When does talking about sustainability become too risky?

Here are four ways companies can make sure their campaigns pay off in the long run and avoid letting their risks turn into flops:

1. Show your true colors.

Nobody's perfect, and that's even truer when it comes to multinational corporations.

In McDonald's attempt to highlight its commitment to sustainable seafood, it sidestepped the public's ongoing concern about its beef sourcing, which is much more central to the food chain's business.

The lesson: The more transparent companies are about their challenges, the more consumers will reward their strides. When companies gloss over controversial topics, their good efforts will be met with skepticism.    

2. Invite consumers into a conversation.

Businesses don't always have all the right answers, but if they're wise they'll invite consumers into the conversation and listen to what they have to say.

Coca-Cola is doing this by taking a poll on its Journey website as to whether the company's anti-obesity ads "hit" or "miss" the mark. Of course, more can be done to engage the public in this conversation, but it's a start.

Next page: Engage, engage, engage