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Sustainability Communications

Marketing and communications has been criticised for its role in helping to create an unsustainable economy: it is often seen that marketing is about selling more and sustainability is about consuming less. It also contributes to a culture where consumers, because of marketing, have a desire for a product which they can’t afford – it creates stereotypes that can alienate and depress customers.

So, how can communications help sustainability?

Without effective and honest sustainability communications, customers aren’t made aware of sustainable solutions and thus won’t change their behaviour to become more sustainable in their own lifestyles.

Sustainability communications need to communicate the sustainability solutions a company provides through its products and communicate with customers and stakeholders about the company as a whole. 

It is suggested that there are eight objectives a sustainability communications plan aims to do:
  1. Generate awareness about your sustainable product or service.
  2. Inform customers about your product with information such as where it was sourced.
  3. Remind people about the need to service, maintain and maybe even replace a product or a product park to keep it working efficiently. 
  4. Persuade people to try a new product or change their behaviour. 
  5. Reassure customers they have made the right choice.
  6. Motivate customers to respond to something.
  7. Reward customers for the loyalty or for other behaviours, (for example, H&M rewarding customers with a £5 gift voucher when clothes are recycled, regardless of where they were bought). 
  8. Connect with customers through relationship-building activities and interactive communications.
The resources involved with communicating sustainability are similar to traditional communications methods –but a sustainability communications plan needs to suit the customer and show solutions development for them by using techniques without criticism from social, environmental or economic issues.

What strikes me about the ISSR?

One of the first tasks I was given when I started with the ISSR was to work on the website to upload the videos from the 2nd Annual Sustainability Research event and to update the members and management team information. The final figure (currently – it seems to change all the time with new connections being made!) is that the ISSR has 380 members and 300 of these are researchers – that’s 300 people incorporating sustainability as part of their research and that’s something to be proud of!

What I also find great about the ISSR is that it really does include all disciplines in research including health, architecture, psychology, design and transport just to mention a few! It shows that sustainability isn’t just about driving less and recycling more – there is a wealth of expertise out there to help find solutions. 

All the research being done in the ISSR needs to be shouted about and people need to know what impact this has on their lives.

What does the ISSR do well?


The e-bulletin is something that is done really well in the ISSR. It’s monthly which means that it’s reminding people about the ISSR without having to spam email boxes every day. The amount and type of information included – research calls, internal events, external events and news means that people have all the important and interesting information in one easy to digest email.
Annual ISSR Sustainability Research Event 
This year I attended the 2nd Annual Sustainability Event which was great – really well put together with presentations from a wide range of expertise and an exhibition. It all went really well (even if Paul was doing his duck routine – calm on top, feet flapping crazily underwater!) and all the videos and presentation slides from the day are on our website so if you missed any or want to watch them again you can!

What can the ISSR improve?


The ISSR website is the ‘hub’ of online activity which feeds into every other form of digital communication we have and it is also a vital part of our online presence. Therefore, it is important that the information included on the website is easy to understand, up-to-date and varied – something that I think we’re starting to do. 

We’ve now got a news and events page which includes filtered news and events from the main University website. In addition to this we have put up project pages which outline the completed, in progress and future projects that involve the ISSR. As well as this we have a list of all the members of the ISSR, as well as a dedicated page for photos and information about each of our management team members (yes, photos!). We have also uploaded our new ISSR brochure which includes information about all the different research groups and centres we work with – this is available as a PDF for people to download on it can be viewed online through an online digital publishing platform (  

Social media 

One thing that we’re currently developing is an ISSR twitter account. This twitter account will be used as another communication tool to inform people about sustainability and the projects on the ISSR, to start conversations around events, research, news and reports and to join in with conversations about our research event and other sustainability related events and days around the world.

We also now have a blogspot site ( where we’re posting our monthly blogs (as well as putting the posts in PDF form on the ISSR website). We’ve created as blogspot site so that we can reach even more people and so that people are able to comment on the posts we make. So far we have had visitors from the UK, USA, Netherlands, France, Greece, India, Poland, Russia, Argentina and Brazil!

What have I enjoyed?

Developing a Marketing and Communications and Twitter strategy

I have really enjoyed developing a real Marketing and Communications strategy. It’s all very well writing plans, reports and strategies when you’re doing your degree for ‘a made up business of your own’ or ‘Apple’ or ‘McDonalds’ but it’s nothing like doing it for real. I’ve really enjoyed using what I’ve learn and relating it to real life.

Website development

I also really enjoy working on the ISSR website – it throws all sorts of challenges at you which, even though are sometimes tricky to solve, make you learn so much more about web content and what to include.

Working with some great people

Okay… so this may just be a section I’ve put in to compare how Paul Hardman looks like Sergei from the ‘Compare the Meerkat’ marketing campaign run by ‘Compare the Market’… (I think I’m going to get myself into trouble!)

…but on a serious note the people I work with are great and have really helped me to settle into my role and with the transition from University to the world of work. Everyone I’ve met has been interesting and it feels like a real team!

Useful information and further reading

  • Creatively vs. climate change:
  • Futerra (sustainability communications agency):
  • The Guardian, communication in sustainable business:
  • Institute for Sustainable Communication: 
  • Belz, F. and Peattie, K. (2001) Sustainability Marketing: A Global Perspective. United Kingdom: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
  • Hitchcock, D. and Willard, M. (2006) The Business Guide to Sustainability: Practical Strategies and Tools for Organisations. UK: Earthscan
  • Djordjevic, A. and Cotton, D.R.E., (2011),"Communicating the sustainability message in higher education institutions", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 12 (Issue. 4) p. 381 – 394
  • Charter, M. (1992) Greener Marketing. Sheffield: Greenleaf Marketing

Kirsty Andrews is the Marketing and Communications Administrator for the ISSR. Before joining the ISSR Kirsty completed a BA (Hons) Business Studies degree at Plymouth University.

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