieve a positive communication strategy for climate change, let’s know why climate change and corporate communications do not go hand in hand……????

I understand there can be two reasons behind this:

  • The very first reason can be our “Human Psychology.” Humans perceive climate change as a thing of the future and do not take it seriously today. Our (humans) remarkable ability to filter the information according to our previously held beliefs and thoughts, do not allow us to register the severity of the subject at the top of our minds. It is because of this reason that whatever our governments or other concerned agencies communicate with us on the topic, we filter it and are unable to comprehend that the disaster is just around the corner and is waiting to destroy our development.
  • The other reason could the way the facts and the information is being presented to the target stakeholder. Climate change has been a subject that is always backed by scientific data, graphs, analysis, figures, etc. which is extremely difficult to comprehend. Further, the information being presented in the way it scares the people at large, making it even more complex to make the world understand…..that it can be stopped and success can be achieved in controlling temperature rise.

This complexity of data and facts makes the people unmoved and less interested in the subject altogether, making it too tiresome to convince them about the need to take action instantly.

The above factors make it a tedious task for both the governments and the corporations to communicate climate change to the world. Multiple factors are considered before a communication strategy is devised and implemented to explain the measures that any company is taking to incorporate climate change as a significant stakeholder.

It is evident that communication can make or break any company’s sustainable strategy. So what’s that a company needs to keep in mind while devising this communication strategy???? I want to know more and hope you would like to add more too……. Let’s educate ourselves further:


There is no “one-style-fits-all” approach in communicating about climate change and the company’s role in tackling it. Before devising an effective communication strategy, it becomes imperative that the company understands its audience, i.e., it must identify whether it is communicating with the government (of any country), agencies that are directly or indirectly connected with climate change, business policymakers, supply chain vendors or its direct consumers……

Different agencies require a different way in which a message is communicated. However, it becomes mandatory that the company ensures its central theme remains the same. In other words, VISION & MISSION statements are not compromised.

As discussed, individuals are receptive to any form of information according to their beliefs, values, past experiences, or even intuitive perceptions and filter the rest of the information that crosses them. By filtering part of the message and receiving another part of it makes the message incomplete, and its relevance gets lost, and an individual is left with half or incomplete information, which in turn is harmful to both the company and the person itself. This can be explained with an example:

Supposedly, my (I am assuming that I have to develop the communication strategy) organization (irrespective of the nature of my business) wants to communicate the impact of my company activities on climate to the government (let’s say my home country) and the agencies that related directly or indirectly to climate change or the policymakers of my organization…. I can use facts, figures, graphs, or analysis to describe the impact. Such a method will be highly receptive to these sets of audiences.

Similarly, I have to use examples for the procedures or materials that I want to adopt in the future to reduce the greenhouse emissions along with retaining my profitability at the same pace (for my supply chain vendors)…. Will enable a healthy communicating strategy in improving my supply chain.

Lastly, if I have to educate my end consumers as to how and what all changes I am making in my organization to make it more environmentally friendly and achieving higher sustainability… I have to create a message that is in sync with the values, beliefs of the people at large and, at the same time, emphasizes the central theme of my organization’s VISION to make them sit back and notice my efforts.

Though it is extremely difficult to perceive what the various stakeholders will notice and accept in order to appreciate an organization’s effort in achieving its sustainability goals, there can be a small manual that any organization can follow to understand its respective audiences. According to this manual, there are 3 ways to get a fair idea of what our target audiences are thinking about what will be an effective way to establish contact with them. These 3 ways are:

It is necessary that the company does its homework in terms of what its target audiences are? What do they believe in? What are their values and beliefs system? What local issues do they deal with in their day-to-day lives? What kind of expectations do they hold from their governments in terms of the development of their area?? Etc. etc. (this kind of homework is necessary in case a company is functioning in different countries since every country has a unique set of political, social, and cultural views).

