Communicating a Positive Message

The Sustainable MBA

Communicating a Positive Message

As a first-year MBA student at Presidio School of Management, I am reminded of the powerful impact our words and actions have in every business setting. We're taught that to be successful we need to communicate positive messages to market new goods, inform our stakeholders, and satisfy customers.

But where does sustainability fit into this mindset? Herein is the magic: communicating positive messages that connect potential customers, clients, and partners to their current goals and values furthers the goals of sustainability. Addressing these values connects them to what they care about and provides the impetus for innovative business practices.

Presidio faculty member Bob Dunham, who teaches "Effective Management, Communication and Action," tells us the importance of communicating positive messages by making offers and developing trust and relationships. By connecting to people's cares, we affect outcomes - which is especially important when addressing sustainability. "It's the consequences of actions that we really care about," he says.

When we communicate the positive outcomes of using sustainable business practices, we introduce a choice - which offers us a way as business leaders to renegotiate how we are currently doing business. As Paul Sheldon, another Presidio faculty member, says, "Business represents positive choice. If there's no choice, there's no business. Using positive language and positive messages that promote choice and a sustainable future are simply what works best for business in the long run."

We see this positive trend in business: Many companies now address corporate social responsibility (CSR) and add sustainability reports and indices to their annual reports. Social and environmental indicators are appearing to quantify formerly intangible metrics in the corporate matrix. In addition, the Global Reporting Initiative provides standards and guidelines for companies to voluntarily report sustainability efforts.

These reports communicate positive messages of a company’s actions to address environmental, social, and economical issues that affect the bottom line and produce good business. The transparency of the reports informs shareholders and stakeholders of the enhanced efforts the company is making, thereby adding value to their investments.

The public is also becoming more aware of green choices and socially responsible business practices. More and more consumers want to buy products and services from companies that support their values, care about the environment, and can offer shareholders a solid return. Whole Foods, for example, promotes organic produce grown by local farmers by inviting customers to learn about the farm and the farmer through colorful displays positioned near the produce. Patagonia connects lifestyle and values by offering customers a recycling option for some of its clothing choices. Whole Foods and Patagonia connect to their customers by using positive messages to address issues of care: values and community. Other companies produce positive messages of sustainability, based on their business goals or mission.

Andres Edwards, author of The Sustainability Revolution and owner of EduTracks, a northern California company that specializes in green building and sustainability education, directly and tangibly promotes sustainability through his business practices. Edwards’ company fabricates interpretative displays to tell his clients’ stories. He uses green building material in the display so that people can not only discuss the information shown, but also connect the concepts to the project by actually seeing and feeling the materials. He actively uses sustainable practices when creating communications strategies for clients when he makes tangible for the clients how much they would save on energy, water, materials, etc. "The economics speak loud!" he says.

Whether through education, connectivity in the community, or supporting like-values, businesses are, and need to continue, communicating the positive messages of sustainability. We, as business leaders, promote and refine the principles of sustainability through our actions and words. Together we are the innovators inspiring the changes needed to create a more sustainable world.


Jennifer Beauchamp is an MBA candidate in the Sustainable Management program at Presidio School of Management and is the new Director of Web Operations and Marketing for Creyr Publishing, Inc. In a 16-year career at UC San Diego, positions included assistant dean of academic advising at UCSD's Warren College and senior writer for student and staff Web portals.