Happy Earth Day, everyone! It was such a beautiful day out today this Earth Day and I figured, what better day to discuss sustainability and PR than on Earth Day, right?!

First of all, what exactly does sustainability mean? It seems that these days it has become one of those catch words like “green” that are used so often, one begins to forget its meaning. So let’s clear this up. According to the 1987 Brundtland report, sustainability, or sustainable development, is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Still, sustainability is a vast, broad topic because it’s applicable to so many things. When I told my boyfriend, who is an environmental studies major, that I would attempt to apply the principles of sustainability to PR he asked, “Well, which ones? There are hundreds.” Hence, my search began.

After only 30 minutes on the Internet, I found a wonderful list of six sustainability principles from Colorado University that I figured I could easily apply to this challenge of mine. Below, I shall try to apply these principles to practicing PR.

1) Quality of Life: Traditionally in community sustainability, this means to “define and plan the quality of life a community wants or believes it can achieve.” In practicing public relations, I believe this applies to particular clients and their goals. As practitioners, we must help clients assess their capabilities and- through a strategic PR plan- we must help them achieve or maintain these capabilities.

2) Economic Vitality: In community sustainability, economic vitality includes providing plenty of opportunities for citizens and a significant portion of revenue to support internal and external expenses. Applied to PR, we must strive to maintain economic vitality within our own firms. If we can maintain our own expenses, we will have more time and resources to aid our clients.

3) Social and Inter-generational Equity:  This principle applies to equality for all- as in, everyone has the same right to resources and opportunities as everyone else. Within our practices, we must treat all of our coworkers with respect, no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, or social status. This also applies to how we treat our clients and/or potential clients.

4) Environmental Quality: This principle applies to treating our environment with respect. As a community within a larger eco-system we must respect the other communities that live simultaneously with ours. Applied to PR, we must remember to treat the environment we work in (be it the office or out in the world), with respect by using resources wisely and treating other communities respectfully.

5) Disaster Resilience: This principle equates with a self-reliant community that is aware of the uncertainties in life. In practicing public relations, we must be prepared for “disasters” or what PR likes to call “risk communication.” Every practitioner must have at least some awareness of risk communication and must be self-reliant in face of the uncertainties our profession brings.

6) Participatory Process: This principle equates with everyone in a community being able to engage in decision-making with others. Everyone’s opinions are heard and understood by others. Everyone has equal say in what happens within their community, to an extent. In practice, we must be willing to hear those who are in both superior and inferior positions to ours and respond respectfully.

And there you have it! Sustainability can easily be applied (and in my opinion) should be applied to public relations. Whether you’re a student or a practicing professional, you can apply these principles to whatever it is you’re doing. Once again, Happy Earth Day!

  1. […] couple weeks ago, I posted about how to apply the principles of sustainability to the practice of public relations. I was challenged to write about environmental PR in a way that […]

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