Your Anti-Greenwashing Guide to Sustainable Marketing
By Adwright, 31 October 2022
“Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that seems abstract – sustainable development – and turn it into a reality for all the world’s people.”
– Kofi Annan
Green labels are everywhere. With commonly-sighted terms like ‘eco’, ‘all natural’ on many supermarket labels and corporate promises to reduce emissions, how can brands market green products without veering into greenwashing?
According to Kantar’s Sustainability Sector Index 2022, 98% of APAC consumers are prepared to take action to live in a more environmentally conscious way, with Bain & Company similarly reporting 95% of these APAC consumers are willing to pay more for more sustainable products.
Along with the demand for sustainable goods comes the rise in green products and initiatives on the market. And consumers are also increasingly conscious of whether brands deliver on their promises instead of simply incorporating the latest marketing buzzwords in sustainability.
What is greenwashing all about?
58% of Asian consumers find it hard to tell which products are good or bad in terms of ethics or the environment. It is not easy to discern if any sustainable claims are true. This fear is not unfounded; some companies spend more time and money on marketing themselves as being sustainable than on actually minimising their environmental impact – this is known as ‘greenwashing’ according to Earth.org.
Greenwashing can arise due to a lack of understanding about sustainability and clear communication or reporting on the company’s efforts. Companies might be eager to herald ESG (environment, social and governance) benefits of the company product or services, but overlook to disclose or fail to report related results and consequences. Beyond ‘environmental greenwashing’, greenwashing can also occur in ethical and social contexts.
Terra Choice has since compiled a list of ‘The Six Sins of Greenwashing’, ranging from using a material that is already illegal to suggesting a product is ‘green’ based on a single environmental attribute, to upright false claims.
Plenty of greenwashing examples abound in the news – some big names who have made the headlines over the years include H&M for their ‘sustainable’ Conscious collection, oil giant BP and one you probably have heard of, carmarker Volkswagen’s emissions scandal.
Where’s the fine line between greenwashing and green marketing?
Undeniably, it is hard to walk the thin line between the two. To help guide you along, we’ve compiled some of our favourite tips to consider in your next sustainability-related campaign:
Stay authentic to your brand. Showcasing your sustainability story with transparency could do you more good than sugarcoating or using vague language about company efforts just for the sake of capitalising on growth trends for the sake of it.
Maintain transparency with updated data about your sustainability efforts. Keep consumers informed about specific targets and timelines on business practices such as reducing carbon emissions and ethical labour practices. While these can be scary to report, having such information accessible to the public increases trust in your brand when claims are supported with evidence. Instead of using just language, having measurable data gives credibility and confidence to consumers over brands with fluffy, generic language. Of course, being realistic is of paramount importance. Complete, 100% change is hard to be made over one night and consumers understand the journey takes time and effort.
Consider adopting certification from third-parties. These provide consumers with specific information as to how exactly your company or products are sustainable. By using a standard reference point across the industry, these industry certifications also gives assurance to consumers, and substantiates the claims you are making. By clearly stating key environmental benefits in specific terms, little is left subject to misinterpretation by consumers. Furthermore, such accreditation would benefit purchase decisions. 68% of consumers, who feel “clear certification explaining the environmental or ethical benefits would influence them to buy”, according to the report by Kantar.
Image credit: Unilever
Get inspired by other industry leaders
As a clear example of what sustainable reporting might look like, we can look to Unilever as a point of reference. Unilever publishes annual reports available online through its Sustainability Reporting Centre, holding itself publicly accountable to its consumers and stakeholders. Among these are regular reports updating Unilever’s progress on initiatives like its Sustainable Living Plan over the last few years. Of course, such initiatives require considerable amounts of planning, time and effort.
Feeling inspired already? Once you have got your sustainable marketing strategy planned out, be sure to amplify the good your company is doing in a transparent manner. Crafting an honest yet thoughtful brand narrative is one way to build brand resonance with consumers, winning them to your cause and products. Unsure of how to develop sustainability messaging? We would love to walk with you in your sustainable journey with an authentic narrative related to your brand.
At Adwright, we understand the paramount importance of having a reputable brand image. With our finesse and experience in curating strategic brand messages, we create the brand equity needed for marketing to succeed. While we are experts at building brand assets, it is our clients who play the biggest role in building trust with their customer base. After all, where there is trust, there is loyalty – the key factors that determine a brand’s reputation.
Adwright is an award-winning integrated branding agency in Singapore with over 25 years of experience in the industry and counting. We have collaborated with clients ranging from local SMEs to global corporations, spanning across many industries. We provide integrated solutions in branding, design, communications and beyond to help you bring your brand’s presence to market. Partner with us and embark on your unique brand journey today. To find out more about the services that Adwright provides, call us today at +65 6227 7227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.