31/01/2024 09:41 AM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.

By Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Abdul Latiff

The pursuit of civilisation has engendered progress and advancement in several aspects of human life. However, these improvements have not necessarily led to a better quality of life. The drive for economic growth has resulted in various adverse consequences, such as environmental degradation and social issues.

The United Nations introduced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address these challenges. The SDGs provide a framework for global collaboration and action. They underscore the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental concerns. The SDGs are designed to be comprehensive and inclusive to ensure no one is left behind while promoting a more equitable and sustainable approach to global development. They also testify to a shared vision of a better, more sustainable future.

Sustainable development is a multidimensional concept that encompasses the economic, environmental, and social domains. Despite decades of implementation, researchers lament that there appears to be a greater emphasis on economic and ecological growth.

Crucial roles of language and communication

In contrast, the social or socio-cultural sphere, which includes language and communication, remains largely ignored. However, there seem to be silver linings for language and communication in sustainable development. While there may not be institutions exclusively dedicated to language and communication in sustainable development, several organisations, research centres, and academic programmes emphasise the role of language and communication within the broader context of sustainable development.

These entities, such as The Communication Initiative, United Nations University - Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) and the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), recognise the importance of effective communication in advancing sustainability goals, promoting awareness, and facilitating meaningful dialogue.

Language and communication play crucial roles and actually serve as the backbones in sustainable development. Through these two mediums, ideas for development are conveyed, policies are formulated, and ideas are implemented. Language and communication play several critical roles in the context of sustainable development.

Creating awareness and driving change

First, it is undeniable that words are powerful tools that can be harnessed to create awareness and drive change. By communicating clearly and compellingly, individuals and organisations can inspire action and promote sustainable practices. Initiatives that inform the public about the importance of sustainable development and the impacts of various activities on the environment and society can make a significant difference.

Language is the tool to inspire a more sustainable future for all. Effective communication is pivotal in fostering a positive shift towards sustainable practices. By employing persuasive language that resonates with the public, individuals can be inspired to embrace eco-friendly behaviours such as reducing energy consumption, recycling, and supporting sustainable products and services. Effective communication is also vital to creating compelling public awareness campaigns that drive long-lasting behavioural change and improve the world for future generations.

Furthermore, communicating effectively is pivotal in promoting sustainable practices. Educational materials are created through languages, and workshops on sustainable development are conducted. Moreover, effective communication facilitates discussions to encourage environmental conservation, social equity, and economic sustainability. By prioritising clear and persuasive communication, individuals are inspired to take action towards a more sustainable future.

Shaping policies

Next, language plays a crucial role in shaping policies and advocating for sustainable development at local, national, and international levels. Clear and persuasive communication is essential for articulating the objectives, benefits, and urgency of adopting policies that support environmental protection, social inclusion, and economic resilience.

To emphasise further, effective community engagement relies upon language use. Utilising a language that resonates with diverse communities is crucial to building trust, understanding local needs, and encouraging involvement in sustainable development initiatives. Through active participation and dialogue, development efforts can be made culturally sensitive and responsive to the communities they serve. Therefore, it is essential to communicate in a language that connects with diverse audiences to create a sustainable impact.

In the world of business and corporate sectors, effective communication is key when it comes to conveying Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Companies rely on language to report their environmental and social impacts, showcase their dedication to sustainability, and engage with stakeholders on their sustainability goals. Henceforth, it is safe to say that effective communication is not just an option. It is a necessity.

Power of media

The power of media is undeniable when it comes to framing social and environmental issues. With its unique language and style of coverage, the media can shape public opinions and influence policy priorities. Particularly during times of crisis, effective communication is essential for managing public expectations, coordinating emergency responses, and mobilising resources for recovery and resilience-building efforts.

In summary, language and communication are vital in achieving sustainable development by influencing policies, shaping public perception, promoting collaboration, and driving positive behavioural and societal changes. To create a shared understanding of sustainability goals and mobilise collective efforts towards a more sustainable and equitable future, practical and clear communication is essential. It is imperative to recognise the immense power of language and communication in building a better world for current and future generations.


Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Abdul Latiff is with the Centre for Language Studies, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM).

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)