Having a basic idea of how and what our target audiences are, the next step is to understand as to what’s their basic knowledge in the given area. In other words, it is necessary to understand whether the communication strategy should be to educate the target audiences (in our case, it is about climate change) or to enhance the existing understanding level.

To have an in-depth understanding of the target audience or, in other words, to understand the what/ Why/Where/When/For whom/ How about the audience; establishing a dialogue with them is a great way. This can be done with the help of interviews with certain focus groups that represent certain characteristics that are relevant to our field of study. This will greatly help in having a communication strategy that will fall in sync with the VISION and the MISSION of the company.

All these measures will help in having a fair idea about the target audiences, which will be of great help in establishing communication in the future.


Climate change is a very nebulous concept, and to attract the attention of the audience, first-hand impacts an action (or inaction) taken becomes necessary.

An organization that intends to communicate its efforts take the help of the written facts, figures, etc. to explain its efforts. This, however, is a great way to communicate but makes the audience walk away from the organizations. To overcome this use of concepts like storytelling, images, etc. make the impact of communicating climate change more real, and the audience becomes more receptive to the communication message.

Having said so, it is necessary to understand that creating an image to substantiate what one wants to communicate is a hefty task since an image has to appeal and also should be able to retain its central message intact.

Another important advantage of creating advertising campaigns, images, or storytelling bulletins is that it helps in building “recall.” A recall helps the organizational communicators to associate the audience with their taglines or slogans, ultimately making it easier for the audience to create imagery associations in their mind that keeps the brand at the top of the list.

However, it is imperative that the organization decides as to what kind of message they intend to send across its audiences, i.e., whether the aim is only to attract the attention of the audience (towards the initiatives that it is taking) and make them believe that the company is an eco-friendly one OR they want their audience to act/react/to participate along with them (in the initiatives that it undertakes) to improve upon the climate change conditions.

An image or an ad campaign or a storytelling bulletin that is created by the climate change communicators can make an impact greatly, and they become more receptive to the communication process (regarding the steps that the company wants to take to reduce the impacts on climate change) and become more engaged with the organization and its initiatives.

Having a clear basic understanding of the target audience and the understanding of how and by what means the message it intends to communicate; another aspect to take into consideration is what kind of image/ ad campaign/ storytelling it is going to use so that more and more people can relate themselves with it. This is also important because a clear, tangible image or story will build up a sequence in the minds of the audience, and they will be able to put things in colors or numbers or words.

Making things tangible makes the tasks a lot easier. So what kind of message an organization wants to convey???

· Is it about promoting the idea of climate change?… this would mean that the organization wants to take cues from its audiences to develop new ways to reduce the impact on climate change (from the activities to run its business).

· Is it about preventive actions that organizations want to take?……where the companies intend that its audience take action at a more individualistic level?

· Is it about taking actions now or in the future

· Is it about communicating the impact of climate change on a national level or at a global level?

These questions can help the climate communicators to create a campaign that clearly brings the subject in words, images, or slogans. This is a difficult task because motivating a mass audience with one ad campaign or slogan or image can be quite risky. In order to cut down on the risk, certain changes can be made, keeping in mind the cultures, government laws, etc. however, keeping the central message the same.


The concept of climate change has been distorted many times in various different ways. It, therefore, becomes important that the organizations communicate the right piece of information from a credible set of groups. To add to the above, it is even more important than the climate change communicators to communicate such information to the right of a set of information so that they are able to create a dialogue and can avoid any indulgence in confrontation.

For an organization to be able to communicate its message effectively and within a time frame, it becomes important that they identify the groups that can influence their target audience in the process of decision making. This way, they will be able to engage their audience in a healthy way. To be able to do so, it is imperative the communicators identify the “social identities and affiliations.”

By social identities and affiliations, I mean that the organization needs to understand what all groups the audiences (target audience to be precise) feel associated with. Human beings being social participants, feel secure and comfortable after associating themselves with a various set of groups and affiliations. Such groups of affiliations can be of the people with similar tastes or preferences in terms of approach towards climate change as a topic or can be a set of people that are based on the basis of culture, beliefs, values, etc.. Another set of groups and affiliations can be on the basis of “ideals,” i.e., those groups that are created by the individual (s) that audience in general idealize.

