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Golden rules to avoid greenwashing

10 November, 2023

There is no denying it, companies are navigating a more complex landscape when it comes to integrating sustainability into brand marketing. Customers (and journalists) will sniff out the truth, no matter how much organic and biodegradable green glitter is sprinkled over it.

Increasingly, anxiety of public backlash is holding companies back from sustainability commitments, or shying away from talking about what they are doing (also known as greenhushing).

We don’t think this is the right response. If companies and brands don’t communicate the positive steps they are taking and the impact they are having – particularly on areas which align with their purpose and reason for being – then it’s impossible for customers to factor this into their decision making. Of course the claims they make have to be significant, transparent and easy to substantiate. But in a world crying out for transformative change, we absolutely think those that have something solid to say (even if it’s the communication of a thoughtful, credible target and a plan to achieve it) should use the powers of communication and creativity to make it known.

So we’re always pleased when others wade into this debate, and even more so what they provide the how as well as the why. Enter our friends at Ubuntoo, who recently shared their ‘5 Golden Rules’, which we think are good food for thought along the way.

  1. First BE, then DO, and only then, SAY. Take it step by step. You can’t jump to saying you’re sustainable before you’ve been sustainable and done sustainable actions.
  2. Don’t claim credit for cleaning up your act. If you want to turn efforts to remedy your environmental damage into a shiny new marketing campaign, think again. Stakeholders will see through the smoke and mirrors covering up fundamental flaws in what you do.
  3. Consumers will not pay you to be more sustainable. There are some eco-warriors who might splurge on a product labelled sustainable. But the majority are looking for a cheaper alternative with real product value, such as being durable, unbreakable, or reusable.
  4. Sustainability is a differentiator, not a motivator. Whilst eco-credentials can catch consumers attention, it will not seal the deal. They want products that fit their lives and cater to their physical and emotional needs, so don’t lose sight of your core offering.
  5. Form, function, and value first, planet next. If you want loyal customers, don’t sacrifice form, function, and value at the eco- Providing worthwhile value is crucial to stop your product being an inferior green gimmick.

By Alice Railton

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