The secrets to launching a successful ESG communications strategy

Constellation CCO Judy Rader focused on the new energy company’s ESG messaging from the very start, and employees connected.

Constellation energy CCO Judy Rader shared how she launched the company's ESG program.

The launch of a new organization, particularly one with a strong ESG message, can be an exciting moment for communicators. “It’s a rare opportunity that you get to establish new purpose and values for a company,” said SVP of Corporate Affairs and CCO Judy Rader, who joined clean energy company Constellation when it was spun off from Exelon in 2022.

Ahead of her session at Ragan’s upcoming Employee Communications and Culture Conference, we sat down with self-described “true believer” Rader to learn how she helped craft the values for the new company, the internal communications around Constellation’s day one launch strategy, and why the company’s authentic purpose connected with employees.

It must have been exciting helping to build Constellation’s ESG story from the ground up.

Rader: Constellation’s ESG story is our story. We’re the nation’s largest producer of clean energy. 90% of the energy we produce is carbon free, and over 10% of all of the nation’s clean energy comes from Constellation. So we naturally have a strong environmental story to tell. When we came to developing our purpose and our values and our corporate narrative, it was really all about climate, and how we were going to help address climate change. That led us to develop our purpose of accelerating the transition to a carbon-free future and establishing our core values, which also support our climate mission.

We are also a company that’s had a long-standing commitment and track record to advancing DE&I, in terms of our workforce, our suppliers and our community. We were committed to diversity long before 2020, and we continue that commitment today.

We’ve also recently strengthened and improved our governance and compliance policies. We’re always focused on acting with integrity and doing the right thing.

How have employees responded to your efforts?

The employees have responded very well, especially to our corporate purpose. The idea that we’re accelerating the transition to a carbon-free future and that our mission is really to help solve climate change for future generations has been very inspiring to employees.

We just did our employment engagement survey, and it showed that our purpose was a competitive advantage in terms of our employee value proposition. Employees are motivated by our strong societal purpose.

Constellation has a very authentic story. What in your eyes makes for an authentic story?

It’s just essential that you walk the talk. If you are going to state a commitment to environmental stewardship or climate change you’ve got to have some real, measurable goals or progress behind it. If companies aren’t ready to do that, then they need to think about telling their ESG story in another way, because there’s a lot of backlash against greenwashing. It’s extremely important that there’s meat on the bone when it comes to climate claims.

Constellation is dedicated to its purpose, but your job is also communicating about it. Can you tell me about your strategy for its launch?

We had a unique opportunity because we were establishing ourselves as a new company. Our first day of trading was 2/2/22 and we became a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ. It was a great opportunity to celebrate and initiate our climate story.

A few examples of things we did to roll this out: On that day, we started with a Teams video with all the leadership team together, and we talked about Constellation’s purpose, the values and what it meant to us, both personally and professionally. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously; there was a lot of good-natured ribbing and joking around on the call. That set the tone for a positive and collaborative culture.

Of course, we had a message from our CEO to our employees and issued a press release. We did media interviews with key media, both in our new headquarters of Baltimore, and also with national media.

At the end of the day, we did a virtual closing bell at the NASDAQ. All of our employees were able to access the chat that was part of the NASDAQ feed. There was so much organic joy and excitement and positive sentiment from employees in that chat.

We also rolled out a visual of our business strategy. It’s in the shape of a star (get it — Constellation, star?). It’s our guiding document that spells out in simple terms the four strategic areas we will use to grow our new company and accomplish our clean energy mission.

I love the branding.

All our employees know that our strategy is the star strategy. We really wanted our people to understand the business strategy, and we felt the best way to do that was to show it in a graphical format so that people would have an immediate connection to it.

Another new element was that we added a new core value called Climate Champion.

It’s about how employees can help advocate for clean energy policies and a carbon-free future, not just in the work they do every day generating clean energy, but how they tell the story, whether that’s to their friends and family, through their social media, in meetings with policymakers, or in rallies at state capitols. We must be champions for climate.

Do you have any advice for those trying to build an ESG strategy into a company that doesn’t have one already?

You have to tie it to a change in the business. It can’t come out of thin air. If there’s something that’s happening in the business that makes it possible, that’s the time to roll it out.

Join Rader at Ragan’s Employee Communications and Culture Conference, which goes down April 25-27. Rader will speak alongside communications leaders from Kraft Heinz, US Bank, Motorola, Shutterfly and more.

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