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HEJ111 Communicating Sustainability

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HEJ111 Communicating Sustainability

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Course Code: HEJ111
University: University Of Tasmania

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Country: Australia


Effective communication throughout a workplace is an essential ingredient to align people’s efforts towards achieving organisational goals. Yet it seems that ‘communication problems’ are continually mentioned as one of the main difficulties for most organisations. Your boss, the CEO of ABC Company, has asked you to prepare a report investigating the question: ‘why managers should make effective communication a priority’? In so doing she expects you to examine four issues:

The personal and interpersonal aspects of communication – communicating to persuade and influence others (key points for practicing the art of persuasion) – including personal networks and the grapevine.
The organisation as a whole and formal communication channels – establishing and maintaining formal and informal channels of communication downward, upward and horizontally.
Aspects of communication that relate to sustainability: communication of sustainability activities and achievements (corporate social responsibility), and the sustainability of an organisation’s communication activities themselves.


Sustainability for every organization is critical and therefore communicating about it to the internal organization, and the external stakeholders are crucial. Effective communication of the sustainability activities of the organization and the achievements are essential, and all stakeholders including the employees and managers must understand it and cooperate. Since the employees are the main players when it comes to sustainability activities and strategies, they must be engaged and given proper direction and information by their managers (Reilly, and Hynan, 2014). Also, since sustainability is essential to the community and the people who are outside the organization, having a clear and effective communication helps the organization to know the activities the organization is engaged in and has achieved. A company is required to prepare a Corporate Sustainability Report where it highlights its achievements and the activities it has been and is engaged in for the period it is still in operation. Also. The communication must cover aspects that benefit all the stakeholders both internal and external (Peloza, Loock, Cerruti, and Muyot, 2012). This kind of communication happens once in a month and it’s published in the annual general meeting reports; therefore each organization has to ensure that they have effective communication tools at their disposal for making this work in their favor.
Strategies for Communicating Sustainability Activities and Achievements
Sustainability activities are meant to show the stakeholders that the organization cares for them and the environment as well. Therefore, it must be communicated in a way that those to whom it is directed can read and understand or can get the communication.
Sharing Information with Employees
After the organization has set the goals for the future, it will pass the information down to the managers who will communicate to the employees and other stakeholders. The use of formal communication is appropriate for this kind of communication. When the right information about the activities that need to be attended to is effectively communicated to the right individuals, the result will be stunning (Gill, Dickinson, and Scharl, 2008). Roles and responsibilities of each employee will be understood, and there will be no ambiguity and mistakes. Also, managers will be able to get an easy time to make follow up of the activities and get the right feedback from the employees. Also, when the employees understand their role and its importance to the activities assigned, they can easily play their part and not become cynical about the activities.
Utilizing the Available Networks
When it comes to sustainability, personal networks and grapevine communication can be critical. Through the use of personal networks, the managers can gather information from other peers on ways of effectively communicating the activities and the achievements. Interpersonal discussions, especially between the managers, can be helpful in gaining insights on the activities to communicate and how to communicate (Locker and Kaczmarek, 2009). Managers can talk and interact on ways of communicating that is effective. Grapevine, on the other hand, can help information pass quicker than any other channel of communication. The effectiveness of this communication allows the use of networks within the organization at all levels where information can be shared between managers and managers or managers and employees without the limitation of formal and official channels.
Two-way Communication
When the organization wants to persuade the investors on adopting the sustainability activities, it will require to use effective means of communication which includes giving information and waiting for feedback (Reilly, and Hynan, 2014). Investors will often ask the reasons for adopting the activities, and they will require and convincing response from the management. Also under this strategy, the managers will need to listen keenly to understand the position of the investors before going ahead with the activities (Peloza et al., 2012). Such communication ensures that there is transparency between the organization and the stakeholders.
