How to communicate for sustainability? That is the question!

Over the last months, I have been breaking my head over how to communicate effectively about sustainability, and more precisely about the problem of marine and rivering plastic pollution and how to attack it with a real chance to find a solution. As this problem is a so-called wicked problem, it is not only extremely complex to solve, it is even complex to convince people they can help to solve it. To do that, I have been looking for ways on how to communicate on the topic. To start, I have created a website “”. As such, it gives an overview about what we want to achieve, how we want to achieve it and what we do and achieve. Since I had received quite some positive comments about it, I thought this website was quite OK (certainly given the available resources). However, some people told me they thought it was a website of a bank – so to speak. In the meantime and based on CISL’s curriculum document concerning communications, advocacy and education, I understand why. Our website is OK on the aspects of “ethos” (proof of the credibility of a speaker) and “logos” (proof of reasoning to construct an argument), but does not focus enough on the aspect of “pathos” (use of emotional appeals). So, some change is needed: keep ethos and logos, but add pathos. Make our communication more appealing and inviting to join the action. In search of an appropriate style of communication related to marine and riverine plastic pollution, I came across the communication campaigns of the World Economic Forum (WEF) concerning sustainability. For instance, they highly extensive, informative and professional reports on harnessing the 4th Industrial Revolution for a number of sustainability-related topics such as the oceans, life on land and the circular economy. These reports are really very nice and professionally elaborated, but in my humble opinion they also focus most on the aspects of ethos and logos. Although they are well structured and based on appropriate references and sound argumentations, they are quite long (over 20 pages) and sometimes tedious to read. This way, they are not the stuff that your everyday commuter will read on the bus or train and get motivated to act. Maybe even more the contrary. On the other hand, the World Economic Forum also runs a communication campaign on Linkedin, using short videos (one to two minutes) highlighting some aspect or problem of sustainability and possible solutions. As they are short and very compelling, they focus more on the “pathos” of communication. But so apparently, even the WEF with all its resources and experience also struggles a little bit to combine ethos, logos and pathos in their communication for sustainability. So, I guess I will have to search a little bit further for appropriate examples. All ideas are welcome!


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