Going Green Without Greenwashing

By: Callie Phelps

Simply slapping an “eco-friendly” sticker on packaging is not enough. The consumers of today can see through the fake claims and marketing speak.

While there are many things that drive demand, eco-friendly and sustainable claims have driven more and more demand over the past few years. In fact, 50% of CPG growth from 2013 to 2018 came from sustainability-marketed products (whoa!) While these claims continue to be more and more important to consumers, not all claims are created equal.

More than ever before, they are demanding truth and transparency. Essentially, they are over greenwashing, which involves a company marketing themselves as environmentally friendly without actually doing the environmental work to back up the claims. It is a deceitful form of advertising that profits from misrepresentation and distortion.

There is good news for the planet though: people are catching on. The more consumers are bombarded with greenwashing messages, the more skeptical they are of all “sustainable” products and in turn do more research into the product: the materials that make up the product, how it’s made and how it’s recycled. This heightened consumer awareness is a great motivator for companies to stop making false claims just to make a dollar and actually put products into the marketplace with legitimate environmental positives.

The line between green marketing and greenwashing is blurry. Here are a few do’s and don’ts for utilizing sustainability language in your next marketing campaign:

DO: Talk about the steps you’re taking to have a more sustainable manufacturing process. The more customers value transparency, the more they will appreciate you being honest about the positive improvements you’re making, even if they’re small.

DON’T: Utilize scientific jargon or information that only the people within specific academic fields can understand. You might sound “smart” but you look dumb - stay away from the gobbledygook.

DO: Make recycling and composting instructions easy to read and accessible on the packaging. This is an easy way to subtly advertise yourself as eco-friendly and will ensure people follow end of life instructions for your product or packaging. (Bonus: it shows you actually care.)

DON’T: Rely on “fluffy language” to convey sustainability messages. Words like “green,” “natural,” and “non-toxic” are absolutely meaningless unless they’re attached to clear explanations and definitions as it pertains to your product.

DO: Show your customers that you care vs. telling them that you do. You can convey this through minimal packaging, recycled materials, or using responsible ingredients. Remember- actions speak louder than words.

DON’T: Use suggestive pictures on your advertising that give an impression of environmental responsibility or sustainable practices but bare no resemblance to your actual process or reality. Remember the Fairlife fiasco? Don’t let that be you.

DO: Practice honesty and transparency with your customers and have information readily available about your company’s practices. It’s okay to point out your weak spots and have an honest conversation about them.

The major takeaway here is that it is no longer enough to merely mention or allude to being an environmentally friendly product… you must do something and have data available to back it up. How we talk about green initiatives in our marketing campaigns is only going to get more and more important.

Consumers are just waiting for you to tell them about your planet-friendly practices - whether you’ve just started down a sustainable path or you’ve always been eco-friendly!

About Ideas Made Measurable!

At IMM, creating action isn’t just what we do — it’s who we are. Our agency is built to deliver full service capabilities while also delivering measurable results. Big data is the marketing buzzword everyone talks about but few understand. We are here to explain in plain English how data-driven, bottoms-up marketing strategies can help generate leads, drive sales and build your brand. We leverage the expertise of the staff at IMM, a data-driven, full-service digital advertising agency based in Boulder, Colorado.

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