Sustainability 2100: Communicating Sustainability Performance Without Greenwashing

by Heather

Sustainability 2100: Communicating Sustainability Performance Without Greenwashing

Everywhere we turn lately, we seem to be talking about sustainability. Whether it is about shopper goals, or corporate ESG initiatives, or using market research to help fold sustainability into the innovation process, it is an area of growing importance both here at InsightsNow—as we look to help create a cleaner, happier, healthier world—and in the wider marketplace. Our CEO and Founder, Dave Lundahl, was recently honored to speak on a panel at Sustainability 2100, a multi-day virtual event tapping into a global community of passionate, sustainability devotees from across all industries. The event covered any and all topics for professionals looking to make an impact on sustainability efforts.


Purposeful Marketing Panel

The “Purposeful Marketing: How to Communicate Sustainability Performance Without Greenwashing” panel was moderated by Mark Harrison, Mh3 Collective, and the other panelists in addition to Dave were Sarah Merricks, Global Network for Zero, and Harry Day, Forster Communications. The discussion tapped each of the panelists for their different perspectives. The conversation spent time looking at consumer expectations around sustainability and what lenses consumers are using to look at businesses, brands, governments and NGOs in terms of sustainability practices. On the communications front, viewers learned some tips and tricks for interacting with environmental watchdogs, media, government stakeholders, industry groups and activists. The panel also shared evidence-backed advice to marketers and business leaders about how to approach sustainability from various angles. 

Aspirational Compass Research Project

Dave was able to share about InsightsNow’s original research on sustainability, including our recent “Aspirational Compass” study. This study found that 47% of shoppers in the United States are aspiring to purchase products that address their growing concern to live sustainably and how they want to help create a greener, more sustainable world. But there is a gap between how sustainably people WANT to shop versus how they shop, often due to barriers like pricing and misinformation. That gap between aspirations and reality needs to be solved so consumers can reach their sustainability goals in the marketplace. He goes on to talk about how the right consumer research helps our clients really understand how to develop new products that highlight and fold in desired sustainability aspects. 

Sustainability and Consumer Trust

A big part of this conversation on sustainability is about consumer trust. Dave shares that our research has uncovered a myriad of consumer trust issues, particularly with the food system. Forty-two percent of all primary shoppers in the United States distrust the U.S. food system, and that number has been rising over the years. Communication the right way, through the right channels, with the right information will be key to building back up consumer trust.

Corporate ESG Practices with a Purpose

The panel then goes on to discuss helping companies with their ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) strategies, which is also something we talk about here at InsightsNow. According to Sarah Merricks on the panel, consumers want to see companies with strong purpose and corporate transparency—and communicating with consumers the right way is key to both building loyalty and building trust. 

What is Greenwashing?

And of course, from the panel title, greenwashing. What is greenwashing? According to Business News Daily, “greenwashing is when a company purports to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes but actually isn’t making any notable sustainability efforts.” Panelist Harry Day pointed out that many high profile companies have recently been called out by industry watchdogs for making claims about sustainability that were far from the truth. And this has had a backlash, where brands are actually NOT sharing their sustainability efforts due to concern about being called out by these watchdogs.

Getting the Right Insights for Sustainability Practices

So it all comes back to doing the right market research to truly understand what consumers are looking for from brands and products in the area of sustainability and how to meet those needs strategically. These insights can inform every stage of the process from whitespace for marketplace entry, to product innovation and development, to communication with key stakeholders—and beyond. Dave wraps up the discussion about how insights can support purposeful marketing with an eye on a more sustainable future, and creating a healthier, happier world. 

Learn more about gaining insights to inform a strategic and effective approach to sustainability for your brand