If you’re trying to convince people to alter their shopping habits or the way they do business in the name of sustainability, where do you start?

A still from a government climate change campaign

The recent Act on CO2 advertising campaign showed how not to persuade people to be more sustainable. Over the years, we’ve picked up some green writing tips that work.

Writing persuasively about sustainability

We’ve written copy for businesses like employee-owned design and engineering firm Arup, mobile phone manufacturer Nokia, and trade union backed bank Unity Trust. When we write for sustainability communications for clients like these, we do four things:

1. Tell big, bold stories with everyday heroes and happy endings

Unlike the doom and gloom of the apocalyptic government ad above, great stories capture people’s imaginations. And, as they work really well if they feature people and communities that are just like the reader – everyday green heroes.

2. Write narratives that are inspirational and aspirational

Designers talk about the need for their work to delight, and sustainability stories should do the same. We really like the these Volkswagen virals because they have the fun factor. (Read our previous post about why climate change communications should lighten up). Simple, fun and achievable are key features of successful green marketing copy.

3. Make people feel part of something amazing

If you’re encouraging people to do the right thing, it’s important to let them know they’re not alone. In fact, show them they’re part of something big. It’s what we did when we wrote web copy for Nokia’s award-winning we: campaign. And it’s what drives the work of people like Do The Green Thing.

4. Earn trust by being transparent and technically correct

Of course, all your efforts are wasted if you don’t explain the science of sustainability without dumbing it down or using jargon. You also need to back up your claims with credible proof. That way you’ll create a strong piece of writing that avoids greenwash.

The climategate email scandal has undermined the work of low-carbon campaigners because it suggested that the scientists weren’t being transparent and might not be technically correct. To earn trust, you need to mention any uncertainties and be careful not to distort or exaggerate facts. Then you can inspire.

The value of green words

Is it worth it? The Carbon Trust estimates that tackling climate change could create opportunities for a company to increase its value by up to 80%. Now that’s a powerful story.

From notebook

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Because Polon is a small studio (run by Matt and Janet), there are no layers of account management – you get to work directly with a writer.

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