Explained byBCG

Raise awareness and increase engagement

How to communicate your net-zero journey

To encourage climate action across your organization, you must first communicate your commitment to Net Zero clearly and consistently. Your message should be credible, with points that align with your core business and authentic reasons why your company is making the transformation – to both capitalize on opportunities and address risks. This should first be properly reflected in your company’s mission and vision statements. Make sure stakeholders understand what Net Zero means, explaining what it is (differentiating the pledge from other claims like “carbon neutral”) and what it takes to get there (necessary investment and transformation need).

Stakeholder engagement

Before diving into engagement, it's crucial to identify and prioritize your key stakeholders. By mapping out those with significant influence or interest in your net-zero journey, you can tailor communication strategies to each group's unique concerns and expectations, ensuring effective and targeted engagement. Your messages need to resonate, both internally and externally. Example stakeholders include:

  • Internal stakeholders

    • Employees

    • Functions and departments

    • Labor unions

    • Shareholders

  • External stakeholders and collaborators

    • Investors

    • Customers

    • Interest groups/citizens

    • Industry allies and partners

    • Policymakers

Internal engagement

Internally, it is essential to create buy-in among employees, functions and departments, labor unions, and shareholders to encourage full participation.

Open and candid communication can create enthusiasm among staff. Giving appropriate credit to already existing climate activities, role models, and staff currently active in driving sustainability efforts can further help create a positive attitude toward sustainability efforts.

Engaging your workforce is not merely about informing your employees; rather, it also requires being informed by your employees. Pursuing what resonates with members of your workforce, based on their own input, will only boost momentum. Furthermore, understanding other viewpoints and concerns and thinking collectively and creatively is crucial. One way to accomplish this is through conducting “belief audits” by interviewing or surveying key stakeholders on their perspectives on climate action. Such an audit would include many of the topics covered so far, like the case for climate action, what peers are doing, how ambitious they want your organization to be, and the challenges/gaps that your company will need to overcome.

Additionally, you can inspire and source ideas from your workforce through education. You can do this by forming a cross-unit sustainability working group, creating a competition to request sustainability ideas from employees, or instituting any number of internal, collaborative initiatives. An interesting example is that of French utility company EDF Group, which has committed to providing climate training, games and workshops for 22,000 employees, with the aim of strengthening their understanding and knowledge of climate change, its causes, and its impact (1).

External engagement and collaboration

Externally, stakeholders should be engaged by connecting your organization’s commercial and climate ambitions. This can be done by emphasizing the business opportunities and upsides of climate actions, including alignment with evolving customer preferences, risk avoidance, and increased business resilience (see climate risks highlighted in Section: Identify and assess climate related risks). These risks and opportunities should be quantified financially to the extent possible, so investors can understand their exposure, and so they can be brought along more effectively and support the company’s transition, both directly and indirectly. You should also aim to create buy-in from the most influential stakeholders at the board level.

Additionally, your company can seek industry alliances and other pre-competitive forums to help increase its climate knowledge and profile, as well as boost its influence through industry partnerships such as buying groups. See Reduce: Partner with others in your ecosystems for more information.

Policymakers can be another important group to engage with, and by communicating your ambitions and willingness to align and cooperate with government – for instance, on industry-wide recommendations and requirements – you can influence policy and enhance your impact. Through Responsible Policy Engagement (RPE), which aligns external advocacy with internal climate targets, a company can ensure its engagement strategies are consistent with the urgency of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. By taking a proactive stance on climate advocacy, your company can also enhance its reputation among consumers, interest groups, and the general public.

Avoid greenwashing

It is important to avoid the risk of greenwashing and overstating targets and accomplishments in external communications. These communications extend well beyond reporting to investors, and typically reach customers, the general public, and other stakeholders. If you want to market your products as green, we encourage you to take some of the following steps to ensure the validity of your claims:

  • Assess the environmental impact of your company across all business areas

  • Design your products to have a fully sustainable lifecycle

  • Have either internal or external experts verify your claims

  • Invite a third-party sustainability certification partner to examine and ideally endorse your products/services

  • Use specific wording, or specify what you mean when you use words like “eco-friendly” or “green”

Regularly check your communications across both internal and external channels (2). Note: communication is different than reporting, and do not serve the same purposes, see more in Report.