Having connected to such groups or affiliations, the behavioral pattern changes greatly, and people act and react in a specific manner to keep themselves in sync with the ideologies of that particular group.

To be able to communicate its message and to ensure that it reaches a larger set of audiences, it is necessary that organizations identify such groups and arrange conversations within those groups so as to make them understand about its initiatives. Also, such an activity will help to get a 360-degree view of a given concept making the audiences think rationally and then make their decisions.

With so many benefits of creating a conversation, this seems to be a great platform for the communicators to communicate their message, this too has a major drawback:

The stronger groups can influence the smaller groups, and the identity of the smaller groups are lost. This adds to the misery of the groups and the communicators both since a smaller group (if they have a unique idea or initiative) loses its identity over the larger groups, and their identity gets lost. It is, therefore, necessary on the part of the communicators to give equal weightage to smaller groups as well to have a fair viewpoint on their message.


“But Climate Change isn’t affecting me.”

This is another major challenge that organizations have to deal with while communicating their message to their audience. Everyone is aware that climate change and its effects are a greater problem and affects the planet as a whole; it is because of this reason, people are unable to visualize the impacts of climate change closer to their homes.

The human species recognizes the threats that happen presently or in the near future, or that affects their near and dear ones. It is a basic human trait that they filter threats that are in the future or those affecting the world at large.

It, therefore, becomes necessary for the organizations to deal with this inability of the human species to make their message effective. To make this happen, the climate communicators have to create the message in such a manner that enables or forces the audience to foresee (the impacts of their activities) and engage themselves in the entire process (of cleaning and maintaining the safe environment). In simple words: “CREATE A MESSAGE THAT SIGNIFIES THE IMPACTS THAT ARE CLOSER TO ONE’S HOME.”

I can further explain this thought with a simple example: messages conveying rising sea levels would not create an impact (simply because the rise in sea levels is going affect the public at large in the decades to come) BUT

California wildfires that have started since the beginning of 2020 and actively elevated since August 15, 2020, leading to 3.2 million acres of burnt land and worsened air quality; messages related to the same will make the audience brainstorm that climate change can affect their home as well.

Another example can consist of the flood fury in the Brahmaputra River (in Assam, India) that has led to mass destruction with crops being destroyed completely and affecting flora and fauna to drastic levels. Adding to this misery, half of Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary have been submerged into water forcing the animals to migrate to safer places.

Such an example can make the audience think that climate change and its impacts can affect their home also.

An important aspect that needs to be taken into consideration is bringing the impacts closer to home and communicating the same with the help of visuals; it is necessary that climate communicators maintain the fine line between the productive engagement of their audience (through their personal experiences of the climate impact) or leading people away from the positive engagement……i.e., making the message (or issue) to real or scary can lead to the “denial” of the problem.


“I have no idea what those numbers mean.”

On a subject like Climate change, scientists rely heavily on the numbers while discussing the changes that they are observing in the climate system.

In order to comprehend the data, the facts, figures, maps, graphs, etc. it is necessary that the organizations translate data according to the understanding of the public large. To be able to able to understand the scientific data in a language that is relatable helps to create a positive and emotional response to the problem…..such a response is extremely crucial for any climate communicator. However, creating such a response is an uphill task for the communicator as the climate communicator has to overcome 2 major barriers….

ü The first major barrier is to influence human psychology that discounts future events and prefer to take things easy as the impact is not immediate or in the near future.

ü Another major barrier is: people do not feel that rise in few degrees currently on in the decade to come will not be dreadful and only impact after many decades. They feel that the projections that are shown are for some future decades and not the immediate decade.

Both of the above barriers are related to human psychology or the human brain, which filters all the information that is in the form of numbers, graphs, pointers or analysis, etc. It is majorly because of this reason that the organizations or climate communicators have to communicate in a language that is more relatable, more emotional in nature. Such kind of messages touch upon the emotional cord of the audience, and people start giving a thought to the concept.