Taking to the Right People and Actively Listening
The organization has to dispatch its bets people on the ground to engage all the stakeholders like the customers, press, regulating authorities among others. They can utilize questions which have been used to get information from the receiver (Moreno and Capriotti, 2009). When the sender uses questions to get information from the receiver, the responses are prompt, and he/she can customize the questions to the format that will allow gathering more information. Questions can be on the places the company is excelling when it comes to corporate social responsibility and also areas they must add more emphasis (Bruhn and Zimmermann, 2017). Such communication will allow the organization to engage in relevant activities that matter to the community regardless of the cost it may have on them financially. Besides that talking to the right people using questions can help in knowing areas where the organization has been doing bad regarding social responsibility. Listening actively is essential in this matter since a lot of information is being gathered which can be useful or destructive to the organization (Locker and Kaczmarek, 2009). Both the managers and the staff must pay attention to the responses of the people and their concerns.
Using Simple Language
When communicating about the achievements of the organization to the public and the stakeholders, it is necessary to use more straightforward language that is easy to understand. The people who are listening or reading the information need to understand the language that is used (Habib and Mucha Sr, 2018). Also, the report should not contain jargon or words that can be misinterpreted by the public. Using technical languages like acronyms and abbreviations can be wrongly be understood by the stakeholders, therefore, missing the vital part of the report.
Picking the Medium that is Effective
When communicating to such a large audience the choice of medium is essential to the success and effective delivery of the message. First, when the message has to be given through the use of formal communication then a report like the sustainability report that is simple, precise and accurate can be used (Pomering, 2017). Also, when the intended audience has to respond or give feedback on the communication, a press release can be used in that instance. The eligibility of the medium is dependent on the form of communication and the kind of communication that is being conveyed (Farneti and Guthrie, 2009). Also, the use of nonverbal signs during the time of communication can be useful and effective (Moreno and Capriotti, 2009). For example, the posture of the person giving the press release must appeal to the listeners regarding the facial expressions and the use of hands or the body language.
When communicating the sustainability activities and achieves of the organization, the organization should ensure that the right channels of communication are used. The right channels will produce the expected outcome that the organization wants. For example, if the employees must be effective in their roles, they must be given proper guidelines on their roles and responsibilities through the formal channels.  Also, when it is about communicating the achievements of the organization to the public and stakeholders, the communication must be made in a more straightforward way that is easy to understand. The essential aspects of effective communication will also apply in this case where the organization will utilize aspects like using more straightforward language that is clear. Also, the communication will have to be two way so that both the sender and the receiver can get the feedback they need. Sharing information with employees, picking the right medium and also utilizing the available networks can be of great help.
Bruhn, M. and Zimmermann, A. (2017) Integrated CSR Communications. In Handbook of Integrated CSR Communication (pp. 3-21). Springer, Cham.
Farneti, F. and Guthrie, J. (2009, June) Sustainability reporting by Australian public sector organisations: Why they report. In Accounting forum (Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 89-98). Elsevier.
Gill, D.L., Dickinson, S.J. and Scharl, A. (2008) Communicating sustainability: A web content analysis of North American, Asian and European firms. Journal of communication management, 12(3), pp.243-262.
Habib, A. and Mucha Sr, M. (2018) The Lifecycle and Effective Communication of CSR to the Stakeholder and the Public. International Journal of Economics, Business and Management Studies, 5(1), pp.1-8.
Locker, K.O. and Kaczmarek, S.K. (2009) Business communication: Building critical skills. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Moreno, A. and Capriotti, P. (2009) Communicating CSR, citizenship and sustainability on the web. Journal of Communication Management, 13(2), pp.157-175.
Peloza, J., Loock, M., Cerruti, J. and Muyot, M. (2012) Sustainability: How stakeholder perceptions differ from corporate reality. California Management Review, 55(1), pp.74-97.
Pomering, A. (2017) Communicating CSR Through Corporate Image Advertising. In Handbook of Integrated CSR Communication (pp. 171-190). Springer, Cham.
Reilly, A.H. and Hynan, K.A. (2014) Corporate communication, sustainability, and social media: It’s not easy (really) being green. Business horizons, 57(6), pp.747-758.

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