In a space that is technical, complicated and sometimes full of ‘hot air’, how do you communicate clearly, truthfully and engagingly about topics such as carbon neutrality, waste management and corporate social responsibility? Through the networking partnership of Reputation Matters, Open Cape Town and specialist recruitment consultant, Lisa Wannell, #DialogueMatters, have created a networking space to discuss different communication challenges.

On Wednesday, 18 April 2018 #DialogueMatters hosted their session at The Bureaux in Woodstock and focussed on exploring the challenges of communicating complex messages around sustainability.

Kicking off the session, Chris Bischoff, Research Analyst and sustainability specialist, spoke about the importance of understanding your different stakeholder groups before embarking on a communication campaign. “By conducting stakeholder research you can gain very useful insight into the depth of knowledge that your different stakeholders have on sustainability subjects as well as their preferred channels for communication. This will greatly influence how you communicate with them and how they receive messages”.

Kristina Malther, Managing Director at Open Cape Town and facilitator of the workshop highlighted, “One of the challenges of communicating sustainability is the complexity of it, and the fact that we are often communicating simultaneously to many different stakeholders with different prerequisites of understanding of the subject matter, from school kids to engineers, and that makes it very challenging to get the messaging right”.

“Combining facts with visuals, such as infographics, is often a good way to stay true to the facts while making them more accessible for a wider audience or employees,” adds Malther.

Lisa Wannell, Specialist Search consultant and workshop speaker talked about what is required from ‘sustainability specialists’ nowadays, “From a recruitment point of view the evolution of this specialism over the past ten years or so has been fascinating to see, sustainability specialists are becoming as sought after as change specialists as organisations step up to meet the challenge of ensuring their businesses are sustainable across all functions. The skill set of these specialists demands a breadth and depth of knowledge incorporating technical knowledge in engineering and science fields, with stakeholder engagement skills, consummate written and verbal skills and up-to-date knowledge of current environmental and other legislation.

Wannell also went on to highlight how sustainability has started resonating throughout all areas of the corporate landscape where this has become evident in reporting, “Many major South African companies have led the way with their integrated reporting, the best of them demonstrating on virtually every page of their reports, how their sustainability strategy is aligned to the overall business agenda, or is inseparable from it. Clearly, Sustainability his is no longer a tick-box exercise, it’s well on its way to taking a seat at the top table”.

“Our research has shown that people want to do business with companies that take responsibility and are doing something to reduce their footprint; regardless of what their service offering or product is,” says Bischoff. “Start internally with employees; get them to ‘walk the talk’, because ultimately they will be representing the organisation with its sustainability journey”. “Engaging employees as ambassadors for your sustainability agenda is a very effective way of getting the message out there, and to a wider audience,” adds Malther.

Specialised sessions can be arranged and customised according to an organisations needs. For more information about these sessions, get in touch at