How to Pitch Sustainability, ESG and Climate Stories–-Follow These Tips from GreenBiz’s Heather Clancy

Written by
Actual Team

Heather Clancy, Vice President and Editorial Director at GreenBiz Group, says she is constantly “bombarded” by pitches from PR professionals about their clients’ bold environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments.

On a recent episode of “Purpose, Inc.,” Heather tells host Michael Young that while there’s nothing wrong with being aspirational, the surefire way to capture her attention is by explaining how the company plans to measure its progress on key ESG metrics.  

“I look very carefully at the actual road map — how realistic it is and what metrics they’re using to get there,” Clancy said. “Are the targets based on science? Have they calculated their impact by industry, by location, or are they just working off guesstimates?”

Make ESG a Company-Wide Priority

Clancy recalled a recent conversation with Virginie Helias, Chief Sustainability Officer at Procter & Gamble, about the company’s decision to update its water usage strategy. In June of 2022, the company made two new water restoration pledges as part of its ongoing effort to reduce the amount of water its global manufacturing operations and products consume.

“Any capital investment proposal has to include metrics related to how (that investment) will impact certain climate areas like water consumption, emissions, and power usage,” Clancy said. “(Sustainability) is now embedded into that decision-making process, and I think that’s a great strategy.”

Know the Audience

Heather’s resulting article, “A closer look at P&G’s ‘water positive’ pledge,” examines how P&G precisely measures its water consumption and the effectiveness of its commitments to reduce those volumes worldwide. Those are examples of the metrics that Heather wants to learn from other companies, whether it is a corporation setting aggressive ESG goals or a technology developer launching a new product or service.

“I want to hear about real solutions,” she said. “For instance, when I’m pitched by someone who wants to talk about new technology, I need to know who’s using it, what’s behind it, (whether it’s) in beta, what the tangible benefits will be to (end users).”

Clancy also asks PR professionals to consider the relevance of their pitches to GreenBiz’s audience before reaching out to her.

“Our audience is the business world, so we tend to focus on business-to-business applications,” she explained. “As much as a lot of consumer technologies excite me personally, I don’t write about the things that are focused on individuals or for use in residential applications.

“If something’s a crazy idea, I’m also okay with hearing about that. Sometimes crazy ideas aren’t so crazy after all.”

Heather also stressed that while technology plays an essential role in helping corporations achieve their sustainability goals, it’s not an ESG panacea. She’s interested in all topics related to corporate ethics, government action, and systemic social change.

“One of the things that became vividly clear during the racial justice awakening was that the sustainability profession is not diverse,” she said. “The people affected by climate change in communities around the United States and the world tend not to be the ones holding the roles within corporate America who are coming up with the policies for addressing climate change.

“We have a lot of very well-meaning environmentalists pushing ideas and technologies without first having conversations with the communities they want to serve about what’s appropriate for their specific needs. The sustainability profession needs to be a whole lot more about the ‘S’
— the social — in ESG.”

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