What better way to finish off our month on communication best practices, than to profile an actual professional in the field? Given his vast experience in corporate sustainability communications, Fulcrum’s decided there is no one more representative of what’s great in our field than Albert Vilariño Alonso.
Albert is a specialist in corporate social responsibility and reputation management for Barcelona-based Sustainology. In particular, he focuses on ensuring disabled populations equal right to work and economic prosperity. At Sustainology, Albert works to integrate the specific needs of the disabled into corporate responsibility programs and audits the ethical and professional management of special-needs employment centers. He is a certified BEQUAL auditor and has specializations in numerous corporate reporting standards.
In his own words, Albert believes “…corporate social responsibility is not a fad and is becoming an essential element for the survival of organizations.” He works tirelessly to ensure organizations understand how they can benefit from incorporating a more sustainable model to their operations and says it is his “…greatest professional satisfaction to help make that happen.”
Below is a transcript of Fulcrum’s recent interview with Albert.
Albert, the field of sustainability communications is relatively new. You seem to have entered it very early on. As people enter the field today, what is one lesson or piece of advice you would give to them?
It’s important to be cautious about the resistance to change within an organization. Sustainability professionals must be ambitious when implementing strategies and activities. Before making changes at the macro-level of an organization, though, they must make smaller changes through activities workers are comfortable with.
In addition, before submitting any major changes or plans to boards of directors, sustainability professionals should have already discussed things with executives and directors separately. Based on that, they should work collaboratively to prepare the method for presenting and implementing sustainability guidelines in an organization. Doing things this way will ensure the highest probability of success.
Recently, there have been a number of advertisements from global companies that have angered a lot of people. At Fulcrum, we believe this is because marketing people have forgotten to take stakeholders into consideration. What is something you consider a communication’s cardinal sin?
The biggest sin is to use corporate communications to clean up a company’s image and gain an undeserving reputation. Instead of just talking, actually walk your talk. I know it’s a very repeated idea, but sadly there are still many companies that put their efforts into communicating something they really do not do just to look good.
There are also many errors when reporting on sustainability. In my experience, I’ve observed on several occasions the sustainability and communication departments of companies not coordinating with each other. This creates internal and external corporate communications that are not completely accurate.
Greenwashing, both voluntary and involuntary, is still an issue as well. This is something that must be solved so that companies can be truly transparent and not lose credibility with their stakeholders.
As a communication’s professional, what is your proudest moment?
I cannot think of a single moment in which I have been most proud of my work. For me, every single successful project is a source of pride. A satisfied customer who recognizes you have helped improve their communications and reach their stakeholders is the best of awards. It’s important to remember, too, to analyze your errors and use them to continuously improve as a professional.
One final question, Albert. If you could change one thing about sustainability or sustainability communications, what would it be?
I would try and change the existing idea, which is still deep rooted and widespread, that making lengthy sustainability reports with dozens or even hundreds of pages makes them better. Nobody really reads these reports. This is because they have a lot of information that isn’t relevant to most stakeholders. If they do have the right information, it’s usually presented in a very boring or unattractive way. Reports are not usually promoted through the right channels or personalized, either.
All of this means the efforts of the companies making reports are in vain. In turn, stakeholders often feel they aren’t adequately receiving the necessary information on business activities. In the end, both sides lose.
For a deeper look into Albert’s background and recent thought leadership, visit his LinkedIn page.
Fulcrum’s Exploration series discusses critical issues facing today’s sustainability professionals. The goal of the series is to educate, inform, and generate discussion. If you liked some of these ideas, Fulcrum has plenty more. Set up a complimentary strategy session to dive deep into issues specific to your organization.