Why we need a new approach to Sustainability Communication

In sustainability communication we send out a message, like “take your bike instead of car”. 

We might explain why this is important. We might use more elaborate slogans.

Often, this is the end of communication. 

How well has that worked so far? 

Well, we all know that there is - let’s say - room for improvement. 

In sustainability communication, we try to tell people what to do. In order to do that, we try to manipulate them by using PR and common marketing technics, or nudging, hoping it works. 

Again. Doesn’t seem to work so well with sustainability issues. 

Our communication is dysfunctional. It doesn’t fulfil the function that we need. We use methods that were developed from a very different mindset. A mindset that was primed to make the best out of capitalism. Sustainability though, I mean real sustainability (and we can discuss what that means), is anti-capitalistic. Nonetheless, in communication - and many other approaches for that matter, but that’s another story - we use tools that are developed for a different system and then we are surprised why it’s not successful. It’s like trying to make apple pie while taking bananas instead of apples and in the end, being surprised why the apple pie doesn‘t taste like apples. 

Here is a new thought: why not try to use apples? Why not try to use tools that are based on a different mindset? 

A possibility is to invite into a conversation instead. To turn communication into a relational conversation, based on a mindset that understands the relationality of everything in this world, that comes from a systems perspective and understands that the world is not a linear place. That we don’t have all the answers. That we are not superior to the one we are talking to.

More about relational communication to come.