Marketers greenwashing fears

By Pelican MD Michael Bennett

2 minute read

Key takeaways

  • Half of UK marketing professionals are reluctant to work on sustainability marketing campaigns due to the fear of ‘greenwashing’ accusations
  • 63% of consumers say they would like brands to be more vocal about their sustainability plans, but remain sceptical about their authenticity

Following the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announcement about new rules to hold brands accountable for sustainability claims, research by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) reveals half of UK marketers are now wary of working on sustainability campaigns.

This puts them somewhat at odds with both consumers, who demand businesses be more active when it comes to sustainability, and the recognition that sustainability must be a business priority. In fact, 51% of companies surveyed went as far as saying climate change could threaten the very existence of their business or clients.

There’s no doubt marketers have their work cut out for them. The CIM research shows increasingly savvy consumers are sceptical of brands’ sustainability efforts, with 63% believing many brands only get involved with sustainability for commercial, rather than ethical, reasons.

Gemma Butler, marketing director and expert in sustainable marketing at CIM said: “We see regulation is coming to try and stem the volume of ‘greenwashing,’ and this is a good thing in my opinion. To really make progress in tackling the sustainability challenge, we must see businesses be more open and transparent about their impact on the environment as consumers, employees and indeed investors are all asking for it.”

CIM says marketers should not shy away from communicating sustainability credentials out of fear of being labelled as ‘greenwashing’. Instead they should upskill so they have the tools and knowledge to feed into effective sustainability-led strategies.

It’s certainly important that marketers are able to talk confidently about sustainability claims, but this confidence to communicate sustainability claims will come naturally if brands approach everything they do with integrity.

The best way to create and promote a compliant sustainability strategy is for brands to commit fully to their purpose and brand values. Before making green claims, make sure you have a clearly defined mission and set of brand values. These will guide your marketing strategy and give your marketers something they can refer to when promoting products or services.

At an organisational level, ensure there is not a disconnect between marketing and the rest of the business. Marketers can’t describe what they can’t see, and delivering accurate, substantiated claims depends on close collaboration.

Remember, while the risks of falling foul of the CMA rules will be significant, anti-greenwash guidance is a huge opportunity for brands who are getting it right. If the law succeeds in combatting inaccurate sustainability claims, the market advantage will swing rapidly to brands which have been doing the work to mitigate their social and environmental impact. And if you have the data to support this work, your marketers have everything they need to tell the story of your products credibly.

Read more about the survey undertaken by CIM here.

If you would like advice or guidance on how you’re marketing your green products, get in touch with our experts today.

Pelican Communications is a specialist in the environment & CSRfoodpackaging & logistics and trade association sectors and offers a range of services such as strategydesigncontent creationpublic relations and people developmentContact us for marketing and communications expertise.