Sustainable Seas Trust Communications Reboot Workshop

Who are the stakeholders? How do we effectively communicate with them? What does success look like in a world where the environment is not ravaged by plastic pollution? These are some of the questions that were discussed at the Communications Reboot Workshop held by Sustainable Seas Trust on the 31 January 2019 at the Summerstrand Hotel, Port Elizabeth. The workshop was facilitated by Janine Osborne, who is the Stakeholders Relations Manager for PETCO SA.

Our digital age has society slowly moving away from traditional media and more towards content created by internet users, known as Influencers. The delegates of the workshop identified these Influencers, as well as the Government and the Industry as some of the biggest stakeholders that we, as an environmentally-focused organisation, should be reaching out to and communicating with the most.

The Influencer culture has been a huge trend in places like the United States, with personalities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie and Rihanna using their huge social media following and influence to advocate for worthy causes such as environmental consciousness, education, women’s rights and healthy living. With the culture slowly gaining momentum in Southern Africa, the delegates of the workshop identified social media influencers, school teachers, the youth, parents, religious organisations and traditional leaders as some of the influencers to communicate with.  In line with this, was the important conversation of introducing environmental education into all applicable aspects of the South African schools’ curriculum right from Early Childhood Development (ECD) and right up to Further Education Training (FET).

Although the government is playing a role in environmental conservation, through their Department of Environmental Affairs, the workshop discussed ways in which local and international government, such as the United Nations and the African Union can contribute to the preservation of our environment and contribute towards educating both the young and old about the environment. The last stakeholder group that was discussed is the Industry. Within the industry, delegates identified key players that could influence a positive change. Amongst these players were restaurants who have banned the use of plastic straws and have opted for the eco-friendly option of paper straws. We also named recyclers as key players as they have major influence on what materials get recycled. Lastly, we identified brand owners and retailers. Going green is a growing trend right now and bodies in the retail industry are jumping on board as that drives sales. The main motivators for all the above-mentioned bodies is profit. The industry is heavily motivated by profit-making, brand-power and competition amongst each other.

The delegates at the workshop were tasked with looking at forms of communication and their impact, holistically, and did a stellar job in gathering strategies that could potentially be used by the environmentally-focused community at large. This was an interactive workshop and we had great fun jotting down thoughts and explaining and discussing them with delegates. So, how do you think communicating environmental issues can be done better?

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