Five “Keys” to Unlock a Successful Sustainability Program - Key 4: Tangible, Local Benefits

Part 7 in the blog series The New PR
Jul 31, 2012 5:30 PM ET
Campaign: The New PR

Posted by John Friedman

“All politics is local” – Tip O’Neil

With exceptions such as relief after the Indian Ocean tsunami and other disasters that draw international attention and concern, for the most part, people like to see the benefit of corporations in their own community. Impacts such as employment opportunities, contributions to tax revenues and bringing needed goods and services to the community are easily understood and appreciated. At the same time, noise of production and vehicular traffic are easily recognized local consequences.

A benefit of a sustainability program is that it reports and offers information on the wider breadth of impacts. Effective programs do not offer theoretical impacts, but rather transparently report the impacts that are measurable and follow agreed upon standards. Those standards must be agreed upon and deemed as both meaningful and fair by both the company and its stakeholders.

Transparency reveals the “hidden truths,” including both recognized and unrecognized impacts that every company brings to a community. This includes, but is not limited to the impacts from operations, products and services that the company makes available as well as ancillary benefits from employees’ contributions to the community. In many cases, if not all, the community reaction regarding these issues can be anticipated, evaluated, planned, budgeted and communicated as part of the regular business process.

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John Friedman, an award-winning communications professional and recognized sustainability expert with more than 20 years of experience, is co-founder and vice chair of the board for the Sustainable Business Network of Washington (SBNOW). 

Friedman has served as both an external and internal sustainability leader, helping companies, ranging from small companies to leading global enterprises, turn their values into successful business models by integrating their environmental, social, and economic aspirations into their cultures and business practices. 

His insights on sustainability issues and strategy are a regular feature on Huffington Post.

Friedman authored the e-publication The New PR which outlines how companies must modify the way they communicate to meet stakeholders' changing expectations through five proven keys for developing programs that replace "spin" with transparency and unlock the full potential of a sustainability program to build reputational capital. Friedman is currently working on a new book Your Backyard Is My Front Yard.

He can be reached at, is @JohnFriedman on Twitter and can be connected on LinkedIn and Facebook