Earth Day: What's Ahead for Corporate Sustainability and Communications Implications

April 22nd, 2024

 By Kevin Kearney, Director, Social Impact + Inclusion and Jay Bryant, Senior Manager, Social Impact + Inclusion

For us and our clients, Earth Day marks a moment of reflection to ask ourselves, “How are we showing up for the planet that’s given us everything?” In just the last 12 months, we’ve seen both the hottest summer on global record and the warmest winter, making this reflection even more important this year.

This spring, we attended GreenBiz ‘24, the annual convening of corporate sustainability professionals, where we heard the latest insights, challenges and budding solutions for the private sector to tackle climate change.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for those charged with communicating about or implementing a company’s sustainability strategy:

Ready or Not, Here Comes AI and Robots

AI and sustainability are becoming increasingly linked, particularly with corporate impact reporting. AI can quickly analyze years of complex emissions and financial data, generating key trends and visuals for these reports. Beyond reporting, AI can even predict wildfire-prone areas years in advance, aiding in proactive disaster prevention and helping optimize the distribution of energy.

In another major tech development, robots are now being deployed in remote areas of the world where humans can’t reach to feed data to AI platforms for analysis, resulting in more comprehensive data sets leading to new – and more precise – climate solutions.

Comms Implication: Success stories of using innovative technologies are well received, as every company is trying to find and scale solutions quickly. However, be mindful of the impact AI has on energy consumption and be ready to defend your renewable energy strategy.

The Power of Internal Buy-In

A company’s sustainability progress isn’t just the Chief Sustainability Officer’s (CSO) responsibility – it requires the entire C-suite’s commitment. Specifically, finance and legal teams must align with the CSO to secure operational budgets for these programs. To ensure your external communications strategy is part of the programmatic approach, it’s essential to have a seat at the table from the start. This also helps understand the level of complexity around sustainability initiatives, and the internal appetite for external communications.

Comms Implication: To align internal stakeholders on key priorities, consider developing a sustainability roadmap. This can include robust competitor benchmarking, gap analysis, materiality assessment and more. Conducting this research crafts a compelling case to unlock operational and communications budgets and shape a fully informed communications strategy from the start.

Purposeful but Pragmatic Language

True progress is only made when collective action is inspired outside of a company’s four walls. But in an industry rife with enough buzzwords and acronyms to scare off any non-Environmental Science Major (shout-out to GreenBiz Chairman and Co-Founder Joel Makower for putting the alphabet soup to use in his keynote), it’s essential to educate key audiences and consumers on what your sustainability efforts mean – in language they understand.

Comms Implication: While often associated with brands and products, content creators possess the unique ability to take technical information and distill it down into accessible language tailored for their audience, which makes them a smart addition to your sustainability communications approach. Also, consider NGO engagement to reach industry stakeholders, policymakers and B2B decision makers.

Ensuring a Just Energy Transition

The global transition from fossil fuels to clean energy (a global priority stemming from COP28) will require a massive infrastructure overhaul across the U.S. Much of this will take place where coal and oil-burning plants are currently located, largely in marginalized communities that are overburdened by pollution. To ensure all communities are positively impacted by these infrastructure investments, companies must focus on community education, public health and economic advancement.

Comms Implication: Whether you’re announcing a new manufacturing plant, data center or investing in a solar farm, make sure the local community benefits from this decision, that these initiatives are not built or maintained in marginalized communities and detail what the economic or health benefits will be as part of your communications strategy. According to Golin Social Impact + Inclusion’s JUSTICE FOR ALL survey, more than 85% of Americans believe that environmental justice is critical, but only one third of them are satisfied with current actions taken by companies and C-suite leaders.

Need guidance on your sustainability communications strategy, or in need of a sustainability roadmap or NGO engagement plan? Golin’s Social Impact + Inclusion team would love to brainstorm with you. Email Kevin Kearney to learn more at