Also, people at large react to the messages (in this case, about climate change) with the thoughts, images, experiences that are already stored in their minds. They try to relate the two together and create an image that may be positive or may be based on misleading facts.

So, to make the climate change and its impacts and the steps the organization is taking more meaningful, companies need to create a message that can it communicate to the audience at large with the right kind facts and also that can touch the emotional cord of theirs. A message that is more of images and story rather than figures will be more receptive than a message that is based on facts.

Understanding the fact that message needs to be more relatable and emotional in its approach, an obvious question that comes to my mind is how to create such a message? Are there any tips to consider while creating such messages? Are there any guidelines that need to be followed?….. there are no obvious answers to such questions, but I think the communicator can consider the below mentioned 3 points to frame a message and influence the behavior of its audience:

  • Images in the forms of film footage, metaphors, real-world analogies, personal and real-life concrete experiences.
  • Messages are created in such a unique way that enables the audience to build recall and elicit positive responses.
  • Use words or images that are commonly prevalent and can be comprehended easily by the people in general.

These can be a small set of guidelines to build up a message for the audience at large and to establish a relationship with the audiences for the years to come.


“Vulnerability is a source of strength.”

Climate change is a subject that is filled with uncertainties, and with all the efforts that the corporates, governments, and public at large take collectively, its impacts will reduce but will not go away with certainty. An organization that is undertaking various initiatives to contribute to a better planet and intends to communicate the world about the same face a lot of uncertainties that social, political, environmental, etc.

While it is important for the organizations to credit themselves with the dues (with the efforts they have undertaken so far and what all improvements they have made with the passage of time), it is important that the companies acknowledge the areas of improvement. Talking about the flaws and failures invokes a feeling of association (since humans are prone to making mistakes and rectify them as per the situations or circumstances) with the audiences.

Human decision making deals with uncertainties. An organization that intends to communicate with the audiences regarding climate change and its initiatives alongside must create messages that explain how the uncertainties can lead to opportunities for a better future.

Dealing with uncertainties and acknowledging the flaws and initiatives together is a tedious task in itself for any company to accomplish together. An organization that intends to communicate about its climate conversation plan, it is necessary that they adopt a precautionary principle, i.e., they must develop messages or story bulletin or ad campaigns that help them beat the uncertainties yet encourage its consumers to develop contingency plans alongside to avoid any discrepancies and help the audiences and community at large reframe a potentially paralyzing uncertainty into strong and protective actions.

An organization being vulnerable enough assumes (in the first place) that each and every audience that it interacts within uncomfortable with the uncertainties, and acknowledging such discomfort makes them work on their communication plan and the overall strategies that enables them to understand that how it is (the company) is incorporating changes in its system to meet the needs of the society as a whole. Empathy is a virtue that can make any organization with its audiences.

Uncertainties and Empathy are related that make a company grow and prosper along with its society.


Crafting a climate change message that improves audiences understanding and engagement with the issue and associating the same with a company that is communicating the message is a hefty task. It depends on all the factors mentioned above (maybe some more, but these are what I thought are highly recommended and are relevant). Leaders of the companies that speak up directly with their audiences (whether internal or external) create a lasting impact creating a meaningful and emotional change in the behavior to a great extent.

The more actively a leader is involved in crafting and also communicating the message to its audiences, the more likely it is that the audience will become receptive to the entire idea, adopting the change with open arms that the company intends to.

This will enable the change in the behavior of the people and the community as a whole. Afterall………

“What you do has a far greater impact than what you say.”

The bottom line is that, to create a company’s sustainable strategy in crafting a message…….companies need to be grounded, realistic, result-oriented, and empathic enough to have a lasting impact on its audiences. Those mentioned above are the guidelines that can be adopted (as they are mentioned or with the necessary modifications) to develop a bond with the audience and stay with the communicators for the decades to come.

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