How Canada’s largest bank made its environmental message stick

The Royal Bank of Canada took some bruising from environmental advocates upon starting up a clean-water program, but a long-term strategy helped show it meant what it said.

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That was one example of disjointed strategy that Lynn Patterson, director of corporate responsibility for the Royal Bank of Canada, offered to an audience at her session Tuesday at the International Association of Business Communicators World Conference in Chicago.

“The gap between what your company says and does matters very much in all areas of communications, but it really matters in the area of sustainability,” she said.

That goes for the public and your employees, Patterson said. Employees get 90 percent of information about the company from business processes and leadership behavior, she said. Only 10 percent comes from formal communications.

Communicators have to be very mindful of the gap between words and actions, she said, which is why RBC took precautions when it started up a water stewardship program a few years ago.

‘Slow and steady’

RBC officially started its project, called the Blue Water Project, in 2007, with a 10-year commitment to keep it going.

“We knew we couldn’t just be a flash in the pan and jump on a bandwagon,” Patterson said.

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