Green around the gills: Why consumers desperately need honest eco-updates from brands

Helene Melby Brodersen
24 October, 22

The business press is flooded with greenwashing accusations, which have taken on a catch-all ‘cancel culture’ feel as customers become increasingly fatigued by questionable environmental claims from once trusted brands.

More often than not, greenwashing (not to mention accusations of greenwashing) happen due to a lack of knowledge. This raises real questions about how communication should be adapted in the era of acute consumer scrutiny and widespread cynicism about claims of green capitalism.

Corporate ESG reporting is rising up the c-suite agenda as the demand for upfront and transparent reporting on long-term climate policy grows. So, what’s the best way to keep your organisation’s environmental strategy on track, and provide tangible evidence of eco-activities for customers, employees, and stakeholders alike?

For me, it all starts with an explicit ESG strategy, which outlines clear environmental claims and goals. This should have long-term growth as its motivation but should accept small steps are needed in the short-term to tackle existing areas where the current strategy falls short.

Too often, corporations bow to external pressure, over-promise, and end up under-delivering when it comes to environmental claims. Businesses that are proactive and future-focused understand ESG concerns are here for the long-haul, and often require a complete shift in company attitudes and culture, which can take time.

Done well, sustainability reporting promotes progress over perfection and focuses on continual improvement. Another crucial factor to keep in mind is that companies are not required to collect, monitor, and report on every ESG framework criterion, which can be overwhelming.

ESG isn’t called the ‘Alphabet Soup’ of corporate reporting for nothing, and definitions can be hard to pin down. This can create a headache for businesses looking to toe the line with regulators and authorities. To remove this pain point, identify which environmental and social challenges are important to your specific audience, allowing you to tackle problems head-on and align company with customer values.

Consumers will be more receptive to honest eco-updates and will accept the journey to net-zero is not an immediate one. Business leaders must instead focus on communicating the good things being done for people and communities, even if carbon emissions reductions are proving hard to achieve.

Having the right software platforms to manage areas of the business such as diversity, health and safety records, training, pay gap, and engagement, will support honest ESG stories, and provide statistical evidence to demonstrate all the good things being achieved.

Going forward, digital management software solutions can empower businesses to feel more secure in the integrity of data sources used for ESG reporting, ensuring that consumers feel confident in your organisation’s commitment to new targets. No one should be green at the gills after looking at your business’ ESG credentials.

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