Public Relations (PR) as a strategy, holds the potential for far more than just the spread of publicity. Also, when put to a good use, PR tactics can mean more than just the proliferation of hogwash and propaganda. Whilst it still might seem counterintuitive, PR means great things for business sustainability, via the power of building trust and effecting change.

PR for policy

One of our biggest of concerns, as a global collective, relates to environmental destruction and the challenge of sustainable development. Just consider the case of solar energy across Australia and how this solution has been heightened as a viable and popular alternative for everyday consumers. This has eventuated due, at least in some part, to the effective use of PR, marketing and advertising campaigns across the wider scope.

The Australian Government’s Solar Bonus Scheme 44c feed-in tariff is a good example of the flow-on effect of environmental awareness, driven over a period of years by public and political pressures. This scheme functions as a way to subsidize and encourage the uptake of renewable energy, in conjunction with a federal mandatory renewable energy target.

PR to accelerate change

Another pertinent case study is Greenpeace’s “give the orang-utan a break” campaign of 2010. This was leveled by the NGO against multinational corporation Nestlé  (in particular at its subsidiary the Kit Kat brand). This quickly resulted in umbrella corporation Nestlé announcing it would remove any sources of production in their supply chain with links to deforestation.

Here, Greenpeace effectively used PR (incorporating the media) to put pressure on a multinational corporation in order to accelerate change on the front of environmental sustainability. This is a display of PR used an agent for change in corporate sustainability and a perfect example of swift and decisive action as prompted by the negative impact created by an effective PR assault.

PR to influence tastes and perceptions

It’s not just high-profile examples of change (due to PR) that have strong implications for environmental sustainability, it’s also the slightly less perceptible ‘seeds’ that are planted within individual’s hearts and minds that invariably hold sway. The livestock and meat production industry is responsible for a heavy toll on resources and sustainability across the globe. A tide has slowly been growing, one that popularise the vegan lifestyle and conscious consumerism, unlike anything we have seen in the western world previously.

In the UK, you can now order a vegan pizza at Pizza Hut. This is an unprecedented move by one of the world’s most mainstream of fast food chains. This can be linked to impetus driven from commercial demand, plus the result of a barrage of animal rights movement petitions over the decades. PR has the ability to influence the tastes and perceptions of the general populace over a prolonged period of time.

The bright side of brands

The question of ethics is a big one when it comes to PR as a profession is a general sense. PR can, undoubtedly, be double-sided. It all depends on the end goal of a particular campaign/client. When you get to the crux of the issue, PR is but a tool: one that can be applied for good or bad intentions. Or, to somewhere in the vast grey area in between.

What’s important to realise is that PR efforts can persuade people to act for the common good. When it comes to government, multinational corporations and brands across the spectrum, PR has the ability to form policy, accelerate change and to influence the broad sweep of public opinion and perception. In today’s age this PR does function as an agent for environmental change, and other societal and humanitarian imperatives. In this way, PR can help drive a brighter future.