Green, greener, greenest: communicating sustainability, how to do it right?

  • Valerie den Ridder
  • 19 / 01 / 2022
Leestijd: 3 min

However green, or not-so-green, you currently are; greener you are going to get. The world is now asking everyone to contribute to produce and consume more consciously. And that demand is only going to increase. Not green? Then chances are you will be sidelined. Checkmate, until you promise improvement and show it. If you don't do it from your intrinsic sustainable motives, then at least for the continuity of your organization. Yep: shit got real. And so it is all the more important to communicate well about what you are doing 'about green'.

Communicating about your sustainable ambition, mission or activities listens rather closely. Especially when you consider that around 4 in 10 consumers distrust claims such as 'socially responsible' or 'sustainable'. Moreover, we are increasingly smart and critical when it comes to sustainability: we know how to check the facts. So as much as you would like to shout from the rooftops that you care about the environment and really take your responsibility in this: approach it thoughtfully and sincerely. A mistake is easy to make!

How green does the Netherlands think and act?

  • 76% see climate change as a major problem for the future
  • Especially highly educated, young people, women and city dwellers are worried
  • We are behaving more and more green, but there is still a gap between thinking and doing.
  • Convenience and comfort play a big role here. The easier it is made for us, the greener we behave.

Source: CBS & report 'Five shades of greener', Motivaction

gr8 is helping more and more organizations with their sustainability communications. From food to tech. And from typically Dutch to global. We share some essential insights with you:

1. Don't do it for yourself

Above all, think about 'who am I doing it for'? And help the buyers of your product or service to make their lives greener, in a way that suits them. This is quite different from telling people how good you think your own initiatives are: nobody wants that. In short: think from your audience's point of view. What is important to them? What do they need - and how do you provide that? That is key in your communication.

This is how Eneco came up with the Eneco Omschakelaar®: appropriate advice on sustainable, smarter, cleaner, and more sustainable living that suits the customer's living situation and lifestyle. The Omschakelaar takes into account not only the home, but also the customer's interest in sustainability. This involves thinking from the customer's wishes and needs.

2. Keep it close and relevant 

Following on from this: make a very logical connection with the products or services the customer buys from you. Solar panels on the roof, an electric vehicle fleet, careful waste disposal... it will all do. Unless it is your core business, this kind of information is just not relevant to your product or service. Indeed: anno '22, these kinds of initiatives are peripheral. Instead, look for sustainable gains in your core business. That will make you much more relevant to your audience and thus less interchangeable.

3. Be consistent and consistent

Sustainability is anything but a one-day fly. On the contrary, it becomes increasingly firmly intertwined with your core business, which means you will pay attention to it on an ongoing basis. With initiatives, ideas, collaborations. And therefore also with: your communication. Preferably, you will work from a communication concept with which you will build real value. Because the accents within your sustainability programme will logically shift over time. And then it is so strong that everything adds up to one overarching story that has great mileage.

An example of a company doing this well is Heineken, with its 'Brew a Better World programme'. Aimed at encouraging positive environmental impact, social sustainability, and responsible consumption of alcohol.

4. Make it sympathetic and transparent

Your tone of voice is incredibly important. Avoid chest-beating and 'empty' stories where the burden of proof is missing. That can easily suggest greenwashing. Make it human and sympathetic. And show with real initiatives and solutions that you are taking concrete steps. And then be honest about their scope and impact.

One of the biggest Dutch risers in the list of the 'Fashion Transparency Index' is Zeeman, with a 13% higher score than in 2020 (from 25% to 38% score). The brand is transparent about every step made in the production process of Zeeman clothing. For example, the label of your T-shirt now no longer says 'made in China', but a link to more information about the respective production country. This way, you always know where the products come from and what the situation is like there.

5. There is no such thing as a standard solution

Although there are many examples of sustainability communication, the standard approach does not exist. Each case is different, requires different accents and has a different audience.

Nespresso, for instance, chooses a playful approach with a clear call to action: together with a Swedish bicycle brand, the brand made a recycling bike from 300 recycled Nespresso cups, calling for the return of your used cups. A more seriously charged example is Green Friday, which Dille & Kamille started in 2018, in response to Black Friday. On this day, the retail chain actually draws extra attention to nature with inspiring blogs and tips - rather than commercial promotions and advertisements.

Whatever your approach: pay careful attention to it and do what suits you!

At gr8 agency, we are into storytelling. Creating sincere stories that evoke the right image and feeling in the audience. That is something quite different from advertising. And precisely because sustainability requires a substantive approach, we are active in communication plans and content for many of our clients. We also do this, for instance, together with Oswin van den Boer, who has a clear opinion and experience in the field of food. Making the world a bit better together. We believe it can be done. Do you? Feel free to call us if we can help you with your green challenge.