Marketing sustainability efforts can easily backfire, as consumers and influencers alike watch carefully to ensure the company isn't greenwashing its plans and achievements. But brands that don't market their sustainability work lose the opportunity to reach consumers who share those values. After all, 30% of natural channel shoppers that New Hope Network surveyed have purchased, in the past year, a new product based on its sustainability claims.
Meet customers where they are
Choosing when, where and how to tell your brand's sustainability story isn't easy—especially since consumers' priorities and receptiveness vary, depending on where they are in the buying process. Consumers prioritize taste and price when they are shopping, meaning the sustainability message matters less. Instead, share on social media and your website what your sustainability goals are, why you chose them and how your brand is progressing toward those goals.
Tell the truth—clearly and without jargon
Most consumers don't understand what the word "sustainability" means, in large part because it's never been clearly defined but also because corporations exaggerate their "green" or "earth-friendly" attributes. To overcome those deficits, show consumers exactly what you are doing to be environmentally friendly: Are you reducing waste by eliminating some packaging? Creating a vertical supply chain to ensure your ingredients' quality? Powering your manufacturing with solar energy? Be transparent about your choices and actions.
Be real when you tell the story
Buzzwords and stock photos won't cut it anymore; consumers want to see real people doing what you say your brand is doing. Consumers—especially the younger ones who grew up with social media—can sniff out staged, hyper-perfect photographs or videos in an instant. Authenticity is key when you share your sustainability story.
Keep good company
Working with other brands, either in small groups or as part of an organization such as the Naturally Network, can help all the brands share their sustainability stories with a broad variety and large number of people. Such networking will amplify each brand's sustainability message.
Partner with natural retailers
Natural retailers are fertile ground when selling sustainability stories. Both chain and independent natural retailers regularly hype their own sustainability commitments to their customers, and they will showcase brands that make outstanding efforts in that arena. Perhaps the owners or managers will promote such brands for Earth Day or create a display of brands that carry regenerative certifications. Check into offering samples at the store, which will give you face-to-face chances to share your efforts with consumers.
Think small, even if your brand is big
Generally, the process of turning a large ship in a new direction is slow. Moving a big brand, with its complex supply chain and numerous vendors, to sustainability is similarly challenging. In addition, bigger brands can't just jump into mission-based marketing because consumers will be skeptical of such a sudden move.
Instead, big brands should start slowly, perhaps by launching a select run of products made with regeneratively grown ingredients. In addition to putting the term on the label, the brand can begin explaining what it has learned about sustainability and how it will continue to build a better supply chain. From there, it can scale its sustainable products and increase and improve its messaging.
To learn more about sustainability messaging strategy informed by generation and natural channel shopper insights, check out the Sustainability Marketing Special Report: How to amplify your brand's commitment.