Brands urged to do more as Brits dismiss green claims

shellBrits are growing increasingly wary of brands’ environmental claims, with almost half (48%) saying they do not trust companies to be honest their impact on the planet, up by nearly 20 percentage points since 2021.

That is according to Mintel’s “Global Outlook on Sustainability: A Consumer Study” report, published just days after Shell was battered by the ad watchdog for exaggerating its green credentials (pictured).

However, one major problem is that most consumers are still confused about the issue, according to Mintel, with a quarter of Brits admitting they find issues around the environment difficult to understand.

To combat this, more than four in 10 (43%) say they would like a colour-coded scoring system on products to help them understand how environmentally friendly their purchase is, with a similar proportion (44%) believing companies can do more than governments to change the world.

The research also suggests there is a sense of pride among consumers when they buy green, with around a fifth (21%) of British people wanting to show others when they are doing good for the environment.

The study coincides with a separate Forrester report, “Toward A Greener Marketing Ecosystem,” which breaks down how brands, agencies, media, and tech companies should make greater efforts to reduce the marketing and advertising industry’s carbon footprint.

The report is designed to further help marketing leaders understand how to improve environmental sustainability, implement best practices to reduce the carbon footprint of ads and campaigns, and ultimately create greener marketing.

It reveals that nearly one in five global B2C marketing decision-makers say that focusing more on sustainability is one of the most important priorities for their organisation’s marketing strategy over the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, to confront marketing’s wider environmental impact, marketers should implement a holistic environmental sustainability blueprint that both includes tactics to avoid greenwashing and outlines how teams must master six key levers: purpose, value proposition, ecodesign, cocreation, cognitive sciences, and storymaking.

The report argues that while the direct impact of marketing is just the tip of the iceberg, the incremental impact of marketing contribution to sales is the real elephant in the room. Indeed, it reveals that product, packaging, and distribution play a much bigger role in hurting the planet than marketing investments.

Forrester quotes figures from Ekimetrics, which show the carbon footprint of a global automotive brand’s media plan only represents 0.5% of its total marketing emissions. Indirect emissions — in this case, the carbon footprint of the additional vehicles sold as a result of the same media plan — represent 99.5% of all marketing emissions. In this context, communicating on your green media initiative is a recipe for greenwashing.

The report concludes that the long-term impact is the most important but the hardest to measure. Beyond the direct and indirect impact of marketing investments, advertising and marketing play a huge role in shaping the collective culture and imagination.

It is the chief marketing officer’s role to avoid reinforcing existing stereotypes about consumerism and to invent a positive way to highlight sustainable lifestyles.

Diageo CMO Cristina Diezhandino explained: “Some of our brands are decades if not centuries old, like Guinness, which was launched in 1759. They’ve passed the test of time, and their future depends on our ability to tap into our customers’ deep aspirations, respond to their needs, and stay ahead.”

To confront marketing’s wider environmental impact, Forrester recommends implementing a holistic environmental sustainability blueprint, including:

• Expand your existing measurement approach and optimise beyond ROI. The first step is to collect carbon data and measure the impact of your marketing through lifecycle analysis (LCA). AB testing is critical to make sure you don’t negatively impact your overall marketing and media performance.

• Showcase the marketing ROI of your sustainability efforts. A recent study revealed that 15% of brand ad spend is wasted, contributing high carbon emissions and no ROI.

• Use marketing mix modeling (MMM) to analyse how sustainability impacts results. CMOs at firms seriously investing in becoming sustainable businesses are starting to analyse the carbon impact of the product mix their ads help to sell.

• Prioritize reducing your creative and production assets’ carbon footprint. It’s easier to measure and reduce the carbon emissions of content production since business travel accounts for the vast majority.

• Add sustainability criteria to your RFP process and challenge your partners. Add sustainability criteria when selecting adtech vendors, agencies, and publishers. Ask your partners to prove their green credentials and challenge their own greenhouse gas reduction targets based on global standards.

• Educate and upskill your marketing, media, data, and communication teams. According to the World Federation of Advertisers, 54% of marketers haven’t started their sustainability maturity journey or are just beginning now. Given the growing importance of sustainability for their teams, CMOs must educate themselves and their staff on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) findings and sustainable marketing. They should also learn about and share proven tactical best practice media behaviours, including the use of Wi-Fi instead of mobile networks, file size and format optimisation, and the use of mono versus stereo.

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