This recent story about the Renewable Energy Association telling Greenpeace, the RSPB and Friends of the Earth that they are spreading misinformation over use of biomass fuels set me thinking about the value of good quality communication.
Communication between organisations and stakeholders on environmental and other issues is important because stakeholders are individuals, groups or organisations that affect and/or are affected by it. They have a real, material interest or concern that may be active or passive. It’s therefore vital that there is communication for:
- mutual explanation and thus understanding of each other’s perspectives;
- accurate and effective exchange of information;
- mutual learning, hopefully developing and spreading to become social learning;
- consistency of approach and strategy.
Through good quality communication organisations can:
- make their environmental commitment clear;
- show their compliance with environmental regulations;
- encourage others to be equally compliant;
- show legislators and regulators that further regulation is not needed;
- build relationships with the media, local authorities, local supporters, customers...through what they say on environmental issues;
- spread a message of being a legitimate and worthwhile organisation in a worthwhile sector;
- perhaps sell an environmental service;
- maintain, strengthen and improve their reputation in the eyes of the markets and investors;
- contribute effectively to public debates on key environmental issues such as climate change, local air pollution, conservation of biodiversity, noise pollution...
Local communities, employees, shareholders, customers and others are important stakeholders. Effective communication between an organisation and a local community needs to be two-way. If so it establishes, strengthens and maintains the organisations awareness of concerns about environmental hazards and risks. Problems can thus be identified and acted on before they grow to a serious level or even become unmanageable.
Effective communication with employees means better understanding of policy, especially of aims, targets and deadlines, improves decision making due to feedback and thus improves employee and organisation performance.
With respect to shareholders effective communication means management is competent because it is addressing and reporting well on environmental issues and risks.
Customers: effective communication reassures them about regulations being met, gives them choices about the environment, demonstrates good responsiveness to views, responds to environmentalists questions fully and so encourages people to give their custom to the organisation again.