Amidst Many Sustainability Initiatives, Here’s How to Make it Better 

With how the climate is behaving and changing the nature nowadays, it’s wise to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle. This also applies to businesses. 

It is true that before, the majority didn’t really bat an eye on sustainable products, but times are changing now. Many consumers today prefer the sustainable ones that are readily available.  

That said, we may think that brands or companies that are becoming sustainable and market themselves as such will call for positive images.  

But, there are times when that kind of decision backfires, resulting in negative opinion of the brands, along with their initiatives. 

A question asks, of course, how is it possible that companies wanting to meet the demands of eco-conscious public get negative opinions? 

After reviewing academic research papers that focuses on sustainability, this backfiring phenomenon points down to three key reasons. 

Why it can backfire 

First of all, the information around the products often deters people from purchasing. Sustainable products frequently feature more labels and information on the packaging in order to appeal and let the consumer base know their sustainability efforts. 

This can be counterproductive, however, because consumers often see this congested information as ambiguous or contradictory. And even for those who aren’t consumer base, it’s going to be hard for them to identify products easily. 

Other than that, consumers get suspicious and skeptical of companies that make a try-hard effort to come across as sustainability-focused brands.  

It’ll result in the opposite desired effect because the consumers will think that they’re trying to greenwash and will further question just how green they really are. 

Second, consumers (base or not) usually associate sustainable products with a lack of quality, taste, or performance.  

Compared to the conventional ones, the general consensus is that companies with this type of initiatives compromise some aspects in order to make it more sustainable. 

There’s a certain belief that quality with luxury and sustainability don’t go well together. If there is such product, it’ll cost way more than the conventional ones. 

Hence, brands that promise both qualities of the products will get the stink eye despite the fact that such products are getting more common these days. 

Lastly, becoming more sustainable may lead to negative perceptions and connotations. Products with this type of efforts can create a stereotype of a consumer, and users will think of what other people associate them with for using green products.  

Among positive labels, consumers worry that others will label them as something more negative sounding. Judgment by their peers is one of the many reasons why consumers avoid products with sustainability claims or efforts.  

 

tips on how to make your sustainable efforts better in the eyes of your consumers. Picture shown is just for illustration, not to suggest this brand and the products in a bad image.

 

How to make better sustainable efforts? 

Companies can navigate this problem in short or long term.  

For short-term initiatives, information and labels should be simpler but more effective. Products with green or sustainable claims usually suffer because the labeling is confusing or information overload. These can come across as overselling the sustainability focus. 

Labels on packaging should be simpler so anybody can identify a sustainable product without needing to closely read all the information or without feeling overwhelmed by the information. 

That said, brands shouldn’t exaggerate the sustainability offerings of their products. It’ll leave an impression that the efforts are inauthentic and will make people skeptical and avoid the companies altogether. 

Brands that are seen to be greenwashing could result in lower sales. Therefore, general copy is better so that anyone reading the product can understand how sustainable the products are. The keys are subtle, simple, and succinct. 

In long-term, companies should apply improved and, well, better communication about their sustainable products. In order to reduce the stereotypes surrounding such products or projects, there should be more positive communication about them. 

While it is true (and should be acknowledged) that sustainable products used to be inferior in terms of quality, today’s technology has allowed us to get high-quality sustainable products at a reasonable price.  

Unfortunately, stereotypes remain. Therefore, positive communication is important to change this negative association. 

Tips on how to improve green initiatives communication 

From the points above, it’s clear that better marketing and communication practices can lead to desired effects for both brands and the consumers. But, here are some tips that may also help. 

Transparency is key 

Consumers today are aware of how companies could have some skeletons in their closets. The newest, biggest group of consumers, Gen Zs, particularly have a knack of finding them out.  

Gen Zs will want to know about how brands treat factory workers, how environment-friendly the products are, and how healthy they are. Despite being a little less cynical, the older generation, Millenials, are also skeptical about claims.  

With how common greenwashing is nowadays, people will question everything. 

The solution to this is to be transparent. For the distrustful, sincerity is a great foundation of trust. Consumers like Gen Z want to be able to trace the products they’re getting, as well as other details like carbon and water footprints and animal welfare standards.  

Cynical consumers trust no one but themselves. If we give them the information they need, trust will come more easily. 

 

appealing to the eco consciousness is okay, but it’d be better to sell the benefits to your consumers. Picture shown is just for illustration, not to suggest this brand and the products in a bad image.

 

Don’t forget the benefits 

Remember when marketing is about selling the benefits that consumers will get? That also applies to sustainable products. 

For example, within four years after launch, Nike’s Flyknit shoe saved 3.5 million pounds of waste and diverted 182 million plastic bottles from landfill. 

That fact alone is impressive. But that’s not why the shoe line has made Nike more than $1 billion dollars. The shoes are 2 oz lighter than traditional sneakers, so they’re advantageous to athletes and regular active people.  

Despite the sustainability facts and how beneficial the shoes are for the environment, the benefits for consumers ring louder. 

So, find out if your products will add more plus points to the consumers’ lives. Selling the sustainability offering is okay, but sell the benefits more. Make it simple so your consumers can share the perks to their friends and families. 

Greenwashing is a big no no 

Just a reminder: greenwashing is an action done by companies who make misleading or unsupported claims about their sustainability. It can also refer to brands that are environmentally responsible in some aspects but irresponsible in others. 

For instance, company A claims that they’re working to reduce their carbon emissions and provide fact sheet to prove it. However, they simultaneously pollute waterways in their production and keep it under the rug. 

As mentioned, greenwashing won’t augur well for companies or brands. Two ways to avoid it: 

Use language that are concise, easy to understand, and straight forward. Using foggy or ambiguous language can come across as dishonest and therefore not transparent. 

Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability. Meaning that it’s completely fine to show the human side of the company. Show that the business aspires to be better in being eco-friendly. Show that you may not be perfect, but are willing to improve continuously. 

 

Sources

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/how-ensure-your-sustainability-initiatives-dont-backfire 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/solitairetownsend/2022/03/13/six-ways-to-fix-your-sustainability-marketing/?sh=2a7b31ef7402 

https://greenbusinessbureau.com/business-function/marketing-sales/sustainable-business-marketing-7-tactics-to-attract-eco-conscious-customers-partners-and-employees/  

https://cim.co.uk/content-hub/editorial/what-is-greenwashing/  

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