Why ethical companies need good PR

Two weeks ago, the Jeremy Kyle show was one of the most successful on ITV. Now, following the tragic death of one of its participants and a wave of criticism from the public and some high-profile politicians, production of the show has been stopped indefinitely. The speed at which public opinion turns against anything that is seen as unethical and harmful these days is unparalleled – which can only be a good thing.

TV documentaries, such as Blue Planet, have done a lot of good to put the environment right to the forefront of our decision-making process. Supermarkets, a generator of 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year, have been criticised for using too much unnecessary plastic, for example to wrap a cucumber or a bunch of grapes. The supermarkets which are coming out on top are those which are cutting their use of plastic and actually listening to their customers. Morrisons recently announced that it plans to become the first supermarket chain to remove packaging from its fruit and vegetables. Customers will be able to buy its 127 varieties of fruit and veg in recyclable paper bags. Iceland has also announced that its own brand packaging is going plastic free.

New opportunities are springing up for companies that can provide a solution to the packaging waste problem. The founder of Halo Coffee, Nil Leonard, for example discovered that Nespresso capsules took 300 years to decompose and therefore set about designing a coffee pod which would decompose within around four weeks.

The first fully compostable coffee capsules are now available from Halo, which are said to be a ‘100% natural blend of fibres including bamboo and paper’. The capsules can be thrown in a home food bin when finished and will fully decompose within just a few weeks.

Here in the UK, our client Fusco’s, which has a number of fish and chip outlets on the Yorkshire coast, has taken to removing plastic takeaway packaging from its outlets. Cardboard boxes have replaced harmful polystyrene takeaway boxes, all coffee cups are compostable or 100% biodegradable and the team have introduced recyclable cans of water, reducing the number of plastic bottled drinks they sell dramatically.  Public Relations is increasingly being used by food companies and restaurants to demonstrate their green credentials.

And it’s not just for companies selling to the consumer market.  For many years now, quarrying and cement companies have been required to meet certain environmental standards, in terms of air pollution, noise, land remediation etc. especially when they are based in areas of special scientific interest. We work with a number of quarries and they are very aware of the need to ‘do the right thing’ by the local community and environment. One for example, has created an independent water source, so they no longer have to draw any water from nearby rivers for use in its cement process. This lake has been beautifully landscaped and although water is regularly drawn for use in the cement process, it is also a haven for wildlife. 

We have been able to widely promote this in the company’s annual Sustainability Report, as well as in its community newsletter, shareholder newsletter and in local and trade press, with great results.

Mental Health is another area where companies need to be able to demonstrate sound operating procedures. Although it’s not been made law yet, many of our clients have invested in training staff whose role it is to identify anyone within the organisation who may be struggling with their mental health, in order to provide valuable support and advice. Even amongst our own clients, we lost one great character from a local company to mental health issues last year.

Where programmes that address Mental Health are put in place, it provides another opportunity for positive messages to be put out in employee newsletters, annual reviews, press releases and blogs…we even linked with ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ recently to promote some of our clients’ campaigns and good works via social media. The results are a happier, better supported workforce and a company which is seen as one that people want to work for.

What is really satisfying about our role as a PR agency is to promote the great ethical, morally responsible work that our clients do. Some of our clients have been doing all the right things in terms of sustainability, employee health and wellbeing, safety and community for years, but now it is more important than ever that the message gets out there.

Our role as PR and digital marketing agency is to ensure the positive messages about our clients’ activities are maximised across all printed, digital and social media. This is essential to ensure they can continue to attract new staff, build a good relationship with their community and to continue to secure new customers.

The day of the ethical, well governed business has arrived. Customers are turning their back in droves on companies that do not operate sustainably or with good welfare and health policies in place. Websites like Glassdoor, for example, have given employees the power to review companies and post about anything they are not happy about.

However, Public Relations provides the vehicle to let all stakeholders know that a company does the right things. This can have a huge positive impact on a business and can ultimately ensure its long-term survival. Long live the ethical brand!

We’re a friendly bunch of experienced PR and digital marketing people who work from offices in Sheffield, serving the whole of the UK.

For more details of how Dragonfly PR can help promote the positive messages about your company, call 0114 349 5345 or email hello@dragonflypr.co.uk.

Call us on: 0114 349 5341