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The past few years have clearly illustrated the power of social media in expediting social, political and environmental causes. With almost 4 billion active social media users worldwide, social media has the power to educate the masses on important issues and mobilise the population to incite real change. 

In 2018, word of environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s climate strike protest spread across social media, resulting in an estimated 6 million students across the globe protesting to demand urgent action on the climate crisis. What started as an image of a young girl holding up a sign outside a government building was accelerated by social media and grew to be a global movement. Sustainability has become a hot topic across all social media platforms, and users are hungry for the brands they care about to publish content on what they’re doing to build a greener future. Despite the obvious effectiveness of social media campaigns, many companies fail to capitalise on this major opportunity to communicate their sustainability efforts.

In 2021, social media must play a pivotal role in communicating sustainability initiatives to consumers. Sustainability has gathered traction within the past decade, in large part due to grass roots campaigns throughout social media. These campaigns have educated social media users on the gravity of the climate crisis, and pushed sustainability from a fringe topic into the mainstream media. Both social media and sustainability have helped to push corporations to higher levels of communication through transparency and engagement. Social media is an efficient and inexpensive approach to engage with consumers, build brand credibility and raise awareness of your company’s sustainability efforts. 


Social media is driving the climate change conversation, and pushing organisations large and small to rethink their global role and responsibility. In a world of market saturation, consumers care about more than just the product or service you are offering. They are demanding evidence of what your company is doing to build a more sustainable world, and they want this evidence communicated via the medium they use most: social media. Yet even in 2021, when all parties understand the importance of sustainability, companies fall short in effectively communicating their strategies and initiatives in the digital world. 

A study by the Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in 2015 found that “clear majorities of Twitter (63%) and Facebook users (63%) now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family. This percentage has only gotten higher within the past 5 years. Receiving news and information from social media has surpassed more traditional methods like print media and television. These platforms form a “network effect” where the value and benefits of their services increases with a higher number of users. This not only benefits the platforms themselves, but you company as well. Social media is a two way street where you can engage with your customers. Yet a decade into its existence, companies still think these platforms are for pushing marketing messages, and when a company does decide to engage in conversation, it sticks to comfort zone topics like health and wellness instead of politically charging ones like sustainability. Some of the largest brands in the world are afraid to engage with users on social media for fear of a potential public relations crisis.


So, what should your company do? No matter what type of company you are, if you want to retain the interest of your customers, you need to tell your sustainability story on social media platforms and begin to engage and build communities. Ensure the proper channels and content are identified for your company, as social media is a spectrum. Content that’s relevant to your Twitter audience may not be as relatable with those your company is engaging with on Facebook. Some social media platforms might not be the correct fit for your company, but you should definitely have a presence in the social media world.

With over 2 million news articles published every day on the web, messages on green initiatives can often be overlooked. A pdf link to your annual sustainability report won’t cut it; pushing creative and engaging content out on social regarding your company’s sustainability efforts is what will break through the noise. While those reports are important to stakeholders, this approach is too traditional for 2021. Key figures and sustainability efforts presented in an engaging manner must be highlighted on digital platforms. Social media is how consumers will find out your company’s positive contributions to a greener future. By doing this, your company’s brand will grow as well. A report by McKinsey found that 63% of consumers consider a brand’s promotion of sustainability to be an important factor in purchasing or investing. Using social media to convey your commitment to green initiatives will aid your brand and enable your sustainability efforts to reach consumers and potential investors. This will give both parties reasons to opt for your company over a competitor in the present or future. 

Social media corporations must play a major role in the global push for sustainability as well. Because of their scale, they have the luxury of rethinking dominant approaches when it comes to sustainability. They can set the tone on sustainability for smaller companies that use their platforms. Facebook, for example, is a founding part of the Open Compute Platform, an industry organisation that aims to improve all parts of data centre design from the servers to the buildings that house them. They freely published the designs that made their data centres sustainable and have 200 organisations collaborating and contributing to this project. The company has been running on 75% renewable power in 2018 and is on pace to get to 100% this year. Social media platforms have the ability to “walk the talk” and can set a precedent for companies globally to follow.

In 2021, sustainability sells, and with the digital world growing exponentially, engaging and communicating content on social media will help set your company apart from the competition. In a sea of digital noise, the way you communicate your efforts to the world will set you apart from the crowd who choose to play it safe. Social media platforms are setting benchmarks for a greener future, now is the time to set your own, establish your digital presence and make a positive difference.