Communicating Green Values through PR & Marketing
Posted 08 Jun 2021
For many companies, working economically while taking sustainability aspects into account might come as a conflict of interests. When taking a closer look however, it is quite the contrary, one could even speak of a harmonious symbiosis. As a matter of fact, the focus of customers has shifted: they no longer only pay attention to the price of a product but also to its sustainable and fair production. Consumer goods that have been produced in an environmentally friendly manner and under fair, social conditions often sell better than conventional products. Therefore, it can be strongly advantageous for a company and its public perception if they communicate their sustainable actions and fair production clearly and unambiguously.
Engaging in greenwashing and merely feigning sustainability for example by painting the packaging green or using any seals of approval or certificates will not work. When communicated as such, the final product should be sustainable in every aspect, from low CO2 emissions during its manufacturing process to recycled or reusable packaging and fair salaries for employees.
In regard to corporate sustainability the most important attributes in “green communication” are honesty and transparency. Once a company’s statement has been proven as false, it damages their credibility in the long run. As with any type of communication, marketing on the topic of sustainability is also about optimizing strategies. In turn, those who are perceived as particularly credible and do not make empty promises can boost the company’s reputation enormously.
With continuous efforts towards sustainable production, packaging, and shipping, a new USP can emerge in the long term. Sustainability will increasingly become the new standard. At present, however, a sustainable USP is a distinguishing feature for customers and bears the possibility to secure important market advantages. To ensure that customers perceive this USP, it is crucial for it to be communicated accordingly.
One tried-and-tested marketing strategy is cause-related marketing, in which either money is donated to a good cause, or a charitable campaign is initiated for every product sold. In doing so, you do not make a direct profit; you may even book losses in the short term. The aim of this strategy is rather to create the basis for a positive reputation of one’s own company and thus to build and strengthen confidence in its brand.
In this way, the company participates within the framework of so-called Social Corporate Responsibility (SCR), making a specific contribution to sustainable management. The synergies generated in this way promise to be of great benefit in the long term and may well have a positive influence on customers’ future purchase decisions.
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In the age of digitalization, it is easy for anyone and everyone to publicly broadcast their own opinion. Dissatisfied customers who have published a negative review can permanently damage the public’s perception of the company. Therefore, customer satisfaction is essential for successful business continuation, as well as the public’s perception of sustainable commitment. Because sustainability is an important aspect for many customers, a product should only be described as sustainable if every single aspect of the product is sustainable indeed. Otherwise, you run the risk of being accused of greenwashing by merely pretending to be sustainable. Customers can then no longer be sure of the veracity of the information they receive from the part of the company.
Once a company has been accused of greenwashing, it takes a lot of time and money to restore its old – good – reputation. If this approach does not succeed, the company can quickly find itself in a shitstorm.
This search engine is based on the principle of sustainability. It plants a new tree every time a user submits an average of 45 search queries. With sustainable tree planting projects and storytelling that has carried the environment as part of the brand since its inception, Ecosia is a prime example of green communication.
Starbucks also works with green marketing. While the company is not completely based on sustainability, it shows great efforts in this direction. Since 2005, Starbucks has been LEED certified, since 2020 you can only get straws that are recyclable, and the coffee giant plans to reduce its water consumption by 50 percent by 2030.
The Swiss company has often been criticized in recent years. Frequent accusations were the enormous amount of plastic produced in its products without regard for waste and the environment. Nestlé promised improvement, but according to environmental activists, the company continued exactly where it left off. Although various measures were taken, according to many opinions these were often only a sham and led to accusations of greenwashing.
In conclusion, the current significance of green marketing becomes crystal clear. Sustainability within a company and corresponding PR and marketing measures are important for its reputation and offer a variety of market advantages. Above all efforts stands the environment that should benefit ultimately, which is why sustainability efforts must be viewed in the long term and not as a short-lived trend.