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Why you’re writing about sustainability wrong

February 25, 2021

And how to fix it

Sustainability used to be an afterthought, the feel-good cherry on top of your marketing. However, with the proliferation of natural disasters and end-of-the-world headlines over recent years it’s quickly rising up the agenda for everyone. In the corporate world, this is reflected by sustainability increasingly being imbedded in business operations and by companies reporting on their impact across entire value chains. It’s safe to say that sustainability is no longer an afterthought.

While everyone is paying more lip service to the subject, the quality of communications has not followed suit. Sustainability is still communicated by corporates in a way that is ineffective and turning all audiences off, whether it’s customers, suppliers or consumers. Now, in this most critical decade, there is no time for ineffective language.

Brands succeed when they occupy a unique and differentiated position in the mind. If your sustainability communications sound like everyone else’s, you are harming your brand and disengaging your audiences. But as we said before, your audiences want to hear what you have to say about sustainability – we hear from clients all the time that questions on this subject matter are pouring in at exponential rates, year after year. Don’t make it hard for them. Deliver clear and captivating messages your audiences are looking for by avoiding mistakes and following these evidence-based principles from our research.

After analysing Forbes 50 Most Valuable Brands’ sustainability webpages with word processing tools, Radley Yeldar has identified 8 clusters of clichés that represent the most common culprits of Stock Sustainability:

  • We are committed
  • The future: a better tomorrow, sustainable future, future generations
  • The planet: protect the planet, help the planet, people and the planet
  • Biggest challenge: urgent issue, world’s biggest challenge
  • Our journey: our climate journey, sustainability journey
  • Together we can: in this together, work together
  • Building a better: creating a better, shaping a better
  • Good for business: win all around, improves business

98% of the brands fell prey to at least one cliché and on average, they used four out of the eight clichés. By themselves, any one of these words or phrases would be fine – we’re guilty of using some of these ourselves. But overusing and stringing them together results in a buzzword salad that tastes a lot like Stock Sustainability. Worryingly, if the world’s most well-resourced brands are adopting this language, they naturally set a bad precedent for all corporates.

But we can put an end to it.

Download this guide to learn the principles for fixing sustainability writing

Our report, “Words that Work – effective language in sustainability communications”, explores what is wrong with how sustainability is written, ten principles for how to fix it, and creative examples of what great looks like. Download the full report on

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About your personal data

When you submit your details in order to access this content, your data will also be shared with our trusted partner Radley Yeldar who may contact you with further relevant information.

For more information on how we process your personal data please see our privacy policy