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GREENWASHING

Develop authentic sustainability communications for your brand

By our News Team | 2022

As greenwashing concerns increase, marketers must ensure their sustainability credentials are authentic – and communicated appropriately.

Marketers are at a crucial tipping point in terms of developing authentic sustainability communications and creative. The pressure on brands to end greenwashing is increasing from all angles: pressure groups, regulatory boards and consumers themselves.

In a blog post, Jon Arthurs, the Sustainability Practice Lead at global market research and insights firm, MetrixLab, warns that consumer trust in the sustainability credentials of corporates is eroding rapidly and cynicism is growing.

Greenwashing

A climate change protest in Europe. Photo by Osvaldo Gago via Wikimedia Commons

“Thanks to social media and the tidal wave of calls to action on the climate emergency, we will see a rising backlash and scrutiny over [brand] communications like never before,” Arthurs says. He suggests several actions to help brands build stronger communications in the sustainability space:

Permissibility: Your brand needs consumer permission to own the claim. That means you need to earn that right by making sure that it fits your brand in order to drive equity.

Be authentic: Live and breathe your sustainability claims throughout the organisation. Substantiate those claims with absolute thoroughness.

Be transparent: Provide easy access to publicly available information that supports your claims and advertising. Transparency builds trust.

Be fresh: As the arena of sustainability-based claims becomes increasingly cluttered, you’ll need to bring a fresh, relevant and credible perspective to the creative.

Build your brand around a genuine commitment to shared values: Consumers feel good about being part of a brand purpose that resonates with their personal values. It aligns with how they want to be perceived, or how they want to help the world.

Focus on driving your sustainability-related brand attributes: Determine, assess and monitor your core brand levers of sustainability to drive your equity.  

Recognise the Value-Action Gap: Studies show that, on average, only 10% of consumers do what they claim when it comes to environmental behaviours. The UN calls it the “Value-Action Gap” – people don’t tend to do as they claim. Brands must recognise this and develop communications with this in mind. Understand the context of other purchasing factors that drive the decision and identify those as the correct levers to pull across the entire consumer decision journey.

Leverage your history of sustainability: Many brands have been following a sustainable path for years, but haven’t yet communicated it or seen consumer appetite for it. This is changing – leverage your old sustainable assets.

Embed your commitment to sustainability: Embed sustainability across the entire business, supply chain and among stakeholders.

Build it over time: Jumping in with sustainability ads from nowhere adds to the cynicism consumers today are experiencing. Build your sustainability messaging first through social media; ensure you are seeing positive sentiment to your sustainability-based claims and then build out into other media platforms.

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