Greenwashing and Sustainability in Business Marketing and Communications.
Many businesses have been shifting to sustainable business practices in recent years.
My observations show that most of these shifts are geared toward climate action. The combined ocean and land temperatures have risen on average 0.14 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1880 and more than twice as fast since 1981, according to the Annual 2021 Global Climate Report of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Exxon Valdez oil leakage in 1989 was a wake-up call. In 1990, legislation was passed to reduce the likelihood of another similar incident. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, citizens’ concerns about the environment grew significantly. Recycling programs became more commonplace. Soon, the shift to sustainability in business was evident. The U.S. Green Building Council introduced LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards in the 1990s. LEED, a green building certification program, has been the gold standard in green energy building practices.
Many companies today tackle big problems and “do sustainability right.” They approach the market from all angles and consider the adverse effects of industry challenges. Then they dig deep to make a positive impact on the supply chain.
Businesses can make a difference. It’s also suitable for companies. A sustainable supplier or manufacturer will help you connect better with your buyer. Sustainability is a criterion that 61% of U.S. consumers consider very important, according to a Simon-Kucher & Partners 2021 study. This market is at a critical tipping point, and it will be fascinating to see who gets on the “greener” side of history.
A New Business Category Is Born: In The Name of Sustainability
A mission is a crucial part of a business’s market position. This has led to more sustainable businesses. These are not just nonprofit messages. They are passionate founders who build businesses around their mission. One of my colleagues offers sustainable service ware, which is affordable and compostable. The company uses agricultural waste to create a circular approach for single-use service ware.
Patagonia is another example and a star for many sustainable businesses. (Full disclosure. My company is a member of 1% for Planet. Patagonia, an apparel brand that caters to nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, is passionate about its sustainability mission. Yvon Chouinard was an avid climber and environmental activist. He started his career by creating mountain climbing equipment and selling it from his car’s back seat. The company has grown to become a multibillion-dollar company. It is a shining example of a brand that started from small grassroots initiatives. It communicates transparency with customers, such as Patagonia sharing and measuring its sustainable difference.
My business is a marketing agency that focuses on sustainability. Even in my own home, we try to incorporate green practices. This experience has taught me how important it is for sustainability goals to be communicated transparently in marketing. This will help you avoid greenwashing and ensure that your business delivers on its promises.
How do you set up your sustainability strategy? And how can you avoid being greenwashed?
Transparency is key.
Transparency is key to avoiding greenwashing in your business. To avoid greenwashing, transparency and facts are two essential communication strategies. Like good journalism, you should also have sources and facts to support your sustainability claims in marketing materials.
Tracking your business’ progress is one way to achieve transparency. You can track your progress and communicate it as you go, so data on carbon-offset metrics such as efforts are easily measurable. Share fact-based knowledge and acknowledge setbacks and progress when reporting on unfinished goals.
To verify and increase accountability, I recommend expanding your sustainability team to include consultants and advisors beyond your core team. Let’s take, for example, a company that tracks carbon offsets. It might be worth collaborating with a third party. It is recommended to conduct an annual audit and to work with an objective party with robust reporting capabilities regarding sustainability.
You should set measurable goals.
You should also set goals for your sustainable strategy, just like you would for business objectives. This is a standard method in business and across-team functionality. I recommend key results and objective methodology to measure your sustainability impact.
As a founder, consider what you want to achieve with your strategy. This is your goal. Do you have a significant problem? Do you see it as a global problem or a local one? What would it look like if the world saw your product or business in the marketplace? These steps you need to take to drive your business towards these goals.
You can also measure critical results using team-set metrics. Make it a team effort. A key stakeholder should govern your sustainability strategy.
It takes a group and a movement to keep the momentum going in the right direction. Let’s be responsible for our future by going green.