Although Earth Month is coming to a close, consumers continue to voice their passion for the environment. But do consumers really care about sustainability or is this just a phase that comes and goes with awareness?
The answer is yes. According to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 73% of Millennials are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. Moreover, the number of people adopting vegetarian and vegan diets for environmentally sustainable purposes has been increasing dramatically.
Companies are aware of this, and this has led to a surge in eco-conscious marketing. Unfortunately, this often takes the form of “greenwashing,” where companies pay lip service to the environment with their marketing but do not actually enact meaningful changes in their practices. The reality is that greenwashing can be more effective from an ROI standpoint than practices which are genuinely environmentally friendly. Most consumers who care about the environment do not do research on the brands they purchase, making them susceptible to shallow green messaging.
Then, there is the physical aspect of advertising. Paper advertising– like flyers and posters– will likely be on the decline as consumers start to focus more on sustainability. Digital advertising will increase, but it is difficult to emphasize the environmental friendliness of digital marketing as a differentiating factor. However, incorporating environmental friendliness directly into your creative, such as by making it part of a billboard, can set your brand apart. This can make consumers actively aware of how you prioritize the environment more than your competitors.
The challenge is straddling the narrow line between greenwashing and environmental friendliness. Brands must demonstrate how “green” they really are without sacrificing a competitive advantage by either underselling themselves or appearing hypocritical.
Altogether, as long as consumers continue to care about the environment, companies that are noticeably focusing on the environment will continue to win. The question is– will the public be able to differentiate greenwashing from true environmental friendliness?