Consumers increasingly look for sustainability credentials in the brands they buy. And yet, whenever brands talk about sustainability, consumers are increasingly sensitive to green-washing and hypocrisy.
Google caught flak most recently for hosting a climate change summit on the coast of Sicily a few weeks ago, when it came out that over 100 of the celebrity attendees turned up in private planes and superyachts.
I like how Allbirds CMO Julie Channing recently talked about the rise of companies embracing sustainability:
“The good news is the sustainability conversation is happening. The bad news is now many businesses think they have to check the sustainability box, so they introduce a single line or one campaign…
“While any progress is good progress, by the same token it’s created a lot more confusion with customers and it requires a level of education to understand what’s good and not good, what’s authentic and what’s not.”
Brands have the potential to make a big impact on sustainability. They can use their scale to make things in more sustainable ways, and they can use their platform to help educate people about sustainability. But sustainability has to go deeper than a talking point.
When I worked at Method, we thought about our sustainability approach as being dark green on the inside and light green on the outside. That meant that most of the company’s work on sustainability happened behind the scenes. Some projects, like the world’s first bottle made of ocean plastic, made the news, but other initiatives, like using biodiesel in freight routes or light-weighting packaging, did not.
I think that’s a good rule of thumb in brands making progress with sustainability — always aim to be greener on the inside than the outside. Walk more than talk.
Here are a couple related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: