Communicating a climate friendly business model

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Forest Economics

Abstract: The world has gathered around the idea that sustainable development is possible. At the same time, corporations are in constant development, both economically, but also in power and authority. While the main goal for corporations always has been to generate profit through their operations, corporations can also serve the needs of the public. By aligning with sustainability, corporations can contribute to sustainable development and a better future. As positive side-effect profitability can be increased, and more loyal customers gathered. However, for this to be possible, corporations need to communicate their contribution to sustainable development in a reliable way. Only then, legitimacy can be attained, and the corporation positioned as sustainable in the mind of its stakeholders. The aim of this study is to explain how forest corporations communicate their core business related to sustainability. The notion is that the forest corporations in this study base their business on a circular bioeconomy that may generate favourable sustainability results. The study was designed as a comparative case study of the communication of three forest corporations from Sweden. The corporate communication in the sustainability reports was examined with the complement of interviews with corporate representatives from each corporation. A theoretical framework based corporate branding, legitimacy, and corporate sustainability was established and used to guide the analysis of the findings. The findings showed that the corporations connected the core business with sustainable development using variations of three main areas. These areas were “climate benefits”, “responsible management of forests”, and “responsibility for communities and employees”. All corporations communicated the climate benefit using a quantified model based on the IPCC’s guidelines LULUCF. However, the calculations differ between the corporations. While the corporations see potential positive effects of a standardised model of calculating and displaying climate benefit, it has not been a prioritised question. Regarding responsible forest management and responsibility for communities and employees, the corporations mainly leaned on the existing institutional framework to be perceived as sustainable and legitimate.

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