How Unilever and other marketers are working to prevent greenwashing

The CPG giant’s director of digital and marketing said there is a gap between consumer attitudes and sustainability actions because of the confusion and complexity.

By raising consumer awareness of climate change and the environment, sustainability remains a priority for companies across all sectors, even amid a pandemic that has changed consumer behavior and attitudes. However, bringing sustainable products and related commercial obligations to the market was a challenge that few could have faced.

Avoiding accusations of “greenwashing” – a term used to mislead the public about the environmental impact of products or supplies – was a priority for several executives during a Wednesday session at Advertising Week that virtually attracted Marketing Dive.

Not only intentionally misleading but also not intentionally misleading,” said Marilla Perkins, senior director of marketing and strategic communications at Bolt Threads’ materials solutions firm. As marketers in this space, it’s critical to address these challenges do not intentionally poison or mislead people about our products.”

Consumers want to buy more and more sustainable brands, with so-called conscious consumption on the rise, said Unilever’s digital and marketing director, Conny Braams, during the panel.

“Consumers are looking for sustainable products, but the value proposition also has to work. Therefore, they will seek superior product performance at an affordable price,” says Braams, noting that the value proposition can also speak to the values ​​of a brand. . .

According to Unilever data, 64% of consumers expect to pay more attention to the environmental impact than they consume. Similarly, Google’s search for sustainable brands ​​increased 40%, with more than half of its growth in consumer packaged goods being driven by sustainably marketed products, according to statistics from the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, cited by Braams. But the data doesn’t tell the whole story.

What do consumers want?

The coronavirus health crisis is changing consumer behavior and attitudes toward brands, making sustainability marketing difficult.

“Especially now that we are coming out of the pandemic, consumers are more than ever looking for an alliance with brands that share their values. But I think we’re also seeing brand confidence at an all-time low,” Perkins said.

Perkins shared three keys to sustainability marketing. First, “rounds and rounds” of copy testing showed that simplicity has always won over consumers, suggesting that brands should try to get their message across in 10 words or less. Second, consumers want brands to recognize their role in contributing to the environmental crisis. Finally, brands need to be transparent and recognize that sustainability is a challenge and that these efforts take time.

For Unilever, the integration between sustainability and marketing is the key to changing consumer decisions, which are usually made in two to three seconds. Using simplicity to share sustainability information is a challenge, but an opportunity to drive real change.

“The only way to stop climate change is to engage consumers, and when they realize they’re doing more and more [actions] that the pandemic did, those little actions make a big difference,” Braams said.