ATTENTION! We Need To Talk About How We Talk About Sustainability & Equality.
Note that an updated version of our story is available here.
This story is written by Gustaf, Hjalmar, and Simon, the three founders of Gokind.
Realizing that we got a communication problem
When one of our founders stumbled across a sign from a company claiming to be 80% sustainable, he had a spark of realization: Companies are way too vague about what they do regarding sustainability and equality. This was not a new insight, due to continuously being bombarded with greenwashing, but a mere tipping point blatantly exposing a need for action.
Upon sharing the image with the other founders, they all went on a deep dive into the world of corporate social responsibility. What followed was a flood of Corporate Fluff and Green Hushing.
The Corporate Fluff
Not walking the talk.
This phenomenon is easily identified as vague promises and bold claims without any proof; “we love eco” and a suspicious use of the color green are classic red flags. Not that these are wrong per se, but the lack of proof and substance is what makes them cause more harm than good.
We are not the first to discover this. Another example is a survey disclosed in this DN article (Swedish daily newspaper), showcasing the faulty evidence base.
“40 percent of large companies surveyed use the UN’s sustainability goals in their accounts, but only 10 percent reported concrete measures related to the goals” DN.se
Not talking the walk.
Far from everyone are greenwashers. During our deep dives, we found an impressive set of companies actively participating in the fight against the climate crisis and injustice. The problem is that these great ideas and initiatives are hidden behind a wall of text on page 72 of a 300-page document.
All companies in Sweden with more than 250 employees* are by law required to publish an annual sustainability report, which means the content is out there. So why do these companies still resort to nonsense taglines? One major reason is that the data itself doesn’t get through the modern attention-grabbing content cluster. Without a viable way of presenting the work, it’s tempting to resort to marketing gimmicks. We need a way to make this type of information reachable and understandable.
*(EU threshold is 500 employees)
When the two worlds collide
Both Corporate Fluff and Green Hushing are damaging, but the co-existence of them in a similar landscape is what makes things spiral out of control. It gets close to impossible to quickly be able to distinguish between faulty fluff and the real stuff.
This leads to people buying, investing, and picking employers that don’t match with their values every single day.
Meanwhile, we got a bit of a revolution
A never seen before demand.
While the battle between what is real and not continues, the demand for knowing the truth is booming in a way never seen before.
One of the easiest ways for individuals to make an impact is to pick A over B. Almost every day you’re bound to either pick products, investments (directly or indirectly), or employer. Everyone should get a chance to make informed choices that correspond to their values.
But making informed and correct choices turn out to be very difficult. Today’s corporate sustainability reporting, mixed with vivid but vague marketing, leaves us with a mere gut feeling for what brands and corporations stand for. The inertia for the individual to get up to speed is tremendous. Even renowned B2C brands have their sustainability walk paved out in enormous PDF reports; illegible and inaccessible for today’s mobile-first users.
We can’t expect a generation with an eight second attention span to invest their time into reading several 300 page reports, we can’t really expect anyone to.
So we’re trying to solve it
A new branch of sustainability organizations has recently popped up. Companies like EcoVadis, Normative, and Worldfavor are creating new ways to collect, calculate and account for companies’ sustainability data, which is a profound change in the right direction. Improved accounting is great but more data will make the communication dilemma even more acute.
Larger data tables and longer reports won't help in a misinformation war. This type of Excel-esque data will continue to lose the battle for the audience's attention, you’re bringing a PDF to a GIF-fight. This means that we’re still left with the impossible task of trying to decide which catchy tagline actually means stuff, and which is corporate fluff. That’s what we aim to solve.
Gokind is a platform where companies openly share and collaborate on sustainability and equality work.
A major part of this solution is to supplement old static sustainability reports, by giving every company its own hub. The hubs are crafted to meet the expectations of how we are used to quickly consume media and help companies with clear breakdowns and collaborations. All hubs are connected and brought together into a single source of truth (a platform, if you will), letting users discover and take part in the planet’s best and most engaging beneficial work.
Our goal is to make sustainability and equality reachable and understandable, enabling users to pick employers, investments, and products that truly drives change. Thus democratizing impact.
This is partly done by designing the hubs in a way that helps the companies break down and concretize their work. While simultaneously supporting the visitor to distinguish between faulty fluff and the real stuff.
With science as a foundation
With two of the founders having their background in cognitive science, developing our solution on proven concepts of behavioral psychology was a natural way of utilizing our team’s knowledge. We feel excited that these concepts and theories, previously reserved to make people scroll Instagram seven hours a day, may finally be used for something good.
Principle of Commitment 🔒
By sharing your goals and intentions to someone you care about, in this case customers, you’re creating a greater goal commitment, increasing the chance of success. You can increase your chances even more by inviting other companies, suppliers, or customers to join you.
In contrast, recent studies show that internal goals, which easily are revised or hidden upon lack of progress, can be worse than not having a goal at all. Many corporate practices are on a trajectory towards the latter. We want to steer them in the right direction.
Progressive Disclosure 🔎
The art of progressive disclosure is to give the user the right amount of information at each interaction. We perform this art by continuously giving the user a digestible overview while letting them deep dive into the matters that pique interest throughout the experience. This is also a matter of giving the user time to understand. By presenting a graspable and exciting amount of information at each step we can effectively introduce advanced matters such as lost time injury rates or crunching carbon emission data.
Mere-Measurement Effect 📐
The simple act of stating and measuring your intentions, e.g. gender equality within your management, can dramatically increase the likelihood of concrete actions. A company can achieve tremendous change by just asking itself, where do we want to be?
With the alarming low visitor count of corporate sustainability pages, we saw a huge need for a more engaging experience. By using game mechanics such as badges, progress indicators, and crowd gratification, we drive engagement both from the companies and hub visitors. Serious matters could still be captivating.
It all comes together in our Demo World 🌍
Our mission going forward
We realize that the journey from the current state of corporate social responsibility to our solution, is for many companies, currently quite long. Therefore, we are gathering a launch fleet, a set of companies striving for change. People that share our vision and put trust in science.
Through bootcamps, operated by our student council, the launch fleet gets fresh insights on their sustainability work and the chance to gradually transform their current work into content and actions that will be loved outside and inside our platform.
Does a company come to mind when reading about this? Make sure to poke them and we will make your voice heard (it’s anonymous): gokind.co/poke.
Take care, be kind.