How to avoid Greenwashing when it comes to your Sustainability Marketing Communications. 

Becki Gonsalves, Expert Marketing and Communications Professional

In working across sustainability related marketing projects I have been astounded by the reaction of many that this must be Greenwashing. This assumption is perhaps more understandable coming from my social circle but, more concerningly, it also seems to be held by industry professionals.

On the one hand it’s easy to see why. Unfortunately, there are brands out there who are arguably jumping on the sustainable bandwagon with empty promises and disingenuous actions. Consumers are seeing through these,   

But less brazen errors are also happening, even with the best of intentions. 

So how do you strike the right chord and ensure your marketing communications around sustainability add value?

  1. Have a plan

Too often in Marketing I see businesses wanting to launch a product or start a conversation before they are ready. When it comes to sustainability, this can be the red light rather than the green light to all your efforts. Make sure there is a clear plan of action in place ahead of placing focus on sustainability in your messaging.

     2. Be authentic

Greenwashing by its very nature is the failure of what you say matching what you do. The issues you choose as a business must be carefully tailored to fit with your brand history and values. This will not only make it easier to achieve but begin with an anchor into the audience you are speaking to. Get to know what your target care about, where they see you know and therefore where you have a credible right to play before being enticed by the latest conversation that may miss the mark entirely and create insincere noise that drowns out your more appropriate, impactful efforts. 

3. Share the story of your journey

Marketing, arguable in any area, is about story telling. And this is true too when it comes to sustainability. Even brands that have been built with sustainability at their heart are on an ever-evolving journey. Rather than thinking about communicating all your benefits and current solutions, don’t be afraid to share the real story of what, why and how. This invites people on the journey and helps bring a more genuine side to the path you are taking.

4. Make it about the audience and the issue

Whilst sharing the story of how you are tackling the sustainability issues that matter to your business is critical, it can’t just be about you. The issue or issues you are most focussed on must remain central. But so too must your audience. By resonating with your customers or target market you can share common ground in the challenges and successes faced along the way. This common ground is tantamount to building buy-in to the sustainable topics you are addressing and ultimately results in long-lasting brand loyalty.

5. Think long term

The path to a more sustainable future is made of multiple steps and will take time. And it will also grow as you go, with many adaptations to the original plan. Whilst you cannot foresee all of these changes from the outset, ensuring that your marketing efforts marry with a clear vision can help deliver a future proof narrative that stays true to what you are trying to achieve.