Sustainability takes a lot of effort, and for companies putting in the work, communications, and marketing is a cornerstone for success.
Telling the story to consumers, investors and the business world isn’t always an easy feat in the complex world of sustainability and environmental advocacy — especially as new ESG reporting requirements are coming down the pike. But the payoff for good storytelling can be huge — and current marketing trends can help realize the full rewards.
Environment+Energy Leader caught up with Marissa Rosen, founder of Climate Social, to explore the ongoing marketing trends around sustainability. Climate Social is a marketing agency for impact-driven organizations and thought leaders, and Rosen is an expert in helping businesses share their climate journey.
Companies have long been touting their sustainability actions behind the scenes, but not all marketing ploys have been entirely truthful. Greenwashing has become an all-too-common pitfall, with companies deceiving consumers into believing their products or services may be greener than reality.
However, backlash to greenwashing has led some companies to stay mum about their sustainability efforts, according to Rosen. The term, green hushing, has since emerged.
“It’s when companies are in fact doing a lot of work, they are working on decarbonization,” Rosen explained. “They are trying to decrease their footprint and work towards net zero. However, they feel that for one reason or another they are not able to be so vocal about it, and that has to do with pressure in the political environment that we see and you know them just not wanting to stick their neck out there.”
The goal isn’t perfection, but progress toward sustainability, Rosen said. And being “loud and proud” about decarbonization efforts will continue to push forward the green movement and still offer solid PR opportunities for companies.
“Tell your journey on your website, please!” Rosen said. “And (use) your leaders as your advocates so that their networks can be made aware of what you’re doing, how you’re moving forward, and what you’re doing to progress.”
Consumers have become savvier over the years and care more about the business practices behind the products they use. For companies putting their budget toward renewable energy, sustainable packaging, recycled materials and not using toxins, it’s an opportunity to signal to consumers who want to support such efforts.
Generational Trends and New Networks
The desire for sustainability isn’t going to stop anytime soon, according to Rosen, who recognizes that younger generations are only hungrier for sustainable living habits than the generations before, with an appetite they will carry throughout their life — from high school to college and into the workforce.
“Report after report (shows) that the younger consumers, the next generation, particularly females, and just a larger percentage of shoppers these days in the U.S. are looking for companies that are mission driven and loud and proud about their sustainability initiatives,” Rosen said.
Another top tip from Rosen is for companies to engage in smaller networking opportunities. With the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview, in-person events have once again taken shape. But large-scale conferences aren’t the only events worth attending for thought leaders in the green business community. Tapping local networks and forging new connections with others with the same shared vision can help bring new ideas to the forefront. Sharing ideas and learning from others enables momentum.
For example, Rosen works with a client, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a nonprofit of about 200-plus multinational global corporations focused on CEO-driven initiatives that limit the climate crisis.
“What we’re doing is helping to tell the stories, share the reports, share the research and the knowledge that’s coming out of what the companies are doing together,” Rosen said. “Practices that are accessible publicly that can help small- (and) medium-sized businesses.”
Sharing the information and ongoing actions enables bigger companies to facilitate green conversations and continue to advance the climate movement.
Listen to the full interview with Rosen and E+E Leader’s Co-Owner Jessica Hunt on the premier episode of E+E Leader: Sustainability Unveiled, a new weekly podcast/vodcast featuring insights from industry professionals, expert advice, and the latest news in the world of sustainability.