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A Sustainability Picture is Worth 1000 Words

Years ago, a client green team asked us to research what the company’s competitors and key business partners were doing and thinking about sustainability. They thought it might help “sell” sustainability work to management. Certain results might even garner some hard-to-get budget for some of the sustainability work they wanted to do.

To do the assessment, we needed to construct a big-picture framework for evaluating publicly available information. To be honest, we didn’t do that. The first time through, our knowledge guided our gut and we came up with a show and tell presentation that resonated with the client. We knew we were on to something.

Problem number one was that the show and tell took too long. Firewalls and internet access threatened our plans to navigate websites to show what we found. Leading clients through analysis based on our deep knowledge was challenging to condense. The time to tell sometimes depended on how awake the group was! We started to place key player company logos on a scale of Reactive, Tactical, Strategic to set the stage for our telling.  Eureka! The picture was worth a 1000 words.

Over time we developed a series of questions to guide our website reviews. The questions began to take shape as a uniform way to rank company’s sustainability attitude, understanding, and commitment. We refined the questions to better reflect the Reactive, Tactical, Strategic stages of sustainability. This allowed us to quantify our assessments. We were able to give credit to companies who had started, though not progressed far, on their sustainability journey. This made it possible to create an overall numerical score. Once scored, creating an infographic based on the answers to our survey questions was a snap. And that’s the story of how BEAT – our Business Environment Assessment Tool – was born.

The BEAT infographic is a powerful communicator. This one picture is a quick, efficient, and effective way for communicating about sustainabilityand how your company stacks up. For example, BEAT Graphs can tell you one of three different things:

  1. Your business has a lot of work to do.
  2. Your business is at the head of the pack.
  3. Your business is doing well, but not communicating successes well.

And, as our client suspected, the BEAT infographic is also a great tool to use to get buy-in from management and stakeholders for “going green.”

When you have a lot of information to communicate quickly, think about how you can say it in a picture. Let your visual tell the lion’s share of your story so all you have to do is connect the dots. Get to your analysis of the information right away. Here are some tips for creating effective infographics for sustainability communications:

  1. Understand the limitations of any infographic; know what it says and doesn’t say.
  2. Be able to explain how the information behind the infographic was collected.
  3. Be prepared to explain deeper meanings that the infographic story tells.
  4. Connect your visual graphs to your objectives and plans in a clear and concise manner.

Humans love stories and pictures! Use them to your advantage, particularly when they can simplify and focus complex information. So whether you’re working to get buy in for going green or just trying to make the business case for a particular sustainability project, infographic your way to success.

Want to give it a try? Create an account on the Sustrana platform and try BEAT for free!

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