Consumer demand for sustainable options is rapidly growing, and so is the need for companies to communicate their sustainability values and practices. However, avoiding greenwashing has beocme a major obstacle for many consumers and businesses alike. Here are 5 principle to avoid it.

Finding truth in the era of ‘greenwashing’

Consumers are more aware than ever before about the environmental and social impacts their consuming habits and behavior have. Studies suggest people are making more conscious efforts to recycle, buy local products, choose brands with sustainable values and practices, and overall have a more responsible relationship with the environment and those around them. 

The problem with greenwashing is not that brands blatantly lie, but rather focus on minor positive benefits in regards to sustainability and choose to ignore and avoid the bigger picture of damages their products or services are actually causing. 

However, greenwashing is also a big concern for many, and as consumer demand for sustainability starts to grow, so do company’s need to ‘clean up’ their reputation. The problem with greenwashing is not that brands blatantly lie, but rather focus on minor positive benefits in regards to sustainability and choose to ignore and avoid the bigger picture of damages their products or services are actually causing. 

And this is not solely a problem for consumers who struggle to choose what’s best for the planet, but also for company’s themselves. People have issues trusting big environmental marketing campaigns, which in turn makes any minor incongruence detrimental to the business’ reputation

So how can companies ensure they are communicating responsibly about sustainability practices? 

The 5 principles of sustainability communication

It is probably rather clear by now that greenwashing is not the answer in any way, shape or form, but there are still those who unfairly make use of vaguely positie information to cover up for bigger environmental and social mistakes. This is why we have gather five key points to make sure your sustainability communication won’t get you in trouble. Furthermore, it will most likely foster better decisions.

1. Reliability

Unsustained, unclear and confusing statements only lead to consumers’ distrust. The best way to bring back such trust is to rely on clear, specific, science based and verifiable sustainability statements. And in this regard, aiming for sustainability standards and certifications is the safest and most reliable option. Furthermore, a third party verification will further ensure reliability.

Listen to our podcast episode to find out why should companies certify themselves and why is it important for them to communicate these certifications.

2. Relevance

Every sustainability statement should offer relevant information regarding processes, production methods, materials… basically the things that offer key insights to those practices that mostly affect sustainability matters or contribute to sustainability the most. In contrast, companies should avoid communicating small (and rather irrelevant) product or service improvements as a means to cover other damaging factors.

3. Clarity

Sometimes companies don’t mean to hide away certain information from the consumer, but they communicate it in such a way that is vague and uncertain. Clarity is important if we want to reach consumers attention and give them meaningful and useful information. For example, avoid generalizations such as ‘social benefits’ or ‘improved environmental impact’. Even if this is true, it is too vague and ambiguous to be credible.

4. Transparency

As mentioned before, consumers are more aware than ever about sustainability matters, and it is not only important for them to be able to make the best decision, but also they want to know how sustainability is achieved in depth. What is the company actually doing to claim environmental or social responsibility? Transparency calls for companies to offer access to the sustainability information as well as that which verifies that it is indeed sustainable. This can result in showing how they got a certification, procuring third party scientific studies, success stories, testimonies etc.

5. Accessibility

When information is difficult to access and it seems to be purposely hidden it can downplay the company’s builded trust with consumers. So to top it all off, all of these statements, information, certifications or validations should be easily accessible for people to read, understand and be able to make conscious and informed decisions.

Engaging employees with transparency

We believe and work for transparency to be one of the key values driving the fight for climate action, social wellbeing and good governance as it is the only way to understand what we are doing wrong, what we are doing right and what it is that we are not doing yet. 

Because being transparent is not only an externality to a company, or a given organization, to help build trust and reputation; it is in fact also a great learning and improvement mechanism. You cannot manage what you don’t understand. And so we advocate for transparency, integrity and precision as imperatives to the fight against climate change. 

In DoGood we are convinced of the need to understand and manage efforts to achieve a sustainable transition inside an organization for the correct and efficient functioning of the business and the community it operates in. We alone cannot achieve the substantial changes necessary, but we work on the basis of collaboration, transparency and accuracy in order to bring light to sustainable actions.  

In this regard, it is essential to our work to promote good corporate governance, meaning that the processes of disclosure and transparency are followed so as to provide regulators and shareholders as well as the general public with precise and accurate information about the financial, operational and other aspects of the company, including a more accurate definition of the ESG performance.

We have developed a corporate government tool that helps establish ESG impact objectives for employees in regards to the sustainability strategy of the company. Through our technology we are able to activate and track employees’ impact, creating engagement that translates into improved ESG metrics, reputational value and an overall positive impact for the environment and society. 

If you want to know more about how we work to create a positive social and environmental impact, click here.