Christine Pietryla Wetzler

Owner, Pietryla PR & Marketing

PR Consultant

Fractional CMO

Featured Writer

Christine Pietryla Wetzler

Owner, Pietryla PR & Marketing

PR Consultant

Fractional CMO

Featured Writer

New Post

A Guide To Totally Transparent Climate Risk Reporting

A Guide To Totally Transparent Climate Risk Reporting

Christine wrote this article for Forbes.

Thanks to a new rewrite of the rules of environmental transparency, some U.S. companies are about to embark on a disruptive journey into climate risk disclosure. A groundbreaking decision by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission concerning the mandatory disclosure of climate risks was just released and will apply to public companies beginning in 2025. This means these companies need to take action on setting their climate objectives, targets and governance frameworks.

It’s generally understood that consumers are enthusiastic about environmentally and ethically sustainable products. Despite this, many companies face a paradox—they struggle to translate this interest into actual demand for their products. I’ve heard numerous accounts of companies rolling out new offerings with climate-friendly claims, only to be met with sales that don’t meet expectations.

Further, without guidance and regulation, bad actors have muddied the playing field with deceptive and false information often termed greenwashing. As a result, some companies avoid reporting beyond the required to avoid being mislabeled.

However, private brands not already addressing this level of transparency may eventually be forced to—if only because of peer pressure and state requirements. Companies must recognize that transparency is now essential for building trust, loyalty and a competitive edge. The question now is, “Where should you start?”

I’ve been working with packaging and plastics companies since the late 1990s and have written response plans and altered messaging and strategy to accommodate changing sustainability needs since, well, day one. This is the advice I’d give a board or CEO if asked.

Assess Your Environmental Impact

Begin by thoroughly assessing your current environmental footprint, focusing on direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, resource utilization and waste generation. This includes direct and indirect emissions from your operations and value chain. Typically, this is done by outside consultants or a dedicated sustainability team within an organization, but you can get started independently.

Tools and frameworks like the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and life cycle assessment can provide commonly accepted methodologies for these measurements. You can also contact organizations like the Carbon Trust or the Global Reporting Initiative, which offer resources and standards to help accurately measure, manage and reduce environmental impact.

This first step is crucial for setting realistic sustainability goals and developing strategies for improvement, so you can’t skip it. You’ll need this information for reporting, and it will likely be useful to have available when engaging new opportunities.

Set Clear, Achievable Goals

After you have data, you can set clear goals. Start by comparing your current sustainability practices and reporting to the SEC’s requirements to look for gaps. This will help identify areas where your company—even as a private entity—may need to improve. Then, set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals. These targets should not only address compliance but also aim to drive meaningful improvements in your company’s environmental and social impact.

This is a great time to include stakeholders, especially employees, in the goal-setting process. Doing so can help you identify any internal, everyday concerns that require attention.

Implement Strategic Changes

Once you’ve set your goals, implement the necessary changes within your operations. To cultivate a culture of sustainability, integrate the ability to achieve these goals into every aspect of your organization. Achieve collaboration and buy-in by conducting regular training sessions, engaging employees in sustainability initiatives and recognizing significant contributions to your environmental goals.

Externally, leverage your public relations efforts. Craft compelling narratives about your goals, progress and the impact of your efforts on the community and environment. Share these stories through press releases, social media posts and online sustainability reports. Monitor the progress of these efforts against your sustainability activity goals to retain their efficacy over time, and regularly adjust as needed.

Continuously Monitor And Improve

Establishing mechanisms for regularly monitoring and evaluating these initiatives is second only to actually making sustainable changes. The data you collect is paramount to ensuring that your efforts remain aligned with your targets and that you can clearly communicate all the great work you’ve accomplished.

Set your metrics and key performance indicators to reflect your objectives. Regularly collecting data on these metrics allows you to assess your strategies’ effectiveness and identify improvement areas. It seems obvious, but it is worth mentioning again that you need to actively engage with employees and stakeholders through surveys and feedback mechanisms that can provide valuable insights into the real-world impact of these initiatives.

Approaching this exercise with authenticity and a genuine willingness to make strategic changes is really the best way to start using these tips as a guide. Build trust and credibility by openly sharing your journey’s successes and challenges. This level of transparency might be uncomfortable, but it meets the growing demand for corporate accountability and positions your brand as a competitive choice.

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