How to Craft Your Sustainability Story


The paper and packaging industry has an incredible story of sustainability to tell. Manufacturers are creating products that are inherently renewable and recyclable, which means they provide value today while securing the future for generations to come.

Is your organization sharing the industry’s positive story to help achieve its objectives? If not, think of all the opportunities to do so: on sales calls, social media, your website, through press releases sent to the media—just to name a few. Our industry’s sustainability successes can help you get and keep new business, as well as boost your reputation among key stakeholders.

To help you craft your messaging, here are three key ingredients for a compelling and persuasive sustainability story. And believe it or not, they’ve been around for more than 2000 years, found first in the writings of ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.

Facts First

The first element of a compelling sustainability story is an appeal to logic, what Aristotle called logos. By crafting your argument on a solid base of facts, statistics, and data, you build platform that no one can refute.

The good thing for the paper and packaging industry is that the facts are on our side.

For example: U.S paper recovery has grown by 76 percent since 1990, when the paper industry established its first recovery goal to advance recycling. Or: today the U.S. has 20 percent more trees than it did on the first Earth Day celebration more than 40 years ago (AF&PA).

A key area where our industry may be misunderstood is around harvesting trees. But when you focus on the simple fact that the paper industry grows trees just like crops, you can easily win people over to your cause.

Many organizations are currently producing powerful statistics about the industry. To begin gathering the facts, see the American Forrest and Paper Association, Two Sides North America, the Recycled Paperboard Alliance, and your Paperboard Packaging Council. 

Pull the Heartstrings
Although facts can be convincing, your organization's story needs another component to really move people: an appeal to emotion, or pathos.

This is where storytelling happens, in the most literal sense of the term. You’ll want to craft your message around struggle and resolution, around topics and ideas that people can connect with in a deep and personal way. For example: children and family. After all, sustainability is about using resources wisely today so we can leave our children a world where they can thrive. Take this thread and weave it into your story in a unique and moving way. You may even want to talk about your own life experience or those of one of your employees.

The Paper and Packaging Board does a great job connecting with consumers on an emotional level. Their national “How Life Unfolds ” advertising and marketing campaign highlights the ways consumers are personally connected to paper, with the ultimate goal of increasing paper consumption. The commercial “Letters to Dad” shows just how powerful emotional appeals can be.

Show your Credentials

The third component in a great sustainability story is ethos, or the credibility of the person or organization giving the message.

There are several ways you can amplify your credibility as you deliver your green message. First, be clear in citing the information you use from federal agencies and scientific research. Your public relations efforts can also boost your ethos, as your story becomes immediately credible if the media publishes it. And after publication you can post the digital article on your social media sites to show that a credible media source is covering your story.

You can also build your credibility by getting your organization involved in your community. A great way to do this—while simultaneously sharing our industry’s sustainability story—is by participating in PPC’s TICCIT program (short for “Trees in Cartons, Cartons into Trees”). Through TICCIT, you educate school children in your community about the environmental benefits of trees, the sustainability of paper, and the benefits of recycling and composting. Be sure to invite the press so your community can see the good work you’re doing—and see you as a credible, ethical leader in the region.

Renewability, recyclability, and sustainability are at the heart of the paper and packaging industry. By using logos, pathos, and ethos to communicate this authentic identity with customers and stakeholders, you better your business as well as the larger ecological goal to which we are all devoted.

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