The power of brand to influence consumer behaviour is well acknowledged, but how can advertisers help their clients tell compelling and evidence-based stories to encourage people and businesses to make more sustainable choices?
By Jonah Grunsell, Managing Partner, inclusion, strategy and systems change specialist, Xynteo
In today’s era of heightened environmental consciousness, businesses are increasingly seeking ways to adopt sustainable practices and tell their customers about them. Advertisers, as influential partners, hold a unique position to drive change by assisting their business clients in embracing environmental sustainability and messaging authentically. But what can they do to support their client’s drive for people and planet-positive impact? And are they challenging clients to be bold and authentic in how they develop sustainable products and solutions?
Building trust in authentic green messaging
Advertisers can play a crucial role in helping their business clients shift their messaging towards promoting environmental sustainability, but the important word here is ‘authentic’. Greenwashing has become an increasing concern of not just consumers, but governments as well. A EIOPA Eurobarometer survey highlighted that 63% of consumers in the European Union (EU) do not trust sustainability claims made by providers. Which makes sense when an EU Commission screening of websites in 2021 found that almost half of claims were exaggerated, false or deceptive and could potentially qualify as unfair commercial practices under EU rules.
By creating impactful and compelling campaigns that highlight eco-friendly practices, businesses can cultivate a positive public image whilst creating and fostering awareness of such practices among their target audience. But this is only achievable when claims are evidenced and defensible, otherwise organisations are in danger of misrepresenting themselves and misleading consumers. To ensure this is achieved, advertisers must create their own guardrails and ways of working that ensure claims made by clients of the benefits of sustainable products or services, carbon reduction, energy efficiency, or the use of renewable materials are authentically evidenced and factual. By incorporating these processes into message development agencies will be taking the biggest step they can to influencing consumer behaviour and encouraging truly sustainable choices.
Educating the client and the consumer
Critical to this goal is supporting business in educating consumers about the importance of sustainable practices and the benefits of choosing eco-friendly products and the role and progress of the business client they support. Informative and compelling content that raises awareness and transparency of the client’s position and efforts on sustainability issues and the impact of consumer choices on the environment can go a long way to informing and influencing consumer behaviour.
For example, Deloitte found in one study that increased awareness of plastic pollution has led to 64% of consumers having limited their consumption of single-use plastics. By increasing a client’s focus on enhancing consumer knowledge and understanding, agencies can drive demand for sustainable products and thus motivating businesses to incorporate sustainability into their product development strategies. Nike’s Move to Zero campaign talks about achieving sustainability goals by transitioning to renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions, and managing manufacturing waste. Its Bloom Over Doom ad celebrates Nike’s sustainability innovation with a focus on healing, optimism, and collective action for a brighter future.
Consumer data analytics can also be a powerful tool for advertisers to identify areas of improvement and guide their business clients toward environmentally sustainable practices. By analysing customer behaviour, market trends, and consumption patterns, advertisers can uncover opportunities for businesses to optimise their operations, reduce waste, and minimize their environmental impact.
Encouraging sustainable product innovation
Advertisers can serve as catalysts for product innovation, inspiring their business clients to develop and promote eco-friendly products or services that align with environmental values. By requiring robust proof points and authenticity, they can also ensure that businesses genuinely practice what they preach and avoid misleading consumers.
By leveraging their expertise and market insights, advertisers can help businesses stay ahead of the curve and meet the growing consumer demand for sustainability.
Market research and staying updated on the latest trends can identify ensure that agencies are on top of emerging sustainability-focused technologies, materials, or design concepts – helping clients to accelerate the development of eco-friendly products or services. They can then collaborate with businesses to create and promote new offerings that align with environmental outcomes, highlight the eco-friendly features and benefits of existing or competitors’ products and combine? with authentic messaging and education to enhance their appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.
These product innovations and associated sustainable value chains can then benefit strategic positioning and effective storytelling, advertisers can inspire their clients and the end consumer to adopt sustainable practices and contribute to a greener future. By effectively communicating the positive environmental impact of the product or service, advertisers can help businesses capture the attention and loyalty of consumers who prioritize sustainability. Through engaging visuals, persuasive messaging, and relatable storytelling, advertisers can create emotional connections between consumers and sustainable products, driving demand and sales. Global furniture retailer IKEA launched an ad as part of its “The Wonderful Everyday” campaign showcasing a family’s journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle, from energy-efficient lighting to recycling and composting.
It’s time for Advertisers to embrace their role as a catalyst for change
Responsibility for greenwashing does not just lie with the subject of the story, but the storyteller too. Advertisers should embrace this duty and recognise they can be a powerful driver for sustainable product and service innovation and more sustainable consumption. By doing so, they can form a powerful partnership for change with their business customers and play a critical role in changing the world for good.