Finding your ‘North Star’: the key to sustainability communications

Sustainability is often siloed, sitting within separate departments within an organisation. Few have managed to elevate the conversation to an overarching narrative that is meaningful for all stakeholders – from consumers to investors, employees, partners, citizens and government.

One of the most powerful ways to achieve this is by identifying an organisation’s ‘North Star’. This is the definition of a company’s purpose, values and sustainability actions from which everything else – strategy, products, policies and ultimately, its value proposition – is defined. Clarity about a company’s North Star leads founders and companies toward their goals and helps investors visualise the company’s future.

Finding your North Star – aligning sustainability to purpose

Authenticity in communications becomes possible when an organisation’s purpose is the foundation on which its sustainability efforts rest.

Defining your company’s purpose can be challenging. But the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford defines purpose simply in its framework for Board of Directors in ‘Enacting purpose within the modern corporation’. It is an articulation of why an organisation exists.

Purpose is not the same thing as sustainability, but it is foundational to it.

According to Robin Nuttall, a leader of McKinsey’s sustainability and regulatory strategy, three things matter when considering how to create a purpose-led sustainability strategy. First is ‘why’ a company exists – its purpose. Second is the action an organisation takes to create a positive impact on the world – the ‘what’. And third, the ‘why’ needs to link to the ‘what’, creating the business strategy and framework for communications.

This approach provides for meaningful and compelling stories that are robust enough to exist outside an annual sustainability report and can come to life at a brand level across multiple platforms and creative assets. It also helps support strategic decision-making around which aspects of sustainability are communicated to who, when, and across which channels.

When purpose and sustainability come together, organisations are better equipped to develop a narrative that balances past realities with present demands with a vision for the future. A unified ‘North Star’ allows for honesty, vulnerability and transparency, and inspires creativity in storytelling.

Communicating your North Star

Building an authentic, uplifting and honest sustainability narrative that conveys a sense of shared identity and captures your ‘North Star’ can be challenging. Sefiani has adapted a practical approach to assist with this, based on the SCORE framework, which was developed through a partnership between The University of Oxford, Berkeley Law and The British Academy.

Summary: Your North Star

  • Allows communicators to bring complex activity together under one overarching narrative.
  • Becomes a focus so organisations do not become overwhelmed and attempt to communicate everything to everyone.
  • Helps to connect tactical initiatives – whether creative marketing campaigns, communication initiatives or product launches – to the overarching business narrative and strategy.
  • Allows organisations to authentically embed sustainability initiatives into their strategy and communicate them in a way that connects with stakeholders and builds positive brand equity.

To learn more about how to identify your organisation’s ‘North Star’, download Sefiani’s latest Communication that Matters report Embedding sustainability into your narrative.

Download the report